Rockwood, TN Boy Scouts Perish In Floods, Mar 1929

Rockwood TENN Boy Scouts Lost In Flood 3-23-29 2.JPG Rockwood TENN Boy Scouts Lost In Flood 3-23-29.JPG



Rockford, Tenn., (UP) -- Spring floods were endangering life and property in five mid-Eastern and Southern states Saturday night as rain-swollen rivers broke over their banks in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Illinois.

Directly south, residents of central Tennessee were battling against the intrusion of flood waters from the Emory River and its branches in Roane County, but with little success. At Tarwater, six miles south of Rockford [sic], a troop of 28 Boy Scouts was swept down White Creek on the roof of the bungalow where they had taken refuge as the water crept upon their camp.

Mothers and fathers on the banks of the stream were reported to have stood by helplessly within earshot of the cries of their sons. Volunteers pursued the boys downstream in boats, brought overland from the Tennessee River. Some were rescued.

From throughout the stricken regions came reports of fresh rainfall which further aggravated the already perilous situation in river towns and all lowland communities.

Stories of bravery in the face of death, whole communities fleeing before the floods, stalled trains, refugees floating down stream on housetops and the inundation of property worth millions of dollars were sent out of the flooded areas over crippled lines of communities.
Kentucky and Tennessee appeared to be the hardest hit Saturday because of the suddenness with which the deluge rolled down the Cumberland and Emory valleys. New flood warnings based on more rainfall were issued for the Chattahoochie, the Coosa and the Alabama basins in Alabama and Georgia, where residents have been battling the ravages of high water for more than a week.

The Mississippi River was spilling over the farm lands in the neighborhood of Quincy, Ill., as volunteers worked feverishly to support levees with sandbags. Alarming reports came from the Cumberland valley around Pineville, Ky., and from the Emory River system in central Tennessee.

Rockwood, Tenn., March 23. -- With three already dead, hope was abandoned tonight for five other members of the Boy Scout troop marooned in the cabin where they were spending the weekend when it was carried away by the swollen waters of White Creek, six miles south of here, today.

The bodies of Scoutmaster JAMES TARWATER WRIGHT, JAMES EDWARD BURNETT, JR., and JAMES CLARENCE HILL, who were drowned when the cabin broke up in the flooded stream, have been recovered. With 14 of the scouts rescued. CHARLES FRED BURNETT, twin brother of JAMES EDWARD; LAWRENCE NEDRA MONTGOMERY; ROY PAUL GREEN; JACK ACUFF SHAMHART and WOODROW WILSON KERR were still missing and believed drowned.

The 21 scouts and their scoutmaster went to the Tarwater bungalow last night. A cloudburst, which washed away the county bridge on the main highway at the Roane-Rhea county line tore down the cabin, breaking it into three pieces.

L. G. McCLUEN, JR., 13, one of the rescued, told the following story:
"We left Rockwood at about 4:30 o'clock yesterday afternoon for the Tarwater bungalow, where we were to spend the weekend. Twenty-five of us went. But three of the boys went back home after supper. During the evening we sat around and JIM (referring to Scoutmaster WRIGHT) read to us from a book called 'Up Eel River.' We went to bed about 10 o'clock, all of us sleeping on the floor in the same room."

"The next thing I knew, WILLARD STAPLES, who was lying close to the door, woke me, saying that there was water on the floor. Then JIM woke up and roused the other boys. Before we could get out clothes on, the water was knee-deep. We went out on the porch and saw there was water all around us. We stood on the porch for half an hour or longer, trying to figure a way to get out. All the time the water was rising we stood on benches, but the water came up even higher than that."
"JIM then told us to get on the roof. The next thing I heard was a tremendous crash. The county highway bridge had just fallen into the water. We saw men on the railroad bridge and tried to signal to them, but I don't think they could see or hear us. It was still somewhat dark. It was raining and the water was cold. Then all of a sudden the cabin tumbled over into the stream, breaking in three pieces. JIMMY COLE and I were on the smallest one. We floated down the stream and noticed that we were sinking. We grabbed for a tree and stayed on it a while. We saw then it was bending too far down. So we leaped from it into the water and swam to another tree. That didn't suit us so we again jumped into the water and swam to a drift. We were on it when rescued."

When word of the boys' plight reached Rockwood about 200 automobiles went to the scene. Most of the scouts were rescued by Sid Montgomery, George Wing and Sam Chevtrant, Rockwood men.
They found the boys in tree tops and on drifts.
The injured are JACK TAREWATER, JR.; PAUL HICKEY, who has a broken hip and internal injuries; WILLARD STAPLES; JAMES COLE; L. G. McCLUCE, JR.; HARRY SCHAMBART; TOM DOUGLASS, who has a broken leg; WILLIE EVANS; JOE BOSHEARS, who is in bed with a high fever; JACK HAMBY, who has cuts and a broken hip; CLIFFORD SEWARD; CARL MEG, JR., who is badly scratched; WILLIAM TAYLOR and TED DERRICK.

Charleston Daily Mail West Virginia 1929-03-24


The White's Creek Monument

To Whom it may concern:

My name is Terry "TJ" Williams and I am the District Executive for the Catoosa District, Great Smoky Mountain Council, Boy Scouts of America, serving all of Roane, Cumberland, Fentress, and Pickett Counties in East Tennessee. My district committee and I have adopted the monument as a permanent project and will begin restoration and landscaping on June 25th. I would love to speak to you about it. Send me an email at and maybe we can get together.

Yours in Scouting,



This article refers to the monument as being near Rockford, TN. That is incorrect. The monument is near ROCKWOOD, TN. Rockford, TN between Alcoa and Knoxville, TN.

White's Creek flood

My father, William Taylor, often told us of his ordeal in the flood. He was in that boy scout troop, about age sixteen at the time of the flood. He and some other boy scouts climed a building and clung to the roof. Floating down the creek, the building started to twist and break apart, one section nearly crushed my dad's leg but he was able to hoist his leg up onto the roof. His father Sam Taylor died in a Rockwood mine accident October 1926. Not sure how long after after that, his mother, Nell and sister Grace moved to New York.

Flood in Rockwood

My Uncle Jack Hamby told us the story of flooding and that he was one of the boys outs who clung to a tree for a long time. He did lose half of his little finger. He repeated how frightening it was for him. Jack was my mother's older brother and both have since died. Jack had a great sense of humor and was quite spirited and outgoing. He told great stories and I really have missed him. He spent most of his cult life in Knoxville.


OH!! I'm sorry to hear that.. sounds so sad..

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My Grandfather survived

My paternal grandfather was one of the boys that survived.. His name is spelled incorrectly in the article. His correct name is Carl Mee, Jr. not Meg. Please note my maiden, middle name. Obviously I am named after him and loved him very much. He sold furniture and gave me a love of golf. Thank to who posted the article.

whites creek flood

The name of the town above white's creek is not rockford- it is rockwood as stated in the second article. As a young man on my paper route in my hometown of Rockwood I used to stop by Paul Hickey's store to get a coca-cola. (7 ounces back then!) He told me of his ordeal in the white's creek flood once when I asked about it, but never mentioned it again.