Deadly Twister

Pulaski Citizen

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

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
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
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.