by Tracy Robb
My Uncle Hart said the winter storm of February 1951 and the one in 1899 were a lot alike, but the impact of the ice, snow, and cold on everyday life on the Rim was a lot different. Back at the turn of the century folks were much less dependent on "modern" conveniences provided by others and so the big storm of 1899 was much less crippling than the one in 1951. Back in 1899 lighting, cooking, and getting water did not depend on electricity. Travel was by foot or by horse, or by train. Food was in the cellar or in the smokehouse. All people had to do was "hole-up" until the thaw came.
The storm of 1951 on the other hand created a hellava mess for Ridgetoppers, especially those who worked in Nashville or Old Hickory. For a day or two the Ridge or "Coggins" hill was impossible. Vehicles were all over the place. On the afternoon the storm started, I left class to discover an already deep and slushy snow covering the streets around Peabody. Dr. GXXXXXX's Buick was stuck next to the curb on Eighteen Avenue until a bunch of students managed to get him out. I decided then and there that I had better head for home. Generally the trip to Ridgetop was uneventful on the Greyhound Bus, but that day the trek up the ridge was slippery, protracted, and filled with excitement.
As night closed in, a steady rain froze as it came into contact with things at ground level. All roads were like glass. Power and telephone lines and tree limbs began to snap like rifle fire in the gloomy night fall. We didn't expect my mother, who worked in Nashville to show up at the regular time, but when it got later and later, my sister and I became anxious. Finally she arrived half frozen and half frightened to death. The next morning I could not believe she had made it through the maze of wires and limbs at our front gate without getting hurt.
For about a week we were about making do. We heated our house with a Warm Morning coal fired stove so getting heat was really not a problem. Retaining it was. The wind and low temperature combined with the construction of house to make it very hard to keep warm. We huddled around the stove. Our water pipes froze which really didn't matter because we had no electricity to power the well pump. I got water to bathe with from a small creek that ran through the Lindsey Place. By some quirk Pete Young Store on Highway 41 got power restored so we and many others were able to get drinking water from him. See Willie Mine Midgett’s wonderful account of this storm.
Editor's note: The site on which Willie Mine Midgett's story of the 1951 ice storm was featured seems to no longer be active. I was able to access a cached version of the site through the Wayback Machine The website was Joelton.com and can be viewed through this link.