W'boro

Above is a picture of the west side of the square in Waynesboro circa 1895. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church (the two-story building with the steeple in the background), and the courthouse (built in 1844, pictured to the right), both sustained damage in the 1872 tornado. Photograph courtesy of Wayne County Historical Society

   Last week, the U.S. National Weather Service in Nashville posted on Facebook about a little known but very destructive tornado (or “cyclone,” as it was called back in those days) that struck Waynesboro in the year 1872. Some may remember stories handed down from the old-timers about the storms they endured years ago, but most folks around here just know about the more recent ones – like in the 20th and 21st centuries!

   Below is a story that appeared in the Nashville Union and American Newspaper on Wednesday, April 24th, 1872 about the tornado:

“A Destructive Cyclone – Several Houses Completely Demolished, but Nobody Hurt. From the Waynesboro (Tenn.) Review, April 19. Last Monday week one of the most terrific storms, that has ever visited this portion of the moral vineyard, put in its appearance, sweeping and destroying fences and houses at a terrible rate. It came from the south and striking Waynesboro a full broad-side, destroyed nearly half the town. It lasted scarcely two minutes, yet the wind was so strong that the blacksmith shops of Mr. Kinnamon and Norman & Risner, the dwelling of Mr. George Walker, also the tanyard shelter of Mr. A.T. Hassell were entirely demolished. The old brick academy was left standing without a roof, the residence of Robert Horton was deprived of its roof and chimnies, and strange to say that no one was hurt, though the roof, chimnies and upstairs floor are all now lying on the lower floor. The jail was almost demolished; the courthouse got two of its chimnies spoiled; the gable end of the church was blown in; the livery stable of Mr. Berry was somewhat shaken up; the dwelling house of Mr. Turman was partially injured; and three out of the only six shade trees on the square were blown down; the stable roof of Mr. Hassell was blown off, besides, miles of fence blown down, and the bridge across Green River was considerably damaged. It was, decidedly the most severe storm that has ever visited this section. Yet with all this destruction of property, we have great reason of thankfulness to God for his very special providence in preserving life through the storm. For it is the clearest case of special providence we have seen for a number of years. Out of about seventeen or eighteen houses, some of them totally destroyed, and others injured more or less, and not a single person injured in the least.”

   Although our county has seen devastating tornadoes in recent years that have caused destruction, injury, and in some cases, even death – in this modern age, we are fortunate to have the ability to receive early warnings about storms that give us time to prepare. Our ancestors didn’t have that privilege. There were no Dan Satterfields, no tornado warning sirens, or no storm chasers back in those days. But by the grace of God, as the newspaper article stated, in that terrible storm of 1872, “not a single person was injured in the least.”

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