Vol. 1 No. 4
Spring 2008
In this Issue:
Houses were swept from their foundations and left in unusual places as the flood waters receded.
In Their Own Words...
This new feature allows
people to reflect on their
experiences in Oakdale... in
their own words.  In this issue,
Barbara Oakley Hayes
remembers the flood of 1929
and life after the flood.

Hometown Heroes:
Small towns usually have
more than their fair share of
heroes - people who make a
difference for whatever
reason.  This new feature
recognizes the special people
of Oakdale.  Read about two
heroes who made a difference
in Oakdale..

Parting Thoughts...
The editor of The Oakdale
Express has a few words
about the newspaper and its
The Emory River Flood of 1929
The blue-green waters of the Emory River lazily snake their way through the town of
Oakdale.  With the exception of some gentle rapids just below the area where the old
bridge once stood, the Emory appears tame and harmless.  However, through the years,
the Emory has unleashed its fury on Oakdale and Harriman, and everything along its
banks.  Floods have been recorded as far back as 1867 with a devastating flood
occurring in 1902.  No matter how many floods have occurred in the past or ones waiting
to happen in the future, there will always be tales of the "big one" - the flood of 1929.
A house swept away by the flood waters
Between February 26 and March 23, a
series of four major storms saturated the
land and ultimately lead to the disaster that
befell on March 23.

The rain began on Friday afternoon on
March 22, and twenty hours later, 6-11
inches of rain filled the Obed River,
Daddy's Creek, and Clear Creek - the
three main tributaries of the Emory - along
with the hundreds of streams that flow
down the steep slopes into the river.
The river rose rapidly - about 9 feet per
hour.  People living in the flood plain had
little warning and were lucky to escape with
their lives.  On Saturday, March 23, people
awoke to see their town literally floating down
the river.  Trash and debris began building
up as it reached the bridge that connected
the east and west sides of town..
The only portion of the bridge that was not carried away by the flood waters.
Oakdale Tunnels flooded in 1929
The river crested at 61.1 feet - a good 22
feet above flood stage.  With more and
more debris slamming into the bridge, the
structure gave way and sent a wall of water
southward toward Harriman, where much of
that town's manufacturing center was

Twenty homes in Oakdale were destroyed
while there were 30 homes in Harriman
washed away with the water.  No lives were
lost in Oakdale, but Harriman lost 20
people to the flood's water - the majority of
which were children.  The flood caused
more than $3 million worth of damage to
private property.
People were without electricity and phone
service for at least two days.  More than 200
people in Oakdale and Harriman were

The swift currents ripped up railroad tracks
and twisted them as if they were made of
paper.  Southern Railway's main line was
shut down until the tracks could be replaced
or repaired.  The strength of the Emory was
quite evident as heavy steam engines were
lifted off the tracks and floated down the
A Southern Railway engine rests on the river bank after the flood waters receded
Looking north - the YMCA is flooded
When residents awoke on Saturday
morning, March 23, they became witnesses
to the worst flood produced by the Emory
River.  Few would have believed that
waters of the Emory would have receded
by 10:00 p.m. that evening.  The Emory
River has flooded time and time again, but
the flood of 1929 is forever etched in
Oakdale history and the minds of those
who experienced it.
This website was created by Regina Headden,
Oakdale High School Class of 1980
This page was last updated on April 24, 2008
Information for this article was gathered from Walter
The Town That Temperance Built, and Vera
Oakdale: 1880 to the Present
The Oakdale Express is published four times a year with the next
issue planned for July/August.

To submit a story, photo, or an idea, please send an email to:


or mail to:
Regina Headden
434 Hillside Drive #19
Harriman, TN 37748