On April 24, 1908, the
town of Purvis was practically destroyed by a cyclone. A citizen
relates her experience in the storm and thereby gives a clear
idea of the damage it did in the county seat:
"On April 24, 1908 about 3:15 P. M., I saw a huge back
funnel-shaped cloud approaching from the southwest. It looked as
if it were boiling on the ground. I called my three children into
the house and asked my husband not to go to the store where he
worked. We got on the bed, wrapping up in quilts, putting a
cotton mattress over us. The cloud was roaring; it was terrible.
We were not in the straight path of the cloud, but three distinct
whorls caught us. Some of our furniture was whirled straight
toward the storm. The top of the house was torn off and then the
walls fell in on us.
We began to get out by the time the last whirl was gone. It took
four men to pull the springs we were on apart to get the mattress
and quilts out. We had a cedar bucket that was found on the floor
turned over a chicken. Our pantry was blown about one fourth of a
mile from the house with the pans and other things in it
contained still in it just as I had put them. It was nearly dark
for about four minutes while it lasted. The earth rocked, and
rain poured in torrents.
After the clouds passed, roaring on into the northeast carrying
before them all that stood in their path, for a moment there was
silence; then, with the light, came pitiful cries, groans, and
screams that arose on all sides. People were dying; others hurt
and still frightened beyond control.
Mr. W. B. Allsworth and F. J. Calhoun rode on horses to Richburg,
which is about ten miles from Purvis to tell of the disaster. A
special train was sent from Hattiesburg by the N. O. & N. E.
Railroad Company, reaching town before dark. On this train was
Doctors, H. L. McKinnon, L. W. Bayne, B. F. Mosley, W. W.
Crawford, and Leo H. Martin and several rescue workers. Wreckage
and disaster lay before them on every hand. The courthouse was
used as a morgue and a hospital. Its roof had been blown away,
but the walls remained. The new town clock had stopped at exactly
2:15 P. M. The hands remained in this position for many years
afterward, then started. It was never known to keep correct time.
Within twenty-four hours the Red Cross, the army, the navy and
other organizations had relief agencies on the ground. Governor
Noel sent military tents and hospital equipment. Groceries and
mattresses were sent from Hattiesburg. Red Cross aid arrived from
Washington and Philadelphia. The two Hattiesburg hospitals were
filled with injured. The body of James Moffett, city Marshall,
was found transfixed with a piece of timber. It had to be sawed
off before the body could be removed. There were sixty-five
persons killed, around 340 injured, and nearly 2000 left
destitute in Purvis. We had to start cleaning up and building
again. In about eight months homes had been rebuilt, crops were
made, churches and schools under construction."