Mark A. Rose
National Weather Service
Old Hickory, Tennessee
Nashville Tornado of 1861
(The following was taken from the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 5, 1861 regarding a tornado that struck Nashville on March 29.)
Tornado in Nashville - Great Destruction of Property.
Nashville and it's vicinity were visited by a destructive wind-storm, of which the Union and American, of Sunday, gives the following account:
"Friday evening, about seven o'clock, our city was visited by a heavy wind storm which did a great deal of damage. One of the severest gusts lifted the dome from the tower of the Howard school house, in which was the bell attached to the clock, and carried it about three hundred feet, letting the mass down without the slightest injury to the bell. When it is remembered that the bell itself weights twelve hundred pounds, some idea of the strength of the storm-king may be formed. The tin roof of the building was torn up badly. Strange to say, with all these injuries to the building, the clock was not stopped. We understand that it will cost at least $1000 to repair the building.
The Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Dr. GOODLETT'S, in the vicinity, was also considerably damaged.
A number of other buildings in the city were slightly damaged, and a great deal of fencing was blown down.
Our accounts from the country represent the damage to houses and chimneys and the destruction of trees and fences as very great.
The wind was accompanied by a heavy fall of rain, which lasted for something like half an hour. We have not been visited by so destructive a tornado for several years.
Giles County Tornado of December 28, 1865
by L.W. McCord CITIZEN Editor & Publisher, January 5, 1866
Our once lovely but now unfortunate town had not recovered from the rude (knocks) of war, ere she is visited by a terrible tornado, sweeping to destruction everything that chanced to be in its path. It was not enough that we should have been in the track of armies for the past four years -- not enough to be bereft of loved ones as well as property by the desolation of war -- but on the night of the 28th ulth., the destroying breath of God (unreadable) sweep athwart us like a bosum of (unreadable). We would not murmur or (unreadable) at the providence of God, for "He (unreadable) doeth unto us that which seemeth best in High sight." We can only wonder why it is we, as a community, are so singularly (discouraged). This storm came upon us like a funeral knell on a joyous gala day. We were in the midst of Christmas festivities...But suddenly (unreadable) the visitor dashes into our midst (reducing) our "fruit to ashes" and our joy to (unreadable), and in an instant of time the (unreadable) is changed to one of sorrow and (sadness).
The destroyer entered the town at the south west side, with increasing volume at every step, laden with the fruits of his destructive errand in the country. Our friend and fellow citizen John Marks was the last to find his breath before he entered town...
Mas. B.F. Carter's dwelling house was unroofed and the walls badly shattered. No one hurt.
R.W. Rose, Esq., was the next sufferer. His premises seemed to us, next morning, to be a total wreck, but we understand that an effort will be made to save the main walls. Two Negroes were killed, and one or two others badly hurt.
The west end of Rev. R. Caldwell's house was torn away, and nearly all the out houses destroyed. Nobody hurt.
James McLane's house was lifted from its foundation, turned half round, moved ten or fifteen feet and totally unroofed. Nobody hurt.
The house occupied by Willie Bramlett (colored), was unroofed. Nobody hurt.
But now the picture becomes distressing. The house occupied by J.B. Stacy, Esq., and family, was utterly demolished. Miss Henrietta Braden, a niece of Mrs. Stacy's, was buried beneath the ruins and her body was not recovered unto 9 o'clock next day. Mrs. Johnson, the mother of Mrs. Stacy, and Mrs. Benson, relative of Mr. Stacy, were both fatally injured from the effects of which they died on the 28th.
Richland Factory was next in the path. The factory building was unroofed, and the walls considerably damaged. Two large brick buildings belonging to the factory and used as sleeping apartments by the hands employed there, were badly damaged. The damage to the factory is supposed to be $80,000, but the energetic and enterprising owners have gone diligently to work, and will soon have it repaired.
On and on the destroyer went, giving our old friend Frank Wilkinson, Esq., a slap and a kick as a remembrancer, demolishing several small tenements in the north east part of town, passing into the country with the same high-handed recklessness with which he entered town.
There are many curious and interesting incidents connected with the storm, one of which was the miraculous escape of Mr. Stacy's little daughter. Indeed there were a hundred miraculous escapes, but hers is inexplicable. She was up stairs in the room with her grandma and her aunt, both of whom were fatally injured, but by some strange freak of the winds, she was lifted gently and harmlessly to the ground, and although the heavens were thick with falling missiles, brought from other wrecks, she was found in the yard after the storm, unhurt.
The main track of the storm seemed to be about two hundred yards wide; but its wings extended several hundred yards at either side, damaging slightly many other houses, fences, &c., and frightening a good many people.
Giles County Tornado of May 6, 1868
The following was transcribed from a Pulaski Citizen article that ran on May 15, 1868:
In the last Citizen we mentioned the fact that this place was visited on Wednesday, 6th inst., by a hail storm followed by heavy wind and rain, but at that time we had no idea of its extent. It was not confined to this vicinity or to any particular course or track. We first hear of it in West Tennessee, traversing several counties, scattering death and destruction in its course.
Its force and fury was felt to an alarming extent in the northern portion of this county. On Big Creek, Jas. E. Abernathy, Esq., is the greatest sufferer. Co. Wilkison's gin and fences were carried off, and many others suffered more or less in the loss of fencing and valuable timber. The storm crossed the N. & D. R. R. at Reynold's station, destroying everything in its immediate track. Thence ranging up Richland creek, it carried away roofs and fences and uprooted trees, but fortunately no lives were lost that we know of. We understand that S. B. Marsh Esq., near Cornersville, was badly damaged in the loss of fences, timber and outhouses, and that in the vicinity of Cornersville the destruction to everyone who happened to be in the wake was fearful. On the Marchbanks farm the young cotton was literally uprooted so that it will have to be replanted.
Pettusville, in Limstone County, Ala., near the line of this county, was swept away, not a single house escaped the fury of the tornado except the church.
All the fruit trees were destroyed. A Mr. Pittman, slight-of-hand performer, received several internal injuries from being crushed by a falling house, while a Miss Dungy had one of her thighs horribly mashed by a similar catastrophe. Those who sustained the greatest loss of property were, Jas. B. Reed, Dr. Pettus Reves, M. H. Brown and Rev. R. H. Wilson. The top of the A. G. Westmoreland's stone house was torn off and the goods left exposed to a drenching rain which succeeded in the tempest.
In Lincoln County, near Junction, Winchester and Alabama Railroad, the storm was more severely felt than any that ever visited that region. The hail destroyed nearly all the fruit and greatly damaged the corn and cotton crops by beating them to the ground. A good many young stock were killed.
But the devastating effects of the tornado were perhaps more keenly felt in the north part of Williamson county than anywhere else. Five persons were killed and many others wounded. Mr. Chumbly and child, living on the Franklin pike, were killed, and his wife and three children dangerously hurt. Their house was blown to atoms. The details of this woeful havoc committed were terrifying.
Strange cylinder of fire
(From Symon's Monthly Meteorological Magazine, 1869)
Out in Cheatham County about noon on Wednesday -- a remarkably hot day -- on the farm of Ed. Sharp, five miles from Ashland, a sort of whirlwind came along over the neighbouring woods, taking up small branches and leaves of trees and burning them in a sort of flaming cylinder that traveled at a rate of about five miles an hour, developing size as it traveled.
It seemed to increase in heat as it went, and by the time it reached the house it immediately fired the shingles from end to end of the building, so that in ten minutes the whole dwelling was wrapped in flames.
The tall column of traveling caloric then continued its course over a wheat field that had been recently cradled, setting fire to all the stacks that happened to be in its course.
Passing from the field, its path lay over a stretch of woods which reached the river. The green leaves on the trees were crisped to a cinder for a breadth of 20 yards, in a straight line to the Cumberland.
When the "pillar of fire" reached the water, it suddenly changed its route down the river, raising a column of steam which went up to the clouds for about half-a-mile, when it finally died out.
Not less than 200 people witnessed this strangest of strange phenomena, and all of them tell substantially the same story about it.
Nashville Tornado of April 15, 1874
The following article was taken from the New York Herald-Tribune on April 16, 1874:
A DISASTROUS TORNADO AT NASHVILLE.
NASHVILLE, April 15. - A tornado passed over and through this city from west to east at 12:30 o'clock this morning, doing an immense amount of damage. It struck the Fair grounds, passing diagonally through the city and out by the University and Mount Olivet Cemetery. Its width seems to have been about a quarter of a mile. After passing the Fair grounds it struck the Exposition building and the Maxwell House, seriously damaging the former. The front of the Academy of Music, J. H. Frith's grocery store, Dirney's wholesale liquor establishment, and several other smaller buildings, near the corner of Broad and Cherry-sts. were crushed. The front windows on Hurley Bros. and Housen & Co.'s four-story buildings were crushed in. Beadle's livery stable, containing a large amount of feed, wagons, horses, and cotton, was blown off its foundation into the back water. Several horses and, it is thought, one man were drowned. Parishes's livery stable in College-st., in the rear of Beadle's was seriously damaged, besides several feed stores and small negro dwellings.
The tornado passed thence crushing in the front of a colored Methodist church, and striking next the Medical College, taking off a portion of the roof; from there it passed to the residence of Jefferson Parash, moving the whole of the roof out of place. At this hour it is impossible to enumerate the number of buildings damaged, or the loss, which will exceed $100,000. Many poor families are rendered homeless. It is feared there has been serious damage to property and loss of life. The telegraph lines are prostrated all along its course from Union City to Nashville.
Giles County Tornado of 1885
The following was taken from an 1885 edition of the local newspaper:
The most marvelous pieces of work the storm did, in the opinion of the writer, was the matter in which it handled Mr. Townsend's house in Frog Bottom. It was occupied by a Mat Henderson, a colored, and was built of upright boards - two rooms, with a stack chimney. The house was actually lifted from its foundation, chimney and all, and set in a different place. One end was moved quite seven feet and the other about three feet and the chimney must have been moved four feet. There was an old Negro woman, a boy and a girl in the house who were carried along with it, all of who escaped unhurt. There was a fire burning in the Fireplace at the time and the old woman cooked supper on it in the evening without having to rekindle it. The occupants slept in their usual places that night very comfortably, though their house is a little cranky from the shock.
Sumner County Tornado of June 29, 1890
(The following newspaper article was transcribed from Deseret Evening News (Salt Lake City, Utah Territory) of June 30, 1890.)
Tornado in Tennessee.
Gallatin, Tenn., June 29, - A tornado passed over the northern part of the town this evening, doing much damage to property. The African Methodist church was blown to pieces. Two women were fatally injured and a dozen others of the congregation seriously hurt. The minister, Granville Brown, will probably die. The wonder is that there were so few casualties, as the church was packed at the time. Trees, fences and outbuildings were destroyed throughout the town. There was considerable damage to farm property in the country, but no further loss of life is reported.
St. Patrick's Day Snowstorm of 1892
The winter of 1891-92 was almost one with no snowfall. Through March 14, a mere 0.3 inches of snowfall had been measured in Nashville, and it appeared that winter was over.1,2 There had been several days early in March with temperatures in the 60's, and the thermometer had climbed to 70 degrees on the 4th.2 Sometime on March 13, a strong cold front swept through the region, dunking Nashville's high temperature from 65 degrees on the 13th to 40 degrees the next day.2 Then, on the 15th, Nashville received a 4.2-inch snowfall -- the largest by far of the season.2 Much of this snow likely melted the next day, as the temperature rose to 39 degrees, and it appeared that a warming trend was underway.2 But this was not to be the case.
On St. Patrick's Day, March 17, Nashville received the largest snowfall in its history -- 17 inches -- a record which still stands today. The snow began around 6:00 p.m. the previous evening.3 Very little accumulated until after midnight.2 The snow continued into the afternoon.3
Said a Nashville Banner article, which appeared on page eight on the day of the snowstorm,
There has been much complaining, but there is consolation in the fact that the same snow that makes walking disagreeable, is enriching the wheat, fertilizing the land, and holding back the fruit until danger of frost is past. Over these things the farmers rejoice.
Nashville's street cars had been "snowed under," and did not run.3 Suburban workers had to walk to town.3 Morning trains were delayed.3 And the "arteries of trade" were clogged.3 Mailmen didn't leave the post office on their rounds until 10:00 a.m.3 Many letters weren't delivered until late afternoon.4 A freight train from Chattanooga ran upon a freight engine, derailing two cars, at the Winton community (near Murfreesboro), and did not get in until noon.3 A passenger train from Memphis due at 7:00 a.m. did not arrived until 2:00 p.m.3 And members of the Ancient Order of Hibernians in America canceled their annual parade.4
The Nashville Banner that day contained the following anecdotes:
In the city the snow seems to be taken good-naturedly. A real estate dealer on Union street has "For Sale" on a huge pile of snow in front of his door, and all about town the snowdrifts along the sidewalks are labeled with such legends as, "Keep Off the Grass," "Don't Pluck the Roses," "The Sunny South," "Beautiful Spring," "Come Into the Garden, Maud," "Mosquito Bars Made Cheap," "Linen Dusters at Half Cost," "In Memory of Dixie That is Froze," and "Where Are the Violets You Promised?"
In addition, the following conversation took place over the Associated Press wire:
Memphis Operator - The snow here is four feet deep.
Cincinnati - You mean inches, don't you?
Memphis - No, it is up to a man's knee.
So the winter that almost wasn't concluded with 21.8 inches of snowfall, and with 21.5 inches of that accumulating in a single month, March of 1892 remains the snowiest month in Nashville's history.1 The record 17-inch snowfall has been challenged only once. On February 20-21, 1929, Nashville accumulated 15 inches of snow during a remarkable 13-hour period spanning two calendar days.5 The next largest snowfall on record is 9.8 inches, which occurred on February 3, 1886.5
1 National Weather Service. Nashville Monthly Snowfall Table.
2 National Weather Service. Monthly Climate Summary for Nashville, Tennessee for March, 1892.
3 The Beautiful Snow. Nashville Banner. March 17, 1892.
4 O'Donnell, Red. Nashvillians made light of 16-inch snow in '92. Nashville Banner. March 16, 1982.
5 National Weather Service. One-Day Snowfall Totals of at Least 6" at Nashville.
Nashville Tornado of March 5, 1897
(The following newspaper article was transcribed from Daily Public Ledger (Maysville, Kentucky) of March 6, 1897.)
Tornado in Tennessee.
Nashville, Tenn., March 5, - A brief but terrific cyclone struck Nashville Friday, doing considerable damage. The spire of the McKendree church, possibly the largest and wealthiest Southern Methodist congregation in the Union, was completely wrecked. The centennial buildings came through unscathed. Scores of big down-town business houses were unroofed, and the Masonic temple slightly damaged. No fatalities have been reported as yet.
Tornado Outbreak of April 29, 1909
(The following newspaper article was transcribed from The Pulaski Citizen of May 6, 1909.)
CYCLONE BRINGS DEATH AND DESTRUCTION
Many Lives and Much Property Lost in Giles County.
The most terrible cyclone in the history of Giles County struck with great fury between 11 and 12 o'clock Thursday night. Greatest damage and the most horrible loss of life occurred in the community between Bunker Hill and Bryson, but the destruction was by no means confined to one place.
The storm extended over many states inflicting damage on widely scattered communities from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. But nowhere was the loss of life greater or the destruction of property more complete than in Giles County.
This particular cyclone began its work of destruction in the neighborhood of Conway, though several barns and tenant houses were blown down west of that place. From Conway eastward to the county line, and even beyond through Lincoln County a wide path of destruction and desolation was swept through a prosperous and happy farming community. But for the fact that the country is hilly and in places thinly settled the destruction would have been even greater.
The most frightful wreckage and loss of life occurred in the little valley through which passes the road from Bunker Hill to Bryson, and in which were located the homes of Bud Guffey, Will McGrew, Lee Smith, J. S. Bryson and others.
Will McGrew's family consisted of ten. The cyclone wrecked the house and killed Mrs. McGrew and six children, while Mr. McGrew, a son and a baby escaped with serious injuries. Only one member of this large family escaped unhurt.
Just a few rods east of the McGrew place stood the home of Bud Guffey. His entire family was wiped out of existence. Bud Guffey, his wife, and two chidlren. At the same time and place, Mrs. Thad Reese, who was a sister of Mrs. Guffey, with her two children, lost their lives, making seven deaths at this one house.
Jack Pope's home was wrecked and he and his wife were killed. Will Ross Lackey, Jr., and Esq. W. S. McLaurine's baby were also killed.
One negro family, Nancy Smith and two children lost their lives in the wreckage of their little home, and one of Till Bledsoe's children was killed.
The total list of those killed in Giles County, so far as could be learned the day after the storm was eighteen white people and four negroes, making twenty two in all.
In addition to those killed outright many were more or less seriously injured. Following is a partia (?) of those most seriously hurt:
Esq. and Mrs. W. S. McLaurine, Mrs. Ella King, widow of the late Mit King, collar bone broken, Hiram Usselton's baby, seriously, perhaps fatally hurt, George Hardy, son of T. J. (Bud) Hardy, Mrs. Louie Gordon, who was living with her mother, Mrs. Eliza Wilkinson, was cut and bruised about the face and arm.
It is impossible to estimate the property loss, probably not less than a hundred thousand dollars. Houses and barns with their contents, orchards, fences and timber make up a large list of valuable property much of which was literally blown out of existence in a few seconds. Following are some of the more serious losses: Lee Smith, house and barn; J. S. Bryan, house and barn; Werner Stevenson, house and barn; W. H. Watson, house and barn; Otha Young, house and barn; W. S. McLaurine, house and barn; Irby Scruggs, residence, outhouses and tenant houses; - barn escaped, Mrs. Eliza Wilkinson, residence; Hood Wilkinson, orchard, shop and barn, resident damaged, but not wrecked; T. J. Hardy, residence and barn; Ike Shapard, gin, The Scruggs' school house, near Conway, and the school house and church at Bee Spring were utterly swept away.
Coming as it did near midnight, when the people generally were asleep, many barely escaped in their night clothes. Jeff Dunnivant, a tenant on Irby Scruggs' place and his family escaped from the wreckage of their home with only slight injuries, but not a fragment of anything was left to the family, except the night clothes in which they were sleeping.
Elam Tucker, who lives at the old Suttle place, near Aspen Hill, lost his barn, also Will Coon, Billy Widene, and D. Biles, and the tenant houses on the Phillips place, south of Tucker's, were wrecked.
The horror of the storm was greatly increased especially were people were (sic) severely hurt by the darkness and torrents of rain, which followed. As soon as neighbors could be informed of the disaster, they hastened to the relief of the suffering. Brave men bared their backs to the chilly rain to provide wraps for suffering women and children; and worked through the dreary hours till daylight, searching for the dead and endeavoring to relieve the suffering of survivors. As soon as a message could be sent to Pulaski, local doctors and citizens hastened to the scene of disaster to aid as much as possible in the work of relief.
A relief committee was organized with John W. Young, Elkton R. 1, as chairman, and in a little while enough funds were in hand to provide food and clothing to supply the immediate necessities of those who had lost everything. But several hundred dollars will be needed for relief work and the more fortunate should respond liberally. Contributions may be sent direct to Mr. Young or to the Citizen and we will forward to the relief committee.
MAURY COUNTY IS STRUCK.
Columbia, Tenn., April 20. - A terrific cyclone passed through a portion of Maury, Giles, Hickman and Williamson Counties last night, and as a result thirty-five or forty known dead and a hundred or more injured, some seriously. The cyclone struck Primm Springs, a summer resort in Hickman County, and devastated the country. Four people are known to be dead and two are missing, supposed to have been blown away as their home was demolished.
DEAD AT PRIMM'S
Mr. and Mrs. George Ladd and little son.
Mrs. Will Adcock and her daughter are reported killed, but not verified.
The missing are Mr. and Mrs. Bob Stevens, whose home was torn to pieces. The cyclone followed the course of Dog Creek, a small stream close to the springs, and followed it until it came to the mouth of the hollow, when it entered the hollow and laid waste everything in its path. A portion of the residence of Mrs. Alice Estes was blown away. The home of Wilson Estes was also destroyed, together with the livery barn of Russell Estes, owner of Primm Springs Hotel. The timbers in front of the hotel were laid waste, some of which fell on the hotel, doing considerable damage to the building.
The cyclone went from Primm's on to Centreville.
Franklin, Tenn., Apr. 30 - A heavy and disastrous cyclone passed through this section last night between the hours of eleven and twelve o'clock and struck one-quarter of a mile west of Franklin, killing an old negro woman and injuring three of her children, two of which may die. It is reported that three white people are killed about two miles further down the trail of the cyclone, but this statement has not been authenticated. Four houses are blown down in Franklin. The old McGavock home is wrecked. A large oak tree was lifted bodily and blown across it, crushing in the roof. One brick home was completely demolished. The stock barn of Rural home Stock farm was torn to pieces, and there were many other houses, barns, and outhouses destroyed. The property loss will mount into the thousands. The path of the cyclone at this point is about 300 yards wide, and was accompanied by a heavy rain and thunder and electrical display.
A latter report comes in from Hillsboro, a small place northwest of here that several people had been killed, however, this is not authentic.
From almost every section of Tennessee are reports of fatalities and property loss, while Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and even Indiana and Illinois report touches of the cyclone.
FIFTY HOUSES WRECKED.
Dickson, Tenn., Apr. 30. - Dickson County was swept by a terrible storm last night, and as a result more than fifty houses lay wrecked today, and the damage to property will run far into the thousands of dollars. The storm seems to have entered the county from the southern side, passing between this place and Tennessee City. For a strip more than two miles in width along the railroad between here and Tennessee City, and on through that portion of the county traversed by the storm, scarcely a tree is left standing, but all lie as flat as if rolled over by some immense road roller. Dickson was left to the right of the storm's pathway, and fortunately little damage was done here.
LINCOLN COUNTY SUFFERS.
Fayetteville, Tenn., April 30. - The most horrible catastrophe ever known in Lincoln County was the cyclone which passed through the county last night about midnight, wrecking homes, destroying lives and injuring a large number of citizens. It is impossible to obtain details, as the wires are all down.
Barry Prosser, Fayetteville.
Miss Jennie Kelso, Fayetteville; killed by live electric light wire.
Roy Waite, Harms.
Mrs. Douthat, Cyruston.
Columbus Farrar, colored, Cyruston.
Negro woman at Harms.
A. M. Thompson, of the Fourth District.
The seriously injured are M. J. Farrar and daughter, of Gyruston, the former having a broken collarbone, and the latter a broken arm and leg; residence wrecked and burned.
Mrs. Berry (sic) Prosser, near Fayetteville; fatally injured.
Robert Barnes and wife, near Fayetteville.
J. M. Colston and wife, near Fayetteville.
Mrs. John Milstead, near Fayetteville.
Sam Cramsle, Harms.
James Oldham, Harms.
Mr. McNutt, wife and three children, near Fayetteville.
Dee Douthat, near Cyruston.
It is thought that the dead and injured list will be increased by further reports.
The property loss cannot be estimated. It will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The village of Harms, five miles west of Fayetteville, was almost completely destroyed. Only two houses were left standing. A large warehouse and storehouse were wrecked.
Fayetteville was not in the pathway of the cyclone, but was near it. The damage in town is slight compared with the country.
The Elk Cotton Mill was damaged about $5,000.
APPALLING IN HICKMAN.
Centreville, Tenn., April 30. - Following the trail of the storm which passed through Centreville April 9, the tornado last night between 10 and 11 o'clock was one of the most appalling that has visited this section probably in half a century. Besides the loss of property, which is now estimated at $100,000, seven known dead are reported, and injured.
Bert Neely and child, Little Lot.
Lindsay Bishop, aged 70, and wife.
Mrs. Money, aged about 60, Shipp's Bend.
Four-year-old child of Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Thompson, Totty's Bend.
Eight-year-old boy of Paulina Farris, colored, Centreville.
The desperately injured are: R. H. Thompson, a son and daughter of Mrs. Money, Hiram Prince and Prof. R. S. Ballen.
The clouds rolled like tremendous waves out of the southwest, and the thunder's crash was deafening, while the electric flashes played incessantly, lighting up the dark-canopied earth like a refulgent monster meteor. For several minutes it was as bright as the glare of a noonday sun with this setting, the wind terrific in force and volume halted at no obstacle, and in its path it left an imprint on everything it touched.
Giles County Tornado of March 13, 1913
(The following newspaper article was transcribed from The Pulaski Citizen of March 20, 1913.)
COUNTY SWEPT BY CYCLONES
Two distinct windstorms, accompanied by vivid lightning and downpour of rain, swept over the western and northeastern portion of Giles County in the early evening of March 13, 1913. Damage to houses, barns, out-houses, plowed land and fencing was estimated at several thousand dollars.
The first cyclone swept across western Tennessee about 2:30 P.M. Then about an hour and a half later at 4:00 another storm struck Giles and Maury Counties going northward. This was a wide spread system as it traveled over several states and most of Tennessee.
This storm reminded Giles Countians of the devastating storm and flood of 1902, which struck Giles County. This 1902 storm resulted in the loss of several lives and causing thousands and thousands of dollars damage to buildings, bridges, and land, however there was no known loss of life in Giles County, but the property damage to Giles was very heavy.
Within a span of 8 days in March, 1913, Rutherford County was hit by two tornadoes. The second of these occurred on March 21 and struck at the heart of the city. Ryan Darrow of the Rutherford County Historical Society produced a fascinating and well-researched article on this tornado that appears in the society's newsletter of November/December, 2007. His article begins on page 3.
Middle Tennessee tornado of March 21, 1913
(The following newspaper article was transcribed from the Dallas Morning News of March 22, 1913.)
MIDDLE TENNESSEE STORM.
Only Meager Reports Obtainable Because of Crippled Wires.
Nashville, Tenn., March 21. -- Reports from the cyclone which swept Middle Tennessee continue to come in slowly, due to the fact that wires in many locations are down. That the storm's track was almost identical with that of last week has been established, although the loss of life is not so heavy.
The storm swept Smith, Rutherford, Lewis, Maury, Marshall, Wilson, Dekalb and Giles Counties, inflicting severe property loss. At Murfreesboro the greatest damage was done, where two people are reported injured, one probably fatally, and many residents blown down, the Presbyterian Church demolished and the famous Rosecrans headquarters, used by Gen. Rosecrans during the Civil War as an ante bellum residence, was unroofed.
Lightning struck the building occupied by the King-Ragland Company, a fire loss of $10,000 resulting.
The path of the tornado was about 100 yards wider and at six places, where the most damage was inflicted, a path of two miles long was swept.
Great Flood of 1927
December 20-28, 1926 was one of the wettest periods in Nashville's history. During that stretch, 10.38 inches of rainfall were measured1, making December, 1926 the rainiest December on record. The result, known as the "Great Flood of 1927," was the most severe to hit the city since 1793.
Shelby Park was transformed into a lake as the Cumberland River crested at Nashville on January 1, 1927 at 56.2 feet -- a remarkable 16.2 feet above flood stage. Before the water receded, the Cumberland River had at one point enlarged to three miles wide. Two persons were killed, 10,400 were left homeless, and business losses escalated into the millions of dollars. The Ryman Auditorium was pressed into use as a shelter, along with two National Guard armories and an American Legion post.
Mail for Old Hickory had to be delivered by airplane. One young man, whose Old Hickory girlfriend lived a half-mile across the river, had to drive 110 miles around the flooded area to get to her. Water reached as far inland as Third Avenue, so many stores had to be evacuated. Two steamboats along what is now Riverfront Park floated onto First Avenue, close to buildings and utility poles. With 60 square blocks under water, prostitutes in one house in the red light district fled to the attic. Grocery shopping in some cases was done Venetian style -- by rowboat.
Former Tennessean feature writer Max York recounted the disaster with these details and more in a May 16, 1971 article in the newspaper's magazine section. One photo published then showed the Cumberland within inches of the awning above the entry door for the C.B. Ragland & Co. building, a wholesale grocery on Second Avenue. Another depicted a pile of rubble from the collapsed American Steam Feed Co. building on the same street.
A series of dams built since those years by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including Old Hickory Dam (1954) on the Cumberland and Percy Priest Dam (1966) on Stones River, provide river control to make such flooding almost completely preventable.
The Great Flood of 1927 ranks as Nashville's second greatest flood of record. Pioneer records detailing spots reached by the 1793 flood indicate it crested at what would have been a river stage of 58.5 feet.
Most of the information in this summary was taken from an article by George Zepp, which appeared in The Tennessean on September 25, 2002.
1 With 10.38 inches of precipitation, December 20-28, 1926 is the second-wettest nine-day period in Nashville's history. Between April 29 and May 7, 1984, 10.64 inches were recorded.
Beatty Swamps Tornado of May 10, 1933
Shortly after midnight on May 10, 1033 an F4 tornado touched down in northern Overton County. It moved for 20 miles from near Livingston to near Byrdstown. Thirty-three of the 35 deaths were in Beatty Swamps, 6 miles north of Livingston. The half-mile wide funnel destroyed every home in the community, and killed or injured virtually every resident. Much of the area was swept clean of debris. Damage totaled $100,000. There were 150 injuries. (According to the family of Ewing Hull, the air after suppertime was very quiet, although stifling for May. The Hull cabin was blown away that night, and the family woke up on the ground.) This is the second deadliest tornado ever to strike Middle Tennessee.
Remains of a frame home in Beatty Swamps.
Crowd that attended the burial. Coffin is that of Una Cole, draped with a flag.
Cole family coffins lined up for burial in a neighbor's yard near the cemetery. The entire family was buried in a mass grave under one tombstone.
(Photographs were provided by Ronald Dishman, Overton County Historian.)
Following is the text of an article that appeared in the Livingston Enterprise after the storm:
By SAMUEL K. NEAL
BETHSAIDA, Tenn., May 10.--This little mountain settlement bore the brunt of Tuesday night's storm when it climaxed into a tornado early Wednesday morning, leaving more than a score dead and as many or more injured.
Mr. and Mrs. Boss Lacy.
Mrs. Mary Reeser.
Ed Hopkins and daughter, Barbara Hopkins.
Eunice Cole and wife, and seven children.
Mrs. Ambrose King and daughter, Epsie King.
While natives of this vicinity, two miles East of Monroe, searched the wooded hills of eastern Overton County for other bodies, residents predicted more deaths would be registered by the week-end. It will be impossible to make an accurate check of the death toll for some days, on account of the inaccessibility of the region.
More than twenty persons were reported injured at Smith's store here, where emergency relief was started Wednesday. Doctors from Livingston and Cookeville and other places were giving first aid. The bodies of sixteen of the dead were brought to Livingston where they were prepared for burial, perhaps today. Four members of one family will be buried at the home site.
The tornado struck with terrible suddenness. Beginning at Eagle Creek, northwest of Bethsaida, the twister moved in a zig-zag line three-quarters of a mile wide, spent its fury here, and ended near West Fork, a distance of about eleven miles from its beginning. In its wake it left the worst destruction this section of Tennessee has ever seen.
Houses were torn down wholesale. Barns with their contents, including farm machinery, were swept away as if they had been match boxes. A farmer's binder was blown from his barn to a field 500 yards distant, and was left a worthless scrap of twisted iron. A new automobile was swept along for hundreds of feet and left a wrecked mass.
The horror of the storm was emphasized by the broken, twisted, torn bodies lying in a morgue at the Blount Funeral Home in Livingston. The most touching scene of all was the family of Eunice Cole, man, wife, and seven children, ranging in age from two to fourteen. All were killed, probably in their sleep. They were found near their home site in their night clothes, their bodies covered with grime and scraps of debris.
More horrible was the manner in which some of the bodies were found, their bones broken into an incongruous mass, and on two, parts of the heads were missing.
The tornado brought its share of freaks, if one is a goodly share with dozens of others yet unknown. A square of floor linoleum was found driven into a tree; a two-by-four plank was driven completely through an automobile tire; a millet straw was found driven into a fruit tree.
But most peculiar of all was at the home of Will Crawford, whose house was blown away, as were all his outhouses and his barn. In his chicken house two hens were setting, and they were found this morning complacently perched in their nests under a pile of debris, busily hatching their eggs, oblivious to the destruction around them.
While searching parties scoured the vicinity for more dead, troops from Troop A, 109th Cavalry, of Cookeville, guarded the area to prevent pilferage, which had begun soon after the bodies had been removed.
Funeral services for the victims were being planned for Friday, although no definite arrangements had been made. It was thought probable the a community service for all would be conducted. One family will be buried together in a cemetary adjoining the bare ground where their home once stood.
The community here turned itself into a corps of searchers, nurses, and builders after the ravages of the tornado had made them all brothers. A nurse from Livingston, employed by the county, came to Bethsaida this morning seeking some of the injured. She was told where they were, but that the road was impassable. She got a mule, and with a quantity of cotton, bandages, antiseptics and healants boarded the mule and went to the suffering.
The Southern Continental Telephone company placed an emergency telephone in the store here for the use of reporters, doctors and other rescue workers. The Red Cross began a systematic survey for the purpose of providing food and clothing for the homeless.
Although the tornado Wednesday missed Livingston, it went in a wide streak in this mountainous country. Wire reports from other sections adjacent led to the theory that they all gathered at Eagle Creek, cut their swath in one gigantic rush through here, and ended on West Fork, seven miles from Bethsaida. Clay and Putnam counties were not harmed, and Pickett's only harm was her loss of trees and other small property damage. It was impossible to estimate the property damage done in the tornado's path.
This tornado exceeds in death and destruction the one in Nashville several weeks ago, and is perhaps the worst the State has ever had. It bore a close resemblance to Texas and Kansas tornadoes, the only difference lying in the fact that those states are flat, and the mountains here allay the storm's fury.
Throughout Tuesday the hills and valleys of Middle Tennessee were clothed in a thick haze, and during the early part of the evening and until late Tuesday night the air was stuffy, with a flashing electrical storm and a high wind predicting heavy rain. The rain in the tornado area was of flood proportions.
Trouble and horror have been visited upon these people, but the survivors seem to cling to something that carries them on against bitter odds. They cannot be cheerful, but there is no whining among them. Doubtless such destruction has brought a misery that showed when ambulances from Livingston, Cookeville and Monterey carried away dead and injured; but they have turned this early to a rehabilitation -- they are stooping, with worn-out tools, to build again -- with something of a quiet strength which must have been inherited from their native hills.
The White family and the Ewin Hull family, at first reported killed, escaped the tornado, save Hull, who was injured.
Communities near the stricken area, the Red Cross, the Save the Child Fund and American Legion are co-operating in giving the region first aid.
Mr. and Mrs. M. H. Hankins tendered the use of the Commercial Hotel and the injured have been removed from the Methodist Church to that place.
Funeral services for the Cole family will be held this morning (Friday) at 10 o'clock in Livingston, followed by burial in the Red Hill Cemetary.
The Tennessee death list:
Near Beaty Swamps
Mrs. George Reeser, 68.
Edgar Hopkins, 35.
Hopkins' daughter, Barbara, 6.
Hughey Beaty, 35.
Ray Reagan, 23.
Mrs. Ambrose King, 45.
Miss Epsie King, her daughter, 22.
Mr. and Mrs. Boss Lacy, 40 and 31.
Miller Allred, 60.
Hershal Phillips, 40.
Mr. and Mrs. Una Cole, 40 and 35.
The seven Cole children, Magnus, 15; Carrie, 12; Edith, 9; Marian, 8; Ruth Dean, 5; Anna, 3; and Marse, 1.
Ed and Kate James, negroes.
Injured Near Beaty Swamps
Garfield Allred, Mrs. Hewey Beaty, Mrs. Edgar Hopkins, Ewin Hull, Ambrose King, John King, Mrs. Maggie Lacy and her child, Joe Lacy, and four members of his family, Robert Reeser, Hershel Smith, Mr. and Mrs. Ostie Taylor, Christine Lacy, Mrs. Dallas Sams, Mrs. Joe Phillips, Ozelle Phillips, Clarence Lee Phillips, Thurman Phillips, Nina Phillips, Rilda Sams and Mrs. Will Sams. Of these Christine Lacy, Mrs. Joe Phillips and her daughter, Ozelle Phillips, are in a critical condition. Joe Phillips, 50, his daughter, Estelle, 17, are in Protestant hospital, Nashville, in a critical condition.
You can read more about the Beatty Swamps tornado and view additional related photographs here.
The Middle Tennessee Cold Front of January 23, 1963
Cold fronts are given that name because they usually introduce a colder air mass into areas through which they pass. But middle Tennesseans have never experienced a cold front quite like the one which plowed through the mid state on January 23, 1963.
Meteorological records from middle Tennessee's cooperative observer network show that temperatures were rather mild before the dramatic frontal passage, with the thermometer peaking in the 40's and 50's at most locations. Kingston Springs' was the cold spot, with a maximum temperature of 38 degrees, and Pulaski was the warmest at 63. Nashville registered a more typical 48 degrees.
The cold front brought snow to the region as temperatures went into a free-fall. Six-plus inches of snow were measured along a corridor which extended from Kingston Springs (southern Cheatham County) northeastward through the Nashville metropolitan area, and into Kentucky. Lafayette recorded the most snowfall -- 6½ inches. Nashville measured 6.2 inches. Lesser amounts occurred at other mid state locations, primarily north of Interstate 40, while stations near the Alabama border received no snowfall.
But the big story was not the snow, but the nasty drop in temperatures. By the next morning, the thermometer read several degrees below zero, with Kingston Springs establishing a middle Tennessee record of -30 degrees. Several other stations reported low temperatures on the morning of January 20 of -20 degrees or colder, and Nashville checked in at -15 degrees. Locations nearer the Alabama state line were mainly in the single digits below zero.
The overall temperature drop during the initial few hours following the cold frontal passage is amazing. Waverly, which had enjoyed a pleasant 54 degrees on January 23, saw it's temperature drop an astonishing 80 degrees before hitting bottom at -26 degrees on the morning of January 24. Other temperature drops are as follows: Cheatham Lock & Dam, 79 degrees; Centerville and Dover, 74; Linden, 73; Portland, 72; Celina and Springfield, 71; Dickson, 70. Nashville's 63 degree drop is a record for that city.
(The following newspaper article was transcribed from The Pulaski Citizen of January 1, 1964.)
Blizzard Christens New Year With 12-Inch Snow
With traces of the eight-inch Christmas snow still on the ground New Year's Eve night, Giles County was hit by a blizzard up from the Gulf of Mexico that left another 12 inches of snow. It was one of the largest snows to be remembered by oldtimers around Pulaski. The snow left weathermen embarrassed, as they were caught with their readings' down; it had not been in the forecast.
The foot of snow came at a time when most activity had slowed to a standstill for celebrating the new year and its effect was not so noticeable. Many people spent Jan. 1st shoveling off drives and sidewalks. In downtown Pulaski, road graders converted into snow plows were at work all day Wednesday and into the night, moving tons and tons of snow off the streets.
As it was with the snow which fell Christmas week, traffic was forced to slow down and no serious accidents were reported, but there were scores of minor ones on the slick streets and highways.
The storm, which dumped four inches of snow on New Orleans earlier in the day, hit Pulaski about 3 o'clock in the afternoon. By 5 p. m., only a half-inch had come down, but after that the wind got stronger and the flakes larger and by the wee hours of Wednesday morning there was a foot of snow covering the county. The wind-swept snow drifted over knee-deep in places. There was some sleet mixed with the falling snow at times.
All white students were scheduled to start back to school in the county Thursday morning, but they have been given two more holidays because of the snow. Monday is the opening day of school now. The holiday period for Negro students didn't end until Monday.
Martin College resumed classes Thursday, but only about a third of the 360 students enrolled there were back on campus.
Many out-of-state travelers, especially those headed south, were stranded in Pulaski New Years Eve night. Motels and the hotel were filled to capacity, and local citizens opened their homes to those without a place to stay. Some travelers who were in this area at nightfall Wednesday decided to spend the night in Pulaski and again all accommodations were taken up.
Offices in the courthouse were closed Thursday, but were scheduled to be open Friday. "We didn't mean to close," said County Judge Alf Clagett, "but they (the county employees) just couldn't get there."
The snow was caused by the interaction of a cold high pressure system in the Tennessee area and a warm low pressure system over the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico, the U. S. Weather Bureau said. The low pressure system, and its warm air, was expected to move out of the Gulf in an easterly direction. Instead, it headed north through Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia, on up into Tennessee.
Warm-blooded New Orleans shivvered undered (sic) four inches of snow as the mercury plunged to 21 degrees. Many people in the Crescent City had never seen a flake of snow before.
Highways in North Alabama were closed when the snow from the south hit that area. Huntsville recorded 16 inches.
(The following newspaper article was transcribed from The Democrat Union, Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, of January 2, 1964.)
Snow Up To 16 Inches; Second Blast Of Season
All Known Records Smashed In Sudden Wintry Onslaught
Schools and Factories, Some Businesses Idle; Many Meetings Depayed
Still reeling from a heavy snowstorm of last week, this city suffered another wintry blast New Year's Eve which brought the heaviest snowfall since records have been kept.
Joe Baxter, official Weather Observer here, stated today that the snow measured from 14 to 16 inches, and where drifts occurred the depth went to nearly twice that amount.
Most businesses and industrial plants were closed New Year's Day, and well they might have been, since it was practically impossible for traffic to move, even with chains and snow tires.
Many cars are still stranded as of today, but warming sun is helping to dissipate the heavy snow cover.
All schools are closed for the balance of the week, some businesses have remained closed today (Thursday) and industrial plants have been forced to shut down operations temporarily.
Many club and other meetings, scheduled for today or tonight, have been cancelled.
Had a similar precipitation been in the form of rainfall, it might have been characterized as a "flash flood." Perhaps this unprecedented snowfall could be called a "flash snow," it fell so rapidly and so quickly paralyzed movement of traffic as well as pedestrians.
A number of persons attending New Year's Eve dinners or parties found themselves unable to get home and had to spend the night with their hosts. Bus service was halted for a time when major highways were closed to traffic.
No fatalities due to the snow have been reported and two minor accidents, with no one seriously injured, have been reported by state and city officers.
(The following newspaper article was transcribed from The Wayne County Times of January 3, 1964.)
Fifteen Inch Snow Shatters Record Set In 1929 According To Local Weather Prognosticator
Wayne Citizens are 'digging out' after the deepest snow since 1929, according to the Waynesboro weather prognosticator. The fluffy stuff measured no less than 15½ inches Wednesday morning.
The snow, following one of a week ago, virtually stopped all vehicles and business for the New Year's holiday season and most plants and schools will not reopen until January 6th.
Altho the roads and streets have been snow and ice covered, and few wrecks and no fatalities have been reported in the county. Many say it was the quietest New Year's holiday season in many, many years.