This song was born out of an accident that occurred on the 27th of September, 1903. On this day, a southern railway freight train called the "Fast Mail", or "Old 97" was the victim of a railway accident. The engineer supposedly left the station late, and while trying to meet the company's record of being early decided to increase the speed. In the process, it trailed off the tracks and ran into a still house trestle. Eleven people were killed in this accident. This attracted the eye of the press, making the story spread across town like wildfire. It went on to inspire the birth of several ballads out of which this song is among. Virginia musicians G.G Grayson and Henry Whitter recorded the first ballad inspired by accident, and it became really famous. Other artists took note of this first ballad and followed suit. Vernon Dalhart's released his version in 1924. Although Grayson and Whitter's version was famous, Dalhart's version, which he recorded playing the harmonica and with Frank Ferrera playing the guitar, was a great success, earning the duo million and breaking the world record as the first million-selling country music release in the American record industry. This result must have inspired other artists to produce their own unique versions of the accident.