One of the worst tornadoes to hit Canton touched down near the Lathemtown and Orange communities in 1928, killing at least five people and injuring dozens, including several children. One, a 9-year-old girl, had both arms broken among other injuries. Several homes were demolished. (The photos show some of destruction — courtesy photographer Kenneth Rogers as part of the Atlanta History Center, used here with permission.)
In the aftermath of the storm, the scene of destruction teemed with curious onlookers from near and far. The April 6, 1928, edition of the Cherokee Advance newspaper described the scene:
Hundreds of visitors “went to view the disaster caused by the twister. During the entire day a stream of automobiles paced down the narrow country road. Some of the citizens of that took the situation in hand and acted as traffic cops, making a one way road each fifteen minutes. People were there from towns and cities many miles distant. Interested visitors were going over every inch of ground for a mile around, viewing the disastrous results of the tornado. Pieces of iron beds were strewn for 200 yards from the site of the house. Every plank was torn loose and scattered for a quarter of a mile. One could look east and see the path of the hurricane, which was about 100 yards wide. Uprooted trees, showing red clay, clearly marked the tornado’s path.
Check out the Cherokee Advance stories from right after the storm, in the aftermath and a short item a few weeks later, below (and click on the newspaper images to enlarge them):
From the Friday, March 30, 1928 edition:
TORNADO TAKES HEAVY TOLL OF LIFE
AND PROPERTY IN THIS COUNTY LAST
MONDAY NIGHT NEAR LATHEMTOWN
Five Killed and a Score Injured.
Many Houses and Barns
CATTLE, HOGS, CHICKENS
DISAPPEAR IN TORNADO
Most Appalling Disaster Ever Visited
Upon Cherokee County
The tornado which struck Cherokee County last Monday night at about 10:00 o’clock near Lathemtown and Orange, was probably the most appalling disaster that has visited our county. Five persons were hurled to death and a score of others injured, houses and barns blown away, cattle hogs and chickens disappeared and vehicles demolished, is the toll that this brutal tornado exacted.
Coming on this little community while they slept and striking with viciousness and without warning, the windstorm carved a path a quarter of a mile wide and four miles long of the countryside, leaving uprooted trees, demolished homes and death and destruction in its wake. The tornado struck first at the home of William J. Millwood in the Orange Community, and after killing four members of this family and injuring five others, and scattering the Millwood home over a lot of land, traveled east to Lathemtown and destroyed four more houses.
The dead are William J. Millwood, 55; Ida Millwood, 45, and their children Allen, 17 and Estelle, 13, all of Orange; and Osie Heath, 25, of Lathemtown.
The injured are Alfred Millwood, 20, Leo Millwood, 11, Grady Fowler, 30, Mr. and Mrs. Howard McCuen of Lathemtown. Fowler has 8 ribs broken near the spine and a fractured arm and is not expected to live. Edith Millwood, 9, has both arms fractured and Leo Millwood, 11, has the left forearm broken. W. J. Millwood Jr., 7, received a serious laceration of the scalp, while Alfred Millwood was badly bruised about the head.
Osie Heath was crushed beneath his falling home and his body was all but severed in twain. Mr. and Mrs. Fowler were visiting at the Heath home at the time of the storm and before the three could rush out of the house on hearing the storm’s approach the house was twisted around and demolished. Mrs. Fowler narrowly escaped injury.
A harrowing story 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 through 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.
On learning of the tragedy, Mr. Edwards summoned aid and the injured were rushed to Canton for medical attention. Mr. Edwards said he heard the storm when it passed Monday night, but did not realize that anyone had been injured until dawn came. The tornado made a noise like an airplane, drowning out the thunder.
Mr. and Mrs. Joe Edwards and their baby had a narrow escape when a portion of their home, located near the Millwood residence, was torn down by the storm. Edwards’s barn was demolished and most of the house was wrecked. This family escaped uninjured.
Apparently the tornado was of a most freakish nature, as tornadoes are, for it tore up the Millwood home, splintered it to small kindling wood over a distance of half a mile and failed to disturb at all a tall pile of cordwood a few yards from the house. A floor sill 2 inches by 8 inches was carried by the wind for half a mile and driven several feet into the clay bank of a gully near where the body of Mr. Millwood was found.
Small iron tolls were lifted and carried half a mile while light articles such as pillows and clothes were carried only a few feet away from the original home site. The barn was lifted from over the heads of frightened animals and torn into bits. On a hill in the path of the storm, practically every tree was uprooted to a width of a quarter of a mile.
Mrs. Millwood was carried a quarter of a mile by the tornado and dropped into a small gully where she was found early Tuesday morning. The two dead children were found near the ruins of the home. All of the dead people were thickly covered with mud and had on practically no clothing at all.
After wrecking two homes in the Orange community, the tornado moved onto Lathemtown and destroyed four more homes, those of Grady Fowler, Osie Heath, T. W. Green and Howard McCuen. Mr. and Mrs. Fowler were visiting the Heath home during the tornado. Mrs. Fowler was uninjured. Fowler’s home was located some 200 yards from the Heath home while the McCuen’s home was next door to Heath’s place. Mr. and Mrs. McCuen were injured while their baby was not even scratched. The home of T.W. Green, half a mile off east of Heath’s home, was demolished, but Green and his family were not at home.
At Heath’s home, the tornado splintered heavy beams, but left unbroken a box of glass bottles. It lifted the floor and deposited it several feet away, and took the walls and roof and splintered them. Part of the chimney was left standing. The force of the tornado seemed more concentrated at Lathemtown, as it did not move the pieces of houses very far.
The Canton chapter of the Red Cross, headed by Mr. W. S. Elliott, chairman, went to the aid of the tornado sufferers, and arranged for their treatment of injuries and of the burial of the dead. Major Green of Atlanta was in Canton Wednesday in the interest of the relief work.
At Canton no damage was caused but for a heavy downpour of rain and some little wind, but it was apparent to the close observer that there was trouble in the eastern portion of the county.
Funeral arrangements were made by C. H. Peacock of Jones Mercantile Co., undertakers. Mr. Heath was buried at ten o’clock Wednesday morning while the four Millwoods were buried Thursday. All four of them being buried in one grave.
From the April 6, 1928 edition:
Those injured in the recent tornado that struck the eastern part of Cherokee county last Monday night a week ago, are recovering. The three Millwood children, aged 7, 9, and 14, are at Coker’s Hospital. The little 9-year-old girl was the most seriously injured, having both arms broken and other injuries. They have been given the best of attention at the hospital. They are surrounded by dolls, picture books, toys and the things dear to a child’s heart. These children came from a good home, but an humble one. These little fellows, it is said, had never been to town, and had never tasted ice cream. They didn’t seem to know what it is all about — so many nice things, and so many kind visitors.
Dr. Coker has given these unfortunates every attention with no thought of recompense or reward. Alfred Millwood, the older boy, left the hospital last week and is able to be about.
Last Sunday he visited the scene of the tornado and was an interesting spectator to the many hundreds of visitors who went to view the disaster caused by the twister. During the entire day a stream of automobiles paced down the narrow country road. Some of the citizens took the situation in hand and acted as traffic cops, making a one way road each fifteen minutes.
People were there from towns and cities many miles distant. Interested visitors were going over every inch of ground for a mile around, viewing the disastrous results of the tornado. Pieces of iron beds were strewn for 200 yards from the site of the house. Every plank was torn loose and scattered for a quarter of a mile. One could look east and see the path of the hurricane, which was about 100 yards wide. Uprooted trees, showing red clay, clearly marked the tornado’s path. A family living one-half mile distant from the Millwood home noticed nothing unusual about the clements except for a brisk gale.
A storm pit was within 100 feet of the occupants of the house but no one had time to think about it.
Six of the victims were buried by the Red Cross organization. The people have been generous in their contributions to this fund. Many checks [have come] from out of the country and state. This fund will be used for paying burial expenses and clothing, medicine and food for the injured, and probably for rehabilitation to some extent.
From the April 13, 1928 edition:
Charley Lathem has asked the Advance to make a correction for him which we gladly do. All of the Atlanta papers carried pictures of the recent disaster in Cherokee county, however, one picture stated that Chief of Police Wofford of Canton was shown looking through the ruins of one of the houses. Mr. Lathem took exceptions to this as it was his picture instead of the Chief of Police and he stated that he just wanted the people to know that he never did, never has, nor never will look like Chief Wofford. Of course, the Advance is a friend to both Wofford and Lathem and after looking at them and then looking at the picture we feel both are justified in trying to claim the honor of getting their picture in the paper outside the funny page.