St. Clair County
Remnants Of The Past

Tornado
Bates and St. Clair County, MO
27 April 1887

News article regarding the devastating tornado of April 21, 1887, from the Butler Weekly Times, Butler, Bates, MO, Wednesday, Apr. 27, 1887:

 

CYCLONIC FURY.

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.

FURTHER DESTRUCTION.

   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.

AT SPRAGUE

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.

Submitted by Karen Foreman

News article regarding the destructive tornado that occurred on Apr. 21, 1887, as copied from The Appleton City Journal, St. Clair Co., MO, Thursday, April 28, 1887:

 

WIND AND HAIL,

Creates Death and Destruction of Life and Property.

The Terrible Storms on Thursday Night.

__________

   (From Saturday’s Journal Extra)

   The Journal supposed that its contemporary in its issue of this morning would furnish our people with the details of Thursday night’s terrible storms but as it did not the Journal has hastily prepared the following:

   In its issue of the 14th, inst., the Journal published a prognostication by Prof. Foster of the weather for April in which it was predicted that a severe moon storm would occur in this latitude on the 21st, and no one now doubts the fact that it failed to arrive on schedule time. As to just what particular relations it sustained to the moon we are not prepared to say; but, as regards its merits as a hail, wind and rain storm, we can give Prof. Foster and the weather clerk every assurance that it was a success.

   The first storm struck Appleton City a little after eight o’clock at night and for about forty minutes rain and hail came down as if the flood-gates above had been thrown wide open. The hailstones were the largest that, in all probability ever fell in this locality, many stones being picked up that weighed three ounces; but fortunately, during the falling of the hail, there was very little wind, and the damage to vegetation and window glass is not half what it would have been if the hail had been given the additional force of a strong wind. As it was many of the windows on the north side of buildings were shattered. The icy missiles falling on the house-tops sounded like a shower of brick-bats, while the continual glare of lightning and din of the storm made a scene that caused even the strong nerved to tremble. The tremendous fall of rain gave the streets the appearance of miniature rivers and the roar of the mad, rushing tide contributed to make the scene more fearful.

   Mr. Burdge, at the Art Gallery suffered the greatest loss from the effects of the hail, the sky-light in his building being badly shattered.

   Several persons in the city picked up hail stones that measured three inches round, and one gentleman west of the city tells us that he picked up several large hailstones that had blades of grass imbedded on the inside. The grass, of course, was torn up by the cyclone and carried into the current of air that caused the hail, where it was frozen into the ice.

   Every year since cyclones have been so numerous Appleton City has had a narrow escape from a visit by these terrible death-dealing monsters of the elements, and it does seem that our beautiful city has been provided with some mysterious, but effective, safeguard against such visits.

   It is said that considerable damage resulted from the wind in the country, and that the high water washed away a great amount of fencing. The residence of a Mr. Knowland living between here and Rockville was demolished by the wind and Mrs. Knowland suffered severe injuries from falling timbers. Mr. Knowland was on a sick bed with pneumonia, and was exposed to the fury of the storm until carried into the barn.

   Several barns in the vicinity of Rockville were blown down and a number of residences more or less injured.

   Thos. Payne’s large barn was badly damaged, either by wind or lightning; also the barn on the Thomas place.

   The heaviest part of the wind storm passed south and east of Appleton City and there are many rumors regarding the loss of life and damage to property that resulted in Monegaw, Taber, Osage and other townships; but the Journal has been unable to get reliable information up to this time.

DESTRUCTION IN MONEGAW.

   Mr. John Payne and others who were in the city yesterday brought the horrible news regarding the destruction of a Mr. Hall’s home. Hall lived a short distance south of the Center School House, and his house, a small frame, was swept entirely away, while every member of the family were more or less injured, and two or three it is feared fatally. Mrs. Hall and one boy at last accounts were still unconscious and suffering from terrible bruises. Every vestige of furniture in the house it is said was scattered over the fields and completely destroyed.

   The store of Dr. Wheeler and a blacksmith shop at Johnson City were blown off their foundations, but not greatly damaged.

   The practicing physician at Ohio was in town this morning and reported the Hall family all in a fair way to recovery with the exception of the little boy, who will probably die.

THE STORM ELSEWHERE.

   Rich Hill Daily Herald.---The south fork of the tornado traveled northeast from Prescott, passing to the south of Hume and between Hume and Sprague.

   Miles Miller’s residence half way between Hume and Sprague was totally demolished, and his wife and child blown into the well and drowned. It is reported Mr. Miller is blown away and has not yet been heard from.

   At Miami two houses were lifted into the air thirty or forty feet, and a woman dropped from one of the flying buildings, but luckily was not dangerously hurt.

   The dwelling of Dwight Smith, 3½ miles northwest of Rich Hill near the Gulf mines, was literally torn to atoms, the house being leveled to the ground, not even the foundation remaining. Mrs. Smith had her right leg dislocated and fractured just above the ankle, and other slight injuries. Mrs. Ryan, a daughter of Mrs. Smith and her two children were in the house at the time, and were all three hurt. Mrs. Ryan was injured internally, and when seen by a reporter was suffering great pain and spitting blood. The two children were hurt about the body and face by falling timber, while they are badly injured the physicians say they are not in a dangerous condition. A young man by the name of DeArmond, was cut about the face by flying timbers. Mr. Smith had just taken a crock of milk to the cellar, and thus escaped being buried beneath the debris. There was no insurance on the property and everything is a total loss.

AT SPRAGUE,

   This little town in Bates county suffered greatly from the effects of the storm. The Christian and Methodist churches and the Methodist parsonage were torn to pieces, but the inmates of the latter escaped without bodily injury. Lumber from the yards was scattered all over the prairie, and the depot was unroofed. A Mrs. Graves with a young baby in her arms was holding the door of her residence, when the cyclone struck the house, completely wrecking it. The baby was gently taken out of its mother’s arms by the wind and deposited in a potato patch 75 or 100 feet away. Mr. and Mrs. Graves and two boys were all fatally injured, besides two other persons in the house were badly used up.

   Southwest of Sprague, between Hume and the former place, farm houses and barns were completely demolished and at Miles Miller’s the storm did its worst work. A niece of Mrs. Miller saw the storm coming and ran to the storm house with the youngest child and gained its shelter while the other members of the family remained to fasten as securely as possible the windows and doors of the residence, when they started to a place of safety. Hardly had they left the house when the heavy gust struck the well curb, by which they had to pass in order to reach the underground house, lifting it high in the air and dropping it into a cow lot 100 feet beyond, and the fated three were precipitated to the bottom of the well to meet their death either from drowning or the fall. The bodies were recovered last night and prepared for burial to-day.

   Della Brown, a niece of Mr. Miller’s relates the following:

   “Uncle Miles was at the barn feeding and we were preparing supper, when he came running to the house and caught up one of the children and called to us to run for the storm-cellar. We went out at the south door, but before we could reach the cellar the storm struck us, throwing us to the ground. This is the last I saw of them, for the roar of the storm drowned all other sounds. The wind blew me past the cellar-door, but I managed to crawl back to the mouth of the cave.

   “Just then the little boy blew toward me and I crawled out and caught him under my arm, and was again blown out toward the orchard, and must have struck a tree, for I became insensible. When I came to, the rain was falling on my face and all was quiet. I got up, still having the little boy in my arms, but could not find Uncle and Aunt Miller. I then went to a neighbor and got help. We returned, and after a long search finally went to the well, and, oh! horrors, we there saw the bodies of husband and wife and the little 2-months’ old baby dead.”

   The farm houses of the following parties are entirely destroyed: Sam Porter, George Hibler, L. Marinon, J. Baugh, H. Overman, George Daniels, Mr. Gaudles, Sam Bealy, L. C. Robinson, Robert Robinson, Wm. Petty and Wm. Pettit. The latter house took fire and burned. Wm. Kennel’s house, also caught fire from the stove and was completely burned up.

   Fort Scott, April 22, 2 a.m.---News has just reached us here of a destructive wind storm at Prescott, Kansas, a small town of about four hundred inhabitants, located on the main line of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf road. The passenger depot was blown across the track and a number of houses and barns were demolished.

   Garnett, Kan., April 22.---The first cyclone of the season for Kansas struck Colony in the southern part of this county to-day, killing one woman, destroying several houses and doing a large amount of other damage.

   In Henry township, Vernon county the storm struck with terrible destruction to life and property, and Dr. Whitfield and a young man by the name of (______ are among) those who are known to have been killed.

   In the vicinity of Nevada many farm houses were blown down, many persons injured and one little girl, a daughter of Geo. Cheney, was killed outright.

   Dead horses, cattle and other stock mark the path of the storm.

   Later news from Prescott, Kan., report two persons killed and the town terribly wrecked.

(Continued on Second Page)

 

WIND AND HAIL.

_____________

Continued from first page.

   The damage done by last Thursday night’s storm was mainly in the country districts, consequently the work of collecting the particulars has been very slow.

   In this particular vicinity no additional damage to that previously mentioned has been reported. The storm cloud divided as it approached Appleton City, as they have so often done before, one section going north and the other south of the city.

   The little Hall boy belonging to the family whose home in Monegaw township was blown to atoms, died Sunday and the others injured will recover.

   At Taberville the old Purington store building was blown down, the Masonic hall building was badly damaged and a number of small frame houses demolished. Across the river from Taberville fences were scattered and large trees twisted, and blown in every direction.

IN VERNON COUNTY.

   Nevada, Mo., April 23.---Additional particulars from the storm-swept district show that over fifteen persons were killed in Blue Mound and Osage townships, besides the lives lost in other townships in the path of the cyclone.

   John Armstrong’s residence is blown down; the family escaped by the cellar; Geo. Kelley’s house came next for destruction, fatally injuring his wife and two children. And old zinc trunk containing $150 in the house was blown three miles. Dr. Berry’s house was totally destroyed. Mrs. E. Shront, Miss Shront and John Hight and about 18 other deaths are reported, but the names can not be obtained.

   Additional particulars from the storm-swept district increase the number of cases of desolation and suffering. It is estimated that from twenty to thirty dwellings were destroyed, and from 150 to 256 people left homeless.

   Thos. Hawkins, who was reported probably fatally injured, will get well, but Mrs. Hawkins will die of her injuries. Their child was badly bruised, but will recover. Hawkins and his wife and child were all found out in a field. The mother had the child in her arms when the storm struck the house. When found the child was about 75 yards from where the house had stood, while the father and mother were 150 yards away. John Miller and his child were buried to-day, and Mrs. Miller is not expected to live. Her left leg was broken and her hip crushed. She was semi-unconscious throughout yesterday, never having rallied from the shock.

   Among the wonderful things performed by the wind was the moving of a foundation stone from Jake Boyer’s house, which weighed fully 300 pounds, a distance of thirty or forty feet. Mr. Boyer’s cow was picked up and carried a distance of 150 yards. Two steers belonging to Reuben Walton, in Richland Township, were carried from one field to another. They were covered with mud, but escaped without serious injury.

   Two heavy farm wagons were picked up and hurled through the air, only two wheels of which could be found, the spokes having been wrenched from the hubs, and the tires bent and broken.

   The dead body of John Miller was found under an apple tree; his wife was unconscious and their little child was found clinging to a limb of the same tree.

AT PRESCOTT.

   (From the Rich Hill Daily Herald.)

   At the time of going to press last evening we were unable to give full particulars of the fearful ravages caused by the cyclone of Thursday evening which passed over Prescott, Kansas, in a northeasterly direction. In order to give a complete and as accurate a description of the tornado as possible, a Herald reporter accompanied by A. C. Cate, and Messrs. Johannes and Bussey as sight-seers, left to make a personal inspection of the devastated section. At 2 o’clock last evening we reached Prescott, and to give a description of the horrors of the situation it is impossible to do. The cyclone struck the town farely from the west and leveled nearly every house in the place, but few escaping injury of some description. The main portion of the place is a total wreck, and frantic women and children were rushing about the streets, seemingly aiming for no particular spot. The streets were nearly obstructed with debris from the ruins, and pedestrianism is next to an impossibility. Roofs of buildings, sidings, door casings, rafters, sills, furniture, clothing, and every conceivable manner of wearing apparel is scattered broadcast about the stricken place, and fragments of the wrecks are to be seen over a mile to the east of the town. There are about thirty-five or forty buildings all told, down or more or less damaged in some manner. It is impossible to give an accurate estimate of the total loss, but it is approximated at not less than $100,000.

   Amid all this devastation and ruin, but one person lost his life. Constable Stevens, who was standing in the door of Manlove Bro’s. dry goods store. The building crushed him to the ground breaking his neck. This was the only death reported in Prescott and it is truly miraculous that there were not more killed. About 25 or 30 people were injured more or less, but was thought that none were seriously hurt.

   Although the reporter passed over the entire track of the tornado, extending from three miles west of Rich Hill to Prescott, Kansas, it is impossible to give anything like an entirely accurate account of every farm house struck by the storm, from the fact that at many places we found them deserted, and not a living soul left to tell the sad fate, excepting a poor lonely canine howling piteously back of the ruins. Suffice it to say that within the radius of the storm-path, but three or four buildings remain standing between Hume and Prescott.

   In Renick neighborhood, in Vernon county, south of the Marmaton river, eleven persons were killed, among them John Miller. This news is authentic, and came in this morning to Mr. Corroll of this city, who is a brother-in-law of Mr. Miller, who is reported among the number killed.

STILL LATER NEWS.

   The total number of people killed in Vernon, Bates and St. Clair counties will be between fifty and sixty, while in Arkansas the number is over seventy-five.

   At Schell City the cyclone passed on outskirts of the place, doing great damage to trees and fences. Several houses were demolished. John D. High was killed and his wife and child mortally hurt. Not a fragment of their dwelling remains. The house of the Gibson family was blown away and one child suffered a broken arm. The loss in this, Vernon county, is placed at about $70,000.

   At Taberville, St. Clair county, houses were unroofed and one man injured. John Hayes’ dwelling was blown down. It was entirely demolished and afterwards took fire. C. H. Davis and Harry Sullivan’s dwellings were destroyed. Many other buildings were badly damaged among which was the Masonic hall. S. A. Hall was badly hurt.

   Osceola, Mo., April 22.---A severe windstorm visited this place last night at about 10 o’clock. Sidewalks were moved into the street, window sashes were blown in, and many outhouses were tumbled over, as well as chimneys. It was the heaviest windstorm that has visited this section for some time, but reports are coming in that a little way south of this place trees were torn up by their roots and fences blown away. Just before the wind came, hail fell that measured 6 1-4 inches in circumference.

THE STORM IN MONEGAW TOWNSHIP AS SEEN BY A JOURNAL REPORTER.

   The rain and hail storm of Thursday night the 21st inst. swept over this Twp., in cyclone fury. Mr. Kinnish’s corn crib being leveled before it, log barn for Mr. Evans unroofed , ditto stable for Mr. Thrall, numerous orchards suffered by the uprooting entire of big healthy apple trees in bloom-- but its full force and terror was vented upon the premises of Mr. R. F. Hall opposite the handsome estate of Mark Allison, Esq. Here it lifted from its foundation and tore to fragments the dwelling house and contents. The debris being strewn in a southwest direction for 3-4 of a mile; the family on the inside going with it and being terribly cut, bruised and broken. By mere accident the family of Mr. Allison heard the cries of one little boy who in some manner got loose from the wreck and Mr. Ed Allison being the head of the family at home at that hour, nobly rushed into the blinding storm and flying timbers to the rescue. They were at last all got into his father’s dwelling. Mr. Hall is badly cut and bruised over his entire body. His wife likewise, but it is hoped both will fully recover. One son Austin treated in same manner with the addition of a broken arm, ditto Alex, with a fracture of collar bone. Little Johnny the baby boy is injured beyond recovery with head wounds. The building must have been carried in the frame several rods before breaking entire and one can in that way only account for the terrible injuries of the family. When found they were fairly stripped of the little night clothing they retired with, and fairly driven into the soft muddy ground. It being necessary to clip close the hair off every head to make even a start at a wash. It is the country’s first real experience of this awful messenger of destruction to life and property. We must all now do our full part in restoring to home and comfort this stricken family. To Mr. Allison, Mr. Robert Williamson, Constable Williams and Mr. Spry, especially, we all indebted for their prompt succor and relief. We expect to do our full part. But help all around is needed, as everything inside the house, furniture, clothing, &c., is destroyed.

                                                                                   J. G. C.

DIED.

   On Sunday, at 1 p.m., John Douglas Hall, infant son of Mr. and Mrs. Hall, of Monegaw Twp. Death resulting from injuries received at the destruction of his parents home on Thursday night last. Interment at Harmony church yard.

Submitted by Karen Foreman