BEE SPRING, Tenn. (WKRN) — On April 29th and 30th in 1909, Middle Tennessee suffered its deadliest tornado outbreak in history. Sixty-three people lost their lives and more than 200 were injured from a total of 12 tornadoes.
The strongest tornado traveled through Giles and Lincoln Counties and was an F-4 with winds 207 miles per hour or higher.
The most lives were lost in the Bee Springs community of Giles County.
Historian John Lancaster with the Giles County Historical Society told the story of that fateful night.
“The tornado touched down just outside of Aspen Hills just a few miles west of here, traveled through the Conway Community, destroying the local public school,” Lancaster explained. “And then coming through Bee Spring destroying homes and families and a local church here by the cemetery.”
“Twenty-two people were killed here in Giles County from this tornado. And the tornado also injured 70 people as it traveled through the county,” Lancaster said.
“So one family that lived here in Bee Spring near the cemetery lost seven members of the family including the mother and six children. Another family lost five or six members of its family, as well. And those individuals are buried in the Bee Spring Cemetary that you see here today.”
“The Bee Spring community after the tornado was never quite the same and never really recovered. Many of the inhabitants here moved to Bryson, a few miles away, and that community grew a little bit larger. Others moved to towns like Elkton, which is the closest incorporated town to the area,” Lancaster said.
The tornado continued into Giles County where nine more people lost their lives.
The second highest number of fatalities occurred from an F-3 tornado with winds of 158 miles per hour or higher that ravaged Hickman and Williamson counties.
These pictures show the damage in Centerville in Hickman County where there were nine deaths and 32 injuries.
It touched down during the dead of night between 10 and 11 p.m. as it moved into Williamson County it eventually passed just south of Franklin causing eight deaths and 11 injuries.
One of the saddest stories was of two brothers in the Hillsboro/Leipers Fork area who were blown over a 20-foot bluff and into a nearby creek, according to the Nashville American newspaper.
Twenty-two others lost their lives that fateful night across Middle Tennessee in tornadoes that struck Montgomery, Robertson, Rutherford, Wilson, Grundy, and Fentress Counties.