Special Feature

The Ashby’s and the Great Spring Ridge Tornado by Dean Lambert | Around The Town

Dean Lambert

by Dean Lambert (Around The Town Contributor)

 

February 17th 1927 – A deadly tornado struck the northern part of Sabine Parish near the Spring Ridge community. Killed was 40 year old Virdie Jamison Ashby, wife of Oscar Ashby.

Also fatally injured were 6 of their 9 children:

Opal May Ashby – 18

Ruby Madeline Ashby – 14

Charles Adolphous Ashby – 11

William Warren Ashby – 6

Oscar Ford Ashby – 4

Calvin Aylene Ashby – 3

Five months earlier the couple had lost a one-day old child.

All are buried in the Spring Ridge Cemetary

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The Shreveport Times, Feb. 18 & 19, 1927

SCORES ARE HURT AS CYCLONE HITS NEW OIL DISTRICT

Masonic Hall at Pleasant Hill Converted into Temporary Hospital; Doctors, Nurses, and Ambulances Rushed from Shreveport to Scene of Catastrophe

Pleasant Hill, Feb. 17 (Special). — Eleven persons are dead, one is missing, and two are not expected to live as a result of a tornado which struck a mile and a half south of here Thursday afternoon at 5:30 o’clock.

The dead are:

Mrs. D.D. Hicks, 60 years old; Keys Hicks, 25; Verdie Ashby, 40; Opal Ashby, 18; Charles Ashby; William Ashby; two small Ashby children; Ruth Birdwell 18; Mrs. W.J. Brown; Elbert Cates, Jr., five years old.

Miss Ruth Free, about 18 years old, is missing and believed dead following the tornado striking the home.  Her father, Colonel Free, is in a critical condition and is expected to die.  An unidentified man will die, also, it is believed.

The Masonic Hall at Pleasant Hill was turned into a make-shift hospital, and scores of injured persons were given first aid by doctors rushed from Shreveport, Mansfield, and adjoining towns.

The Shreveport Times was instrumental in rushing three ambulances to Mansfield.  The North Louisiana Sanitarium sent nurses and a doctor.  McCook Bros. and the Roll Osborn and Sons home sent ambulances and assisted in getting the wounded to the Mansfield hospital. 

Half Mile Area Laid Waste.

According to meager information in Shreveport, which is 59 miles north of Pleasant Hill, the twister struck a mile and a half south of Pleasant Hill, laying waste a half mile swath for a number of miles.  The tornado was traveling from west to east, according to reports.

Fifty homes, it is estimated, have been leveled by the tornado, and it is believed that when morning comes more bodies will be found.  The recent rains made the side roads almost impassible, making relief work slow and hazardous.

Volunteer rescue workers were on hand at Pleasant Hill, aiding in getting the wounded to hospitals.  Motor cars were pressed into service, and those who were not too seriously hurt, were rushed to Mansfield in private conveyances.

The Hicks residence, a mile and a half south of Pleasant Hill, was the first home hit by the tornado.  According to reports, Keys Hicks, 25 years old, was plowing in the field when he became alarmed at the threatening clouds.  He arrived at the homesite just as the storm, in all its fury, struck.  He and his mother, Mrs. D.D. Hicks, were buried in the debris.

Writhing onward, the tornado struck the Ashby home, in which there were twelve persons.  Six were killed outright, the bodies of the mother, Mrs. Verdie Ashby, and older daughter, Opal, 18, were found over the bodies of the four small children, who were instantly killed.  The husband, Oscar Ashby and five others were injured, Ashby, seriously, by the storm.

At the Free home, Colonel Free was hurt by falling timbers in the home.  His daughter, Ruth, 18 years old, is missing and is believed dead.  Colonel Free is seriously hurt and his death is expected momentarily.

Ruth Birdwell, 18 years old, was killed when she was struck by falling timbers.

Elbert Cates, Jr., five years old, was picked up by the storm, being crushed by the impact of falling when the storm passed.

The extent of the storm could not be determined at Shreveport, but all telephone lines south of Pleasant Hill were leveled by the tornado.  The storm struck near Converse, Pleasant Hill, Oxford, and lines of communication could not be established to Many, parish seat of Sabine Parish.  

The Shreveport Times, Saturday, February 19, 1927: HUNDREDS MOURN VICTIMS OF TORNADO

Simple But Impressive Ceremonies Held in Burials at Pleasant Hill

Pleasant Hill, Feb. 18 (Staff Special).— Pleasant Hill and environs Friday laid aside oil activities and care and paid honor to the memory of nine of 12 known dead, victims of the tornado which struck near this little town Thursday afternoon at 5:30 o’clock.  

At one of the most touching funeral services ever held in this vicinity, seven of the nine, all members of the Ashby family, were buried in Spring Ridge cemetery, following services conducted by the Rev. C. H. Williams. The other victims, Mrs. V. D. Hicks and her son, Keys Hicks, were buried in the Pleasant Hill cemetery, following services in the Methodist church in Pleasant Hill.

Hundreds of people attended the Ashby rites, neighbors and friends from miles around, crowding the tiny Spring Ridge church.  As the six white coffins were opened, hundreds filed past the caskets.  It was difficult to recognize the individuals, other than by their size, as they were badly bruised and cut.  The seventh body,  that of Ruby, did not arrive at the church until just as the other bodies were being carried to the little cemetery across the road.  It was opened near the graveside and the father and other relatives were allowed to gaze upon the remains before it was interred at the side of the six other bodies, which all together, side by side, were placed in a huge grave, seven and a half feet wide and 22 feet long.

As the pastor, the Rev. C. H. Williams, was saying the burial rites, leaden skies overhead opened, and rain began to fall.  It was bitter cold, and a huge log fire gleamed brightly through the semi-darkness, as the grave diggers warmed themselves after excavating the huge grave.

Simple Services Held

The church services for the Ashby funeral were simple.  All of the plain pine, rough seats were occupied and be-aproned and overalled, neighbors and friends stood around paying their last final respects to the memory of the Ashbys.

More details of the tragic deaths of the 12 were revealed Friday, as searching parties moved some of the debris.  At the Ashby home, it is said, the family had been picked up bodily and thrown across the road where they were discovered some little time later by W. W. Bruce, whose homesite is approximately half a mile from the Ashby home.

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Oscar Ashby’s surviving sons James Clifton “Cliff” Ashby, Jesse Willard “Billy” Ashby, Chalmer D. “Tal” Ashby, and Nolan T. Ashby all served with distinction in WWII. His stepson Edmund James and his son-in-law Harold Jones also served in the war.

*Cliff Ashby (1914-1995) served in WW II and was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and several years as a POW of the Japanese. He avoided starvation during the forced march because he recognized a field of sugar cane and darted into it to pull up stalks of cane to sustain him. Some of the other prisoners followed his example but most of them were shot and killed. Cliff managed to rejoin the line and was spared. He survived the war.

*Jessie “Billy” Ashby (1917-2001) was wounded during the beach-head invasion at Anzio.

*Chalmer D Ashby (1911-1972) served in the Atlantic Theater

*Nolan Ashby (1909-1988) served in New Guinea and the Philippines

Oscar Ashby’s surviving sons James Clifton “Cliff” Ashby, Jesse Willard “Billy” Ashby, Chalmer D. “Tal” Ashby, and Nolan T. Ashby all served with distinction in WWII. His stepson Edmund James and his son-in-law Harold Jones also served in the war.

*Cliff Ashby served in WW II and was a survivor of the Bataan Death March and several years as a POW of the Japanese. He avoided starvation during the forced march because he recognized a field of sugar cane and darted into it to pull up stalks of cane to sustain him. Some of the other prisoners followed his example but most of them were shot and killed. Cliff managed to rejoin the line and was spared. He survived the war.

*Jessie “Billy” Ashby was wounded during the beach-head invasion at Anzio.

*Chalmer D Ashby served in the Atlantic Theater

*Nolan Ashby served in New Guinea and the Philippines

Categories: Special Feature

4 replies »

  1. My dad was Ciff Ashby I was very proud of all he done in is life time I miss him everyday. He was aCounry Gentleman in everyway. He went through a lot in his life time my name is Deborah Ashby Phillips I live in Hornbeck la.

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    • Deborah, I knew your dad. I was in school with your sister for the 7 – 9 grade. At that time, your family moved from Pleasant Hill to Leesville where your father worked on Ft Polk. I again saw him there when I was drafted into the Army in 1968. He was a good man.

      Like

  2. All my life I have been told about this storm. Some of these people were relatives of some of my friends! I appreciate so much that I got to read this article!

    Like

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