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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

'Storm Of Century' Rocked Lebanon Area More Than 100 Years Ago

Dallas Bogan on 23 July 2004
Dallas Bogan, Warren County, Ohio and Beyond (Bowie Maryland: Heritage Press, 1979) page 363
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

"Darker and darker became the sky and louder and louder rolled the thunder-drum of heaven." The preceding was a vivid description of a storm that settled over Lebanon and the surrounding countryside on May 12, 1886. This is just a reminder that tornado season is once again upon us.
The "storm of the century," was an event that the Lebanonites had feared for years. Evening was broken by something in the clouds that caused uneasiness amongst the people. The crowds gathered and gazed at the heavens in all its majesty. A continual outburst of lightning, the roar of the thunder, and the frightening winds lent a ghostly and somber appearance to all surrounding objects. The sky lent a dark, eerie feeling as the clouds churned in all their glory. The spectacle of Mother Nature moved into town about 7 o'clock and continued to roll out of the west for more than two hours; whirling, rolling and blowing itself into a fierce storm that the town folks would talk about for years to come.
About 9:30 the storm threatened havoc on the Lebanonites. Meetings were let out and the folks hurriedly scampered for the safety of their home. Fifteen minutes later it seemed that all the fury of the heavens showered its ravages on the small town. Men, women and children alike expressed silent concern over the spectacle. For a few minutes it raged most fiercely, filling the hearts of the strong and the weak with fear.
Like a demon from the southwest, it struck the old tannery building on Main Street. It then leaped to the Lebanon House, ripping away the tin roof, rolling it into a huge ball and dropping it in front of John W. Thompson's grocery on Broadway.
The next stop for the storm was the Greeley & Davis Mill, which scattered debris on both sides of the street. It then jumped from this place to a little frame dwelling down in the hollow by the reservoir, splitting it almost into kindling wood. The occupants were two black families, Mr. Sutton and his wife, and a man named Alford and his wife and two children. By a miracle, they received no injury. Mrs. Alford grabbed her two children, one aged three and the other two, and got into the millrace under one of the footbridges. Ed Grimes and Jim Johnson, two young boys, occupied the upstairs. They were blown a hundred yards against the bank at the overflow of the reservoir.
At this point the storm seems to have turned back toward the center of town and the crisis was prolonged. This time it wrecked the Union School Building, the M.E. Church, Memorial Hall and unroofed many private dwellings. Memorial Hall's west end caved in right on the stage ruining all the scenery, and produced a loss of several hundred dollars to the G.A.R. Post. The narrow escapes were many as told by the different individuals.
A boarder by the name of Phillips was asleep at Mrs. Waggoner's boarding house when part of the roof of the M.E. Church came crashing in under his bed. The commotion woke him up, but he was not injured.
The streets were full of all kinds of debris from the devastation of the buildings. Shingles, boards, lath, household items, etc., were strewn in a manner of total destruction. Trees were snapped off like straws at the tops. Many were uprooted and countless numbers were twisted like licorice sticks. Damage in Lebanon amounted to thousands of dollars. The Union School suffered damage between four and five thousand dollars. Swinging eastward the storm traveled from town toward the river creating havoc on its way; doing damage to the farms in its path. Damage reports from the individuals was quite extensive, however, because of lack of room in the article, they cannot be listed

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This page created 23 July 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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