The Great Cave City Storm – 17 January 1870

On the 17th of January 1870, about 4 o’clock in the morning, the little town of Cave City, about 12 miles northwest of Glasgow, was wrecked. The great cyclone that swept the northern portion of the county was first noted at a point about 2 or 3 miles southwest of Glasgow Junction (Park City), in the neighborhood of Bird’s School House. The wind blew from the southwest, reaching the Louisville and Nashville Railroad 2 miles north of Glasgow Junction, at the old Hawkins place, and it ran a parallel course with the railroad and the road to Cave City, where it took a more eastern direction, and there were no serious casualties there. It’s path never exceeded a half mile in width, but there was destruction and wreckage of everything in that path, except an occasional object left standing in isolated loneliness.

Bird’s schoolhouse was unroofed, and many houses between there and the old Hawkins place were unroofed or blown down, a large quantity of various livestock being killed.  The old Adams place was destroyed except the house.  William Lewis Poynter’s place was a complete and total wreck.  His family escaped injury, but he lost nearly every piece of livestock on the place.  At Joel Y. Wilson’s house, both the doctor and his lady were badly hurt.  It was first thought her injuries were mortal, but later info assured her condition was more hopeful.

At this point, there seemed to have been an undulation in the in the current path, its force rising high enough to spare the dwellings in its path, for about a mile.  Then it dipped at Prewitt’s Knob, utterly and entirely destroying that little village except the old tavern house occupied by LA Downer.

At Prewitt’s Knob, John McCown and his eldest child, a little girl about 8 years old, were killed; his wife and another child were badly injured.  Miss Fite was also killed and her father severely hurt.  A large brick stable on Mr. Downer’s premises was blown down, killing several fine horses and mules, all except a fine mare which parted her halter and escaped.  The splendid orchards and nurseries of Messrs. Downer and Williams at the northern base of the Knob, upon which great care and considerable expense were bestowed, were broken and twisted to mere stumps and shreds.  From here to Cave City, a distance of 2 miles, every dwelling, barn, stable, and fence was either capsized, blown down, or blown away.

At Cave City, the entire southwest portion of town, about one-third of the whole village, and stretching off eastward for some distance presented a saddened wasteland, thickly strewn with fragments of lumber, trees, and brush from neighboring woods, with pieces of broken furniture, torn and tattered clothing, with papers, feathers, dead cattle, poultry, etc.  But the material destruction dims with thoughts of the loss of life and dreadful human suffering.  Husband and wife, parent and child, lay down with hearts full of life and affection, to awaken in another world, or on their swift journey with no time to say farewell.

At Cave City there were 5 deaths, and at the time, it was not known how many mortally injured.  The dead were George W. Poynter, his wife, and only child, about 2 or 3 years old; Andrew Davidson; and Mrs. Sterritt, wife of JW Sterritt.  These 5 added to the 3 already mentioned at Prewitt’s Knob and 2 Messrs. Vaughan near Glasgow Junction, made 10 in all.  Among the injured were Miss Mattie Drane, Miss Puss Nevill, JH Foster, JH Brown, D McKinney and his wife, and Dr. and Mrs. JY Wilson, John Edwards, WW Parrish, and James Foster, severely.  Prof. Williams, wife, and 2 children, AL Mallery and nephew Robert Jolly, wife, and child, WM Herman, wife, and 2 children, Miss Lively, 2 children of ET Ritter, Mr. Foster’s wife and 2 children, and Mrs. Peggy Rogers, slightly.

Medical assistance was promptly rendered by the excellent and efficient physicians of the town, Drs. Williams, Hatcher, and Garnett, assisted by physicians from Glasgow and Caverna, as soon as they could reach the place.  All were well and properly cared for.  The dead were interred on Tuesday.  Mrs. Sterritt was placed in the family vault of her father, Col. Robert Sterritt, near Munfordville.  Mr. Davidson was buried with becoming ceremonies by the fraternity of Odd Fellows.  Mr. Poynter and family were buried in the family cemetery in the vicinity of Cave City.  Mr. McCown and his child were placed in the family burying ground of his father-in-law, Mr. Edmond Davis in the western portion of the county.

No doubt the heaviest property losses fell on Mr. Downer, at the Knobs, and Mr. George Middleton of Cave City, the former in the destruction of his stable and horses, and orchards and nurseries; the latter in the loss of a large quantity of tobacco stored in 2 barns, and estimated by him to be worth 10,000 dollars.  Prof. Williams, Mr. Hermon, Andrew Davidson, George W. Poynter, Bud Nevil, and Mr. Foster, had their dwellings and every house on their premises, with all their furniture and apparel blown entirely away.  In some instances hardly enough left to mark the place where they stood.  The new Church, built a year before the storm, and used by all Christian denominations worshipping in the town was blown down and all that was left was a pile bearing no resemblance to a house, and little indication of ever having been one.  The fine schoolhouse and Masonic lodge which with the Church, constituted the leading objects of pride of the town’s population, was blown down and scattered for miles.

JB Grubbs of Eminence, KY, was engaged in a series of church meetings.  He was the guest of Prof. Williams at the time of the storm, and received some very severe injuries.  Besides the total destruction named, adding the part of town occupied by negroes, which was wiped entirely out, except a solitary cabin, damages and losses of less degree may be mentioned.  The dwelling of Dr. Williams stood alone and uninjured among the wreck of his outhouses.  Dr. Hatcher’s dwelling sustained partial damages, easily repaired.  That of Mr. Sam Preston was considerably strained and split.  A house belonging to Capt. Noah Smith had the ell lifted and borne around several yards of its place.  Many other houses were careened, unroofed, or lifted from their foundations.

On Tuesday following the disaster, citizens collected several hundred dollars, and placed it in one of the Glasgow banks, subject to order of Mr. Price Curd of Cave City, to be used by him and others for relief of the sufferers.

142 years have come and gone since the awful catastrophe occurred.  The village arose, Phoenix-like, out of its destruction and today stands out as a city of magnitude and prominence.  It is a gem of tourism on the edge of Mammoth Cave National Park, and quite well-known.  Its population contains fine and respectable citizens, some of the best to be found in the county.

On an end note, Lamertha Jane Rogers was born and raised about 5 miles southeast of Glasgow in the neighborhood of Bethel Church, and near the head of Boyd’s Creek.  She was a daughter of Samuel Rogers, oldest son of William and Elizabeth Rogers, who emigrated from TN and settled in the above-named section of the county in the early 1800s, where they raised a large family and where many of their descendants still live.  Elizabeth Rogers was a charter member, with 4 others, of Bethel ME Church, organized in 1825 by Rev. George Barton Harland of Monroe Co, KY.

Lamertha married Andrew Davidson, who lost his life during the memorable night of January 17, 1870, under tragic circumstances, during the Cave City storm.  Mr. Davidson was a son of William Davidson, who was well known in the Roseville country in his time.  He also lived in Glasgow, Cave City, and Horse Cave sections.  His father, Younger Davidson, came here from VA in the early 1800s.  He raised a family of 5 boys and 5 girls.  The boys followed shoemaking a good deal for livelihood, which was their father’s trade also.

This Davidson family was industrious, clever, and good neighbors, but they never accumulated anything of consequence.  Younger was a soldier in the War of 1812.  His remains were buried in the Roseville country in what is called the Gillock graveyard, with his 1st wife Melinda.  There are but few descendants of this family.

Lamertha married Mr. Redford, after Davidson died.  Redford also died, and left her a widow.  She had a sister, Mahulda Ann, who married Smith Wells.  She went to visit Lamertha while she was on her deathbed.  Lamertha died while Mahulda was there, and Mahulda went into hysterics and died the same day.  Mrs. Wells was brought back to her home, and was buried in the Wells graveyard, about 5 miles southeast of Glasgow, in the neighborhood of the present-day Eastern Elementary School.  Her sister Lamertha was presumably buried beside her husband Davidson in the Cave City country, the exact location having lost in time.


About Gclee

I am a long time genealogy and local history hunter from Barren Co., KY. I have many stories to share that may be of interest to other local genealogists and history buffs. I enjoy this as a hobby and hope I can be of encouragement to others. I also hope everyone enjoys my stories as much as I have enjoyed learning about them.
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4 Responses to The Great Cave City Storm – 17 January 1870

  1. Gclee says:

    To the gentleman who first contacted me about the Cave City storm, he was descended from Joseph H. Foster and his second wife. I may be able to help you with her parents. I will have to check the data I have.

  2. I am LeeAnnn Forester Train.China And Joseph Foster were my great ,great grandparents. Nancy e Foster Forester was my great grandmother. Are there any pictures of China or Nancy that you know of?? My grandfather was Harry Forester son of Zach and Nancy. Thanks LeeAnn

    • Gclee says:

      Not any that I am aware of. I am still researching into this line, as I have quite a bit on the Wilson lines, but I haven’t proven anything on China from that info. If i come across anything I’ll let you know.

  3. Chales W Logsdon says:

    I am Charles W Logsdon, born and raised in Cave City, KY. I am now 72 years young. Down through my younger years, this story of the Great Cyclone of 1870 has been told by my elders of the destruction that hit this city. At that time, I just knew bits and pieces of the stories but by reading in full detail of the destruction of Cave City I learned the whole story. It is amazing what the people went just to survive during this time. I am deeply blessed and understand their loss. God Bless

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