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Gradyville Flood

This article first appeared in issue 14, and was written by Columbia Spectator.

Columbia Spectator gave this report of Gradyville Flood, June 7, 1907 - 90 years ago this month

Flood stole lives and property like thief in the night

The pall of death now o'er shadows the little city of Gradyville and this entire county, as it never did before.

On Friday night of last week about 9 o'clock, a terrific rain began falling there and a short time afterward, almost the entire town was swept away by the flood, drowning 20 persons and destroying homes and property to the extent of many thousands dollars for the people of Gradyville and those for many miles up and down the creeks.

Big Creek ran

through the town

Several branches of the stream called Big Creek ran through Gradyville, and it wrought sad havoc with almost everything it touched.

The electrical storm which accompanied the cloudburst burned out telephones which closed them in completely, leaving them to suffer alone until next morning, when the sad intelligence could reach Columbia and other neighboring towns and aid could be sent. It was soon sent them and from then on, they have been surrounded by hundreds of willing hands, loving hearts and generous purses.

The list of dead follows:

Mrs. Cal Wilmore, Mrs. Ada Williams and little daughter, Mary Beauchamp; Mary Moss, Mrs. Hartfield Moss and five children, via: Pearl, aged 16; Carrie, aged 10; Dewey, aged 8; Irene, aged 6, and Alfred Lee, aged 4; Mrs. J.W. Keltner, Mrs. Venia Moss, Mrs. Lum Hill and her 18-month old baby, Henry Raymond. Mrs. L.C. Nell and four children, via: James Weeden, aged 15; Allen, aged 11; George, aged 5; Hallie, aged 18 months. Paul Wilson.

Five swept from one home

Mrs. Wilmore and daughter Ada, and little granddaughter, Mary, lived together and they, with Mrs. Lum Hill and baby, were swept from the same house. Before the storm came, Mr. Hill and family went to the Wilmore home and at the request of Mr. Hill's wife, he returned to his own home for a few moments to see about her chickens and during the few moments of his absence, the water came with such force, it swept the women and children away and carried also from the residence most of the furniture, windows, doors, etc., and today the shell of the cottage stands as a testimonial of the anguish of the hour.

Dr. L.C. Nell, State Senator, happened to be away from home visiting a sick patient when his wife and four children were taken with the tide. He returned soon after the storm had subsided to find that horrible state of affairs. Only one child of his remains to comfort him, and she was spending the night with the family of Mr. Clayton Bell. Only the rear-end of Dr. Nell's home stands today. No trace of the other parts are seen.

Mr. Hartfield Moss mourns the loss of his mother, his wife and five children. He and two daughters were away at the time. Only a few days before, they had left a beautiful home and everything that made life worth living, to return to find nothing but desolation and death. Not even a bit of the foundation of his home remains to mark the lace where once it stood.

Rescue performed

from within a home

The home of Mr. J.W. Keltner was taken off its foundation, and with himself, his wife and Miss Venie Moss and the family of Mr. Jake Nelson of Greensburg, who were visiting there, deposited it in a deep ditch in his yard. The two men at once cut a hole through the ceiling and save all but Mrs. Keltner and Miss Moss, whom they could not get through before the water caught them.

The Methodist Parsonage, where Rev. G.Y. Wilson, wife and 18-year-old son, Paul, lived, was taken down stream, with Paul Wilson asleep on the inside. Rev. and Mrs. Wilson were away from home, and their son being alone, was hard to awaken so was drowned while he slept. Not a vestige of their home can be seen where it stood.

Businesses damaged

Besides the loss of 20 lives and the homes already mentioned, Mr. Armstrong hill's large store house and entire contents, and carding factory were destroyed; the fertilizer house, furniture room, meat house, were swept away from Wilmore and Moss' business place, and their stock of dry goods almost ruined, their store house being moved some 10 or 15 feet away. The large roller bill of J.A. Diddle is about demolished, also a swelling of his in which Lum Hill lived was destroyed.

A house belonging to W.W. Yates, and in which Mr. Estes lived is ruined. All that Michael Denny and Mr. Estes had in the way of household goods and blacksmiths shops were washed away and destroyed. Considerable damage was done also to the Methodist and Baptist Churches, to the residence and household goods of Mrs. Cettie Nell, Mrs. Diddle Bragg, Clayton Beel, S.A. Harper, John Moore, R.O. Keltner, J.W. Sexton, and Clem Keltner. A tenant house of G.H. Nell was destroyed. And Luther Grady's residence and large stock barn were damaged. J.J. Hunter's property was damaged, also that of C.O. Moss, where Clem Keltner lived, and a lumber yard or two cleaned of most every stack of lumber.

A hero to remember

It took very heroic efforts on the part of the people to save as many lives as were saved. We cannot but give some word of praise to Mr. L.P. Hagan, a young miller from Fountain Run, Kentucky, who has been in the employ of Mr. J.A. Diddle at Gradyville. He was perhaps the first one out to work, and if all of his strokes were put together, it is said his swimming would have covered many miles as he went from house to house waking people and helping them get from out of the water. At noon Saturday, it is said he had never taken time to change his wet clothing or eat but had worked untiringly all the while.

Luther Grady carried aged

mother for five miles

Many bits of bravery and strength were maneuvered which under other than these circumstances could never have been manifest. Mr. Luther Grady carried his aged mother five miles home, a considerable distance, to safety. Mr. Clem Keltner, with two children in his arms, and his wife with one, got out of four or five feet of water. His wife became faint and fell and he carried all four of them at once to safety. Mrs. Clayton Bell had presence of mind enough to place her little children and some visiting children on tables and escape the water that rose several feet in the house. Others fled to the upper stories of their houses and escaped alive.

There were perhaps four or five thousand people who visited the scene from a radius of 40 or 50 miles on Sunday. The miserable weather and roads not deterring them on their mission of mercy or curiosity as the case may be.

Relief efforts organized

Large numbers of them have been organized into relief parties, since the calamity and every foot of land and water and every bit of drift for miles and miles have been examined and are being reexamined to land the body yet unfound. Only one remains now, that being Mrs. Lum Hill.

A relief committee was appointed by the citizens of Columbia, and more than one thousand dollars have been subscribed by people in these parts to the suffering - those who need financial aid.

Funeral services

for those lost

The body of Paul Wilson was taken Sunday to Scottsville, his former home, for burial.

The funerals and burials of the Moss family occurred on Sunday afternoon at Pickett's Chapel.

Mrs. Wilmore, daughter and little granddaughter, were buried Tuesday at the Union Church. Funeral services were there, also. The little baby of Mr. Lum Hill was buried at High Step Graveyard, Monday.

Mrs. Keltner and Miss Venia Moss were buried at the Carter Burying Grounds and Pleasant Ridge, respectively.

Dr. Nell's children were buried at Union Tuesday and his wife there yesterday.

All of Mrs. Mary Moss' children except one reached Gradyville Saturday night, when Mrs. P.H. Davis, Mrs. Moss' daughter, arrived. Rev. P.H. Davis and his son-in-law, Rev. McAfee of Louisville, arrived, also.

Mr. Ed Wilmore of Oklahoma City, arrived Monday night to attend the obsequies of his mother, sister and niece.

Gifts pour in

The Honorable M. Ray Yarberry of Baltimore, Maryland, was one of the first men to get a check here for the suffering.

The Louisville commercial Club has appropriated $500 to the committee here. The Merchants and Manufacturers Association of Louisville appropriated $250.

Campbellsville sent $400, and other neighbor towns and counties contributed likewise.

Many personal contributions were made by the citizens of Columbia. Hardly anyone in town but gave something.

The Masonic Lodge here gave $50 as did the Commercial Club.

Those who were not hurt at Gradyville have worked both day and night. It is said they take but little time for eating and sleeping but work constantly for those less fortunate than they.

Reward offered for

body of Mrs. Hill

A $100 reward is offered for the finding of the body of Mrs. Lum Hill. Hers is the last to be found. Hundreds of people are searching every inch of ground and every bit of drift.

Many other damage reports

The saw mill of Otes and William Stapp a mile above Gradyville was washed away. Also, the one on Burns Creek, near Glenville, which belonged to Mr. Thomas Green, was washed away. Parts of it have not been found yet. The damage done to this country runs far into the thousands of dollars. In fact, it can hardly be estimated.

Were it not for the poor, suffering humanity in the little town of Gradyville, we would all be bemoaning the loss of crops, fences, destruction to farms, etc., but we forget such things when in the face of death.

Destruction to land property sink into insignificance when compared with the loss of life.

For miles and miles below Gradyville, much of the soil is completely washed off the bottom land. There is not a panel of fence left on hardly any of the farms.

At Glenville, considerable damage was done. Water stood for several inches in the stores of W.L. Brockman and L.C. Blair, also in the residence of James Helm and Lawrence Wilkerson, doing damage to both furniture and merchandise.

To make contributions

The Citizens of Columbia and Gradyville have selected the following men to whom funds can be sent for the sufferers, on Big Creek, to solicit and expend money where and when ever it is needed. J.R. Hindman, Chairman, James Garnett, C.S. Harris, W.F. Jeffries, Treasurer, J.N. Coffey, Secretary. Funds will be gladly received by any of these gentlemen for this purpose.

This story was posted on 1997-06-15 12:01:01
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