Eufaula, phoenix like, rose again with renewed vigor from the ruins of a tornado in March 1919
(Transcribed from The Clayton Record (Clayton, Alabama March 14, 19191)
FORMED NEAR POLLARD, ESCAMBIA COUNTY,
ENTERS BARBOUR COUNTY, SOUTH OF ELAMVILLE;
Goes Through At Eufaula And Spends Its Fury Before Reaching Middle Georgia
(By Wm. A. Bishop)
A furious tornado or cyclone swept through Southeast Alabama Wednesday afternoon of last week which had its beginning near Pollard, and traveling northeastly (sic) wrought immense destruction along its route, but took no till of human life nor suffering until it reached Eufaula, the metropolis of Barbour County, the beautiful city nestling on the high bluff of the west bank of the Chattahoochee river, where three of its foremost citizens and a prominent business man of a distant city were suddenly hurled into eternity and several people received most painful cuts and bruises resulting from crushed in roofs and falling walls of buildings, in which they were when the force and fury of the awful storm struck them. The business portion of the city received the full force of the mighty engine of destruction, being directly in the center of its path.
Communication cut off
The first place struck was near Pollard as has been stated, and great property damage is reported from there. Coming on by River Falls, the station on the railroad was unroofed and considerable other damage was done in that section. Damage has also been reported from Andalusia, but no estimate has been made as wires of both message service were completely wrecked and communication with the outside world entirely cut off.
The path of the storm was just north of Ariton and principally followed the Central of Ga., Railroad system, known as the Eufaula and Ozark division and entering the County, went south of Elamville and Clio, and north of Louisville, sweeping on by Rocky Mount Church toward the doomed city of Eufaula, which it struck south and west of Union Female College, and embraced in its clutch the residential and business districts. So far as learned, a heavy down pour of rain always just preceeded (sic) the oncoming of the storm.
A proper estimate of value of property destroyed up to point where its fury was greatest cannot be made at present, but at Eufaula, the loss in property value will amount to $500,000 in business buildings destroyed and otherwise damaged and their contents, leaving out of account damage to dwellings and almost complete destruction of the beautiful and magnificent shade trees adorning some of the fashionable residents districts of the town.
In the confusion, consternation, and almost reason dethroning, incident to and following such a calamity befell the residents of the ill-fated city, it was thought a great many lives were lost and scores of people injured. But later reports established the fact that only four lives were lost and their deaths all occurred in the store occupied by J. c. McCray, except one, which was in the Whitlock building, and only five are known to be injured, three of them being of a serious nature.
Rescue Work Begun Immediately
Rescue work was immediately undertaken for the recovery of all entrapped in the fated buildings entirely demolished or partly so, in which persons were known to be when they were struck by the rushing engine of death. The rescue workers labored with untiring energy late into the night by the aid of automobile lamps, the storm having put the city lighting system completely out of commission.
Eventually, their labors were rewarded with finding four persons dead. The three first as named below were found in the McCray building, and the fourth victim in Whitlock building were:
Rev. W. P. Dickinson, pastor of the Methodist church in Eufaula.
Ed. J. Searcy, a prominent broker and business man
Dr. J. L. Adams, an optician
All these were residents of Eufaula.
S. F. Lawton, a traveling representative of the Southeastern Underwriters Association, whose home was in New Bedford, Mass.
The Known Injured
Five persons were injured by falling buildings and taken out by rescue party. They were Miss Alice Wells, sales-lady in McCraystore, Mrs. Willie Northrup, sales-lady employed by Whitlock Brothers, John and George Whitlock and J. C. McCray, were the three others injured. The wounds of the ladies were not serious, the shock to their nerves probably being the most severe injury received.
John Whitlock and his brother George were caught in the building they occupied, the former having an arm badly crushed, the latter receiving contusions on head, face and other parts of his body.
Mr. McCray was supposed so seriously injured that he would live only a short time. However, he is doing nicely at this writing, as are all the other sufferers.
Showing the scene of Lampley, Whitlock and McCray buildings, where the persons were killed and while they were still beneath the ruins.
The Catholic Church situated near the foot of College Hill and on Broad street, as will be seen from the picture, was almost demolished. The Bluff City Inn suffered largely in damage, the awning on east side being destroyed and the porte-cochere also as well as the roof being greatly loosened. On the opposite side of the street (Eufaula street) the northwest corner of the large Ross Hardware store was blown down, and many hundred dollars worth of property buried beneath the debris. The next building to be struck badly was that occupied by the Lewy firm. Its roof collapsed and it was badly damaged, while loss in value of dry goods was tremendous. The building occupied by the Whitlocks and that by McCray are in utter ruin and no estimate can now be placed of the losses they sustained in the immense amount of stock they carried. No doubt, to the collapse of the upper portion of the tal (?) Lampley building, just west of the Whitlock store was due the utter ruin of both.
Showing Catholic Church, the storm left only front and back walls standing as shown in picture.
Particular Incidents of Storm
Charlie Teal, in charge of a road crew and camped at Bethlehem church, six mile southwest of Clayton, tells a very unique experience in connection with this storm. His camp was struck by it. His mule tent, crew tent and his own tent were utterly demolished. His crew sought shelter in the church hard by, while Charlie after being blown about over stumps for a while and nearly deprived of his wits, at last came in contact with a sapling which he grasped with both hands and clung to till the storm had passed.
He was unhurt but all that he had of a coat were the sleeves, the tail flopping vigorously from force of wind until there was nothing of it left to flop.
Sid Hortman, with Jake Oppenheimer in Eufaula, had some scare, Sid had gone up to the roof of the store to stop a leak at the south end of it, there being a tremendous down pour just before the storm came. As he was getting back in body of building after accomplishing his object the storm struck it and the wall against which the ladder leaned, that he used to get to the top of the building rocked so violently (like a cradle rocking, Sid described it) he was thrown from the ladder when he descended to within six feet of the floor and catching on his feet rushed toward the front to get out of the falling building, as he thought. He met others who work in the same store rushing to the rear. He went hurriedly back with them, rightly judging that they were fleeing from danger and that something awful was happening at the front. There was, the parapet having entirely fallen and blocking up the way to the street thru the door.
Two traveling men, one of whom met his death in the Whitlock building, as has been stated, had rushed into it to get out of the rain. In a short time after their arrival the other one urged the occupants of the store to get out in the open as quickly as possible saying that he had once been caught in a cyclone and he knew that one was coming. He, rushing out, soon reached a park fronting the store and fell on his face and covering his head with his coat escaped injury. What happened to the others in the store has already been related, except that Mr. John Whitlock received the injury to his arm by getting it caught between the doors, which were jammed them together just as he was getting out of the building.
Pictures below are of the above named buildings taken after the bodies were recovered, and were taken from different angles.
Saddest of all incidents is that in connection with finding of Mr. McCray. He was found leaning backward over a show case pinned to it by timber and brik, (sic) and suffering such excruciating pain, declared that his spinal column was broken, and begged the rescuers to kill him and put him out of his suffering.
Pathetic was the end of Dr. Dickinson and Ed Searcy. They were engaged in church work and had stopped in the McCray store in connection with it. Dr. Dickinson was found in the ruins with his watch in his hand as though he had just taken it out to ascertain the time of day, while Mr. Searcy stricken down in the service of his Master met a glorious death.
Aftermath of Storm
The funeral services for Dr. Dickinson, Dr. Adams and Mr. Searcy were all held at the Methodist church in Eufaula at three o’clock Friday, last. More than a thousand people assembled to attend these services, many of them being ministers.
Dr. A. J. Lamar, of Nashville, Tenn. pronounced a eulogy for Dr. Dickinson, and Dr. C. A. Cornell, presiding elder for Eufaula circuit, pronounced eulogies for Dr. Adams and Mr. Searcy.
The body of Dr. Dickinson was carried to Prattville for interment and was laid away to rest on last Saturday, where members of his family were buried. A great number of ministers accompanied his remains and attended his obsequies.
Dr. Adams and Mr. Searcy were buried in the cemetery in Eufaula, the pastors of the Baptist and Presbyterian churches there, assisting in the funeral services.
The body of Mr. Lawton was shipped to his home in New Bedford, Mass., for interment.
Sympathy for People Received
Many messages of condolence were sent to the families of the victims of the terrible tragedies, and offers of help in rescue work and clearing away debris of demolished buildings came from many places. It is estimated some hundreds of laborers from other points participated in this work.
Financial aid was also tendered, but the people of Eufaula, while thanking those offering aid, through Mayor Thomas, declined it, saying that home people were able to finance the situation.
The entire citizenship of the County deeply sympathize with the people of Eufaula and know, phoenix, like, it will rise with renewed vigor from its ruins.