Thomas Edison and his family moved to Port Huron from Milan, Ohio in 1854 when he was seven years old. As a school kid, young Tom struggled with the conventional teaching methods and rarely attended classes. His mother ended up home-schooling him and he also kept teaching himself many things by reading the books in his father’s library.

By the time Tom reached twelve years old in 1859, Port Huron had its own station along the Grand Trunk Railroad. Tom was old enough to land himself a job on the trains selling concessions: candy, cigars, magazines, newspapers, and snacks. The trips between Port Huron and Detroit every day also gave him time to develop his own newspaper, which he sold to customers on the train.

Tom’s job hawking these goodies on board the trains meant more trips, and through his frequent exposure on the trains, he became friends with the Mount Clemens station master (and telegraph officer) James Mackenzie. It was because of this friendship that Tom’s life took a dramatic turn.

100.7 WITL logo
Get our free mobile app

According to, it was toward the end of summer 1862 when fifteen-year-old Tom was hanging out at the Mount Clemens depot, waiting for an opportunity to shoot the breeze with his friend James. As he stood waiting, freight cars were being conveyed to a side track. Tom looked up in time to see one of those freight cars approaching way too fast…dangerously fast. As he looked away from the freight car and onto the tracks, he saw James’ little two-year-old son Jimmy playing on the tracks, with the runaway freight car heading right for him. Not missing a beat, Tom dashed to the tracks, grabbed Jimmy and barely got out of the train’s path just in time, falling and tumbling alongside the tracks. They escaped tragedy with just a few cuts and bruises – but no serious injuries. Grateful for saving his son’s life, Mackenzie vowed to teach Tom all about Morse code and the telegraphic system. This knowledge was instrumental to Tom’s experiments throughout the rest of his life.

In the 1940 Mickey Rooney movie “Young Tom Edison”, it shows this incident, but differently. The boy is on the tracks, trying to loosen a toy that got stuck and is oblivious to the train. Tom sees him, runs over, jumps on top of him, and the train safely goes over them. Photos from the film are seen in the gallery below.

It’s another tale in the life of Thomas Edison that happened right here in Michigan… Mount Clemens.

Thomas Edison Saves Boy's Life


"Won't You Come Home, Bill Bailey?" Written in Michigan

Michigan's Involvement in the Civil War, 1860s

The Cream of Wheat Man: Frank L. White

More From 100.7 WITL