On August 14, 1940, a devastating flood occurred in Elizabethton, brought about by a massive overflow of the mountain-fed Watauga River. The 24-hour torrential rain was the remnant of a 91-mph hurricane that, after pounding the South Carolina and Georgia coasts, took direct aim at East Tennessee. The Watauga, normally a peaceful mountain stream about 50 feet wide and only a few feet deep, rose to a staggering 26 to 30 feet and a quarter of a mile wide.
The Tennessee Valley Authority, a federally owned corporation, was formed in 1933 with a five-fold purpose: flood control, power generation, economic development, river navigation and fertilizer manufacturing.
Brush Creek is a stream of water that is very familiar to Johnson Citians, largely because of its long history of flooding. The name is reported to have originated with Abraham Jobe who owned land along the creek in what became the business section of the town. He once related that a heavy mass of red brush grew along the creek and obstructed the view except for those riding on horseback. Apparently, the name stuck.
My late grandmother, Mrs. Earl B. Cox, experienced firsthand a bad storm that once ravaged Johnson City. She saved an undated Comet newspaper clipping titled, “Awful Storm Wednesday Afternoon - Thousands of Dollars in the Growing Crops Were Destroyed and Many Glass Broken.”
In a previous column, I described Spurgeon’s Island near Gray, TN as having been a popular “lovers’ lane” of yesteryear. Kathy Reed sent me a September 25, 1936 Johnson City Beacon newspaper clipping bearing the title, “Gray Station Folk Hearing Again of Miracle of 1901.”