Auburn, Kentucky

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J. Henry Burnett was the son of Rev. J. H. Burnett (Professor & Preacher). J. Henry lived in Auburn until the 1930s when he went to Atlanta, Georgia. His love of Auburn prompted him to write to the Auburn Times about the many people he knew and admired so well. He named his writings "Auburn in the Long Ago."

Subject:     Mr. Ab Key, Pumper

Auburn Times –  January 27, 1937

For many years Mr. Ab Key lived in Auburn just across from the depot, with Mr. Huckelberry, the railroad agent on his right and the Burnett family on his left. So he and his family, which consisted of his wife and two sons, Fred and Malvern, were good neighbors and Mrs. Key and mother were good friends. Mr. Key was physically a large powerful man. He had charge of the railroad pumping station in Auburn. It was down on Black Lick Creek about 200 or 300 yards from the depot, and he also had charge of the pumping station at Ferguson, 18 miles south of Auburn. He was a faithful, efficient employee of the L&N.

Father was born and reared near Ferguson and had many relatives in that section. Mr. Key kept him in touch with them and their doings for many years. One of the interesting sights at train time was to see the children in our home and the other homes nearby lined up on the front fence to see the train. That was an old Burnett custom, I know.

I do not know where Malvern is now. Fred is living in St. Louis. I saw him when I was there 3 or 4 years ago and he drove me out to his wonderful plant in East St. Louis. We went all through it and how proud I was of Fred. The Lord has endowed him with wonderful mechanical skill and inventive genius. This plant, which covers about 12 acres, is simply wonderful and runs night and day. He had a great many inventions, which are patented, and the products produced in his factory are shipped all over the world. They have to do mostly with engines and oil refineries. He has a large office building and 30 or more men are employed in it. Notwithstanding his unusual success, I found Fred the same gracious, thoughtful boy of our boyhood days together. He spoke very tenderly of his father and of my father. He got his education, as did all boys and girls in Auburn back in those early days, at Auburn College and Prof. Burnett. I dare say, that Auburn has not turned out a son who ranks higher in the mechanical and financial affairs than Fred, but it has simply made him a bigger man, and not a man with a “bigger head.” His father knew something of Fred’s success before he died. I wish his devoted mother could have known, too. Fred is still working on inventions and showed me his private office, where he had 8 or 10 in process then. That was a most gratifying experience for me and Fred and I got in some good talk about boyhood days in Auburn.


Yours sincerely,

                        Macon, Georgia





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