On November 25, 1950, the so-called “storm of the century” hit the eastern part of the United States, killing 353 and causing millions of dollars in damages. Also known as the “Appalachian Storm,” it dumped record amounts of snow in parts of the Appalachian Mountains. Record low temperatures were recorded in Tennessee and North Carolina even without the wind chill. In Mount Mitchell, NC, a temperature of 26 degrees below zero was recorded.
The precursor to the storm was the passage of an arctic cold front late on the 23rd into the 24th. The front passed through eastern Kentucky around midnight and the change in airmass was dramatic. Temperatures plunged from the 40s and 50s just ahead of the front to the teens just behind it. A thin but heavy band of snow accompanied the dramatic temperature drop behind the front with as much as 7 inches falling across southeast Kentucky on the morning of the 24th.
Temperatures across eastern Kentucky by the morning of the 25th were in the single digits and teens, and still dropping. Low pressure developed on the arctic front over the Carolinas on the 25th. Once that occurred, the storm quickly moved north, striking western Pennsylvania, eastern Ohio and West Virginia hardest. Many locations in those three states saw snowfall totals greater than 30 inches: 62” in Coburn Creek, WV; 57” in Pickens, WV; Steubenville, OH’s snowfall exceeded 44 inches with snowdrifts up to 25 feet.
Bitter cold also gripped the area with most locations recording temperatures in the single digits to near zero on the 24th and 25th. Middlesboro, KY bottomed out at 3ºF, Williamsburg, KY 1ºF, and Somerset, KY –2ºF. All still stand as record low temperatures for the month of November.
The storm was unique, however, because it featured not only extremely strong winds and heavy snow, but both record low and high temperatures. Buffalo ,NY saw no snow, but experienced 50 mile-per-hour winds and 50-degree temperatures.
Power was out to more than 1 million customers during this storm. It actually affected 22 states, killing 353 people and creating $66.7 million (1950 dollars) in damage. U.S. insurance companies paid more money out to their policyholders for damage from this storm than for any other previous storm.
Many buildings collapsed under the weight of 2 to 3 feet of snow. Roads were closed; trains and buses canceled. People could not leave their homes for days. Milk and bread and other delivery trucks could not get through. School buses were halted, and it was a joyous occasions for all students. Snow clearing was much different in those days also, since they used no salt on the roads.
“Although I was 11 months old, I remember the talk of the 1950 Snowstorm,” says Ray Mulrooney in the Weirton [WV]Area Museum & Cultural Center newsletter (Nov 23, 2009.) “My mother was with child and was worried that she could not get to the hospital in Steubenville. The streets were covered with 36 inches of snow and there were 6 foot drifts. Banfield Ave. was covered.
“Our house was a full block and a half from Rt. 7 which had been cleared by the Ohio National Guard. There was no way we could get to Rt.7 with out help. My father called the neighbors. They got out their coal shovels (not many had snow shovels in 1950) and started to dig. They had to put the snow to the side, so when they were done there were 8 foot walls along the path that my dad’s car would travel. The path went from our house to Rt7.
“My father, mother, and my mother’s mother cooked eggs and anything else that we could find to feed the shovelers. The Wilsons across the street fixed highballs to keep them warm.
“Soon my mother was on her way to Steubenville with her unborn child that I wanted to call ‘Stormy.’ The baby was not ready to enter this cold icy world, so my mother went to her aunt Anna’s house on 3rd Street in Steubenville. My dad got food for us and restocked the Wilson’s stock.
“The roads up the hill to the Ohio Valley Hospital were impassable, a day or two later my mother had to walk a few blocks to Gill Memorial Hospital that was near Aunt Anna’s home to have her beautiful little girl Janice Sharyn on November 29, 1950.”
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“Andy Orville Bozzel is the son of Mr. And Mrs. George Bozzel. He was born in Andover, VA in Wise County, November 24, 1922. His education is limited, he having completed the fourth grade. He quit school in 1937 on account of lack of money to send him on. He lives a mile from school. He has lived in Appalachia [the town in VA] for the past five years. He seems to be a bright youth but not anxious to study in order to succeed.
“He is now in the C.C. Camp and is receiving thirty dollars per month. Of that amount twenty two is sent home to his parents. He got to go to the C.C. Camp by his mother taking him to the welfare office and asking that he be signed up. Since going to camp he is completely self supporting. He has been there only a short time. I received this information from his mother. His mother told me that she asked him if signed up to go to night school in Camp and he answered, “You know I did for I want more education.”
“His mother has completed the ninth grade in school and his father the fourth. Orville’s home life is not very pleasant. There are nine children two girls and seven boys. The girls are married and not living at home. The other children at home are under sixteen, all boys. They live in a run-down four-room house which has no convenience whatever. I have been in this home a number of times, knew Orville personally and know the condition of the home he came from.
“The mother works out when she can get it and is sole. The father works not at all, although he used to be a good worker and provided well for his family. He is letting drink get the best of his manhood. The father is 46 years old and the mother is 38 years old.
“There are no magazines or daily papers come to their home. I have known the children to have to go to school without breakfast. They have received aid from the Relief. He [Orville] spends his leisure time in reading, going to movies and playing ball. He is not a church member and does not attend church.
“The yearly income of family is $180.00.”
Maude R. Chandler
October 2, 1939
From a collection of approximately 1,300 Work Projects Administration/Virginia Writers’ Project life histories, social-ethnic studies, and youth studies that were written by agency staff members between 1938 and 1941, housed at the Library of Virginia
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“In my younger days, during the 1920s, work was very good, and I would see men at the commissary company store, flipping gold and silver coins in the air and catching them as they fell. Shopping at the company store was an event. We all had our favorite clerk and would stand in line to have him wait on us. I recall Mr. Norman, the store manager; Mr. Bartlett; Mr. Ross, and a Mr. Meadows. Potatoes and pinto beans were the big sellers for a long time.
“Beans came loose and were ordered by the pound. I will never forget when a clerk was scooping up beans from the large bin under the counter, and he threw a scoop of them in the floor under the counter. Come to find out someone had forgotten to close the lid at closing time, and the cat found a new litter box. Bread came unwrapped; eggs loose; and if you wanted meat, Mr. Bartlett, the butcher, cut it on order for you.
“One of the officials of the company, every Christmas, would give dimes to all the kids who came by, which was all of us. That dime went a long way. Christmas was a good time for all of us. At the commissary the large show window would be converted into a toy wonderland. The window would be covered until the day after Thanksgiving. We would all try to be there at 9:00 a. m.
“Thanksgiving and Christmas were our favorite days. The turkey and ham dinners were the best foods I ever knew. The turkey would be purchased live and dressed out the day before. I will always remember the wonderful smell of the dressing cooking. I don’t think anyone makes this dressing, also called stuffing, anymore.
“No one I knew had electric Christmas lights back then. A few people would put a red bulb in a homemade wreath and hang it in the window. Christmas trees were mostly decorated with homemade decorations. Trees were cut live in the hills, and we would be looking for a nice one long before we needed it. We all got toys, but not as many as children get today. For Christmas we also got lots of candy and fruit. Sometimes we also got sick from so many goodies.”
Curtis R. Pfaff
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(continued from yesterday…)
When the Union forces first reached Atlanta, Callahan sent his daughter word not to go in for more goods, but to stay home with the children. From 30 miles away the loud roar of cannon could be clearly heard. She declared in 1928 that she would never forget the battle sound. Callahan was killed during the battle of Atlanta, after having fought for the Confederacy for several years.
After the burning of Atlanta, Sherman’s march took him through the Indian family’s cornfields, which were “in roasting ear,” and Nancy assumed full responsibility for providing food for the other fatherless children.
Nancy remained single for over 40 more years. In her seventies, she married Norman Dollar and moved to the Mentone area. Twenty years later, her husband died. She managed to buy his tombstone by selling her cow. From this time until her death eight years later, the legends grew around Granny Dollar. She enjoyed embellishing the stories told about her and encouraged their telling. She told fortunes and managed to survive by growing chickens and vegetables and by the generosity of friends and neighbors.
“Another race has taken our fields, our forests and our game. Their children now play where we once were so happy. The trouble with the white race,” she mused, “is that they lay up so much for old age that they quit work at 50 or 60 years. When they stop working, they get out of touch with nature; all wear shoes in summer which keeps them from God’s good earth; then they begin to fail, and soon they are dead.”
Her last years were spent on Colonel Milford Howard’s property. The ruins of her cabin are almost hidden from DeKalb County Highway 156, on the south side of the road a short distance east of DeSoto Parkway. The chimney still stands and vines have taken over the decaying ruins. Across the paved road a dirt road meanders up a hill to the former site of Colonel Howard’s Master School.
Colonel Howard is responsible for much of the legend surrounding Granny Dollar. In 1928 he wrote a feature story about her for The Birmingham News. He met Granny upon his return from a long stay in California. She had then settled into one of his cabins. Although his own financial situation was precarious, Howard agreed to provide for Nancy, which included a bit of fat meat in her greens and biscuits, her baccy for her ever-present corncob pipe, and rations for her “Injun” chickens and mongrel dog Buster.
Buster was very old himself, having reached the age of 20. He’d long served as Granny’s faithful guardian, ever ready to attack anyone who approached either him or his mistress. He had frightened so many people and had even bitten several children, Buster was despised by the neighbors as a mean, vicious beast, but Granny had loved him.
Preparing for her own demise, Granny had saved twenty-three dollars toward a tombstone, but the money was stolen from her. Three years to the day from the publication date of the Progressive Farmer article about Granny Dollar, the January 28, 1931 issue of the Fort Payne Journal announced her death.
People in the community arranged for her burial beside her husband in Little River Cemetery, and Colonel Howard delivered the eulogy.
After Granny’s funeral no one wanted Buster and he was equally unwilling to have anything to do with any prospective new master or protector. When neighbors went to check on the old dog, they found him gnawing the door, his angry snarl revealing the gums which once had held dangerous teeth.
After he refused to be coaxed or driven from his vigil, the mountaineers decided it would be more humane to chloroform Buster than to allow him to grieve himself to death or slowly starve. When Buster’s body was buried, another funeral was held with Col. Milford W. Howard, famous lawyer, congressman and author, eulogizing Granny Dollar’s faithful mongrel dog.
In 1973, largely through the efforts of Annie Young of Fort Payne, Granny’s tombstone was erected. The head of an Indian woman is inscribed at the top and “Daughter of the Cherokee” is written at the bottom, next to the dates “1826-1931″ (her exact birth date is uncertain.)