Florence, AL Destructive Tornado, Mar 1854


We learn from the Florence (Ala.) Gazette, that a fearful tornado which destroyed much valuable property, visited the landing in that town on the morning of the 10th instant. The Florence Bridge, that magnificent superstructure which spanned the Tennessee River, was blown down, with the exception of two spans, and washed off. The bridge cost one hundred and sixty-five thousand dollars, and was insured only against fire, the Company being unable to affect an insurance against wind. This heavy loss falls principally upon five individuals, to wit: JAMES IRVINE, JAMES H. WEAKLY, JOHN SIMPSON, ROBERT M. PATTON, and MARTIN HARKINS. The loss will be heavy upon these gentlemen, but it will not affect them materially, as either one of them is amply able to meet the liabilities of the company. Nearly every house at the landing was, we learn from the Gazette, destroyed. The large new brick warehouse just built by KIRKMAN & RICE, was levelled with the ground, and is now nothing but a huge mass of ruins. The large framed warehouse used by them for storing cotton, was also completely destroyed, and much of the lumber was blown half a mile. The loss of KIRKMAN & RICE is about $2,000. The commodious warehouse belonging to C. GOOKIN is also in ruins -- and as it was nearly full of goods, they, of course, are much damaged. The loss of MR. GOOKIN is also severe, and we presume will reach near $2,000. The brick warehouse used by SIMPSON, McALLISTER & Co., was damaged to some extent, but not seriously. The trees in the immediate vicinity of the bridge and warehouses were all blown down, and many of them blown up by the roots. There is destruction to timber on Patton's Island, opposite the bridge. The storm was confined to a very narrow compass. Fortunately, it did not extend up in town. The wind was very severe in town, but if it had been anything like that at the landing, the destruction to life and property would have been awful in the extreme. It is truly melancholy scene to stand on the wharf and witness the terrible destruction. A carriage was on the bridge at the time of the occurrence. We have been unable to learn whose carriage it was, or whether or not any one was in it, but certain it is, it has been lost.

The New York Times New York 1854-03-28