Jan 5 2009
07:49 am
By: WhitesCreek

By Ray Collett

Hello Readers, This is a continuation of the "Boy Scout Tragedy In The White's Creek Flood. This is taken from a first hand account by Lloyd G. McCluen. The flood occurred March 22, 1929 and we left the Boy Scouts on the roof of the cabin ...Mr. McCluen recalls, " About 6:00 o'clock in the morning, the steel highway bridge across White's Creek washed away, releasing a wall of water and debris.

Shortly thereafter, the garage and Delco house washed away. Jim Wright's new Chrysler 77 coupe came floating by and the bungalow started breaking up. A chimney cracked and part of it fell in. At this time I moved to the top of the far bedroom. There was a loud crack, and the bedroom on which James Cole and I were standing seemed to pull upstream against the current, away from the main part of the house. Several of the boys fell through into the water, and the bedroom portion then crashed back into them. Afterwards it turned like a box and floated into the main portion of the stream. The side of the roof on which James Cole and I were standing kept tilting, causing the roof to roll, so we kept running around trying to keep it balanced as we floated down stream. The two of us floated on this entire room and continued down stream for approximately one-fourth of a mile until we hit some trees and debris. This knocked the bottom and sides of the room out, but still left us a good portion of the roof on which we could ride. As we rode down stream, we noticed Paul Hickey and Jack Tarwater clinging to trees floating ahead of us. As we rounded the bend opposite the Calvin James property, we suddenly were thrown into a pine thicket, and we did not see Paul or Jack anymore after that. As I started to follow Jimmy Cole up a pine tree, I heard a cry for help. I looked over about ten feet where I saw Roy Green. I came out of the tree and started for him, but before I had taken two strokes, something had hit Roy from beneath and he was gone. I returned to the tree and found seven other scouts had landed there and were clinging to the branches. This tree soon washed down and we all moved to other trees and debris. Tom Douglas had a broken leg, and his brother, Willie Evans was taking care of him.

Jack Hamby, Clifford Seward and I swam over to some debris stacked against some trees, and we stayed there until we were rescued. Soon after we arrived at this point, Carl Mee Jr. and Joe Brashears appeared. Joe was cut on the face and Jack Hamby's little finger was cut off at the first joint. The water continued to rise until about 10:00 o'clock. All along the creek scouts were climbing trees, only to have them washed out from under them.

At 10:30, John D. Ward swam to the pile of debris looking for his nephew, Woodrow Kerr. We could not give him any information, so he swam on in search of Woodrow. About 11:30 o'clock a.m., George King, Sam Chevront and Charles Fulks managed to get the first boat over to the pile of debris where we were. They first took the injured back to safety and Mr. King stayed with the rest of us. The injured were taken to the home of Fielding Hedgecoth, who made his home available for all victims. At the Hedgecoth home, Dr. Thomas Phillips, Dr. Charley Wilson, and Dr. George Ed Wilson were waiting on the injured. It was impossible to get an ambulance to the Hedgecoth home at that time.

The last of us were taken from the pile of debris about 2:30 o'clock in the afternoon. Upon arrival at the Hedgecoth home, we were required to drink a hot cup of ginger tea. I well remember how this tea caused the chill resulting from ten hours in the cold water to disappear.

Willard Staples received a crushed hip, and he was found farther upstream by a group led by Wallace Raulston and Charley Acuff. Willard stayed in the hospital for a year following the flood because of his extensive injuries.

Of the original group who had left Rockwood the day before, seven scouts and the scoutmaster were drowned. The scouts were Jack Shamhart, J.C.Hill, Roy Green, Woodrow Kerr, Lawrence Montgomery, and the twins Ed Burnett and Fred Burnett. The scoutmaster was James Tarwater Wright, to whom all who survived possibly owe their lives. In the eyes of the members of Troop # 45, Jim Wright was one of the great scoutmasters of this country. He gave much of his time, talent, and money to scout work. He was last seen trying to save on of the boys, and all surviving members of this troop are confident that he gave his life trying to save one of us...Lloyd G. McCluen..."

Thanks to the late Lloyd G. McCluen for that first hand account. I remember him very well along with James Cole and Paul Hickey.

Keep the emails coming with your memories of Rockwood and your childhood. Who was your favorite teacher? Remember the "Rockwood Memories" books, both Volume 1 and Volume II are out and can be purchased at "Yonder Hollow", "Gail Score's Show Apparel" (next to Junior's Restaurant), "Shack's Restaurant", and David Webb's "Rocky Top General Store" in Harriman, or just call me at (865) 354-7680. I will be glad to put one in the mail to you....I just mailed two of them to TURKEY...Rockwood is getting known all over the world.......Until next week, Ray

What an amazing account.

What an amazing account. Thanks for sharing it with us. As experienced as I am in rivers and whitewater, parts of this gave me chills imagining the situation.

Great Story Ray, The

Great Story Ray, The monument was one of the first thing I saw when we moved here and have crossed that creek several times on horseback, but have had rides when I saw the water really moving and refused to even try and go across.
I had a person come by the store the other day, looking for volume 1 and buying it as a gift for someone.


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