March 18, 1925 will always be an unforgettable day in the
lives of several older Griffin residents.
One of the worst tornadoes in history, all but wiped out the town of
Griffin (Bethel Township)
The day broke hot and sultry. In the late afternoon, on this gusty March day, shortly after 4:00 p.m., the funnel shaped cloud roared out of the west and all but obliterated the small Bethel Township town which laid in its path. Griffin lay in ruins, the dead and dying were everywhere
in Missouri, crossed the state of Illinois and concluded in Indiana
just northeast of Princeton. At
leat 50 perons were killed in the Griffin community. Some of them were
The tornado smashed the school building. The rear upper rooms were
ripped away and a
group of students, waiting to be transported home by the school bus,
were trapped under
the tons of debris. Screams of the injured and dying filled the air.
At the time of the tornado, the Griffin school had only one school bus. Daily, the driver completed one route and returned for the other. During the first route, the bus had stopped near the Van Way home to let children out. It was blown into a nearby field killing the driver and several children.
Dr. Kokomoor and his wife owned the restaurant. Several of the people rushed there and were caught in the debris. The building then caught fire and several of those trapped were able to talk to the rescue workers before being cremated alive. The fire, fanned by high winds, spread rapidly. Workers had problems getting to the trapped victims. Many of the buildings were set fire due to the coal stoves everyone used for heating. Two or three boys were never recognized, but were identified by the marbles and pocket knifes they carried.
No matter how many people you talk to, the story was always something different. They were in different places, saw different things, and all of it could not have been seen by one person.
The Ribeyre gymnasium in New Harmony was new in 1925. One of the first uses of the gym was as a hospital and morgue for some of the tornado victims.
On March 18, 1925, after much work had been done consolidating the one room schools into Griffin, the Griffin school was demolished. With the help of various organizations, the buildings were rebuilt. During the period of remodeling, various churches were used as classrooms. Some students who survived the tornado were placed in other country schools.
In late winter of 1925 the schools reopened. The shining new rooms, desks, equipment and facilities were so overwhelming, the children were orderly for several days. A spacious basement for indoor games on rainy or cold days were enjoyed by all. Completely furnished, the school probably seemed meager by modern standards but, it was an unbelievable luxury for those children.
The school building was a great improvement over the old one. It now had a central heating system, drinking fountains, and inside bathroom facilities. The school also had an assembly, auditorium and library at one end and the office and class rooms across the hall.
Students settled down in their new quarters. The years ahead were to be happier ones in the wonderful facility.