RE: Drownings/Big Barren Creek
|Johnson's Mill, located on U.S. 25E where the Barren Creek Flood occured. Stop in to see the History of Johnson's Mill and enjoy the freshly ground Yellow Corn Meal and other agricultural supplies.
Date: 3/15/99 10:33:28 PM Eastern Standard Time
From: email@example.com (Pat Oneal)
Before I begin copy of the articles, I remember my mother telling me about
a flood that she and my dad experienced when they were first married. I've
often wondered if it was the Big Barren Creek Flood. My dad worked for
the railroad. They lived in one of the RR section houses. Mama said she
watched the waters rise near their house. She was so worried that the water
would overtake their house. Daddy had worked many overtime hours, and one
evening when he came home from work, he had only been there a short time
when he received word to come back to work. She told them he was ill and
couldn't go out again. They later learned that the train my dad would have
been traveling on went into the floodwaters. Mama said she watched houses,
chicken houses with animals on top floating down past in the water. They
were fortunate that the water did not reach the house. She said she remembered
that many people drowned, and families lost their homes and all their belongings.
If this was not the flood she experienced, does anyone know of another
flood in the Claiborne County, TN, Lee Co, VA, area that took place about
1st Entry: EVENTS & MISC. FLOOD IN CLAIBORNE Election Morning - 3 August
Reported by Knoxville Sentinel, New Tazewell, TN. This story taken from
file of newspaper (Knoxville Sentinel) articles written at the time of
the flood. In most cases copied verbatim (not responsible for accuracy
of information). Full credit should go to the Knoxville Sentinel.
THE KNOXVILLE SENTINEL, KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE, THURSDAY EVENING, AUGUST
3, 1916, DEATH LIST IS EXPECTED TO REACH THIRTY FROM CLAIBORNE COUNTY CLOUDBURST
SEVENTEEN BODIES REPORTED RECOVERED AND WORK OF RESCUE CONTINUED.
Middlesboro, August 3, reports received late this afternoon from the vicinity
of New Tazewell, in Claiborne County, which was swept Wednesday night by
a disastrous cloudburst, claiming a toll of many lives, declared that the
number known dead was seventeen, and that it was expected that the death
list would reach thirty. Rescue parties are engaged insearching the devasted
regions for additional dead, and in carrying relief to many rendered homeless
and destitute by the waters.
At Big Valley, southwest of Tazewell, searching parties have recovered
the following dead: Bob Johnson, Mrs. Bob Johnson, Mrs. Crockett Edmondson,
Edmondson Child, Porter Walker, Porter Walkers wife and child, unknown
girl age about 5 years, unknown girl 3 years old. The last named body was
found about fourteen miles below the scene of the flood. About twenty miles
below the flood section the lifeless body of a small boy is reported to
have been seen, but rescuers were unable to recover it. It floated on,
and out of sight.
HOUSES ARE MOVED BY FLOOD SPECIAL TO
THE KNOXVILLE SENTINEL - TAZEWELL. AUGUST 3, 1916.
Twenty five people are known to have been drowned and twenty five more
are reported missing when the swollen waters of Big Barren Creek broke
loose the Mill Dam across the stream at the Mill of John W. Thompson, two
miles south of New Tazewell, in Claiborne County, Wednesday night about
eight o'clock. A cloudburst struck the section and torrential rains swept
down the mountainside making a raging river of the small creek. The dam,
which had been in service for many years, gave way under the terrific force
of the water, millions of gallons of water sweeping down the narrow valley,
washing away four mills, five residences, and three large barns.
Different reports from various sections of the affected district believed
by conservatives that the number dead will not exceed twenty five. The
identified dead are: Robert Johnson, Mrs. Robert Johnson and two children,
Mrs. Sam Wylie and two children, Bunk Ferguson and wife, Mrs. Crockett
Edmondson, Mrs. Crockett Edmondson's infant. The missing thus far reported
are Hugh Burch and family of seven or eight, Crockett Edmondson and eight
children, A.L. Johnson and wife.
The expanse of the territory deluged by the torrential downpour extended
about one mile in width and six miles in length from the headwaters of
Big Barren Creek due west to the Clinch River. Intermediary streams are
terribly swollen, thus adding to the devastation wrought by the flood.
|Table that Bob Johnson was clutching when found. (More)
The southern railway train leaving Knoxville Thursday morning was unable
to go farther than Oakman, a distance of forty-one miles from Knoxville,
where it was forced to stop on account of the track being washed out from
that point for a distance of ten miles to Snodgrass, beyond Tazewell. It
is said that two trestles are washed out in this area, but this cannot
be confirmed. O.B. Keister, superintendent of the Coster Division, is on
the scene, and a large force of men is at work in an effort to patch up
the roadbed so that trains can be operated over the tracks. The train leaving
Knoxville at four o'clock Thursday will be unable to go father than Oakman,
but officials of the road state that they hope to have the line opened
again for through traffic some time Friday, unless the damage is worse
than anticipated. The train from Middlesboro to Knoxville was also forced
to turn back at Snodgrass.
Telephone and telegraph wires were laid low by the wind and rain, and communication
is therefore greatly impeded, making detailed information very meager as
to the extent of the disaster.
Many homes and barns were removed from their foundations or otherwise damaged
by the visitation of the elements. Crops suffered seriously, and orchards
were stripped of fruit, and gardens beaten down. The loss to small farmers
expeciall is considerable.
My grandfather, L. G. Payne was the Sheriff during the flood and is mentioned in the above article. He went on to be County Judge, dying in office in 1924.
NINE INCHES OF RAINFALL IN THE TAZEWELL DISTRICT SPECIAL TO THE KNOXVILLE
SENTINEL, TAZEWELL, AUGUST 3.
Nine inches of rainfall in the four hours between midnight and four
o'clock A.M. today was the record established here during the cloudburst
which swept this section last night. This was shown by the government register.
It was by far the heaviest recorded here. The weather at daylight was fair.
Reports began coming in early of the havoc wrought by the cloudburst southwest
of here. The first information received was that seventeen people had lost
their lives in the vicinity of New Tazewell. Later, it was indicated that
other sections had suffered.
Crops were absolutely destroyed over a large area of Claiborne County and
this will cause much suffering to those who depended upon their truck for
a livelihood. Many of them are left penniless. Relief committees were formed
at qn early hour this morning and those in charge were of the belief that
the people here, and in nearby towns, would be able to cope with the situation.
They had not sent for help outside of the affected district and it looked
as though this would be un-necessary.
The rain, which was general over upper east Tennessee, southeastern Kentucky,
and a section of southwestern Virginia, began about eight o'clock Wednesday
night, but the cloudburst did not occur until about two o'clock this morning.
The people who lived along Barren Creek were sleeping when the flood came
upon them and many were unable to save themselves in the face of the flood.
The water from the mountains came down the rivulets and creeks in a mighty
torrent and Barren Creek soon became a raging river, and one mill dam is
known to have bene washed away and it is believed three others were swept
away in the path of the flood, which continued down the valley to the Clinch
Growing crops along the banks of the creek were swept with the flood, which
carried three mills, five residences, three large barns and one storehouse
and many outhouses with it. The property damage alone is estimated at between
$40,000 and $50,000.
Fifty families lived in the path of the flood on both sides of the creek,
and only a few of these have bene accounted for, and hope is almost abandoned
for their safety, owing to the fact that they were sound asleep when the
waters reached their homes and were caught like rats in a trap and were
doubtless drowned with scarcely a moments warning. The people who lived
along the creek are farming and milling people and with few exceptions
had large families. Between thirty and forty peoply have gone from Tazewell
and New Tazewell to assist in the relief work, which is proving very hazardous
and difficult, owing to the fact that the creek is still swollen and the
low lying districts are entirely inundated.
THE KNOXVILLE SENTINEL THURSDAY, AUG. 3,
1916, "DEATH AND DESOLATION IN WAKE OF THE FLOOD"
Whole families are taken and homes and livestock are destroyed. (Official
to the Knoxville Sentinel, Middlesboro, August 3, Reports received here
from the flood district in Claiborne County placed the dead at some 25
to 30 and the missing at about 25.)
The cloudburst which struck the Barren Creek section last night about midnight
and carried death and destruction in its path is said to have carried away
several houses and barns and other buildings and many hogs, sheep, and
cows. While no assistance has been asked of this city, many local people
have gone to the district where the cloudburst occurred and will lend and
assistance possible. Those reported to have been found and identified are
:Bunk Furgeson and family, Johnson family, two Wiley children, Edmondson
familiy numbering six. Blairs Creek is only twelve miles from Middlesboro,
but owing to the facts that wires are down in the affected areas it is
almost impossible to gain definite information on which to base reliable
The Southern Railway's train which left here this morning was first to
return on account of a portion of the roadbed being washed out at Snodgrass.
A large fill about sixty feet deep at the is place is reported as entirely
washed away. It is not known here when trail service on this line wil be
resumed. A washout on the L & N Railroad near Elys stopped the trains
at that road also, but the passengers are being transferred around the
RELIEF EXPEDITION TO ASSIST STRICKEN PEOPLE MIDDLESBORO, AUGUST 3, RESCUING
PARTIES ARE ORGANIZED TO SUCCOR THE STRICKEN DISTRICT.
Between 15 and 25 persons were drowned and enormous property damage was
sustained by a cloudburst on Blairs Creek near Tazewell, Tennessee, last
night according to information which reached here today. Telephone messages
from there said about 100 persons lived along the creek and of these only
a few had been accounted for. City officials and citizens of Tazewell have
organized rescue parties and are scouring the stricken district in search
of the dead. The region is very wrought and communication has been practically
cut off. The creek is ten miles long and it is estimated that 150 people
lived in this neighborhood. Although only 100 of them are supposed to have
been in the path of the cloudburst or endangered by the waters of the creek
overflowing it's bank.
TEN MILES OF K.C.G.& L. HAS SERIOUS
WASHOUTS TRAIN SERVICE SUSPENDED INDEFINITELY PENDING REPAIRS TO RAILROAD.
Because of washouts on the Knoxville, Cumberland Gap, and Louisville branch
of the southern railway between Oakman and Snodgrass, a distance of ten
miles, train service is suspended indefinitely between Knoxville and Middlesboro.
Washouts exist at frequent intervals between the two stations.
The train leaving Middlesboro for Knoxville at six o'clock A.M. Thursday
came but 15 miles south and was turned back. The train from Middlesboro
leaving Knoxville at seven fifteen A.M. Thursday reached Oakman, a distance
of about forty miles out, and could go no further. It returned to Knoxville.
The four P.M. train Thursday also stopped at Oakman. It is not known how
long train service will be interrupted as the line had not been examined,
being inaccessible until late in the afternoon. It iwll be probably several
days before all the fills are completely repaired.
DAM HAD BEEN CAUSE OF CONTROVERSY IN
COURTS. SUPREME TRIBUNAL HELD IT COULD BE LEGALLY RETAINED, SAYS I.W. MOYERS.
I.W. Moyers of this city was one of the first persons in Knoxville to learn
of the cloudburst and flood in Claiborne County. Mr. Moyers owns a fine
farm only a mile from where the greatest destruction was wrought. His parents
and three brothers and numerous other relatives live in the immediate vicinity.
He will leave Friday morning going over the Louisville and Nashville Railroad
to Middlesboro where he will get an automobile and cross the country to
where his relatives live. Mr. Moyers stated that neither himself nor any
of his relatives had suffered loss from the flooded conditions.
The Mill Dam which broke, according to Mr. Moyers, was built several years
ago under protest from the people who lived along the creek below the proposed
location and that a suit had resulted, the Supreme Court awarding the right
to build the dam. Mr. Moyers was in communication with his relatives Thursday
about noon and they reported that 29 bodies had been recovered.
THE KNOXVILLE SENTINEL FRIDAY EVENING, AUGUST 4, 1916.
Claiborne's death list standing at 25. Family of eight missing and they
may eventually be added to list of dead. Desolate picture is revealed in
Little Valley swept bare by disastrous high waters. New Tazewell (Claiborne
County) August 4.
A cloud of sorrow hangs over this little town today as the victims of the
terrible flood of Wednesday night are being buried. The death list now
stands at 25 with another family of eight missing. The bodies of 14 of
those who lost their lives have been recovered and rescue parties are dragging
the creeks and backwater in the hopes of finding the remaining bodies.
Property loss will approximate $50,000.00.
Barren Creek represents a scene of horror and desolation that exceeds the
power of description. The flood following the unprecedented rains having
swept the little valley almost absolutely bare for a distance of six or
eight miles. While the district is called the Big Barrens, it is one of
the most fertile strips in the county and along the banks of the little
stream known as Barren Creek many families have built substantial homes
and stores and mills and were prospering in every way. Few, if any, had
scarcely a moment's warning when the swirling waters which had bene turned
loose from the mountain side came swooping down the bed of the creek.
The Known Dead: The revised list of dead is as follows: Mrs. Crockett Edmondson
and three children, Lilly Wylie, Minnie Wylie, Bunk Furgeson and his wife
and seven children, Robert Johnson age 65, Mrsa. Robert Johnson, Porter
Walker, Porter's wife and seven children. Conley McBee and wife and six
children are missing, but whether they were drowned or not is not known,
as survivors are being reported at isolated points where they fled from
the ravages of the flood. Huse Burch and family who were reported to have
been wiped out have been located and are safe.
Very little relief is needed according to authorities here, and the survivors
are all being cared for by neighbors.
Property Damage: The property damage and loss of crops which is very variously
estimated at from $50,000 to $100,000 may be summed up as follows: John
Thompson's mill $5,000, Millard Meyers' mil $4500, Bob Johnson's sawmill,
Bob Johnson's residence, Crockett Edmondson's residence, Bud Mayes' residence,
Huse Burch's residence, Crockett Edmondson's mill, a large lumber and planeing
mill, one store building, five large barns, many small outhouses, approximately
one mile of Pike Road, all growing crops on both sides fo the stream for
the entire length. The damage of the railroad cannot be estimated at this
Cause of the flood: While it was first believed that a cloudburst occasioned
the flood, ti is now believed that the unusual amount of rain which fell
during the night was the cause. It is variously estimated that there was
12 to 15 inches of rainfall during the night. While this is much more than
was shown by the government gauge at Tazewell, it is explained that that
place was out of the path of the heaviest downpour.
The dam across the creek at John Thompson's mill was built about eight
years ago and was of stone. It was about 100 feet long and 30 feet high.
Many people here believe that, even if the dam had withstood the flood,
the volume of water which passed over it would have caused it's destruction.
The valley through which Barren Creek flows has steep hills or ridges on
each side and it is said that during the rush of the water the flood mounted
to the hillsides for 30 to 40 feet. As a result of the recent cloudburst
in Claiborne County, the Clinch River reached a height of 15.2 feet at
Clinton Friday, rising 8.7 feet since Thursday. Several small streams near
Tazewell flow into the Clinch River and have swollen it to its present
state. It was stated Friday that considerable debris floated down the river
at all points. The water was still rising but expected to fall by Saturday.
Property damage is not expected to exceed $150.000 and this includes the
washing out of the two trestles on the Southern Railroad between Middlesboro
Rescue parties stayed in the devastated region all night and several fresh
searching parties are reported to ahve left Tazewell this morning. Traffic
on the Southern Railroad will be suspended between here and Knoxville for
THE KNOXVILLE SENTINEL SATURDAY AUGUST
5, 1916, NEW TAZEWELL.
Flood Dead in Claiborne County is 24, 4 missing.
Discovery of Bunk Furgeson floating on drift reduces death list one. Push
relief work. Barren Creek isolated and almost inaccessible to outside world.
The finding of Bunk Furgeson, one of the supposed victims of the Claiborne
County flood, floating in an unconscious condition on a pile of drift many
miles from the scene of destruction Friday evening leaves the list of the
number dead at 24. All others having apparently been accounted for. Conley
McBee and family, who were believed to have been lost, have been located
alive and safe and it is not thought that any further fatalities will develop.
Fifteen bodies have been recovered in the immediate flood vicinity and
two others were found near Maynardville in Union County, these, with the
three bodies found in the Clinch River near Kingston, make a total of recovered
bodies twenty. This leaves four more persons to yet be accounted for and
no hope is held out for their being found alive.
Relief parties left New Tazewell this morning headed by Judge Morrison
and Col. Dan Swab for the stricken district to assist in the relief work.
The Barren Creek District is almost inaccessible, the roads nearly all
being washed away, and to reach it it is necessary to walk for six or eight
miles from the railroad to New Tazewell and then a part of the remainder
of the trip can be made on horseback.
It is, however, necessary to made the last stage of the trip through the
rough hills and ridges on foot. The work of reconstruction has already
begun and relief expeditions are working to salvage as much as possible
of the debris. The people of the vicinity have withstood the ordeal heroically
and many have worked in the rescue parties day and night in an effort to
find more of the survivors and to care for them after they are found.
The Southern Railway Company now has trains running as far as Lone Mountain,
four miles southwest of Tazewell. It will probably be Tuesday, however,
before trains can be operated through to Middlesboro.
Thrilling escapes and stories by survivors: Many thrilling stories are
told by the survivors and many deeds of heroism have developed where men
gave up teir lives in an effort to save the women and children in their
families from the waters. A part of the rescue party stayed in the valley
all Thursday night in an effort to recover lost bodies and those who went
home for the night returned this morning to the scenes of horror and desolation
when the work was renewed. Many of the bodies are believed to have floated
down the creek to the Clinch River and it may be months before some of
them are found. At Big Valley on the Clinch River, Thursday, people were
on the river banks all day making an effort to save some of the bodies
of some of the flood victims and succeeded in pulling out the body of a
little girl. Others were seen to float past but the rescuers were unable
to bring them ashore.
Crockett Edmondson, whose wife and three children were drowned, escaped
after being washed for five miles among driftwood. Two of his children
were found alive on drift timber three miles from home. He has no home
now. All that remains of his pretty, new two-story domicile of which he
was proud are two posts between which the front gate was hung. These huge
timbers, firmly embedded in the earth, withstood the flood. Even the chimney
is gone and the bricks are scattered down the creek. Crockett is one of
the survivors of the flood. His wife, three children, and two grandchildren
were lost in the waters. He was almost miraculously saved after battling
with floating debris for more than a mile. One of his daughters and a son
came through alive, but were lacerated and mangled.
Today Crockett is visiting his son who is married and lives in a little
house high upon the hill. He is sitting on the little porch of the cabin,
weak and broken, while around him is gathered a group of friends, neighbors,
and kinfolk. The women are tired and worn. Their eyes are red and swollen
from weeping. The men are dry-eyed but they are sad. Laughter is not heard.
A pall of sorrow overhangs the entire community. Many who have gathered
there today to recount the evil night have lost one or more loved ones.
Some who escaped with their families have no food, no clothing, and no
work. The crops were made and now these yields are gone. It is too late
to begin to plant anew. (Crockett Edmondson's story follows...)
Someone asked Crockett Edmondson to relate his experience
of Wednesday night and Thursday morning and a strange hush fell over the
little gathering as in a weak voice this prematurely old man began a recital
of the privations and suffering he endured. The silence was broken only
by sobs of one of the girls, but unmindful of his surroundings. Crockett
Edmondson told his story: (A story that is stranger and far more
stirring than fiction.)
"Along towards dark as we were getting ready to
go to bed, I asked the old woman if it wasn't going to storm, and she said,
law yes, Honey. The clouds are just biling up in the west. The baby was
crying to go to bed, and we went to bed, me putting the baby down at the
foot, said Edmondson, introducing his narrative. Along in the night the
old woman woke me up and asked me to go out and see about her crocks in
the spring house, as the way it was raining, the creek would back up and
the mill would be ruined. I was tired from working all day and sleepy and
just plain trifling, too, I expect. I told her that a little milk wouldn't
mind if it did get ruined for we had plenty more. But she said she didn't
care about the milk but she didn't want to lose the crocks. I told
her that they wouldn't likely wash away and I went back to sleep.
I don't know how long I slept, but the old woman woke me up calling to
me to save the baby. The lightning was flashing and thunder booming hot
and the air was filled with the awfulest sounds I ever heard. I threw
my feet from the bed and I was standing in water up to my knees. I moved
toward the foot of the bed to get the baby. Just as I got there, I heard
a roar like thunder right in my ears. I could hear trees and timbers smashing
and then the flood struck us. The house groaned and gave way. I could see
the ceiling coming down on us and then I didn't remember any more until
I found myself floating down the flood on top of a house which supposed
was my own as it had a new shingle roof. I don't know whether I was in
my right mind or not. I thought I was then, but I doubt it now. I thought
I heard a man's voice who I recognized as Bunk Ferguson because he had
such a coarse, heavy voice. It seemed to me he was running down the bank
trying to warn the people but I think now he was on some drift, floating
the same as myself. How aI made that trip in safety, I will never know
for I gave up and sank beneath the waters many times thinking it was all
over. How far I floated on the housetop I can't say, but before long it
struck something and turned over, throwing me under it. I felt it float
off of me and as I came to the surface I struck a large timber and catching
to it I thought I was safe at last for I knew it would float. As the lightning
would flash, and it was almost steady, I could see houses, barns, trees,
timbers and cattle floating on the flood which looked to be almost a mile
As Edmondson finished his story, tears fell from
every eye in the little group of people, who had listened to his story
in a dull monotone. Stolid mind people, many of whom had regarded a man
who could weep as being soft, wiped the tears from their eyes with a big
Before I had gone far, my timber struck something and ended over, throwing
me through the air. Again I was beneath the water. I could feel the debris,
and logs and timbers as they struck my body or passed over head. Finally,
when I rose to the top again, more dead than alive, I was so weak and exhausted
I could scarcely move. Throwing my arms out wider for some support, I struck
nothing except small boards which gave way beneath my hands and I went
How far I was swept on under the water, no one can
tell but directly I felt something solid passing over me and with a mighty
effort I turned over and caught the edge of what was part of a room. It
was about ten by twenty feet as near as I could judge in lightning flashes.
As I crossed on the roof on my hands and knees my fingers in the cracks
under the shingles to keep from being thrown off, I was thrown around by
the whirling current. I was almost naked, had on nothing but the tattered
rags of what had been a shirt when I had started and I was shivering from
the cold which had numbed my body. As a flash of lightning came, I looked to the bank ahead about
twenty feet away. I would have attempted to try to swim, but just as I
let go my hold with my fingers the roof Iwas holding on turned quickly,
throwing me far out into the stream. Hopelessly, I struck out for where
I had seen the bank and by some miracle managed to keep afloat. I drifted
with the tide trying as I went to get closer to the bank which I finally
did. Seizing a small sapling, my body swung around against the bank. Though
weak, I dragged my cut and torn body from the water and began to climb
up the hill on my hands and knees. I did not know where I was b ut I imagain I had drifted
ten or twelve miles, but I had gone only one mile and a quarter. Looking
around, I could see by lightning flashes a house or a barn and I made my
way there thinking I might get some clothes.
At the house I stumbed over a rake and concluded
that it was a barn. I went inside thinking I could find some hay to cover
up with and get warm but the barn was empty. In one of the mangers
I found some large briers and course feed which the cattle wouldn't eat
and I crawled into the trough, partly covering myself with dried weeds.
Then I lost consciousness. The strain had been more than I could stand.
It was morning when I revived and climbing from
the manger stiff and cold, my body cut and bruised and blood clotted. I
felt weak and old. My mind was not clear, but I realized that I must have
a pair of pants. On into the road I went and started up the hill in search
of the house where the owner of the barn might live. Turning and looking
back down the creek, I saw a house but did not recognize it. Nothing looked
familiar to me. I saw a woman come from the house, and I hid behind a fence.
Then I called and asked if any of the men folks were at home. A man came
out and the woman went back to the house and I told the man I wanted some
clothes. He said nothing but went back into the house and directly fetched
a coat and a pair of pants. I put on the pants and he said, Crockett, put
on that coat, too. Your're most froze. I put on the coat and looked up at him, for he called my by
name and I didn't know him. He asked me if I didn't know him and I told
him that I didn't. He said he was Dr. Carr's son-in-law and then I remembered
him. I asked him who lived in the house below and told me that Dr. Carr
lived there. I knew the place ordinarily but in my condition and with the
changes the flood had made, I could not recognize anything. Directly I
made my way back to Jim's here and haven't been able to do much since."
(end of Crockett's personal testimony)
Crockett Edmondson's seventeen year old daughter,
Viola, and her brother fought their way to the creek bank grasping drift
after drift as the lightning flashes lighted up the heavens. As she finally
gained the bank and turned loose of her brother for a second to pull out
of the water by a tree the little fellow sobbed "I can't go farther, Vi,
my leg is broke". With these words he sank into the water and was
swept on out of sight and hearing. That was Hugh and he had just passed
his sixth birthday. His little body was found the next day and had been
buried in the cemetery beside that of his mother and other brothers. Lonnie was the baby not quite six
years of age and his little body is yet unfound. Beside the Mother's grave
a space is awaiting the remains of her baby for whom she cried as she was
crushed to death. Other families broken.
That is only on of the families (Crockett Edmondson)
which has been broken up or entirely lost in the flood. Porter Walker and
his wife and six children: Sarah, Porter, Jr., Robert, Frank, Ethel, and
Emma, are all lost.
Bunk Ferguson and his wife, Lucy, and their children:
Walter 8, Lige1, Lilly 4, Ed 12, Dorothy 10, Martha 6, Mary 13, are gone.
There is a report on the creek that Bunk has been found alive (see earlier
comments), but it is not generally credited and all hope has been given
Old Uncle Bob Johnson, age 65 years, and his wife
who is 62 years of age were drowned. Mrs. Johnson had saved $1,000 and
it, too, is gone along with home.
The body of Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Ferguson and her
13 year old daughter, Mary, were found near Kingston and were brought to
Lenoir City and thence brought to be interred in the little churchyard
Sunday. The body of the boy was found at the same point but was so badly decomposed that it was
buried near where it was recovered. Officials have been notified of the
finding of another boy's body near Kingston and it will be brought here,
also. Slowly, the bodies of the victims are being found and interred. The
people are not downhearted despite their harrowing experiences and the
sorrow in their hearts and already the work of reconstruction has begun.
Nothing like this has ever happened in this vicinity.
Those who saw the storm approach say that
two clouds came from opposite directions and apparently met over the district
of which Barren Creek is the water channel. The electrical display is beyond
description, and the water poured in torrents. While the rain began shortly
after eight o'clock Wednesday night, the destruction did not ensue until
about 2:30 a.m. Thursday. The watch of Crockett Edmondson was found a short
distance from his home and it had stopped at 2:38 a.m. Much suffering evidenced.
One who has not visited the scene cannot realize the suffering and privation
which those unfortunate people have undergone and which they must, of necessity,
undergo before the shaken conditions can be righted. All mills on the creek
have been destroyed and those who were fortunate enough to save their corn
and wheat have no place to get it ground. Those who have money with which
to buy foodstuffs are unable to obtain supplies because of the conditions
of the roads over which it is impossible to drive a horse in many places.
Stores on the creek have been washed away and stocks of food which they
contained have gone with them.
Many of the survivors are wearing borrowed clothes, having escaped in their
night clothes or with none at all. Others have nothing to eat and are dependent
upon their more fortunate neighbors who are striving with all their power
to cope with the situation.
Homes are gone and in many cases the survivors lost all the money they
had. Their fields are ruined and wagons and farm implements washed away
and wrecked. Their stock is drowned.
Several of the citizens of Claiborne County have suggested that the county
make a large appropriation for road work in the stricken section and give
employment to all the destitute who are able to work on the roads as these
must be rebuilt before much can be done toward the reconstruction of homes
and mills. This suggestion seems to be finding favor and the county court
may be called upon to make such an appropriation.
Even in the towns of Tazewell and New Tazewell, the pinch of need has been
felt owing to the washout on Southern Railway and the inability of merchants
to receive freight. The railroad is now transferring mail and passengers
a few miles south of New Tazewell where the greatest damage was done to
the road. Through a large fill fully 200 feet in width and 75 to 80 feet
in depth washed out and the passengers must walk down through a ravine
and cross temporary bridge and climb the opposite bank. Stalwart negroes
carry the mail and such of the express as can be handled this way while
passengers convey their own light baggage. This link in the road is expected
to be repaired to such an extent that trains may pass over safely by Tuesday
night or Wednesday morning, when the town can receive a supply of ice and
other much needed supplies.
These are only a few of the stories that came out of that great tragedy.
However, I feel that these are representative of what many people experienced
during this trying time. Certainly there were many, many more families
affected by this terrible flood. Many had losses that were never reported
and the indirect impact on scores of people probably was never known.
I was only three years old at the time of this flood, and therefore, cannot
remember the events of that night. However, I have heard some of these
stories and more so many times that they seem so very real to me. I'm sure
there are others out there that feel the same way. My hope and prayer would
be that it never happen again. (Submitted: by Shelby McBee) THE END
This completes the articles about Barren Creek Flood, August 3-5, 1916.
Taken from "The People's History of Claiborne County Tennessee 1801-1988.
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