by Virginia Jewell
(Seventh in a Series)
(Appeared in The Hickman County Gazette, Clinton (Hickman County, Ky.) on March 8, 1990)
After the decision was made to move flood-stricken Columbus to the safety of the nearby fluff, the rehabilitation committee realized just how dismal the situation was. It was one matter to agree to move houses and churches a half mile up Clinton Hill, but it was another to get it done.
The way was narrow and far from straight and at times was a maze of ruts. The committee was despondent over the situation till W. A. Winn, a housemover from Nashville, TN., appeared on the scene and declared with optimism that HE could move ALL the houses up the hill!
Red Cross Director Marion Rust said the committee pointed out the narrow road and other problems. “Winn laughed and explained that with his large moving trucks or dollies, the houses would ride high over the rugged road. Also, he explained, his equipment included windlass, power winches, and a cable which could cut down the hills and widen the road. We doubted he could do it but accepted his very reasonable bid.”
“After he left,” Rush continued, “Frank Wright Sr., expressed the opinion that Mr. Winn had taken a ‘run-down’ powder and we’d never see him again. But he did return with his wonderful crew and equipment. He did cut off the hills along the road and with great dispatch jacked up the Charlie Mays house, the kitchen of which has hanging over the river bank.” (The Mays house had formerly belonged to James Marre in the old town of Columbus. There he operated Marre’s Ice Cream Parlor in the long front room. A small dance floor was in an adjoining room with music provided by a wind-up Victrola. It was a favorite hang-out of the young people, Mrs. Willie Belle Bencini recalled.)
Within two days, Winn Housemovers had placed the house correctly on the spot in the new town as directed by Surveyor James (Jim) Porter. This first house was moved September 15 and 16, 1927 and is located on Polk Circle next to the dwelling of Lynn and Frances Bencini. They also own the Mays house.
In short order 10 other houses were moved which lay perilously close to the caving river bank.
The number of houses selected for removal was about 165. “It became apparent,” Rust concluded, “that Mr. Winn could not handle this tremendous job before bad weather set in. E. M. David House Moving Co. of St. Louis, Mo., was employed to assist. Competition developed between the two firms with the result that in one single day six houses were moved. In all, 166 dwelling were relocated at a total cost to the Red Cross of $87,710. A few shacks were not worth moving and three residences above the flood zone were not disturbed. The American Red Cross closed its city removal in April 1928.
A new town and arisen, not from ashes, but from mud and sand.
(To be continued.)