The 1929 Flood at Cane Creek Falls - The Testimony of Lawson Fisher
I live within a few hundred feet of the falls of Cane creek on top of Cumberland Mountain. I remember the flood of March, 1929 very clearly. On Friday it rained considerably all through the day. When I went to bed Friday night it was still raining hard. I can't say just how much it rained in the early part of the night because the falls made so much noise that they drown out all other sounds whenever the river is up.
Along about midnight I began to hear the thunder roar. Such thunder as I had never heard before in all my life. It worried me a good deal and along about an hour before daylight I told my wife I had better look out and see what the weather was like for I couldn't understand why there was so much thunder. I dressed and stepped outside the house. It was raining torrents. I stepped over toward the creek and found it wasn't thunder that I had heard but the noise was caused by the creek tearing huge rocks out of the bluff and ripping the very bed rock out of the creek bottom and hurling it down over the falls. The creek was rising very rapidly and I suppose I should have begun to worry about the old mill building but I could see no reason for worrying on that score as the old Cane Creek Mill had been there for more than one hundred years.
However as it got toward daylight and the creek kept coming up I began to worry a little bit though not seriously and decided it might be best to roll the mill rocks out on solid ground. I went into the mill and got the grinding rocks loose and brought them outside.
I went back into the mill to get my ledger and account books. My wife and girl were standing at the door watching me. I had taken perhaps four or five steps when I felt that old mill building quiver. I turned and ran for the door and stepped out on solid ground, and then turned around to see what was going go happen, but folks, it had already happened. The mill wasn't there. I could just see pieces of planking and timbers going over the falls and rushing on down into the valley of Cane Creek below.
I guess you would call me an old man, and I have talked to men older than I am and many long since dead, but I have never heard of Cane Creek being near as high at any time since the country was first settled as it was on that March night in 1919.
Taken from Court transcript 10-6-1932 by A.W.C.
Another Man Got His Feet Wet That Night
Cane Creek runs through a deep gulch below the falls and then through a narrow valley. In this area the land slopes gently up for a quarter of a mile or more to the foot of the steeper slope leading to the top of the Plateau. One farmer living about 1/4 from the creek in an old but sturdy cabin with his wife and several children.
On that fateful night in March he was awakened before daylight by the howling of his hound dog and a noise from his barn. He decided to investigate, sat up and swung around and dropped his feet to the floor to his surprise into about 8 inches of cold water. After lighting the lantern and getting on some clothes he opened the door and found water, 2 feet deep, around the house. The water was rising rapidly. He helped the children up the ladder to the loft and then, with his wife's help gathered up clothes and bedding and carried them to the loft. The water continued to rise rapidly till late in the morning and then began to go down late in the day.
The farmer said that never had Cane Creek risen so high. He did not worry too much about the safety of the family since the cabin was well built, was out of the main current and in fact somewhat sheltered.
Mrs. Chisam Warns of the Flood to Come on the Barren Fork River
Late in the afternoon of March 22, 1929 Mr. Bill Chisam, Operator at the McMinnville Hydro Plant on Barren Fork River in McMinnville called and said, "Mr. Crouch will you please come down to the plant and help me with my wife. She says we are going to have the biggest flood ever and that we must move. She is packing."
The Chisams lived in an old solid brick house on the bank of the river, well above any known flood level. While I was at the house Mrs. Chisam kept packing. It had been raining since the middle of the afternoon but not very hard. I told the Chisams I did not think they would be flooded out but I would keep a watch on conditions.
From 8 o'clock on the rain picked up and for the next four hours seemed to be coming down faster and faster. Bill shut down the Hydro Plant about 9 P.M. The river had begun to rise and the river was running full bank to bank. About 10 P.M. the rate of rise increased and it was coming up at the rare of 1/2 inch per minute. I knew then that all hell had broken loose and Bill Chisam's good wife had been correct. We called Mayor Walker who in turn had the Fire Alarm sounded to rouse help. I called for a power Company truck to move the Chisams and then got several large trucks out to move some ten or twelve families on the Viola Road as we knew they would be flooded out. The Mayor called to Churches. They opened up their halls to receive the families and their goods that were being moved.
The water was just coming in the front yard when we backed the truck up to the Chisam's front door. Mrs. Chisam had done a fine job of packing and in about 20 minutes the truck was loaded and moving out through about a foot and a half of water.
Next morning that solid brick house and heavy stone foundation was gone. Mrs. Chisam had been right. Something told her, even before the heavy rains started that they would have to move.
Only a few people came down from town to help the other families. Neighbors helped their neighbors and all but one were able to get out and move or set heavy furniture up on blocks.
|The Isaac Bransford & Flora Evelyn Anderson Dycus
family house was washed away in 1929 flood. Bonnie V. Dycus
was about 17 1/2 years old and remembers it well. It was about
10 vertical feet higher than the waters of 1902 flood. Their
house was on the south side of Caney Fork (just across Mitchell ford
/ Mitchell bridge), behind where Boyd Haston's family lived in the
early 1950s (later called the "Bo Foster place"). This house
was carried a mile or so down the river and knocked out the Butts
Source: Told to Wayne Haston (email@example.com) by his great uncle, Bonnie V. Dycus of Sparta, TN, on December 26, 2003. At that time Mr. Dycus was 90+ years old. He grew up on, and lived most of his adult life on, the Caney Fork River. As a young man he lived in the area known as Big Bottom and, later, lived near where Lost Creek ("Wallace Creek") flows into the Caney Fork (across the river from and behind of the Fraiser's Chapel Methodist Church). These locations are less than a mile from each other in an area of southeastern White County, TN.
The house that Mary Ruth Davis (Mrs. Boyd Haston)
was born in also washed away, but it was on the north east side of
Caney Fork (about 1/2 mile from the Dycus house). The flood
occurred less than a year after George Vergil Davis (father of Mary
Ruth Davis Haston) and family had lived there but they had moved
away from there, to Lost Creek, where Vergil Davis was teaching