Editor's note: This article is republished with permission from Odell Walker. It appeared in a local newspaper on October 20, 1999.
The worst natural disaster to ever occur in Lyon County was the flood of 1937. Lyon County did not stand alone in this disaster. All of the Cumberland, Tennessee, Ohio, and Mississippi River basins were affected by this flood.
Old timers say that it rained every day from the first to the twenty-first day of January.
It was not just showers, but hard rains off and on both day and night. The water began to rise but there was no great concern on the part of the citizens. Both Eddyville and Kuttawa were built on the bank of the river. They were accustomed to floods every few years and just moved to higher ground and returned when the floodwaters receded.
The floodwaters were several feet higher than the present level of Barkley Lake. People in the flood prone areas took about the same precautions that they had with preceding floods. Some moved their things to upstairs rooms and before the water crested, the water covered the entire house.
Many of these people lost everything they had, because when they found out their first move was not to safety, conditions were such that they could not make a second move. They had to take what few things they could carry and move to higher ground. For a time, the water rose three to four inches per hour. Many people who had never been bothered by backwater before stayed in their houses as long as they could, saying the water has never been this high before, and many had to leave home, sometimes in the middle of the night.
By January 21 the waters were higher than they had ever been before and the city fathers of Eddyville and Kuttawa, the leaders of Lyon County, realized they were faced with a never head of problem. The schools at both Eddyville and Kuttawa were closed on this date. Trains stopped running due to water being over the tracks.
The electrical and water systems in both towns were knocked out. The only road in and out of Eddyville was the Pea Ridge Road and it was mostly a dirt road. The Eddyville Ferry could land at the hill by the Courthouse that lead up to the Penitentiary. It could then follow old Highway 62 and land at the foot of Buddy Scott hill on the old Princeton Road.
When the flood waters receded, it left millions of dollars in damages. Things slowly began to return to normal. Both Eddyville and Kuttawa schools reopened on February 22, having been out a full month. Things were in shambles but the people faced restoring and rebuilding with a strong resolve; however, neither town ever fully recovered from the disaster.