"The Cyclone of Rye Cove"
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Kingsport Times

Kingsport, Tennessee, Thursday, May 2, 1929--8 pages


Twister Wrecks Rye Cove School


A howling black cloud took the lives of over twenty children and one teacher and seriously injured as many more at Rye Cove High School, six miles northeast of Clinchport, Va., at 1 o'clock central time today when the building in which they were attending school was completely demolished.

The Rye Cove High School, which had a total enrollment of 250 students, was a seven room frame, two story structure on a limestone foundation and was located in an open field at the widening of a narrow valley. The storm which was seen approaching by several living witnesses was not unlike any other severe shower and windstorm. Floyd Noblin, principal of the school and one of the injured, stated that he had just entered the building when the entire structure collapsed. He said that he could not describe what happened, but that he saw the storm approaching and hurried to the building to escape it. Soon after he entered he heard a crash and knew no more until he found himself being pulled from the debris.

Beginning about half-mile away down the valley from the school building, the storm began to demolish everything in its path. It uprooted many trees and carried away the roofs of several buildings. It grew more severe as it reached the open space. It grew by several dwellings, a store, and a church and the buildings in which the children and one teacher met their death. The home of J. D. Hill, which stood near the school was also completely blown away, but luckily all of the family were away from home and no lives were lost. The community store which was situated several hundred yards from the school and run by J. B. Stone had its roof torn off and its entire stock flooded by the rain which followed the first blow.

A lumber pile near the school building was picked up as a whole, and pieces could be seen scattered for several hundred yards. Many of these were suspended in the branches of the few trees left standing.

Miss Elizabeth Richmond, a teacher in the high school grades in the school and herself injured, gave her version of the tragedy to a representative of The Times while waiting for an ambulance to take her to the relief train which was being filled with the injured children at Clinchport. She said "We had only started school after the mid-day recess when I noticed that a bad storm was coming up. It alarmed me, but I did not say anything to the children. The wind increased to a very high degree with a loud howling noise and then the building collapsed with a smash. It was probably only a few seconds between the time when I thought the building was in danger and the time it collapsed. I was on the second floor."

The dead and injured children were carried to surrounding houses and barns as shortly after the collapse of the building as possible but the severe wind continued and the rain hampered the workers in their grim task. A tentative check-up of the dead and injured show the following dead as positively identified with several bodies yet to be claimed:

Bruce Cox, about 16 years old and the son of Beverly Cox of Gate City.

Alva Carter, a teacher in the primary department.

Polly Carter, about 17 year old, daughter of Miles Carter of near Gate City.

Callie Bishop, about 10 years old.

Avis Runyon, 16 years old of Hill, Va.

Monnie Fletcher, age about 14 and her sister, Bernice, about 8 years old.

James Carter, age about 14.

Lillian Lane, age 7.

Bertha Mae Darnell, age 12 years died on the way to the hospital on the relief train.

Bill Carter, one of the high school pupils and about 18 years of age was not expected to live nor was Evelyn Runyon whose sister was killed outright. Many others whose names could not be determined were seriously injured and were taken either in ambulances to Kingsport or Bristol. The Kings Mountain Hospital in Bristol was instructed to prepare for twenty-seven injured who were on the relief train. Many were taken to private homes in the vicinity.

Immediately the great twister had gone its way, leaving dead, wounded and desolation in its wake, and those in the vicinity of the school who were left alive and uninjured had recovered from the first shock, the relief work began. The dead and dying children, some of them terribly mangled, and those less seriously injured were dragged from the debris, while automobiles carried the message of death to the outside world.

Doctors, nurses and ambulances were rushed in from Kingsport, a distance of 29 miles away, Gate City and Bristol. Among the first from Kingsport to reach the scene of the tragedy were undertakers and two ambulances from the local undertaking establishments of Hamlett and Dobson and J. Frank Nelson Funeral Home. Later ambulances arrived from Bristol.

In the meantime the small stores and frame residences of Rye Cove which had been left standing by the twister were converted into emergency hospitals and morgues. Makeshift beds were erected, bedclothes were provided and soon all the surrounding buildings were filled with the dead and injured children.

At Rye Cove the scene was one of utter wretchedness and desolation. Mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters were crowding about the emergency morgues, looking over the dead, still uncertain as to whether or not their own loved ones were numbered among the dead. Mothers were wringing their hands and crying out in their grief, while added to this were the pitiful wails of the little sufferers. Occasionally there would be the poignant cry of grief from a mother as she would recognize among the dead a son or daughter.

The road from Rye Cove to Clinchport, a distance of eight miles, and on into Gate City and Kingsport, became lined with vehicles bearing their gruesome burden of dead and injured children.

The relief work was terribly handicapped by the isolated location of Rye Cove. Most of the road from that place to Clinchport, eight miles away, the nearest point on the way to the hospitals and morgues of Bristol and Kingsport, is mud road, and the remainder is a narrow, twisting and very rough macadam construction. The mud became churned up by the stream of vehicles and ruts were ploughed. All of the cars were ploughing through this mud, attempting to pass each other, and hurrying to get the wounded to places where they could be given medical attention.

At the little village of Clinchport, a relief hospital train was held to receive injured. As fast as they could be rushed there they were placed on board and put in the hands of physicians. Shortly before six o'clock, this train pulled out for Bristol to take its pitiful freightage of little sufferers to the King's Mountain Memorial Hospital.

Seventeen boys and girls, some of whom were badly injured, were placed aboard the hospital train at Clinchport. Several of them were so badly injured that they were expected to die before reaching the hospital in Bristol.

One boy, of about 10 years of age, suffered a broken back, but the little fellow possessed a lot of nerve, saying "I am not hurt bad." Another boy had a leg cut off, while numerous other children were badly cut by the flying pieces of the structure as it crashed.

An ambulance also took a load of injured to Bristol. A girl was not too badly injured, but a boy was in a very bad state. He was unconscious when found and was bleeding profusely.

The scene at the station in Clinchport was very pathetic. Mothers crowded around as their children were loaded aboard the train. Cars and ambulances transported the injured down from the mountain location.

First aid was applied and several doctors were on hand to make the trip to Bristol as to provide adequate attention for the injured. Rescue workers were busy making the injured comfortable.
Some of the bodies were brought to Kingsport for burial preparation. Some of the injured were also brought to this city.

Avis Runyon.
Kelly Carter, age 14.
Alva Carter, age 17.
Two Bishop girls.
Bruce Cox, age 18.
Della Bishop.
Monnie Fletcher, age 14.
Bernice Fletcher, age 8.
James Carter, age 14.
Lillian Lane, age 7.
Bertha Mae Darnell, age 12.



Scott County Herald-Virginia

Gate City, Virginia, Thursday, May 9, 1929


More Than Fifty Seriously Injured; 40 Taken to Kings Mountain Memorial Hospital on Special Train. Without Warning Twister Swoops Down and Leaves Death, Sorrow And Desolation in Its Path Of Four Miles.

Forming suddenly from what appeared to be an ordinary thunder cloud, and moving with great velocity, a tornado swooped down upon the beautiful Rye Cove section of Scott County Thursday at one o’clock, completely demolishing the High School building in which were about 150 pupils and teachers, killing twelve children and one teacher and wounding seriously more than fifty others. The tornado after leaving wreck and ruin at this point continued in a northeasternly direction, razing dwellings, barns, mills and all else in its path for a distance of about four miles, the average width of its path being about one quarter of a mile.

Ava Carter, 24, teacher, daughter of Hughey Carter of Cove Creek.
Bruce Cox, 18, son of Mr. and Mrs. B.B. Cox of Gate City.
Polly Carter, age 18, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Miles Carter of Rye Cove.
Monnie Fletcher, 14, and Bernice, 8, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Issac Fletcher of Rye Cove.
James Carter, 14, son if Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Carter of Rye Cove.
Bertha Mae Darnell, 12, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Trigg Darnell of Rye Cove.
Emma Lane, 6, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. A. C. Lane of Rye Cove.
Callie Bishop, 10, Monnie, age 8, daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Grant Bishop of Cove Creek.
Lillie Lee Carter, daughter of J.E. Carter.
Millie Stone, 18, daughter of Mr. And Mrs. E. H. Stone.
Guy Davidson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Davidson.

Those who received severe injuries and were rushed to hospitals by special trains and ambulances were the following:
To Kings Mountain Memorial Hospital at Bristol, Virginia: Janie Taylor, Willa Jessee, Vane Hill, Mable McDavid, Lucy Jones, Dorthy Carter, Myrtle Morrison, Hannah Darnell, Sallie Freeman, Rufus Rollins, Maurice Clendenen, Henry Mitchell, Della Bishop, Bernice Taylor, Myrtle Taylor, May Freeman, Ethel Lane, Majorie Carter, Belvia Rhoton, Garland Stone, Jackson Freeman, Ray Stone, Roy Jessee, Willard Taylor, Clint Green, J. E. Fugate, Claude Carter, Elizabeth Richmond, Evelyn Runyon, Parce Lee Hill, Margaret Mitchell, Nannie Owen, Millie Carter, Raymond Carter, James Morrison, Hayte Lane, Charlie Morrison, and Charles Flanery.

To Kingsport Hospital: Ray Osborne, Birgill Carter, Bernice Taylor, Ryland McDavid, 10, son of Robert McDavid of Rye Cove; Leonard Green, 14, son of H. C. Greene of Rye Cove; Kyle Morrison, son of Lonnie Morrison of Rye Cove; Rosa Lee Darnell, daughter of Hugh Darnell, of Rye Cove; Effie Flanary, 22, daughter of Creed Flanary of Clinchport; Bill Carter, 17, son of George Carter of Clinchport.

In addition to those named above who were either killed or severely injured fully one hundred other children suffered minor injuries, and were cared for in their homes by local doctors and the Red Cross.

A short distance from the school building, and within the tornado's path stood a heavy log dwelling with double stack stone chimney that was erected more than three quarters of a century ago. The terrific force of the storm swept it away as completely, as if it had been built of straw, carrying some of the furniture four miles away. The family of Haskel Hill who occupied the building were away from home at the time it occurred.

A stone spring-house was torn to pieces as if it were made of sticks. Rocks that weighed more than a thousand pounds were overturned.

As described by W. J. Rollins, who witnessed the destruction of the school house from his home about a mile away, the tornado formed from another storm cloud moving northward, and suddenly developing great force and traveling with a speed that made the elements tremble, it began to move directly up the valley in which the school house was located. He said that it appeared to be a great funnel hurling itself though the air and bearing in front a kind of headlight.

When it struck, the building seemed to rise into the air and then explode, declared the witness, scattering debris, lumber, benches over the surrounding country. After the explosion, he said, the elements seemed to settle down over the scene and it became dark as night. Beneath the mass of ruins lay more than a dozen dead, while the shrieks of the dying and wounded added horror to the already horrible scene.

The body of Miss Ava Carter, 24, school teacher, was found 75 yards from where the school stood. She was inside the building then the twister struck. Miss Carter's home was at Cove Creek. She graduated from Radford, Va., State Teachers College.

Body of Polly Carter, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Miles Carter of Rye Cove was carried fifty yards.
Eight other bodies were recovered from the ruins of the building within an hour after the twister struck.

The school served a radius of approximately seven miles and was the fourth largest in the county. W.D. Smith, superintendent of schools of Scott county, Va., was at the scene within an hour after the twister struck. He was grief-stricken over the tragedy and was rendering all possible aid. Roll of the school was destroyed, Professor Smith said. Because many of the children live such a distance the final check of injured will necessarily have to be made from queries that will come from parents of the children.

The whole scene was one of pitiful desolation. Anxious fathers worked feverishly in the ruins, fearful of what they might discover. Anxiety of parents was intense because nearly all the injured children were started by automobile to hospitals before the parents arrived. Sobbing mothers, frantic with fear, sought information.

Mrs. Mary Darnell, mother of two girls who were in the building, could not learn of her children until more than four hours after the building was demolished. She broke down when she was told that Bertha Mae Darnell had died enroute to Clinchport, and that her other daughter, Hattie could not be found.

Strong shouldered mountain residents plied at the wreckage, seeking traces of those known to be missing.

Doctors were summoned from Bristol, Kingsport, Gate City, Appalachia, Big Stone Gap, and other communities. A passenger train was held at Clinchport, seven miles away, to take the injured to Bristol. Automobiles rushed the injured to Clinchport where doctors began their work. It was 5:30 o'clock before the last known injured child was taken to Clinchport and the train started toward Bristol. Approximately 15 of the more seriously injured were rushed to Kingsport and Bristol by ambulance before the train started. Forty injured was sent by train to Bristol. Nine were in the hospitals at Kingsport.

Doctors W. R. Rogers, E. D. Rollins and three ambulances and five nurses from King's Mountain Memorial Hospital went to Clinchport.

The tornado spent itself about four miles farther up the valley after destroying a flour mill belonging to George Carter, in which both himself and his son, John Edgar, were seriously injured, a dwelling house owned by Henry Johnson, and one belonging to Barb Starnes, and two barns belonging to Ballard Carter.

A. S. Noblin Was Carried From Hall of Building 75 Feet Away.
A vivid word picture of the tornado that last Thursday killed at least 13 and injured upwards of 100 when it demolished the Rye Cove school in Scott County, Va., and leveled houses and buildings in its four-mile path through the mountain country, was told by A. S. Noblin, principal of the school, and others.

"I was walking through the hall when I saw what looked like a whirlwind coming up the hollow," Noblin declared. "Trees were swaying. As it neared the school building it became a black cloud, it appearing as though a tremendous amount of dirt had been gathered."

"I think I yelled. It struck the building. The next thing I remembered I was standing knee deep in a pond 75 feet from where the building stood before it was demolished.

"There were about 155 children in the school which serves a radius of approximately seven miles."

Noblin is a graduate of William and Mary and a nephew of W. D. Smith, Scott County superintendent of schools. Noblin was painfully bruised and lacerated.

John Runyon, 17, a student, said he saw the trees swaying while he was standing with a teacher, Elizabeth Richmond, in one of the classrooms. "It just picked up the school house," he declared. "The next thing I knew I had about half of it on me and was trying to dig out." Runyon's head was badly lacerated.

A genuine desire to help those in distress has been portrayed in the recent Rye Cove disaster by the people generally of Bristol. When havoc was wrought by the recent tornado that completely destroyed high school building at that place, killing 13 children and seriously injuring more than fifty others, Bristol city turned with a united effort to help relieve the suffering that resulted from the terrible calamity. Throwing open her Hospital for the relief of the suffering, sending her doctors and nurses immediately to the scene of sorrow, and giving an urgent invitation to dozens of sufferers to come to private homes where they would receive the best possible care, the people of Bristol have forever endeared themselves in the hearts of the citizens of Rye Cove and the entire community. Unsolicited financial assistance amounting to several thousand dollars was offered by voluntary contributors to those in distress as a result of the storm. Food, clothing, and every comfort possible has been provided without limit to all who would accept it.

Hotel Bristol threw open all available space, and invited any and all who would to share their hospitality free of charge. For this act of sympathy shown, the manager, Mr. Barnhill, will be remembered with gratitude by the surrounding country. Calamities like this provide an opportunity for individuals, for cities, and even larger areas to show their regard for humanity in times of distress and it must be said to credit of Bristol city that she has made haste to take advantage of the opportunity to show that above any pecuniary gain stood the welfare of mankind.

To Be Held at the Court House Sunday Afternoon At 2:30 O'clock
Memorial service will be held at the court house Sunday afternoon, May 12, at 2:30 o'clock, for those who lost their lives in the Rye Cove disaster, and to make prayer for the recovery of the injured. Special arrangements made for good singing. Some voices from Bristol and Kingsport will be added to our local choirs. A prominent Bristol pastor will be one of the speakers. It is hoped that all the families who are bereaved can come.

Mr. and Mrs. J. D. Bledsoe and Miss Kate Gillenwater attended the funeral of Miss Millie Stone Sunday.

Impressive Funeral Services Held For Bruce Cox and Polly Carter Saturday at Baptist Church

An impressive double funeral service was held at the Baptist Church in Gate City Saturday morning a eleven o'clock for Bruce Cox, son of Mr. and Mrs. B. B. Cox of this city, and Polly Carter, daughter of Miles Carter of Rye Cove, both of whom were Rye Cove high school students who lost their lives in the tornado disaster that swept the section last Thursday at one o'clock.

The large crowd of sorrowing friends filled the church to overflowing, more than one half the crowd being unable to gain entrance who sought to pay respect to the unfortunate victims of the terrible tragedy. The services were conducted by Rev. J. B. Craft assisted by Revs. King and Winslow, after which interment was held for Polly Carter in the cemetery near the home of Mrs. Creed Frazier, and for Bruce Cox at the Rye Cove cemetery near the home of his grand parents.

$3,000.00 Appropriated By Scott County Board To Be Used In Rye Cove Disaster

The Scott County Board of Supervisors met at the court house in Gate City Monday. The first thing taken up was the catastrophe that took place at Rye Cove, Scott County, Virginia, on May 2nd, in which the Rye Cove High School building was completely demolished by a furious tornado, and many homes were destroyed. Twelve children and one teacher lost their lives and fifty were seriously injured.

The Board made an appropriation of $3,000.00 to be used in connection with relief work and appointed the following committee to supervise the expenditure of the money, make reports to the Board and solicit, or accept donations from any people living within or outside of the county or state who may wish to aid in the relief work.
The committee appointed was:
Judge E. T. Carter
Prof. W. D. Smith
Mr. I. P. Kane.

We wish to commend the Board for the action taken and express our approval both of the committee appointed and the further order of the Board that proper resolutions be prepared expressing the deep appreciation of the people of Scott County to those people without and within the county who have so worthily aided at the scene of the disaster and elsewhere.

Physicians and nurses, ambulance owners and automobile owners, and the Southern Railway Co., all aided in a wonderful way to care for the injured and transport them to hospitals for treatment.

The King's Mountain Memorial Hospital of Bristol deserves special mention for the liberal and efficient services rendered. Both the General Hospital and Marsh Clinic of Kingsport rendered timely and serviceable. . .

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Breeding Mill

Caty Sage


Dewey Lee


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Great Kanawha

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