The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Progress 2012

March 6, 2012

Limestone's deadly tornado history


In a strange twist, another tornado would hit less than two hours later 90 miles to the south in the mining community of Empire. The F3 tornado would kill 11 people, including members of another family: Billy and Mollie Robbins and eight of their 11 children died on their farm. Those killed were Willie, 25; Itra, 21; Virgil, 18; Edna, 16; Nora, 13; and Alta, 9. Four older sisters who were living away from home survived — Hester, Icey, Curtis and Ethel — as did their youngest brother, Clifford, 11, who was spending the night with Hester when the storm hit.

Itra was to have been married that weekend. Her fiancé, Rile Coffman, is the one who found her body, which had been stripped of its nightdress. Rile covered his beloved with his jacket and carried her body to a neighbor’s home.

Itra would be buried in the wedding dress sewn for her by Hester.

Like the Collinses at Antioch, all eight Robbins family members were laid to rest in a mass grave at New Canaan Baptist Church Cemetery in Empire.

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