National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

November 20, 1900 map

Overview
A late Fall outbreak of tornadoes struck parts of Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama, with dozens of people killed and hundreds more injured. In Middle Tennessee, at least five tornadoes were reported to have struck the region, including a devastating F4 tornado that killed 27 people in Columbia - one of the deadliest tornadoes to have ever struck Middle Tennessee.

Research by Thomas P. Grazulis in his book Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991 (St. Johnsbury, VT: Environmental Films, 1993), numerous articles from the Nashville American newspaper, and additional research by NWS Nashville Lead Forecaster Sam Shamburger provide insight into some of these devastating early 20th century tornadoes. 

 

F1 Sumner (Gallatin) Tornado
Counties: Sumner
Time: 8:00 AM CST
EF Scale: F1
Damage Path Length: 4 miles
Damage Path Width: unknown
Fatalities: 0
Injuries 0
Damage:
 

FROM THE NASHVILLE AMERICAN NEWSPAPER ON NOVEMBER 21, 1900 PAGE 1:

Gallatin, Tenn., Nov 20. - (Special.) - "The most severe rain and wind storm that the people of this county and town have experienced in many years passed over this place at 8 o'clock this morning, doing much damage. It was traveling in a northeasterly direction and was increasing in speed and size as it passed on. It is feared that it has done much damage in the northern section of this county and Southern Kentucky, but as there is no telephone or telegraphic communication with that section nothing can be learned as to the results.

The first place the cyclone struck in this county was the lot of Sam Lackey, in the southwest portion of the town, where it tore down several trees, etc. Passing down by the male school it tore the top off of a barn, blew out the end of Mr. Gun's barn, blew down one wing of the shed at the Ajax Mill and tore part of the roof off the mill. It also blew down a barn of an old colored man near the mill, besides a number of small buildings, fences and trees.

After it passed the mill it rose up and passed over the town and struck in the lot of Col. J. J. Turner, one mile north of town, where it blew down a number of shade trees and much fence. It also knocked out several window lights in Mr. Rufus' house.

The greatest damage was done after it reached the home of J. Tom Durham, where a large, new barn was badly damaged, and will, in all probability, have to be taken down and rebuilt. Gates, trees and fences also suffered at this place. Reaching the residence of C. C. Horn, the tops of his chimneys were blown off and a windmill torn into a thousand pieces. A portable photographic gallery was wrecked, nearly all of the fence around his farm torn away, and his house and barn seriously damaged.

The toll gate house on the Dobbins Pike suffered considerably. The columns of the front gallery were blown out, besides other damage.

The beautfiul lawn of W. A. Holder suffered considerably; a number of the finest trees were blown down and fences badly damaged.

passing out the Dobbins Pike, it swept fences and trees as it passed. The chimney of Mr. Hullett was prostrated; also several small buildings, etc.

The last place heard from was the farm of H. E. Love, where over 1,000 panels of fence were blown down and trees, etc. sufferec in proportion.

Col. T. R. Love, who was on his way to town, encountered the storm just as it struck the premises of J. T. Durham. He stopped his horse to turn around, when the wind picked him and his buggy up and turned it around in the road. He then made a break for the tollgate and just as he reached that the wind lifted up the top of the gallery and took the column out, which came very near striking him.

Much damage has been done. Windows were blown out all along its wake, trees torn up, fences scattered to the four winds, shade trees stripped of their branches, etc., but so far as heard from no one has been hurt and no live stock killed.

More rain has fallen at this place this morning since the storm than has fallen in this county in the same length of time in the last five years, but the indications are a cold wave is coming."

 

F1 Sumner (Mount Olive) Tornado
Counties: Sumner
Time: unknown
EF Scale: F1
Damage Path Length: unknown
Damage Path Width: unknown
Fatalities: 0
Injuries 0
Damage:
 

FROM THE NASHVILLE AMERICAN NEWSPAPER, NOVEMBER 22, 1900, PAGE 2:

GALLATIN, Nov. 21. - (Special.) - "The cyclone which passed over this county yesterday struck near the Kentucky line, twenty miles north of this place, where it did much more damage than here, and continued to grow more powerful as it passed on. There being no telephonic communication to that section of Kentucky, the damage done cannot be ascertained.

It struck near the home of G. J. Durham. His barn was unroofed and practically destroyed, a tenant house was blown down, and fences scattered to the four winds. It passed on, sweeping everything before it. When it struck the large tobacco barn of Jasper Law, which was full of tobacco, the barn was demolished and the tobacco lost.

In this section of the country trees were torn up by the roots and fences prostrated.

Black Wright, a huckster of this place, was out in the Dry Fork neighborhood on a trip. The excessive rains had swollen the creek very much, and not being familiar with the ford, when he attempted to cross and just as he reached the center of the creek the wind and rain came in torrents. His wagon and team were swept away and he lost his load of chickens and barter, and came very near losing his life.

Rain  continued to fall all day and the greater portion of the night in great torrents, and at 12 o'clock last night the populace of this town was thrown into another fit of excitement on account of the appearance of another heavy storm, which continued for some time and did considerable damage to trees and fences."

 

F2 Sumner (Cottontown) Tornado
Counties: Sumner
Time: unknown
EF Scale: F2
Damage Path Length: unknown
Damage Path Width: unknown
Fatalities: 0
Injuries 8
Damage:
 

FROM THE NASHVILLE AMERICAN NEWSPAPER ON NOVEMBER 23, 1900, PAGE 1:

GALLATIN, Tenn., Nov. 22. - (Special.) - Several parties from the Fifteenth District of this county were in town today and report several disasters from the tornado of Tuesday.

A short distance north of Cotton Town a negro school-house was blown down and the children scattered in every direction. The top of the house was blown off and carried some distance, and under it was found twelve little children, none of whom was seriously hurt. The house was turned around before it was blown down and the north end of the tower now points south. The house was a total wreck, yet none of the twenty-six pupils were seriously hurt.

Near the White House it appeared in great force. The tobacco barn of Bob Wilson was blown down and seven men who had taken refuge in the barn were badly injured. Mr. Jones had his arm broken in two places, besides sustaining other injuries. John Hickerson had three ribs broken besides other injuries internally. The barn and crop of tobacco is a total loss.

The dwelling of Wylie Biggs was blown down, his barn unroofed, tobacco barn blown down, a crop of tobacco destroyed, smoke-house carried away, two wagons smashed against a tree, one horse killed, and yet the Banner says that the reports sent out from this place were exaggerated.

The large forecast of James Lambreth was destroyed. The whole neighborhood suffered great loss and damage, but all of the details are not to be had.

In the Dorristown neighborhood several houses were unroofed and one colored man hurt.

The northern section of the county suffered in many places. Houses and barns were unroofed, trees torn up by the roots and much fencing washed away on account of the hard rains.

Mr. Womack, a timber dealer, had something like $1,000 wort of saw stock on the bank of the river near Cairo, which was washed away. Several other timber dealers suffered considerably, but none so bad as Womack.

It will be several days yet before the full extent of the damage can be estimated with any certainty.

 

F3 Williamson/Davidson/Rutherford County Tornado
Counties: Williamson/Davidson/Rutherford
Time: 6:00 PM CST
EF Scale: F3
Damage Path Length: 25 miles
Damage Path Width: 200 yards
Fatalities: 9
Injuries 40
Damage:

GRAZULIS: Moved NE from 5 miles SSW of Franklin to LaVergne. The tornado passed through Clovercroft, where three people were killed, through Nolensville, where three more people were killed, to LaVergne, where there were two deaths. It destroyed dozens of homes. All three communities were hit directly, and the contents of the small homes and stores were strewn for miles. A child was killed at Thompsons Station, 5 miles SSW of Franklin. Five other people may have died later.

 

F2 Hardin/Wayne County Tornado
Counties: Hardin/Wayne
Time: 800pm
EF Scale: F2
Damage Path Length: 16 miles
Damage Path Width: unknown
Fatalities: 2
Injuries unknown
Damage:
 

FROM THE NASHVILLE AMERICAN NEWSPAPER ON NOVEMBER 24, 1900, PAGE 2, "TWO PEOPLE KILLED - GREAT DESTRUCTION BY STORM ALONG INDIAN CREEK":

FLORENCE, Ala., Nov 23. - (Special.) - A farmer living on Indian Creek in Tennessee, forty miles northwest of this city, reports two people killed and a large number injured in the cyclone of Tuesday night. The cyclone dipped in its path after leaving Lagrange, Tenn., and was deflected down the Indian Creek Valley. Fences, houses, barns and trees were piled up in wind rows and the destruction was heavy. A very large loss of live stock is reported. The Indian Creek Valley is one of the richest in the State and is very thickly inhabited.

FROM THE SAVANNAH COURIER, NOVEMBER 30, 1900, PAGE 2:

The tornado that passed south of us Tuesday night of last week started at a point low down in Mississippi and left the earth near Gallatin, Tenn. La Grange, Tenn., and Columbia were the greatest sufferers. But no spot was more completely devastated than was that in and about the residence of Mr. Frank Shelby at Lowryville. The house was completely demolished, every piece of timber being carried away. The yard and lots were left as bare of trees and fences as if swept by a broom.

GRAZULIS: A devastating swath was cut along the NW edge of Columbia. Hardin, Wayne, and Lewis Counties may have had related tornado activity before the storm reached Columbia...

SHAMBURGER (2016): Grazulis mentions possible tornado activity in Hardin, Wayne, and Lewis Counties prior to the tornado hitting Columbia in Maury County, but does not include this obvious tornado (or series of tornadoes) in his book Significant Tornadoes 1680-1991. This tornado was added to the NWS Nashville database, with the location estimated to begin near Lowryville in Hardin County and continue to the Indian Creek River valley in Wayne County, a distance of roughly 16 miles or more. The time was estimated to be after the previous tornado in northern Mississippi and prior to the Columbia tornado at 2130, as all these tornadoes appear to be from the same supercell and tornado family, and the F-scale rating was estimated at as least F2 based on the newspaper articles.

 

F4 Maury County Tornado
Counties: Maury
Time: 9:30 PM CST
EF Scale: F4
Damage Path Length: 8 miles
Damage Path Width: 300 yards
Fatalities: 27
Injuries 75
Damage:

GRAZULIS: A devastating swath was cut along the NW edge of Columbia. Hardin, Wayne, and Lewis Counties may have had related tornado activity before the storm reached Columbia. Most deaths were in the "Macedonia" community 2 miles W of Columbia, where the homes and cabins were "turned into kindling wood." The funnel was moving NE, heading for the center of Columbia, but turned suddenly to the north.