Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Interested in time travel? Check out newspaper's archives

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The distinction between the past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.

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Albert Einstein

Summer is the time we save for vacations, but you don’t have to leave town to take a trip.

The old archives of The Augusta Chronicle have long offered a time machine for you or me or anyone to go back and watch as events unfold.

Take storms.

On June 3, 1910, residents of our town emerged from their homes shaken and perhaps amazed at what had happened the night before.

Augusta had been struck by a fierce storm described as a “furious hurricane.”

According to that day’s edition of The Chronicle, which filled its front page with eight stories on the storm, 80-mph winds hit town at 10:13 the night before, downing trees on Greene Street and knocking out electrical power and telephone lines.

You can tell the staff of The Chronicle was excited. Woven throughout the accounts are tales of valiant reporters.

“Newspaper men who braved the dangers of the night … found wreck and ruin everywhere.”

And, “few were willing to risk the dangers … and the reporters had to find their way the best they could, and the story of the storm is given after the most strenuous work that newspaper men ever handled in Augusta.”

Without electricity and telephones, The Chronicle said, the reporting staff had to resort to candlelight to write the stories.

There were a lot of stories.

At downtown’s Bijou theater, a fast-thinking manager was credited with preventing a panic by distracting the audience with a “jolly song” sung by a local quartet. Only when theater patrons emerged from the showplace did they discover the town was a mess.

Oscar Blassingame saw the storm firsthand. The storm tore off his roof, giving him an open-air view of nature’s fury.

He was not hurt, but E.M. Riddle was. The Chronicle reported that winds wrecked his house, injuring Mr. Riddle’s wife and daughter.

Across the river, North Augusta suffered little damage, although high winds were reported. In Columbia County a barn was damaged.

Now, it probably wasn’t a hurricane.

Weather records don’t seem to mention any around here in June 1910, but that’s OK. I figure those intrepid newspaper reporters of a century ago could be forgiven their excitement.

To them it felt like a hurricane. It hit like a hurricane. And it must have looked like a hurricane. Perhaps when you’re writing by candlelight, you earn a little literary license.

And while we are looking back at them, they were looking back at an earlier storm event.

The Chronicle’s 1903 report includes a short story recapping the famous 1878 storm that tore down the Old Market on Broad Street and left the “Haunted Pillar” 22 years before.

If you want to hear more about that story, I have a video on augustachronicle.com you might find entertaining.

You never know when it might happen again.

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