1909: Middle Tennessee’s deadliest tornado outbreak

Local News

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The deadliest tornado outbreak ever in Middle Tennessee struck the region from the evening hours of April 29, 1909, through the night and into the next day on April 30, 1909.

In all there were 12 tornadoes that caused 62 fatalities in Middle Tennessee.

The strongest, an F-4 with winds 207 mph or higher traveled for 30 miles across Giles and Lincoln counties killing 31 people in all.

Bee Spring in Giles County
Picture Courtesy of the Elkton Historical Society

That tornado appears to have begun west of Aspen Hill, passing near Aspen Hill and Conway, where the school was destroyed, between Bunker Hill and Bryson, and through Bee Spring.

Bee Spring in Giles County
Picture Courtesy of the Elkton Historical Society

The Bee Spring Church was destroyed and many graves in the cemetery are the resting places of those killed that fateful day. One massive grave contains the remains of an entire family.

Bee Spring Church Cemetery in Giles County
Picture Courtesy of the Elkton Historical Society

This massive tornado then passed into Lincoln County through the northern suburbs of Fayetteville before lifting northeast of Fayetteville.

The second highest number of fatalities occurred from an F-3 tornado with winds of 158 mph or higher that ravaged Hickman and Williamson counties.

These pictures show the damage in Centerville in Hickman County where there were 9 deaths and 32 injuries.

Centerville, TN
Picture courtesy of The Tennessee State Library and Archives
Centerville, TN
Picture courtesy of The Tennessee State Library and Archives

It touched down during the dead of night between 10 and 11PM. As it moved into Williamson County it eventually passed just south of Franklin causing 8 deaths and 11 injuries.

One of the saddest stories was of two brothers who 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.

Special thanks to Sam Shamburger from the National Weather Service office in Nashville, who did extensive research on this tornado outbreak. You can see his full report here.

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