ATB: Tornadoes have done their damage in Williamson County

Hudson Alexander’s Around The Block


We are right in the midst of tornado season, one of the most dangerous and potentially deadly times of the year. The most recent reminder of this came via the severe round of destruction dealt to our Middle Tennessee neighbors up in Sumner county, around Gallatin, just a couple of weeks ago.

Many of us still have clear memories of the strongest tornado ever recorded here in Williamson County. According to Mark Rose, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, that came early on Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 1988. An F4 tornado ripped a path, 150 yards wide and six miles long, from the Rebel Meadows subdivision, just north of Franklin, to the Brenthaven area of Brentwood.

Within a matter of minutes, there was a massive amount of property destroyed that day. It included 54 houses, 13 apartment units, 31 businesses and six airplanes, which had been parked at a private air strip just off Mallory Station Road. In addition, one man lost his life when his roof collapsed. And the total damages were placed at $50 million. Thank goodness that tornado struck back in the days before the Cool Springs area became such a prominent center of business activity. It could have been much worse.

Since 1868, when the National Weather Service began keeping records, there have been 21 tornadoes recorded in Williamson County. Out of that number, 10 of them — or nearly half — have occurred just in the months of April and May. Perhaps the most unusual event on record, and also the most deadly, came on April 29, 1909, when two separate tornadoes touched down exactly one hour apart.

It was around 10:15 p.m. when the first of these came rolling out of Hickman County into the White Oak area, just across the county line. The loss in timber alone in this section was placed at $100,000. From that point, the storm moved into the Greenbrier section, where it destroyed two stores, several churches, and numerous farm houses, barns and outbuildings. There were also numerous reports of livestock killed by flying debris. This would be typical of damage reports all along the storm route that night.

One of the saddest stories took place at Leiper’s Fork. The home of Mr. and Mrs. Jeff Marlin was completely demolished. Two of the couple’s sons were blown over a 20-foot bluff and into a nearby creek. Their bodies were recovered the next morning at about daylight. A third son died two days later as a result of injuries sustained during the tornado. And five days later, Mrs. Marlin died from her injuries at a Nashville hospital. Mr. Marlin was badly injured, too, but he survived, along with an infant child, a 16-year old son, and two young daughters.

As the storm moved eastward, it cut a path into the Southall community, causing major damage and dealing additional death blows. From there, it crossed over to Columbia Avenue, where it completely wrecked everything along both sides of the pike, from Winstead Hill to the area just adjacent to Battle Ground Academy. Many historians believe it was during this phase of the storm that winds along the periphery also toppled the steeple that used to sit atop the Franklin Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

The tornado proceeded over across the Lewisburg Pike area, out Murfreesboro Road, and by 11 p.m. struck for a final time, near Clovercroft. In the end, this first tornado, an F3, cut a path 45-miles long through Hickman, Maury, and Williamson counties. It left 10 people dead and 40 more with serious injuries.

The second tornado that night struck at 11:15 p.m. about four miles southwest of Nolensville. It cut a huge path over a mile wide through the area. Just like the previous storm, it caused widespread property damage. Many Nolensville residents said it was the worst storm to ever strike there — even worse than the notorious cyclone of 1900, which had cut a path only a few hundred yards wide. After striking Nolensville, the storm moved into Rutherford County. Two people were killed and 20 injured in that second storm. It went on record as an F2 tornado.

Here in Williamson County, we’ve only had two F4 tornadoes in our history: one that we already mentioned, from 1988, and the other way back in 1877. We’ve never had an F5 tornado.

Let’s hope we never do!

Hudson Alexander was “born and raised” in Franklin. Visit his website.

© 2006 Williamson Herald

ATB: The start of school this year has put me in a predicament once again…

Hudson Alexander’s Around The Block


The start of school this year has put me in a predicament once again — one that I haven’t had to deal with in many years. And my predicament is this: how do you tell a child, and especially one so special in your life, something that’s really…shall we say…a little less than truthful?

Here’s my point…just the other day, my pretty little 5-year-old granddaughter came crawling up in my lap. After giving me a big hug, she looked up at me with those big blue eyes, and said, “Pap, I guess you know I start to kindergarten tomorrow. Do you think I’ll like it?”

Now why did she have to go and ask her Pap a question like that? It didn’t take but a split second for my mind to go racing back to the fall 1959 — to the very day when I was coerced into crossing that little wooden bridge at Inge Smith’s kindergarten over on Battle Avenue. I recalled what a pain it had been to leave my little brother back at home. He got to see what was going on with Mr. Moose and Mr. Green-Jeans on the Captain Kangaroo TV show. All I got was a bum deal: I was thrown headlong into a new situation, with a bunch of new kids, and I had to learn a whole bunch of new stuff. If it hadn’t been for the kindly assistance from those two saintly ladies who helped out there, Mrs. Eloise North and Mrs. Maxie Lawrence, I don’t think I’d have ever even survived that first day of kindergarten!

“So Pap, do you think I’ll like school,” she asked again, this time interrupting my memories on the subject that stretched back some 47 years ago.

I drew a deep breath, let out a long sigh, and then thought about it again, for just a brief time.

“Why…yes, baby, I think you’ll love kindergarten,” I said, with a straight face that might’ve won the national poker tournament. “This is an exciting time in your life. And I’ll just bet you’ll be the prettiest little girl in the whole class, too.”

Then, I thought…since I’ve already started down this dark road, I might as well lay it all out there…hook, line, and sinker.

“You know, Taylor, Pap sure wishes he could swap places with you tomorrow. Pap would love it if you’d go to work in his place tomorrow, while he got to have all the fun and go meet all those new little friends at kindergarten. That would be a good deal for Pap!”

She looked up, sporting that little innocent smile…you know, the kind that radiated a sense of newfound courage, mixed in with some sheer determination not to let her Pap pull one over on her. Now…I should have been satisfied with such a performance. But I wasn’t. The last time I’d told one that big was way back there… in fall 1982, when my oldest son, Jason, was about to start kindergarten at Franklin Elementary School. Or maybe it was in fall 1986, when my youngest son, Little Hut, was about to enter kindergarten at Liberty Elementary School.

Either way, I thought those days were long gone…now I’m in that familiar predicament again — and this time it’s with the grandchildren! I’ve got three more coming up behind little Taylor.

A couple of days later, I was still moping around the house, still pondering this deep dilemma, when I stumbled across…so help me…a newspaper column that my grandfather, T.H. Alexander, had written on this very subject back in the fall of 1927. You have to understand here that my grandfather died 13 years before I was born. But, somehow, I just knew he’d penned this column, knowing I’d find it one day. He had these interesting remarks in his column, which was called “I Reckon So,” and published in The Nashville Tennessean and other southern papers:

“Now that the kids are going back to school, I notice almost all the Southern editors are writing editorials on school days and calling them the happiest days of life. Me..myself..personal, I don’t agree…but schools have just returned and my own boy with honest grimaces and candid distaste has resumed his schooling.”

“Old timer,” I said to him only yesterday, “this is the happiest time of your life. The cares and worries of the great world need not bother you. You need not bother, like your dad, on what to write today to bring beans and bacon tomorrow. Yes, these are the days.”

“But deep down in my heart I know I have lied to him! I am simply helping perpetuate the Great American Tradition.”

So…that’s what it is! The Great American Tradition. I never thought about it in quite that light, but…hey…I can live with that. Thanks, Granddaddy!

© 2006 Williamson Herald

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Hudson Alexander III gives a brief history of Franklin TN's old Jail. from Nashville TN's WKRN News 2 at 6pm 8/06/2010.

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