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Adair County's Deluge, 115 years ago today, June 7, 2022

For more on the Gradyville Flood of 1907, see the list of articles that first appeared back when in 1997, when Columbia Magazine was still printed on paper, and were added online in 2007: Gradyville Flood Articles.

By Mike Watson

One hundred fifteen years ago, 7 June 1907, was a day that shall never be forgotten in this county. An isolated weather-event that became national news placed Gradyville and Adair County at the center of newspaper readers' focus--the devastating Gradyville Flood claimed multiple lives and changed families forever.

I feature this, or a version, every year at this time, for such events should be remembered so as to preserve the memories of those lost that fateful night.

From the Adair County News, 12 June 1907:

Columbia was thrown into a state of intense excitement last Saturday morning, when a telephone message came from a farmhouse stating that an avalanche of water had struck Gradyville Friday night, destroying the town, drowning a large number of its inhabitants. At that time, Pettit's Fork was past fording, making it impossible for citizens of this place to reach the stricken town, but in a short time several daring young men swam the stream and hurried to the scene of death and destruction. They found the citizens of Gradyville in a state of the wildest excitement, distressed almost out of their senses, searching the creek and drifts for the dead. Twenty persons were known to be lost, and during the day, Saturday, 13 bodies were found.

The search has been kept up incessantly since the downpour and three more bodies have been taken from the drifts, leaving two yet missing. The first person to give the alarm was L.P. Hagan, of Fountain Run, Monroe County, who is the miller for Mr. H.A. Diddle. He was awakened by the noise of the roaring waters, and quickly donning his clothes, he daringly and heroically proved himself a Paul Revere to many families in Gradyville whose homes were upon the banks of the creek.

Sunday, Gradyville presented a scene of sorrow, as more than 3,000 people viewed the dead and wreckage. Perhaps the most pitiful sight was at the home of Mr. Otha Moss, where his mother and Mrs. Hartfield Moss and five children were being prepared for burial which took place late in the afternoon.

The bodies of Mrs. Wilmore, her daughter, Mrs. Williams, and granddaughter have been embalmed, awaiting the arrival of relatives. The remainder of the dead were laid to rest Monday. The coffins were furnished by the two undertakers of Columbia, fifteen leaving at one time.

Saving the Louisville cyclone six or eight years ago, when over 100 persons were killed, the Gradyville calamity is perhaps the most destructive to life that ever visited Kentucky.

The action of Mrs. Clayton Bell, whose husband was absent from home, showed that she was a woman of judgment and courage. Her home was in the march of the waters, and realizing the danger, she took the children and a little daughter of Mr. G.H. Nell, who was visiting the Bell home, and stood them on a table. Then protecting herself, she remained in the house until the waters subsided.

There is not at this writing a correct estimate of the property loss, as the line of devastation takes in a stretch of about six or eight miles. Besides the six or eight houses destroyed and damaged at Gradyville, farmers have suffered great loss all along the route. We asked several gentlemen at Gradyville Sunday to make estimates and not one of them put the loss less than $75,000. A number of farms will have to be re-fenced, and corn crops replanted.

Gradyville only has a population of 175, and the loss is estimated at $20,000, Armstrong Hill being perhaps the heaviest loser. It is said that his loss will not fall short of $5,000. The roller mill owned by Mr. John A. Diddle was damaged to the extent of $2,000. Wilmore and Moss, who are general merchants, sustained a loss of $1,500 damage to storehouse and stock of goods. Mr. Hill is also a merchant, and his store building and stock of goods were totally destroyed. Dr. L.C. Nell's loss of residence and household property, probably $2,200. A great many other buildings were more or less damaged, but to what extent, cannot be given at this time.

While Gradyville and vicinity have suffered greatly, other sections in Adair County were more or less damaged. Russell Creek was higher than it has been for years, and a great deal of fencing [lost]. Crocus Creek and other tributaries to Cumberland River were very high, carrying destruction in their wake.

Elsewhere in this issue various mentions were made:

  • George, the last missing child of Dr. L.C. Nell was found late Monday afternoon.
  • Seven dead bodies in one house is a circumstance that has never before been our lot to chronicle. The dead were the mother, wife and children of Mr. N.H. Moss.
  • Gradyville is Governor Hindman's old home. He spent three days in the mud and water looking for the dead.
  • Honorable M.R. Yarberry sticks to his home people. He sent his check for $25 to the relief committee.
  • One hundred dollars has been left in the hands of four men to continue the search. Work will continue without ceasing.
  • The Masonic Grand Lodge of Kentucky has authorized the Gradyville Relief Committee to draw on it for $50 or $100.
  • The Citizens Relief Committee of Louisville has notified the local committee here that it will send $1,000 to assist in relieving the distressed at Gradyville.
  • Telegrams from many states reached here, asking particulars of the damage by the flood.
  • Stults Brothers, of this place, lost $200 worth of staves and lumber in the flood.
  • Judge Junius Hancock requests all farmers to keep their stock up until the farmers who have lost their fences by recent flood can enclose their lands.
  • We have not the names of all the farmers whose lands were damaged and who lost fencing and outbuildings, but every farm up and down Big Creek was more or less damaged.
  • Mr. J.M. Wilson, who lives two miles above Gradyville, informed us Sunday that he sustained a considerable loss; that his farm was greatly washed and his fencing gone.
  • Help Wanted: Laborers are wanted at Gradyville to assist in cleaning up the town. They will be paid well for their services. There has been some pilfering since the flood, and undesirable people will please keep away.

This story was posted on 2022-06-07 11:28:54
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An Avalanche of Water: June 12, 1907 Adair Co. News

2022-06-07 - Adair Co., KY - Photo courtesy Mike Watson.
One hundred fifteen years ago, 7 June 1907, was a day that shall never be forgotten in this county. An isolated weather-event that became national news placed Gradyville and Adair County at the center of newspaper readers' focus--the devastating Gradyville Flood claimed multiple lives and changed families forever.

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List of flood victims from ACN June 12, 1907

2022-06-07 - Columbia, KY - Photo courtesy Mike Watson.
A clipping from the June 12, 1907 edition of the Adair County News. The list of the drowned included:
  • Mrs. Alfred Moss.
  • Mrs. N. H. Moss.
  • Pearl Moss.
  • Carrie Moss.
  • Dewey Moss.
  • Irene Moss.
  • Alfred Lee Moss.
  • Paul Wilson.
  • Mrs. Cal. Wilmore
  • Mrs. Ada Williams.
  • Mary Beauchamp.
  • Mrs. Lum Hill.
  • Henry Hill.
  • Mrs. L. C. Nell and three children.
  • Mrs. J. W. Keltner.
  • Miss Mary Moss, a visitor.
Mrs. L. C. Nell and Mrs. Lum Hill were among those who had not been recovered.

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