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Kentucky National Guard Memorial

Honoring Their Sacrifice

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Hearell, Winstell (P1R, C2, L1)

Private Winstell Hearell, 19, of Wheatcroft, Webster County, was struck and killed by the Seminole Limited train on May 19, 1917, while serving with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Kentucky Infantry Regiment on federal active duty. Hearell was struck and killed while guarding a railroad trestle some two and half miles from Wickliffe. He was in the National Guard. He listed his civilian occupation as miner with the West Kentucky Coal Company.

Hearell enlisted in F Company in Providence on 29 June 1916. He was mobilized for the Mexican Punitive Expedition almost immediately and trained at Fort Thomas, Kentucky.  In August 1916 the Brigade moved to Fort Bliss, near El Paso, Texas.  They were stationed at Camp Owen Bierne, some two miles from Fort Bliss.  They were attached to the 10th U.S. Provisional Division under command of Brigadier General Charles G. Morton.  Their mission was to conduct patrols along a sixty-mile-stretch of the Rio Grande River to Fort Hancock, Texas.   In February 1917 they were ordered back to Fort Thomas and mustered out.

The Kentucky Guard remained on high alert following the border duty as they prepared for United States involvement in World War One. The Kentucky Guard was busy recruiting to its increased strength levels.

On March 31, 1917, Adjutant General J. Tandy Ellis issued Special Order No. 36 detailing units to sentry duty to protect important infrastructure across the state, such as railroad tunnels, bridges and water supplies. The orders were believed to be issued in response to a federal call to protect the nation's infrastructure as America entered the war.  It would prove to be a dangerous undertaking for the Kentucky Guard.

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson asked a special joint session of the United States Congress for a declaration of war against the German Empire. Congress responded with the declaration on April 6.

On April 17, 1917 the Kentucky Guard begin mobilization. Kentucky Guard units were assigned to the 38th "Cyclone" Division, newly organized at Camp Shelby, Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The Kentucky Guard continued protecting key points of infrastructure across the state at least as late as August 1917. Beginning with the death of Thomas Higdon on April, 7 1917 in Ohio County and ending with the death of Carl Mercer on August 26th 1917 in Jefferson County – nine Kentucky Guard members died in carrying out this mission.

A lawsuit brought by Winstell’s cousin, Earnest Hearell, against the railroad company for damages from gross negligence was eventually lost. The Kentucky Court of Appeals records do shed some light on the circumstances of his duty and his death. According to the records, he was one of a squad of six assigned to guard a trestle about 2 1/2 miles north of Wickliffe, known as Minor’s Slough. Minor’s slough is a backwater that runs into the river at the joining of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. On the night of May 19, 1917, he was on duty from 6 o’clock to midnight; Corporal Robert H. Lanier, a member of the squad, was talking to him about 7 o’clock. At this time Hearell was lying down by the track and about 9 o’clock the same witness saw Hearell sitting on a piece of timber extending about five or six feet from the track, and on the east side. He describes this timber as being one of the end sills of the trestle.

About 10:30 p. m., Corporal Wayland F. Smith was returning to the camp from Wickliffe. When Smith reached a switch 250 or 300 yards from the south end of the trestle, he heard the Seminole Limited approaching from the south, and it gave a signal at Fillmore’s Crossing, approximately a mile from the trestle. Smith stopped at the switch to allow this train to pass. As he continued toward the trestle he found Hearell’s body lying near a water barrel on the trestle with his head about three inches from the rail with the right side of his skull crushed.
The train which struck Hearell, the Seminole Limited , was operated by the Illinois Central Railroad, Central of Georgia Railway, and Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and began service between Chicago Illinois, Birmingham, Alabama and Jacksonville, Florida in 1909. The train carried coaches, sleeping cars, and a full dining car.

BELOW: Photo of the Panama Limited circa 1917 which would have had very similar equipment to the train that struck and killed Hearell.


Hearell is believed to be buried in the Whites Chapel Cemetery near Irma in Crittenden County. He listed his sister, Mrs. Clyde Tharp of Sheridan, Crittenden County, as his next of kin at his enlistment Hearell was born in Livingston County 2 February 1898.

Hearell’s name was spelled several different ways in newspaper accounts, census records and military records including: Wentzell Herrell, Wentzel Harrell, Wurtzell Herrill, Winsol Hearell and Winsel Hearal.

The 1900 census listed Winsol Hearell, age 1 year, son of R. A. and Isabel Hearell living in Carrsville, Livingston Co. In the 1910 census Winsel Hearal, age 11, was living with his grandparents, Robert A. & Nancie Hearal, in Magisterial District 5, Crittenden County, KY.  It is believed that his mother and father are buried in the New Union Cemetery in Lola, Livingston County -- Bell Hearell 15 Oct 1871 - 20 Dec 1904; R. A. Hearell 12 Aug 1864 - 18 Mar 1911. No information has been found regarding the circumstances of his parents deaths.

Eight other members of the Kentucky National Guard killed while guarding railroad infrastructure were: Corporal Thomas Higdon killed 7 April 1917; Private Ray B. Wiley killed 16 April 1917; Private Ashford Watts killed May 13, 1917; Private William "Willie" Sears Harris died of injuries sustained May 26, 1917; Private Edward F. Orr, killed 1 June 1917; Private Albert Benoia Williams died of injuries sustained 25 July 1917; Private Carl A. Mercer killed 26 August 1917 and Private John Frasier April 24, 1917 shot while on railroad guard duty.

    See also:
    News-Democrat Paducah, 22 May 1917, Page 7
    The Paducah Sun-Democrat Paducah, Kentucky 01 Aug 1917, Wed Page 7
    https://cite.case.law/ky/185/41/ Hearell v. Illinois Central Railroad, 185 Ky. 41 (1919) Kentucky Court of Appeals June 20, 1919

    Hearell was approved for addition to the KYNG Memorial by the Board in January 2021 and his name was added in April 2021

The Kentucky National Guard Memorial Fund, Inc., is a recognized 501(c)(3). EIN 26-3705273

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