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Cyclone Leaves Death and Destruction in Its Wake

The Sweetwater Telephone, Thursday, January 30, 1908

 

Portion of Pond Creek Valley Swept by Terrific Storm -- James Cassady and Two Sons Dead

Cassady's Wife will Die; His Daughter Is Unhurt

Barns Blown Away and Many Others Are Damaged -- Four Churches Are Destroyed and the Timber Is Scattered for Miles -- Farms Damaged

One of the most terrific cyclones in the history of East Tennessee passed within five miles of Sweetwater last Sunday evening about six o'clock. It seemed to have originated in the upper end of Meigs County, passed through Erie, Tenn., up through Pond Creek valley, on to Philadelphia. Death and destruction was strown along its pathway.

The first damage done so far as reported was the destruction of a barn and silo belonging to James May of Sweetwater, on his farm in Meigs County. Much valuable timber on this farm was blown down and destroyed.

The house of James Cassady, was completely destroyed, instantly killing Mr. Cassady. Mrs. Cassady's ribs were broken in on one side, and it is claimed that she cannot live. Their sons, John and Joe, were so badly injured that they have since died. Only one member of the family, a little girl, escaped uninjured, remarkable as it may seem, without a scratch.

Widow Harrell's residence was torn to splinters, and to complete the destruction, the remnants caught fire and was burned up with all its contents, yet the family escaped without injury.

Byrd Riddle's house was totally destroyed with all its contents. His thigh was broken in two places. His baby's arm was broken also. The remainder of the family escaped with only slight injuries.

Wiley Sliger's barn was blown down, two fine mares killed, two mules injured, all his machinery, a buggy, etc., were scattered among the rubbish and torn to pieces.

Fender's Church was scattered over a twenty-acre field. Fisher's Chapel was completely demolished, and Shelton's Grove was removed from its foundations, and roofing scattered to the winds.

Many other houses and barns in the neighborhood, the owners of which we have not learned, were blown down, and many others received slight injuries.

Farther up the valley some four or five tenant houses on the farm of J. L. Wilson were blown down with two barns.

Edward Everette lost his home. He was uninjured, but his wife and three of his children were badly injured.

Israel Lenoir, of Philadelphia, lost a barn and two cows.

Joseph Porter and George McCreary, also of Philadelphia, each lost a barn and contents.

Several residences in the path of the cyclone were more or less badly damaged. The storm moved in a northeasterly direction. It covered a distance of about one-half mile in width. Reports of the disaster are not yet complete.

From 5 o'clock yesterday afternoon until ten o'clock last night the storm raged in this section, with a greater or less degree of severity. In Sweetwater some damage was done to trees and electric wires, and a few chimney tops were lowered. None of the cases of damage here is of a very serious nature, however. The path of the cyclone proper was across Pond Creek valley and was removed from the town of Sweetwater from three to eight miles. It is considered remarkable that the loss of life is no greater, and it is feared by some that further casualties may be made known when the complete reports are in hand.

Had the cyclone included the town of Sweetwater in its path, the loss of life might have been very heavy, and property damage extended into hundreds of thousands of dollars.

LATER

The latest report from Sunday's cyclone makes loss of life and destruction of property much greater than first reported. Eye witnesses say that no pen can describe, no imagination can picture the destruction and desolation of the scene. Increditable stories are told of the scene, which would not be believed if many were not now living who have visited similar scenes.

The main point of the cyclone was seen by several persons. They describe it as looking like the smoke from an engine with its apex touching the ground. It had the motion of a spinning top, zigzaging back and forth, with one general sweep a little north of East passing any given point in a moment. Timber within its path are slashed and worn where still standing, limbs and bark torn away, bespattered with mud and dirt, appearing as if a river had swept over the path over hills and across the valleys, leaving deposits of mud, drifts of hay, brush, fragments of houses and barns. It looks impossible for any living creature to have come out of its path.

At present writing from the most creditable accounts obtainable, fifteen to twenty people were injured, mostly with broken limbs.

There are four dead at the present writing, the two Cassady boys having died, John on Monday and Joe on Tuesday, and one of the Everette children died on Wednesday and another not expected to live. Mrs. Cassady is still alive, but death is expected at any moment.

Later reports give two residences as having been burned, that of Andy Myers and a Mr. Smith, after having been torn to fragments by the storm. Mrs. Harrell's residence was not burned.

A reliable estimate gives the number of houses and barns destroyed as fifty to sixty. No intelligent estimate can be made of the destruction of timber.

Mt. Zion Church in the upper end of Meigs County has been added to the list of churches destroyed. Joe Harrell saved his family by putting them into a hole in his yard, where he had started to dig a well. He says he saw the storm coming, got the family into the hole and stood watching the storm until he was struck by a flying piece of timber and saw his cow up about fifty feet in the air coming toward him. He darted into the hole with the rest of the family just as his house and barn was swept away. Increditable as it may seem, he says the cow is still alive, but both horns are missing and that she is so bruised up that she will die.

Another story almost equal to this is vouched by reliable parties is that Byrd Riddle's wagon wheels were broken off the axle, the felloes and spokes torn out of the wheels and blown away leaving the tire on the ground where the wagon was standing.


Many thanks to Couisn Marvin Stephens for finding this interesting article on microfilm and sending it to us!

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