Remembrances Of The March 13 Cyclone That Hit Benton County

Nell Morisette
NewsTribune Special Columnist

Good morning. It's morning as I write this, it may be in the afternoon when you read it.

It is one of those mornings when the clouds hide the sun. Looking out I said, "Oh this is no fun." So I started to think of the beautiful rainbow of colors from the leaves falling and blowing through the air. The I smile, for I know this day is as nice as I think it is. Thinking of HE who made this day for me always makes my day nice.

The 1913 cyclone or tornado as written by Mr. George Blanton Holladay follows.

In the terrific storm which swept through the county from the southwest to the northeast last Thursday afternoon, Louis Williams, who resided about three miles south of town, was instantly killed. He and Mrs. Williams were standing in their doorway when the storm broke upon them. They started to run to a place of safety when Mr. Williams was struck on the neck by a heavy piece of flying timber. Mrs. Williams was not injured. Immediately following the storm others were reported killed, but his was a mistake we are glad to learn.

Leaving death, injury, grief, and devastation in its wake, the storm was the most destructive that every struck our county. Besides one death, scores were more or less injured, two of whom can hardly survive their injuries. Reports are still coming in of widespread loss of homes and damage to property. In many instances scarcely anything remained to tell of the happy homes of a few moments before the fury of angry, raging elements swept almost everything in its path to instant destruction. The greatest destruction occurred on the farm of Judge L. E. Davis near Cypress Creek, on Beaverdam Creek, and in Flatwoods and the results are more distressing in some families than in others.

Like other equinoctial storms which swept through the south Thursday, carrying death and destruction through Texas, Louisiana and Georgia, the one that struck here did not reach its intensity until it left Hardeman County. Several lives were lost in McNairy, Madison and Henderson Counties. At Lexington three were killed and more than fifty houses wrecked, besides other loss of property.

After leaving Lexington - from the best information we can get - the cyclone did little damage until it reached Riley Bridges and Alco Fowler near Gusmunda, who sustained some damage, but no one was seriously hurt.

The splendid new dwelling of Bud Mitchell, near the Old Gossett place, was wrecked; the dwellings of Tom McClure and Will Latimer were damaged and the home of George and Bud Barker were reduced to kindling wood in almost the twinkling of an eye.

Perhaps the greatest damage in this locality was on the farms of T.J. Smith, Lon Latham, and John Loveall, whose homes were completely wrecked. Mr. Smith lost several good dwellings on his place. Mrs. Loveall sustained a broken arm and other injuries. The home of Pierce O'Guinn was blown away. There is nothing but wreckage at the homes of Briggs Barker, John Williams, Louis and Noah Williams. The dwelling of Mrs. N. V. Baucum, who was sick in bed, was lifted from its foundation, but she escaped injury. At Pet Hardin's the storm swept away the house and everything in it except the family, who were seated on the floor and escaped injury. Not a vestige was left of Smith's school house near John Loveall's. Fortunately there was no school there. The dwelling occupied by Robert King or J.B. Holland's farm, about a mile southeast of town, was riddled, and Mr. and Mrs. King and their found children were badly injured. Mr. King hardly gained consciousness until Sunday. One child's leg was broken. Mrs. King sustained several injuries.

The home of Drew White (the old Alex Holland place on the hill near the section houses of Nashville, Chattanooga, and St. Louis Railway) was scattered to the four winds, and Mrs. White was badly hurt, but will probably recover. Mr. White's injuries are slight. Telegraph and telephone lines were torn away and almost a clean sweep of timber and out-buildings was made on Bud Lockhart's farm (the old Barlett place).

The dwellings on the farm of Judge Davis east of town occupied by E.W. Hawley and Leonard Davis were completely wrecked. Mrs. Hawley and children had a very narrow escape. She says that after disengaging herself from the wreckage she called her child and began a search for it. Finally - after what seemed an age to her - she heard it calling to her from beneath some of the wreckage, where it was pinioned down and she rescued it. Both are slightly injured. Mr. Hawley was working at the gravel pit at the time.

"Mrs. Leonard Davis and children were less fortunate. They live at the old Fussell home, which was a well built house. Only the floor remains. When Mrs. Davis regained consciousness she was lying in the garden, east of where her home had stood; near her almost buried in the mud, was her little son. She began a search for her three week old baby, which she located by its cries, further on down the hill. She searched in vain for their daughter and her screams for help were answered by Lucas Davis, who through a tempest of rain and amid falling trees (frequently being forced to take refuge with the children and Mrs. Davis behind the trunk of a fallen tree to escape the fury of the terrible rainstorm which followed in the wake of the cyclone) they reached the home of Judge David where they were cared for.

Their eldest child, a little girl, was blown nearly two hundred yards down the ravine on the east side of their home where she was found by her father (who hastened home from the poor farm, where he has a building contract). He drew what he thought was her lifeless body out of the water in the bottom of the ravine and left her there while he hurried on to seek the other members of the family, his mind filled with fear and deep forebodings of what had taken place during his absence. Later Priest Lashlee saw the little girl,and found that life had not gone. He placed her in the hand of Gus Totty, who left her at the home of Walter Vick and hastened to town for a physician. Her condition is extremely serious; her lower limbs seem to be paralyzed but she has conscious moments when she appears to be better. Mrs. Davis is badly hurt and one arm and one thigh of her baby are fractured.

A portion of the roof of Judge Davis' dwelling was whipped off, and practically all of his barns and outhouses were wrecked, unroofed, or damaged beyond repair. He lost more than a thousand dollars worth of timber and a great deal of fencing will have to be replaced. In going over the storm-swept zone on his place last Sunday we saw trees of large dimensions broken off a few feet above the ground and some trees were carried many yards from where they stood. A large oak tree near Judge Davis' Dwelling was twisted off at the ground. A little south of their home is a tangled mass of fallen trees of many sizes.

The home of Clark Davis (the old Hubbard Johnson place) was carried away, and Mr. Davis, his two children and his mother were swept down the hill some distance, but their injuries are slight. Looking across to the south is the wrecked homes and panorama of tangled fencing and fallen trees; then to the southeast is the now naked foothills stripped of all growth; off to the northeast, the path of the cyclone, the timber on the hills beyond Burnside Creek show the effect of the terrible impact of Timbers, plants, furniture, etc., that was carried on by the fury of the storm, and the tree tops along the creek wee whipped clear of bark by the mass of wreckage swept onward and over the hills into the other communities.

to be continued next week

Thought For the Week:

When life gets you down, keep looking up.

Continued from Last Week

Nell Morisette
NewsTribune Special Columnist
It is said that almost everything at the home of Mrs. Eliza Kennon except her dwellings was destroyed. Nearly all of the outbuildings of S.T. Presson were wrecked beyond repair and one of his horses was killed. Hardly a piece could be found of the home of Alvin Bowman where the destruction is complete. Mr. Bowman lost about all he possessed. The homes of J.M. Prince and Henry Presson were left a mass of wreckage - almost complete destruction.

W.H. Dobson, the well-known stock man, sustained a heavy loss by the cyclone. It is said that Mr. Dobson had one of the best stock farms in the county. This and all his outbuildings were reduced to wreckage. The home of Collins Pafford was swept away, the destruction being almost complete. Hardly a building was left standing on his farm.

S.C. Vick's dwelling went down in ruins and he lost heavily in the destruction of valuable timber. The home of G. T. Sarrett, Bertrain Sarrett, and G. T. Childress were in the path of the cyclone and almost in the twinkling of an eye they were reduced to wreckage. The house of A. R. Devault was unroofed, and that of J. L. Gullett was damaged by the wind.

The Christian church building and school house on Beaverdam Creek were a total wreck. School was in session at the time and it's remarkable to state, no lives were lost, though with one exception, we were informed, not a pupil escaped slight injury. Miss Bessie Dobson, the teacher received painful but not serious injuries. It is said that when the school building was struck it seemed to go to pieces almost instantly. One little fellow who was picked up by the wind and carried some distance was considerably bruised on his body.

The home of J.C. Warrick was near the path of the cyclone and he suffered some damage. The store of Walter Phifer at Way was demolished and his merchandise seemed to take wings, so to speak. His dwelling was also included in the wreckage of his property. He lost some money, too, but a portion of this was recovered.

At Hall's Valley the home of Mrs. Cansada Farmer was totally destroyed and the dwelling of Ira Dillon was unroofed. Near Hall's Valley was said to be one of the finest bodies of virgin forest in Benton County. We were told by an eye witness the cyclone cut a swath about three hundred yards through the timber almost like mowing down wheat!

Reports from Clydeton on the Tennessee River and that section of Humphreys and Stewart Counties show that the fury of the cyclone was non the less weakened when it passed over the Cumberland River into Kentucky.

Much stock was destroyed, including the horses lost by E. W. Hawley, Leonard Davis and others; chickens were blown for miles, stripped of feathers and many of them disemboweled. Corn stalks and reeds were interwoven in wire fences, many beds, mattresses, pillows, clothing, etc., were lodged in tree tops, wrecked furniture and trunks here and there, were mute witnesses of the forces of the raging elements. Trees were uprooted all along the pathway of the cyclone, creeks rose rapidly and were at flood stage in a few hours, many bridges were destroyed or washed away, some of the best orchards in the county were swept almost clean of fruit frees, and thousand of dollars worth of fencing was destroyed.

C.H. Kennon, mail carrier on Route 4, relates a thrilling experience. He was returning home when he was and heard the roar of the approaching cyclone. He at once sought safety and singled out a nearby outbuilding for a place of refuge. He saw he could reach the home of a patron further on, and looked back in time to see the outbuilding, or it's wreckage, flying through the air! Many instances of narrow escape and freaks of the wind are related. Mr. Kennon left with us a cabinet-size photograph picked up on the road for identification. It is a group of four ladies and a child; the child is white and is seated in the lap of the most elderly women of the group; she is thin-faced and to be about seventy years of age.

As soon as it became known here that a cyclone had swept near by town and that there was distress of suffering, crowds of men left immediately for the scene to give relief where needed. Searching parties were organized to recover and restore clothing and all other personal effects to be found, and the local physicians were kept busy during the better part of Thursday night and Friday.

The injured persons are being looked after by the citizens of the town who have subscribed most liberally of their means. At the mass meeting here Friday morning several hundred dollars were donated and much clothing and other needed articles were given for the relief of the sufferers. Furniture and bedding have sent out to families left homeless and penniless and everything possible has been done to give relief where needed. Many families are being looked after by neighbors who were more fortunate.

When the first news from the cyclone-swept area was received here it was discovered that all telephone and telegraph lines were broken and it was impossible to learn of the extent of the damage in the county and trains on the Northwestern Railway ran all that night without orders. A crew of men worked all night to restore the telegraph line between Camden and Johnsonville. We wish it was all a dream - that everything was like it was again - but it's too true, sad and true.

The worst storm in the history of the county came in the afternoon, about 3:00 p.m., March 13, 1913, blowing down many houses and destroying much timber; it came from the direction of Lexington, crossed over Benton County, passing over the N.C. & St. L. Railway section house section just east of Camden and ended in Stewart County east of the Tennessee River. South of Camden Louis Williams was instantly killed by a scantling town from his home; the old Thompson home in the Cypress Creek Valley - two large log rooms with a dog trot between as houses were built in the pioneer days - the west room was completely destroyed, taking the roof as well; in the east room the logs down to the floor; on the south side were all blown away, leaving three walls dilapidated by standing; the heavy joists stayed in place on the west side of this north room, but fell tot he floor on the east side. Mrs. W. W. (Pet) Hardin and her several children were in this room but it so happened that they were in the southwest corner and on the north side these joists so fell that none of the family were injured.

A short distance to the north of the Thompson home, Robert King and family lived in a new box house which was completely destroyed; Robert was seriously injured and never did fully recover. A few hundred yards to the north, Mrs. D. B. White, nee Effie Holland, east of Camden depot and of the section houses in the old Alec C. Holland home, a large home was alone, and it was completely destroyed; her husband and E.E. McDaniel had stopped in their barn south of the home when the storm came up; they found her with the debris of the home all around her but not seriously injured; east of Camden the Leonard Davis home was wrecked; all their provisions except the barrel of flour was blown away; an enlarged picture was found in the Flatwoods community several miles away; his wife, two sons and two daughters were at home, all were injured; the oldest daughter, Minnie, was seriously injured, her spine was broken; she lingered for about two years and died; the three week old baby had an arm and leg broken but recovered.

Noah Williams was a rural route carrier and reached home as the storm was coming; he did not have time to put his horse in the barn but threw the bridle over a wife fence post; after the storm he found his horse still hitched tot he fence post but the wind had lifted the horse over the wife fence; Mr. and Mrs. Thomas J. Smith had a nice home south of Camden on Cypress Creek; they had a small fire in the west room fireplace and were sitting in front of the hearth; the building was lifted leaving the floor and foundation and left them sitting in the chairs without even a scratch.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Smith gave Mr. G.B. Holladay this information.


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