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113 Years Ago Today: The Gradyville Flood

An Event That Shall Never Be Forgotten in Adair County. 21 Lives Lost in Mere Minutes

By Mike Watson

This is the anniversary of the catastrophic Gradyville Flood. Every year we stop and remember and to reflect upon this great loss, the earthly end of so many, that changed the course of the community forever. Much has been written of the event. The following two articles, from neighboring county papers, are presented here as a memorial.

A Horrible Catastrophe-- Young Johnston Flood Visits Gradyville, Kentucky. Twenty-one Lives Snuffed out in a Moment--Senator Nell's Great Loss
Last Friday night a cloud burst in the valley of Big Creek, Adair County, almost destroyed the town of Gradyville. Several families being wiped out. Ex-Senator Nell lost his home and all his family, five in number. Senator Nell would have perished also but for the fact that he was away visiting a patient, being a physician.

All day long Sunday daring workers burrowed among the drift piles in search of the five bodies which remain unfound. The search lasted into the night, and sorrow-stricken parents and kinfolk were compelled by darkness to give up the search until another sun, work beginning early next morning, in an attack on the drifts.

The desolation of the little hamlet is complete. While half the dwellings remain, and one general store, all other business enterprises were completely wiped out, and one-tenth of the total population was drowned. There has never been anything like a high stage of water before in Big Creek, and never has even the cellar of a house been inundated. The disaster came in an hour, was gone in an hour, leaving desolation, bereavement and poverty in its wake.

Considered comparatively, the Johnston Flood was not nearly so destructive as was the cloudburst in the little spur of the Green River knobs.

The heavy rains which preceded the cloudburst and flood began on Friday evening about 8 o'clock. The rain continued unabated until 10 o'clock, when the cloudburst occurred, causing a score of death and comparatively wrecking thirteen buildings. -- The Hartford Republican, Hartford, KY, 14 June 1907, page 1

21 Lives Lost: Town of Gradyville, Adair County, Almost Entirely Destroyed by a Cloudburst Which Swells Big Creek into a Roaring Torrent--State Senator L.C. Nell's Family Among Those Killed
Gradyville, a town of 300 situated about 12 miles west of Columbia, in Adair County, was partially destroyed by a cloudburst last Friday night at 12 o'clock. A hard rain began to fall about 10 o'clock which caused the creek to soon overflow its banks. As this had happened a number of times, no one thought of danger. Just about 12 o'clock, the cloudburst and a wall of water said to have been about 10 feet high rushed down the valley sweeping everything before it.

Senator Nell's residence was the first struck and it was carried four miles down the creek killing Mrs. Nell and four of their children. A number of other houses were totally or partially destroyed, which will amount to between $75,000 to $100,000. Many harrowing stories are told of narrow escapes from death in the flood and it is almost miraculous that no more lives were lost.

W.L. Grady's large stock barn, in which he had a fine string of blooded horses, remained intact but a dwelling house was hurled against it with such terrible force that one side was partly wrecked. When Mr. Grady heard the roar of the storm, the water was then in his residence. He first carried his wife and children on his back to safety, then ran to his barn to see after his horses but was compelled to wade in water almost chin deep to get them out.

Dr. L.C. Nell, who is State Senator from this--the sixteenth--District and who lost his entire family with the exception of one little girl who was not at home on the fateful night, had his home carried away by the flood, except the well which was not moved out of its position. Dr. Nell was not at home when the destructive wave swept away his family and home. He had gone into the country to visit a patient.

Mr. Har[t]field Moss, whose wife and five children met death in the deluge, was also absent from his home. Mr. Lum Hill was also away from home when his wife and little baby, whom he loved so well, were carried to their death by the mad waters of the raging stream.

The following is a list of the dead, all of whom had been found by Sunday except Mrs. Nell and one of her children and the infant child of Mrs. Ada Williams: Mrs. A. Moss; Mrs. N.H. Moss; Paul, Wilson, Pearl, Carrie, Dewey, Irene, and Alfred Moss, all children of Mrs. N.H. Moss; Mrs. Carrie Wilmore; Mrs. Ada William[s]; Mrs. Melissa Hill, and two year old son; Mrs. J.W. Kertner [Keltner]; Mrs. L.C. Nell and four children. Relief parties from Columbia and Greensburg were sent out early Saturday and did all in their power to help the suffering. --The Wayne County Outlook, Monticello, KY, 13 June 1907.

This story was posted on 2020-06-07 06:50:04
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Gradyville Flood: The Search Party

2020-06-07 - Gradyville, KY - Photo courtesy Mike Watson.
An original photo of the search party the day after the Gradyville Flood.

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