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June 7, 2007: 100th Anniversary of Gradyville Flood

Adair County News Flood Report As It Appeared June 12, 1907

These excerpts are from an article which appeared in the 1907 Adair County News from keepsakes of Paul White, edited and republished by Columbia Magazine and Though it might have been appropriate to wait until June 12, 2007 to return it to the Front Page of then. Other stories will be moved to the front page periodically in the next few days. If you like to read the most extensive Gradyville Flood archive available, there's a link at the end of this story.

ROADSIDE MARKERS for both the Gradyville Flood and to commemorate Gradyville as the birthplace of E.A. Diddle are at the Adair County Road Department Barn, ready for placement in the Gradyville area. If you have suggestions on the propeer site for the markers, contact Sue Stivers, at (270) 384-6020; Judge Ann Melton at (270) 384-6020; or let your opinion be known in Gradyville at D&F Grocery and Deli.-Editor,

The following story is from the Adair County News, June 12, 1907. It has been online at since June 16, 1997:

Columbia was thrown into a state of intense excitement last Saturday morning, when a telephone message came from a farm house stating that an avalanche of water had struck Gradyville Friday night, destroying the town, drowning a large number of its inhabitants.

At that time, Petit'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 y ears 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 judgement 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 refenced, 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. Crocus Creek and other tributaries to Cumberland River were very high, carrying destruction in their wake.


George, the last missing child of Dr. L.C. Nell was found late Monday afternoon.

Stults Brothers, of this place, lost $200 worth of staves and lumber in the flood.

Telegrams from many states reached here, asking particulars of the damage by the flood.

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.

Seven dead bodies in one house is a circumstance that has never before been out lot to chronicle. The dead were the mother, wife and children of Mr. N.H. Moss.

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.

The Masonic Grand Lodge of Kentucky has authorized the Gradyville Relief Committee to draw on it for $50 or $100.

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.

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.

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.

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.

For more of the Columbia Magazine Gradyville Flood edition, which has been an online copyright posted June 16, 2007, click on "Gradyville Flood Special Edition" in topics, or, Click here for stories amassed over the years by the editors of Columbia Magazine and Columbia

This story was posted on 2007-06-07 05:27:34
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The Gradyville Flood 100th Anniversary: The Nell plot

2007-06-07 - Union Cemetery, Milltown Church Road, Adair County, KY - Photo By Ed Waggener.
This extraordinarily beautiful place is the Nell family plot in Union Cemetery. The monument lets one know that an important Adair County family is buried here, but it doesn't prepare one for the chilling inscription on the date of death: June 7, 1907, repeated five times under the names of George A. Nell, 5; and Robert H. Nell, 3; Allen E. Nell, 11; James E Nell, 9; their mother Lulu Y. Nell, who was 31. All died in the tragedy. The other name on the front of the monument is that of the husband and father, Dr. L.C. Nell. He died June 28, 1940. At the time of Dr. Nell's death, he was one of the most influential men in South Central Kentucky. Some reports say over 5,000 attended his funeral in Gradyville.

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