Reflections returns to April 1924 and recalls one of Sumter's worst natural disasters.
Citizens who remembered this incident refer to it as one of Sumter County's most deadly and expensive weather disasters before Hurricane Hugo.
The tornado …
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The tornado created by the storm of '24 accounted for 20 deaths in Sumter County, and estimates also place the death toll in the state at 79 with several hundred injured and property damage in the millions. The information and photos used to prepare this article were taken from The Item archives and from personal interviews.
Weather reports state that this "death-dealing and property-destroying tornado" swept across the northwestern section of Sumter, starting in Horatio on the Wateree River and concluding in Mechanicsville, near the Lee County line.
The destruction of farm houses, tenant houses, barns, farm machinery, livestock and a large amount of woodlands was attributed to the storm. "At Horatio, the large plantation of Mr. C. J. Jackson, who was in the dwelling when the storm struck, escaped without injury although the house was completely demolished." Sadly, eight of the tenants living on the property were killed and several more were injured. On the adjoining estate owned by Rev. Friday Kershaw, three persons were killed (including his nephew).
The storm continued to wreak havoc as it traveled from Horatio to Ballard's Hill. Between Ballard's Hill and Gaillard's Cross Roads, several homes were destroyed, and numerous people received injuries. The roof was torn off the large home of Mrs. Burrows Colclough. The storm trekked to Rembert Hall, which had stood for a century, doing serious damage to the Aman estate occupied by Mr. T. G. DuBose. The building, because of its sturdy construction, was able to withstand the brunt of the storm; however, it and the surrounding buildings suffered extensive damage. "The home of Mr. H. C. DuBose was wrecked; both Mr. and Mrs. Dubose were injured."
Arriving in Mechanicsville, the storm damaged the estates of Mr. T. H. Clarke and Dr. F. K. Holman. From Mechanicsville, the storm roared through the swamp into Lee and Florence counties where it did considerable damage to the community of Wisacky.
While in Mechanicsville the twister destroyed Mr. Mark Reynolds' "Little Fork" farm along with two tenant houses and two barns. "One home occupied by a family with nine children miraculously escaped major harm." One of the horses in a stable was blown across the field, and numerous pigs, chickens and turkeys unfortunately were killed.
First aid was administered to the injured by a surgeon from Sumter who came out in the night and crossed the swamp on foot to render assistance to all he encountered.
"Destruction of life and property by the storm, which swept over parts of 13 counties of South Carolina on April 30, exceeded in large amount the estimates made soon after visitation.
According to information provided following a meeting of the state finance committee appointed by the state advisory board of the Red Cross, the finance committee estimated that $250,000 would be needed for rehabilitation purposes.
"The survey showed that 79 persons were killed, 771 were injured, 380 homes were destroyed and 672 families were affected. The total number of persons made homeless by the storm was 3,360."
I. C. Strauss of Sumter, a member of the finance committee, estimated the damage suffered in the county at $250,000. Anderson County representatives estimated the damage in that county at $1,500,000, the damage in Richland County was estimated at $250,000. Thirteen South Carolina counties all told were affected seriously by the storm. The total loss in 13 counties would reach $10,000,000."
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