The Tornado of 1928: “The Most Appalling Disaster Ever Visited Upon Cherokee County, Georgia”

Last Thursday night, this happened less than a mile from my house:

Image taken by Canton, Georgia Fire Department June 13, 2013
Image taken by Canton, Georgia Fire Department June 13, 2013

That’s the EF1 tornado that hit Canton, Georgia on June 13, 2013. There’s even a very unsettling video on Facebook of the tornado FORMING OVER MY HOUSE AAAHHHHHHH! (In other news, don’t you love how just about every tornado video includes some form of the video maker going “$&#%! A tornado!” then running away? Lord help.)

Fortunately, I was about half a mile away from home during the tornado, but it didn’t stop THIS from happening to my car:

Waaahhhh! Note the piece of tree branch embedded into my car on the lower left side of the image.

The next day, I was whining to myself about not having my car and my $1,000 insurance deductible. (I mean, honestly, what’s next? I have to become a trash pile scavenger? I get sold into debt peonage? Because nobody in the world has it harder than me. Waaaah.) That was when I remembered another tornado, one that hit my family and Cherokee County a whole lot harder.

From the Cherokee Advance, Friday, March 30, 1928
From the Cherokee Advance, Friday, March 30, 1928

I had to mess with the brightness and take multiple microfilm print outs of this article, so I won’t scan the whole thing here, but long story short a tornado blew through the eastern part of Cherokee County Georgia at about 10pm on the night of March 26, 1928. Six houses were destroyed, and the home of William and Ida Millwood of Lathemtown was the hardest hit. The couple and two of their children were killed, while four more of their children and another family member were badly injured.

According to the Cherokee Advance newspaper:

“A harrowing story was of the fury of the storm was told by Alfred Millwood, who is at Coker’s Hospital here, who said that he and the other members of the family were in bed about ten o’clock Monday night when he heard a terrible rushing noise coming toward them. he ran to the door to see what the trouble was, and started out of the house when a window frame struck him on the head and he went sailing thru the air about 15 feet above ground for a distance of 25 yards, landing in the road, his face in the mud.

He said: ‘I was dizzy for some time after landing and when things quieted down I heard some of the children crying and finally located three of them, and we took refuge in an old house nearby, where I built a fire for them. When dawn came, I went to the home of W. F. Edwards and got help.’

Young Millwood told a horrible tale of rushing through the air at lightning speed and of seeing beams and pieces of timber flying by him like birds. He does not quite understand how he escaped serious injury himself, he said.”

William Millwood’s death certificate says “Killed by Cyclone.”

I may never have heard about this tornado, except for the fact that my great-grandfather Walter Linton West lived in the Lathemtown community. He joined the search party to find the bodies of the Millwood family, but while he was out developed pneumonia which was aggravated by a heart condition. A month later, he died, leaving a widow and 9 children.

My great-grandfather's death certificate
My great-grandfather’s death certificate

I can’t help but wonder if things would have been much different for my grandfather if his father hadn’t died at age 45. During the 30’s, their fortunes – like everyone’s – took a definite turn for the worse. My grandfather talks about losing the house to their creditors, moving around to live with various people, and quitting school to work in the Canton Cotton Mills until he turned 18 and got drafted into WWII. This speculation makes me very grateful for the social safety nets we have today.

As for the tornado and aftermath, I’m currently transcribing the Cherokee Advance newspaper articles about them and will post them in a separate post by Monday (here). If you want to look this info up yourself, the kind folks at R. T. Jones Library in Canton, GA can let you into the Georgia room and show you how to use the microfilm machine.

On that somber note… Happy Detecting!


Leave a Comment