National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Tornado Outbreak of April 29, 1909

(The following newspaper article was transcribed from The Pulaski Citizen of May 6, 1909.)



Many Lives and Much Property Lost in Giles County.

The most terrible cyclone in the history of Giles County struck with great fury between 11 and 12 o'clock Thursday night. Greatest damage and the most horrible loss of life occurred in the community between Bunker Hill and Bryson, but the destruction was by no means confined to one place.

The storm extended over many states inflicting damage on widely scattered communities from the Great Lakes to the Gulf. But nowhere was the loss of life greater or the destruction of property more complete than in Giles County.

This particular cyclone began its work of destruction in the neighborhood of Conway, though several barns and tenant houses were blown down west of that place. From Conway eastward to the county line, and even beyond through Lincoln County a wide path of destruction and desolation was swept through a prosperous and happy farming community. But for the fact that the country is hilly and in places thinly settled the destruction would have been even greater.

The most frightful wreckage and loss of life occurred in the little valley through which passes the road from Bunker Hill to Bryson, and in which were located the homes of Bud Guffey, Will McGrew, Lee Smith, J. S. Bryson and others.

Will McGrew's family consisted of ten. The cyclone wrecked the house and killed Mrs. McGrew and six children, while Mr. McGrew, a son and a baby escaped with serious injuries. Only one member of this large family escaped unhurt.

Just a few rods east of the McGrew place stood the home of Bud Guffey. His entire family was wiped out of existence. Bud Guffey, his wife, and two chidlren. At the same time and place, Mrs. Thad Reese, who was a sister of Mrs. Guffey, with her two children, lost their lives, making seven deaths at this one house.

Jack Pope's home was wrecked and he and his wife were killed. Will Ross Lackey, Jr., and Esq. W. S. McLaurine's baby were also killed.

One negro family, Nancy Smith and two children lost their lives in the wreckage of their little home, and one of Till Bledsoe's children was killed.

The total list of those killed in Giles County, so far as could be learned the day after the storm was eighteen white people and four negroes, making twenty two in all.

In addition to those killed outright many were more or less seriously injured. Following is a partia (?) of those most seriously hurt:

Esq. and Mrs. W. S. McLaurine, Mrs. Ella King, widow of the late Mit King, collar bone broken, Hiram Usselton's baby, seriously, perhaps fatally hurt, George Hardy, son of T. J. (Bud) Hardy, Mrs. Louie Gordon, who was living with her mother, Mrs. Eliza Wilkinson, was cut and bruised about the face and arm.

It is impossible to estimate the property loss, probably not less than a hundred thousand dollars. Houses and barns with their contents, orchards, fences and timber make up a large list of valuable property much of which was literally blown out of existence in a few seconds. Following are some of the more serious losses: Lee Smith, house and barn; J. S. Bryan, house and barn; Werner Stevenson, house and barn; W. H. Watson, house and barn; Otha Young, house and barn; W. S. McLaurine, house and barn; Irby Scruggs, residence, outhouses and tenant houses; - barn escaped, Mrs. Eliza Wilkinson, residence; Hood Wilkinson, orchard, shop and barn, resident damaged, but not wrecked; T. J. Hardy, residence and barn; Ike Shapard, gin, The Scruggs' school house, near Conway, and the school house and church at Bee Spring were utterly swept away.

Coming as it did near midnight, when the people generally were asleep, many barely escaped in their night clothes. Jeff Dunnivant, a tenant on Irby Scruggs' place and his family escaped from the wreckage of their home with only slight injuries, but not a fragment of anything was left to the family, except the night clothes in which they were sleeping.

Elam Tucker, who lives at the old Suttle place, near Aspen Hill, lost his barn, also Will Coon, Billy Widene, and D. Biles, and the tenant houses on the Phillips place, south of Tucker's, were wrecked.

The horror of the storm was greatly increased especially were people were (sic) severely hurt by the darkness and torrents of rain, which followed. As soon as neighbors could be informed of the disaster, they hastened to the relief of the suffering. Brave men bared their backs to the chilly rain to provide wraps for suffering women and children; and worked through the dreary hours till daylight, searching for the dead and endeavoring to relieve the suffering of survivors. As soon as a message could be sent to Pulaski, local doctors and citizens hastened to the scene of disaster to aid as much as possible in the work of relief.

A relief committee was organized with John W. Young, Elkton R. 1, as chairman, and in a little while enough funds were in hand to provide food and clothing to supply the immediate necessities of those who had lost everything. But several hundred dollars will be needed for relief work and the more fortunate should respond liberally. Contributions may be sent direct to Mr. Young or to the Citizen and we will forward to the relief committee.


Columbia, Tenn., April 20. - A terrific cyclone passed through a portion of Maury, Giles, Hickman and Williamson Counties last night, and as a result thirty-five or forty known dead and a hundred or more injured, some seriously. The cyclone struck Primm Springs, a summer resort in Hickman County, and devastated the country. Four people are known to be dead and two are missing, supposed to have been blown away as their home was demolished.


Mr. and Mrs. George Ladd and little son.

Mrs. Will Adcock and her daughter are reported killed, but not verified.

The missing are Mr. and Mrs. Bob Stevens, whose home was torn to pieces. The cyclone followed the course of Dog Creek, a small stream close to the springs, and followed it until it came to the mouth of the hollow, when it entered the hollow and laid waste everything in its path. A portion of the residence of Mrs. Alice Estes was blown away. The home of Wilson Estes was also destroyed, together with the livery barn of Russell Estes, owner of Primm Springs Hotel. The timbers in front of the hotel were laid waste, some of which fell on the hotel, doing considerable damage to the building.

The cyclone went from Primm's on to Centreville.


Franklin, Tenn., Apr. 30 - A heavy and disastrous cyclone passed through this section last night between the hours of eleven and twelve o'clock and struck one-quarter of a mile west of Franklin, killing an old negro woman and injuring three of her children, two of which may die. It is reported that three white people are killed about two miles further down the trail of the cyclone, but this statement has not been authenticated. Four houses are blown down in Franklin. The old McGavock home is wrecked. A large oak tree was lifted bodily and blown across it, crushing in the roof. One brick home was completely demolished. The stock barn of Rural home Stock farm was torn to pieces, and there were many other houses, barns, and outhouses destroyed. The property loss will mount into the thousands. The path of the cyclone at this point is about 300 yards wide, and was accompanied by a heavy rain and thunder and electrical display.

A latter report comes in from Hillsboro, a small place northwest of here that several people had been killed, however, this is not authentic.


From almost every section of Tennessee are reports of fatalities and property loss, while Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, and even Indiana and Illinois report touches of the cyclone.


Dickson, Tenn., Apr. 30. - Dickson County was swept by a terrible storm last night, and as a result more than fifty houses lay wrecked today, and the damage to property will run far into the thousands of dollars. The storm seems to have entered the county from the southern side, passing between this place and Tennessee City. For a strip more than two miles in width along the railroad between here and Tennessee City, and on through that portion of the county traversed by the storm, scarcely a tree is left standing, but all lie as flat as if rolled over by some immense road roller. Dickson was left to the right of the storm's pathway, and fortunately little damage was done here.


Fayetteville, Tenn., April 30. - The most horrible catastrophe ever known in Lincoln County was the cyclone which passed through the county last night about midnight, wrecking homes, destroying lives and injuring a large number of citizens. It is impossible to obtain details, as the wires are all down.


Barry Prosser, Fayetteville.

Miss Jennie Kelso, Fayetteville; killed by live electric light wire.

Roy Waite, Harms.

Mrs. Douthat, Cyruston.

Columbus Farrar, colored, Cyruston.

Negro woman at Harms.

A. M. Thompson, of the Fourth District.


The seriously injured are M. J. Farrar and daughter, of Gyruston, the former having a broken collarbone, and the latter a broken arm and leg; residence wrecked and burned.

Mrs. Berry (sic) Prosser, near Fayetteville; fatally injured.

Robert Barnes and wife, near Fayetteville.

J. M. Colston and wife, near Fayetteville.

Mrs. John Milstead, near Fayetteville.

Sam Cramsle, Harms.

James Oldham, Harms.

Mr. McNutt, wife and three children, near Fayetteville.

Dee Douthat, near Cyruston.

It is thought that the dead and injured list will be increased by further reports.

The property loss cannot be estimated. It will amount to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The village of Harms, five miles west of Fayetteville, was almost completely destroyed. Only two houses were left standing. A large warehouse and storehouse were wrecked.

Fayetteville was not in the pathway of the cyclone, but was near it. The damage in town is slight compared with the country.

The Elk Cotton Mill was damaged about $5,000.


Centreville, Tenn., April 30. - Following the trail of the storm which passed through Centreville April 9, the tornado last night between 10 and 11 o'clock was one of the most appalling that has visited this section probably in half a century. Besides the loss of property, which is now estimated at $100,000, seven known dead are reported, and injured.


Bert Neely and child, Little Lot.

Lindsay Bishop, aged 70, and wife.

Mrs. Money, aged about 60, Shipp's Bend.

Four-year-old child of Mr. and Mrs. R. H. Thompson, Totty's Bend.

Eight-year-old boy of Paulina Farris, colored, Centreville.

The desperately injured are: R. H. Thompson, a son and daughter of Mrs. Money, Hiram Prince and Prof. R. S. Ballen.

The clouds rolled like tremendous waves out of the southwest, and the thunder's crash was deafening, while the electric flashes played incessantly, lighting up the dark-canopied earth like a refulgent monster meteor. For several minutes it was as bright as the glare of a noonday sun with this setting, the wind terrific in force and volume halted at no obstacle, and in its path it left an imprint on everything it touched.