By CLAUDIA JOHNSON|
March 26, 1932, CITIZEN Chronicles Horrors of Deadly Twister Editor’s Note: The following is the second part of Claudia Johnson’s story about the 1932 storm that took the lives of six Giles Countians, five in the Puryear family. For hundred’s more articles from the archives of PULASKI CITIZEN, read her book, a page from the past..., available at the CITIZEN office. THE STORM By W.B. Romine CITIZEN editor An equinoctial storm which was general over the southern states causing great damage and much loss of life struck Giles County between five and six o’clock Monday evening causing extensive damage and the loss of six lives. Two were killed outright and three died after removal to the hospital when Witt Puryear’s home on the Lawrenceburg road, two miles west of Pulaski was wrecked. And Mrs. Noah Barshears died following the wrecking of their home on M. L. White’ place on Agnew Creek. Telephone lines were down in many directions so it was difficult to get authentic news. The storm appears to have been a series of cyclones and twisters raging generally in direction from southwest to northeast. The first damage reported occurred on the ridge near Union Hill. However, there may have been damage in the direction of Fall River not yet reported. Several houses were wrecked and considerable damage was done, but if any loss of life resulted southwest of Union Hill we have not heard of it. Coming down Agnew valley the storm wrecked the home of Noah Barshears and three barns, destroying a lot of hay and farming implements on M.L. White’s place. Mrs. Barshears died later in the night from injuries received in the storm. Mr. White’s home was badly twisted and contents much damaged, but the house was not blown to pieces as so many others were. Passing over the ridge the storm struck the home of Mr. Tripp on Flournoy English’s farm. The house was blown to bits and hundreds of fine trees blown down. It seems remarkable that seven people could have passed through such a storm and all come out alive. In addition to five members of Mr. Tripp’s family, two neighbors had stopped in out of the storm. All escaped with comparatively slight injuries. A cow and about 26 goats on this place were killed. Passing northeastward over the ridge the storm struck Trinity Church and A.D. Holt’s residence near Vale Mills. Both were completely wrecked but no one was injured. Mr. and Mrs. Holt and five children took place on a bed. The house was blown away and the family was left perched up on the bed. Crossing Richland Creek the storm struck Witt Puryear’s house on W.J. Yancy’s farm. Here the greatest loss of life occurred. Mrs. Puryear, who before marriage was Ella Vaughan, sister of Mrs. Ira Young, and their 17-year-old son Edward, who was called “Billie,” were killed outright. Their bodies were found near each other, probably 100 feet from where the house stood. The intervening space and on beyond where the bodies were found was strewn with bedding, tables, chairs, stoves, clothing, canned fruit, potatoes, everything you would expect to find in the home of a large family of healthy boys and girls. Three other children, two girls, Ednie, 11, and Cynthia, 8 and little John Witt, 6, died after being removed to the hospital. And still another was in critical condition at the hospital when this item was written Tuesday afternoon. Shade trees, barn and other houses added to the wreckage. Another house, Mr. Rainey’s, was wrecked, but the family saw the funnel- haped storm as it came toward the across Richland Creek bottom and took refuge in a cut on the new highway and so escaped. But their house and household goods were scattered in all directions. Passing on in a northeastern direction the storm struck the house occupied by John LeMay, wrecking the house, but the family escaped without injury. Boone May’s handsome home on the Columbia Highway was wrecked, but Mr. and Mrs. May were in town and Boone Jr. and his little family all escaped without injury. Several other houses were wrecked in that community, including barns on Luther Paisely’s place, the house occupied by Early Potter, colored, and another house occupied by a family of colored people, a house on the Wynn farm occupied by Mrs. Lizzie Shelton. One little Negro child was blown from its home into the road where some passing people found it crying. They picked it up and rushed it to the hospital where it was found there was nothing the matter except it was scared, and who could blame it? The storm passed up Pigeon Roost valley where several other houses were wrecked. Probably 30 to 50 houses were struck in the county, but not all of them were completely demolished. The cotton gin and residence of Mitchel Howard at Aspen Hill were wrecked. Electric wires on the Columbia road were blown down and tangled, putting telephones out of service, and East Hill, including the hospital, was in darkness. Amid all the horror of it there were some amusing incidents. A Negro family’s home was wrecked on the hill near Union Hill. When the storm passed, members of the family were hunting in the debris for lost ones. All were found except one little fellow. Finally somebody happened to look into the meal barrel, and there he was, crouched down, unhurt, but afraid to stick his head out of the barrel. How he came to be there was a mystery. Note: Surviving family members in addition to Witt Puryear were son Luther “Bunt” Puryear, daughter Mary Puryear, who married William Dugger and was the mother of local dentist, Greg Dugger, and Estelle Puryear, who married Clay Minatra, and at age 85 is the only child still living.