Deadly Cloudburst Hits Tennessee Mountains

Image from the Stoney CreekerThe Lewis Farm Historical Photos



Twenty Miles of Southern Railway Washed Out and Thousands of Acres of Farm Lands Are Ruined.


Johnson City, Tenn., June 14. — Twelve known dead, four seriously injured, more than a dozen houses, barns and mills demolished. 20 miles of the Appalachian division of the Southern railway made impassable and thousands of acres of farm lands ruined, constitute the toll of the most disastrous cloudburst ever recalled in this section.

It appeared to have its center near Hunter, Siam and Carden’s Bluff, and on Little Stony creek and Blue Springs creek, where a house in which two families lived, went to pieces, taking nine lives.

The storm came without warning Friday night and early Saturday.

Aside from the impassable condition of roads the section is very mountainous, cut by precipitous bluffs, coves and many streams. Most of the houses and farms are in the valleys and lower lands, in the path of the rising streams, which feed the Watauga and the Doe rivers.

Unconfirmed reports from other sections told of persons missing and believed to be dead. Relief parties have started from Elizabethton and Hampton and from this city. Broken roads, however, prevented them penetrating further than the outer edge, except by primitive modes of travel. Telephone and telegraph lines are down.

No word has been received from Fish Springs and Butler, Tenn., good sized villages believed to be in the center of the devastated area. The cloudburst came as a climax to a day of heavy intermittent rains, swelling streams already raging torrents and sweeping everything before them.

The stricken area is partly traversed by two branch line railways, both of which are badly damaged and by highways which were not the best in dry weather and now no longer exist.

A telephone message from Elizabethton, the nearest point to the stricken area gave as known dead as follows:

Mrs. Pearl Lewis and her children, William, 14; Mary Lou, 4, and a 2-year old son, and an infant daughter; Lum Smith and wife and their son, Willard, 7, and a 6-year-old daughter of W.G. Ellis, a farmer.

The Lewis and Smith families lived in the same house. The Ellis family lived in the Stony creek section near Hunters.

Members of a second family named Smith and another named Norton also are reported missing.

Unconfirmed reports from Carden’s Bluff indicate eight known dead. Impassable roads and lack of telephone wires have prevented verification of this report.

*     *     *

Image from Stoney Creeker


Atlanta, Ga., June 14. — Upon receipt of a news dispatch that the towns of Hunter and Carden, Tenn., had been virtually wiped out by a cloudburst, southern division headquarters of the American Red Cross here announced they had dispatched a staff representative to the territory to take charge of relief measures.

Billings Gazette (Billings, Montana) Jun 15, 1924

And on the same page of the newspaper:

Down East.

Just got back from an eastern town,
Where mornings are dark, where rain comes down
And washes corn from the listed rows —
Down where the muddy Missouri flows.

Got out of bed at my usual hour,
In the chill and damp from the midnight shower,
Dressed in the gloom of the early light,
Wished for the warmth of sunshine bright.

Wanted to travel the open spaces,
Tramp along where the Yellowstone races
Down from the heights, from melting snow
Where clouds ride high and warm winds blow.

I saw no distant mountains where mighty rivers rise
From snows that fall in winter, or where the eagle cries;
I saw no rugged rock rims across the valley floor,
Nor heard the river dash and churn in restless midnight roar.

— H.S. Tool, Billings.

Billings Gazette (Billings, MOntana) Jun 15, 1924

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2 Responses to “Deadly Cloudburst Hits Tennessee Mountains”

  1. chris Says:

    Watauga lake was not created until the late 1940’s, so I doubt that the ppst card is from 1924. Nice post card none the less.

    • oldnews Says:

      The postcard was just used as an illustration for the poem. The newspaper article was from 1924, no idea on the postcard.

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