The extension of East Broadway, which is now named Route WW was first called
Boone’s Lick Trail, then Cedar Creek Road and, in 1928, it was called Fulton
Gravel Road. Natives like myself knew that it was the shortest route between
New York City and Los Angeles. The first buses traveled this route coast to
coast. One of the first was the Yelloway bus line and another earlier one was
called the Purple Swan. We don’t hear about “cloudbursts” anymore, but that
was a popular term in 1928, when a Yelloway bus accident was the talk of the
neighborhood for months after it happened.
This particular cloudburst was more than a drenching rain or a flash flood. It
was a torrent that fell over thousands of acres upstream and sent creeks out
of their banks on Fulton Gravel Road and elsewhere. About 2 one morning a
Yelloway, loaded with 28 passengers, was plying its way down a long hill east
of Columbia, and the rain was still coming down. The bus passed the present
locations of Cedar Ridge School, El Chaparral subdivision and Jim Meyers’
driveway. On down the hill, at the present entrance to Friends Together
Antiques and the home of the Mike Russells, the road made a sharp right turn,
onto the bridge over the north fork of the Grindstone Creek. When the driver
made that right turn, the huge yellow bus plunged headlong into the raging
waters. The bridge was gone! Washed away by the flood!
Miraculously, the driver and all but two of the passengers survived. The
Eugene Crouch family and the Tilden Turners would have been near enough to
hear the frightened and injured people screaming. I don’t know who sounded the
alarm, but someone cranked that party line phone.
When that happened, every phone on the line rang, and people got the message
from “Central,” if not from the caller. O.D. and Nancy Meyers, my parents,
were almost a mile away. Dad rushed to the scene in the Model T dairy truck;
others went by horse and buggy. They took coal oil lanterns, blankets and
bedsheets with which to make slings or bandages.
Some people were washed downstream and into pastures and fields. They called
out in the darkness, trying to locate family and friends. They came trudging
through the darkness and rain, back to the place where the bridge had been.
People kept counting the living, hoping to account for everybody. I heard
nothing about the two fatalities except that one was a tiny child and the
other was an elderly man “who had sand in his lungs.” Rescuers took those
frightened and injured people into their homes, fed them and gave them warm
Party line’s Central reported that two other bridges were out farther up the
road. The Roy Mitchell bridge over Hominy Branch was washed downstream, and
the long one across Hinkson Creek lost all of its floorboards, but the
framework was still in place.
By dawn the creeks were back in their banks. People wandered around in the
mud, finding their lost belongings. Carl Hobart, who lived downstream, found
hats, shoes, purses and all sorts of things for several days and took them to
the bus depot to be returned to their owners.
Mom and Dad and their friends often talked about that tragedy, but I’ve had no
help in relating it today. I welcome corrections and additions. Write, in care
of the Columbia Daily Tribune, PO Box 798, Columbia, Mo., 65205. Later, I’ll
tell how people got across these creeks while bridges were being built.