The 1916 Washout
On July 5, 1916 the folks in the mountains of Western North Carolina had no idea that a hurricane brewing in the Gulf of Mexico, some 600 miles away, was about to drastically affect their lives.
This hurricane, with winds reaching 107 miles per hour, swept into the Gulf Coast of Alabama. It came ashore at Mobile with torrential rains that spread north across the state. By the 8th of July the tropical storm was now over Tennessee and Western North Carolina, saturating the ground and bringing the rivers and streams to near flood stage.
A second storm passed over Charleston, S.C. on the morning of July 14, causing some local damage. It then moved northwestward, expending its full force on the watersheds in Western North Carolina. The rain from the first storm had already saturated the soil and filled the streams to overflowing. Supposedly on July 15-16 this storm dropped 24 inches of rain in a period of 24 hours. The rivers and streams continued to rise and the hillsides began to give way as mud avalanches rushed down covering roads and destroying or washing away everything in its path.
The town of Cliffside and its mill did not suffer as much damage as many other places up stream.
Hazel McDaniel Robinson, daughter of James Randolph McDaniel, recalls the story that he often told his children about the part he played in assessing the damage from this great flood.
News was hard to come by in the days following the flood. Mr. Raleigh Haynes, owner of several Mills along the Broad River as well as other businesses, asked two men who worked in the Cliffside Mill to travel by foot the 40 miles to Bill’s Creek (now Lake Lure) to assess the damage and bring him a report. These men were Jim McDaniel and a Mr. Sinclair. Both of these men were from the Bill’s Creek Community, and familiar with the area. Jim had been a farmer there before moving to Cliffside to work in the Mill. He was also anxious to make the trip because he had many friends and relatives there that he was concerned about.
Jim McDaniel and Mr. Sinclair started out on foot each carrying an axe. There was so much devastation and chaos from the storm that horse and wagon could not get through. This road that ran along the Broad River is the one now known as Old Highway 74. The traveling was slow and Jim and Mr Sinclair had to stop often to cut limbs or move debris. The people that they talked to, who lived along the river, had lost houses, barns, livestock and crops. The river had washed it all away. They even had trouble following the road as much of it had disappeared under the mud. Hazel does not recall her daddy mentioning any loss of human life that he was aware of.
McDaniel and Sinclair returned to Cliffside and gave their report to Mr. Haynes. He paid each of them $400.00 for their work. Jim used that money to buy his first new car, a Model T Ford.
It was later decided that a dam needed to be built to prevent another disaster like this from ever happening again. In March of 1925 the Chimney Rock Mountain Corporation entered into a contract to build a dam across the Rocky Broad River. The dam was completed on September 20, 1926. This is where the town of Lake Lure is today.
Jim McDaniel had returned to Bill’s Creek by this time and helped in the construction of the dam.
After the Depression, Boyce Bridges, Sr., a good friend of Jim McDaniel asked him to come back and work for the Cliffside Mill again. (Boyce Bridges Sr. is the father of Paul Bridges and grandfather of Janice Bridges Swing.)
Jim and his second wife Elizabeth Robertson McDaniel returned to Cliffside in 1932. They raised four children in Cliffside: Gladys McDaniel Bridges, T. J. McDaniel, Hazel McDaniel Robinson and Rev. Reburn L. McDaniel. Jim retired from the Cliffside Mill in 1945 and returned once again to his home in the Bill’s Creek Community. He died in 1958 and is buried in Bill’s Creek Baptist Cemetery. His wife, Lizzie, who was 25 years younger than Jim, lived until 1990.
Contributed by Hazel McDaniel Robinson