Bates County News
Butler Weekly Times,
News article regarding the devastating tornado of April 21, 1887, from the Butler Weekly Times, Butler, Bates, MO, Wednesday, Apr. 27, 1887:
Many Persons Killed and Incalculable Damage Done.
Prescott, Kan., and Vernon County, Mo., Awfully Visited.
Eight Now Dead and Eleven Dying in the Wrecked Town.
Four Victims of the Wind’s Fury in Vernon County, Mo.
Three Killed and a Number Injured in Bates County.
Fort Scott, Kans., April 22.---The cyclone which started near Colony, Anderson county, Kansas, Wednesday evening, and caused the death of one person and about $10,000 damage, swept eastward, gathering force as it went, until it struck the town of Prescott, in Linn county, where it leveled or irretrievably damaged every house in the place, killed eight persons and fatally injured eleven more. Then it passed on into the northern part of Vernon county, Missouri, where it leveled every farm house for miles, killing four persons and injuring many more, and finally spent its force near Schell City.
SCORES OF HOUSES WRECKED.
The storm struck Linn county about 6 o’clock yesterday. It passed clear through the county and made a path varying from one half to one mile wide. The general course of the storm seemed to lay from Blue Mound in the western part to Prescott in the southeastern part. They are about twenty miles apart, and almost every farm house, barn and structure between them in the path of the cyclone were demolished, making the number of buildings in the county that were destroyed over 250. Some farmers lost as much as $5,000 in buildings, food and stock. At least twenty minutes warning was given of the approaching cyclone by the loud noise it made, which gave everyone ample time to find a hiding place. In most cases cellars and dug outs were used for places of safety.
A WEDDING PARTY SPARED.
At the residence of Joe Duncan, a wedding had been performed a few minutes before the cyclone struck the building. The structure was carried away, but the floor and the wedding party were left. Fortunately none of the assembly were injured but an infant, which is seriously hurt.
Mrs. A. E. Wright and Mrs. Jeff Crone, of Maud City township, were killed. The latter was blown two hundred yards and the supposition is that the fall killed her. She held an infant in her arms until dead. The infant is seriously injured.
LIVES LOST IN OTHER PLACES.
It is known that several were killed at Blue Mound and Mapleton, both in this county.
In a distance of twenty-two miles, only one house is known to have stood the storm, and the country around is very thickly settled. Many reports are coming in from the country of the dead, dying and injured, but nothing further definite can be learned.
IN BATES COUNTY.
Rich Hill, Mo., April 22.---The Republican reporter has just returned from the section of country over which the cyclone passed, doing immense damage, last evening, and will detail the facts concerning the doings of the Kansas twirlers in this portion of Bates county. Rich Hill did not suffer any damage, being apparently on the outskirts of the storm, but Sprague, a town of about 500 inhabitants, six miles west of Rich Hill, was badly damaged. The central part of the cyclone, however, was between Sprague and the town of Hume, six miles further west and near the Kansas line.
The country about Sprague and Hume is prairie, and the approach of the storm could be seen for miles, and it is depicted by the people who watched it as a grand though terrible scene and one such sight sufficient for a lifetime. Whenever the funnel shaped cloud struck the earth it completely demolished everything in its path, and the whole country between Hume and Sprague and for several miles north and south shows evidence of the cyclone’s ravages. Fences are down, hayricks blown away, dwellings and outbuildings destroyed, live stock killed and crippled, shrubbery and hedges torn out and scattered over the prairies.
THE MILLER FAMILY.
Several human lives were sacrificed and the list will probably grow larger as secluded country houses are heard from. Three persons were killed near Sprague and at least two seriously wounded. The killed are Miles Miller, a well-to-do farmer, living one and a half miles from Sprague: his wife and babe 2 months old. His family consisted of himself and wife and two small children and a young lady, his niece. The family were watching the storm and seeing the funnel shaped cloud bearing down they started for the cyclone cave near by, which Mr. Miller had built for such emergencies. The young lady succeeded in raising the door of the cave, followed closely by Mr. Miller, leading his little boy about 3 years old and Mrs. Miller, who carried the baby. However, before they could effect an entrance the cyclone struck them, hurling all to the ground and blowing them away from the cave. The dwelling and all the outbuildings were at once swept away. The young lady was blown some thirty or forty yards and separated from the remainder of the family. She was badly stunned, but as soon as she recovered she caught the little boy who was being rolled over and over on the ground by the wind. Together they were carried more than 200 yards from the site where the house had stood. She finally managed to reach the cave with the little boy, thinking her uncle and the other members of the family had gone there, as she saw nothing of them outside. They were not in the cave however. As soon as the storm abated, which was in a short time, she ventured out and began
SEARCHING FOR THE MISSING
members of the family. She could not find them, nor get any reply to her repeated calls. She continued the search until some neighbors, who had observed the destruction of the house, came to her assistance. All search seemed fruitless; no trace of the missing ones could be found. The alarm spread over the neighborhood, and finally, as a last resort, it was suggested that the well, a short distance from the cyclone cave, be examined. The curb had been blown from around the well and at the bottom of it was found the lifeless bodies of Mr. Miller, wife and child. The supposition is that the bodies were drawn into the well by the suction of the cyclone passing over it. The well is about sixty feet deep, with six feet of water in it.
The house of Dwight Smith, who lives three miles northeast of Sprague, was demolished, and all of his fences and buildings blown away. Mrs. Smith was caught in the debris, her right leg broken and other injuries sustained. Her condition is critical. Mr. Smith probably escaped being killed by reason of having just gone to the cellar with some milk.
The house of Mr. Cole, a tenant living near Mr. Smith, was also blown away, but the inmates escaped with slight injuries.
Another family living near had their house blown down and it took fire and burned. The inmates escaped with slight injuries.
the Methodist church was totally destroyed. The roof of the Christian church was torn off. A house occupied by W. J. Graves was blown away. Mr. Graves was very seriously injured and the members of his family hurt.
Mr. Riley, of Sprague, also lost his house, but the family escaped without serious injury.
A livery stable, hotel and barn, and a number of other buildings in Sprague were twisted from their foundations and damaged.
A fine barn belonging to J. M. Olive, near Hume, was wrecked.
Mr. Ganda’s house, in the same neighborhood, was blown down and afterward burned. The dwelling houses and all outbuildings of Richard Miller, Peter Daniel and a Mr. Williams, near Hume, were completely destroyed. Sam’l. Wilson, a large stock feeder between Sprague and Hume, had his windmill, fences and cattle pens destroyed and several head of cattle killed. R. A. Robinson, near Sprague, lost his dwelling and outbuildings. The family escaped injury by being in the cellar. The house was lifted from over them. T. C. Robinson, near Sprague, lost his dwelling house and all outbuildings. The family were saved by being in a cyclone cave. His house caught fire after being blown down, but the flames were put out.
J. K. Kelsoe, near Sprague, had his house and barn moved from their foundations.
J. F. Weedon, near Sprague, had the roof of his dwelling torn off and barn destroyed.
W. H. Petty, near Sprague, had his barn destroyed and eight horses injured.
These are the most serious results of the cyclone so far as learned. In this section, fortunately, the main part of the twister was outside of the town. Just before reaching the coal mines of the Keith & Perry Coal company the force of the cyclone was spent, or else it rebounded into the air again, or the loss of life would undoubtedly have been great had the cyclone struck the mining camp, with its weak buildings. The loss of life would probably have been much greater but for the fact that it is quite a prevalent custom in this section for farmer, and also people living in town, to erect cyclone caves, in which they go upon the approach of a storm that gives evidence of cyclonish proclivities.
The storm struck Round Prairie, in Hudson township, doing considerable damage to property.
The residence of M. A. Nolin, a substantial two story frame, was completely demolished.
Mr. Nolin, who was confined to his bed with pneumonia fever and had been at death’s door for two weeks, was thrown from his bed and landed on a pile of brick-bats (a fallen chimney) in the midst of the wreck, but fortunately did not receive any internal or dangerous injuries. His wife, who was attending his bedside during the storm, received internal injuries, which the Dr. fears will prove fatal, she was struck by a falling timber, but grit to the end, she remained in the crashing ruins by her husband’s side till aid was summoned and he could be extracted. All others escaped uninjured.