Mon
Dec 29 2008
10:39 am
By: WhitesCreek

By Ray Collett

Hello Readers, I have been asked many times about the Monument in White's Creek near the middle of the bridge. Since the disaster at the Kingston Steam Plant, and all of the rains we had a week or so ago, I thought it might be a good time to mention what happened in March 1929. I gathered this information from a Lloyd G. McCluen article he wrote around forty years ago, and I am sure he wouldn't mind us sharing it....
This is Mr. McCluen's FIRST HAND ACCOUNT OF THE BOY SCOUT TRAGEDY IN WHITE'S CREEK
"On Friday afternoon, March 22, 1929, an excited group of boys left Rockwood for a week end camp at the Tarwater bungalow on White's Creek. It was cold and drizzling rain, but this made little difference to the boys of Boy Scout Troop # 45, because we had been looking forward to this trip for approximately two months. Those making the trip were : Scoutmaster James T. Wright; Scouts Joe Brashears, Howard Brown, Carl Mee,Jr. ,James Cole, L.G.McCluen, Clifford Seward, Bill Taylor, Willie Evans, Jack Shamhart, Jack Hamby, Ted Derrick, Paul Hickey, Jack Tarwater, Jr., Willard Staples, Roy Green, J.C.Hill, Woodrow Kerr, Lawrence Montgomery, Ed Burnett, Fred Burnett, and Walter Polston. Harry Shamhart and Tom Douglas, younger brothers of Willie Evans and Jack Shamhart accompanied the troop. On most of our camping trips we took along Dick Gilbreath to cook for us.
Upon arriving at the bungalow, we did our regular chores of making camp, and Dick Gilbreath prepared the supper. We had to start the Delco system which furnished lights, got in wood, and arranged our gear. After enjoying a hearty meal, we gathered in the living room in the center of the cabin around a big fire. Here we organized boxing matches and wrestling contests. When we had exhausted ourselves with our games, Jim Wright concluded the activities by telling a ghost story. Howard Brown and Walter Polston had to return home that night, so they and Dick Gilbreath went back to town, intending to return the next day. It was still drizzling a slow, steady rain, and we made beds on the floor of the cabin. Since we were all so tired from the games we had played, we kept no watch that night. I can recall no other trip on which this was not done, as it was a custom of the troop to keep watch all night.
About 4;00 o'clock a.m. Willard Staples, who was sleeping by the door, awakened us exclaiming that water was running in on him. Someone opened the door, and we saw that White's Creek had risen to the level of the cabin! The Tarwater bungalow was built about eight feet above the creek level, and the water had never been known to get this high. Upon discovering the height of the water, Jim Wright took control to warn everybody to remain calm while he and Joe Brashears tried wading out. There was a low place between the front of the bungalow and the garage, and the water was flowing very swiftly with a great deal of debris. Realizing that it was impossible to get all the boys out, Jim Wright decided that the safest place would be on top of the bungalow, and we climbed up to the top using the bars on the window as a ladder. There was no panic, because Jim Wright was loved and respected by everyone in the troop, and we fully trusted his judgment.
After we had been on the roof about two hours, we saw lights on the railroad trestle across White's Creek. Excitedly we began signaling with Morse Code. We later learned that Wilmer Shamhart, father of Jack and Harry, John McCluen, my brother, and Luther Majors were on the bridge. However, none of them could read the code and the attempt to signal was futile."
We will have to leave the rest of this story until next Monday. Some of you might have had ancestors who were on that ill-fated trip. I remember a couple of the survivors very well. Some of these stories are rather long and they have to broken up into two or three parts to fit the bill. If any of you have any stories on the White's Creek Flood, please pass them on to me. My books, "Rockwood Memories", both volumes # 1 and the all new Volume II are selling very fast. They can be purchased at "Shack's", "Yonder Hollow", and "Gail Score's Western Wear" ( next door to Junior's Restaurant) and also at David Webb's "Rocky Top General Store" in Harriman. Or just call me at (865) 354-7680 and I will get you one.
On one last note...Allan Long, sent an email complimenting his favorite teachers. Let me share it with you, Allen wrote," My favorite teacher was Miss Gertrude Hearn who taught math, algebra, and geometry. She was there at least in the 40's and maybe earlier and was still teaching when I was graduated in 1951. Since I was away from Rockwood after 1952, I do not know when she retired. The "rumor" was she was engaged and her fiancee was killed in an accident and she never was in love again. Due to her teaching, college algebra and trig was a snap.
Another favorite was Raymond Hallcox. When I arrived at RHS in 1948, I was at the bottom as far as grammar was concerned. My first test under Mr. Hallcox, i made a 10. He told me if I could come during lunch or study hall, he would tutor me so I would get caught up and later I could retake the test. I went for several sessions and he gave me a similar test on which I made 95. Strange as it might seem from that year, ten years later after being graduated from college, my major was English Literature. I told this story to my class when we had our 45th anniversary and Mr. Hallcox was there. I will never forget his kindness and compassion...Allen Long
Thanks Allen, I really enjoy passing these stories on to our readers, by the way, Leon PenleyClass of 1957 wrote me today and he is number 1135 getting the column each Monday. WHAT A MAILING LIST..or group of list I should say.....Until next week and the rest of the Boy Scout Tragedy.......Ray

1929 flood/1926 Coal Mine Explosion

Dear Ray,
My name is Travis, my grandmother spoke of the flood in 1929,and told us how she lost her parents, brother and other members of her family. She, her baby sister and a couple of cousins were the only ones who survived. My family lives in Kansas and since she never spoke of the flood until her later years, she couldn't remember a hole lot of the events. It wasn't until I found your article that we even knew the exact year. She spoke of the same events that the boy scouts experienced referring to being on the roof top going down the river and climbing into trees. Is there any article/photos that we can get to help us finally learn what exactly happened to her family. We don't even have names because she always referred to people by nicknames. Her maiden name was Rose "Mable" Wright

Also, my grandfather, Hershall Griffith told us stories of his father and brother who died in the coal mine, 1926 in Rockwood. If you can refer me to any articles it would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks you,
Travis

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