Tennessee State Seal
New TSLA Exhibit Chronicles Some of Tennessee’s Biggest Disasters
(Published: June 8, 2010)
Photo of Crash at Dutchmans Bend
Dutchman's Bend Train Crash
Photo of East Nashville Fire
East Nashville Fire
Photo of Sulphur Dell Flooding
Sulphur Dell Flooding

Many communities in Tennessee were hit hard by the recent flooding, but the state’s residents have endured many disasters before.

A Yellow Fever epidemic in the 1870s caused more than 7,000 deaths in Memphis alone. The sinking of the steamboat Sultana on the Mississippi River in 1865 claimed more lives than the sinking of Titanic 47 years later. And a head-on collision between two trains in Nashville in 1918 still ranks as one of the worst train wrecks of all time.

All of those calamities - and others - are documented in a new exhibit on display at the Tennessee State Library and Archives building in downtown Nashville. The exhibit, titled “Tennessee Disasters,” chronicles some of the worst moments in the Volunteer State’s history, as well as the determination and resilience of the people who lived through them.

The exhibit, which is free and open to the public, recounts the Blizzard of 1951, which froze the Cumberland River and paralyzed usually balmy Nashville for more than a week. There is also a section devoted to the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812, which created Reelfoot Lake and caused tremors felt as far away as Maine. And there is another section describing the Fraterville Mine accident of 1902.

“Tennessee has seen its share of disasters, but this exhibit also highlights the courage and strength many people who have lived in this state have shown in the face of adversity,” Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “There really is a spirit of neighbors helping neighbors that is evident in some of these exhibits. For example, there was a fire in East Nashville in 1916 fueled by high winds that destroyed about 500 houses, but because people pulled together and helped each other, there were few injuries and only one death.”

The exhibit will run through Oct. 1, 2010. The Tennessee State Library and Archives building is located at 403 Seventh Avenue North, across from the State Capitol. The building is open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m., Central time, except on state and federal holidays. Limited street parking is available for visitors near the building.