Keosauqua, Van Buren, Iowa
Thursday, June 22, 1882
A DEADLY TORNADO
CENTRAL IOWA SWEPT WITH A TERRIBLE STORM SATURDAY NIGHT.
50 People Killed at Grinnell Alone. 3 Killed at Malcom.
At Mt. Pleasant Too.
On last Saturday evening at 8:45 P.M.
the most terrible tornado ever known in Iowa and perhaps in the United States,
passed through central Iowa destroying part of Grinnell and Malcom, both in
Poweshiek county. We give here a complete report condensed from the accounts
given of the cyclone in the Grinnell Herald.
The most terrific disaster in the history of Iowa is
the one of which our now desolate town at Grinnell is the victim. The peculiar
aspect of the sky was matter of common remark on the streets of yesterday
afternoon. An hour or more before sunset the northern sky was hung with conical,
downard-pointing clouds, the like of which none of us had ever seen. After
sunset, and even after darkness was gathering, the western sky half way to the
zenith was lurid and brilliant and unearthly-an ominous sight which fascinated
while it filled one with ill-dread. Almost ere the brilliant apparition in the
west had disappeared the storm broke. It was accompanied with a roaring like
thunder, or perhaps more like rumbling of a dozen heavy freight trains.
Chimneys, trees, houses, barns began to fly like leaves. People took to their
The rain came in floods, as if a water spout had burst,
which in fact was probably the case. The wind and rain and blinding
lightning continued so furious for nearly for nearly half an hour that it was
scarce safe for those whose roofs staid over them to open their doors; but the
damage was probably done in a very few minutes-probably not more than five. The
northwest quarter of the town was laid flat. The path of the storm was
comparatively narrow, but scarcely anything was left standing within its limits.
Word comes of occasional farm houses destroyed several miles west of Capt.
Merrill's but the fury of the storm was most terrible in the portion of the
village north of Fifth avenue. It first entered the town from the west and moved
a little north of east until it reached Main street. It then curved to the
southeast, whipped up the college buildings, and several... [line
unreadable]...town. It then seemed to bound into air, passing over Mr. Show's
and Mr. Perry's. It crossed the C.R.I. & P. about a mile and a half of this
city where it met a westward bound train which it completely demolished. As it
passed south of east across the country it demolished farm houses, fences and
barns as far as we have been able to trace it. It struck Malcom in its
northern half and wrought destruction as complete as in Grinnell. The track of
the storm center as it crossed the city averaged about two blocks in width. The
damage outside that narrow track was comparatively small, although in this
respect the tempest seemed as freakish as lightning. It would occasionally dip
down and catch up a roof or cornice as for instance in the case of the Hatch
building, and Child's livery stable.
The storm seemed to have an explosive force not
infrequently carrying out one side or end of a house. Within the space of twenty
feet one house would be thrown to the west and another to the east. Most of the
buildings were crushed like shells and reduced to splinters; a few were lifted
and bodily turned round. It is marvelous that the loss of life was not greater
than it was. The storm came with such a roar that many betook themselves to
their cellars. This saved them, as their houses disappeared from above their
heads. Even the foundation walls in may cases were brushed off even with the
surface of the ground. A considerable number of cows and horses were killed.
Within the space of one half square near Dr. C.B. Growell's six horses were
killed. Fowls had their feathers entirely stripped off, and the earth appeared
as if beaten and lashed with indescribable fury.
In the district between Park and East
streets the damage was general, but few buildings were destroyed, but north of
Fourth avenue almost every house was broken and scratched, and windows knocked
out by flying debris. Chimneys were blown off from many houses, shingles ripped
off and shutters broken. At J.H. Howard's a large tree was blown off the roof,
breaking it in. Mr. Gideon Hayes' chimneys and roof suffered. Mr. H. Williams'
porch was damaged and the front of the roof torn off. C.M. Hatch's house was
battered and fences on numerous yards were torn up and carpets, pieces of tin
roof, dresses and hats were scattered over the ground and lodged in the trees.
Ed. Bruner was slightly hurt. Higgs, a student, was also injured. Mr. J.M.
Chamberlain's family were in the sitting-room. The house was demolished and all
four escaped without injury except Mrs. C. who was bruised and perhaps sustained
a fracture of one of her limbs. The cyclone struck the college with terrific
force The stone building was unroofed and blown down to the second story, and
part of the walls of that were carried away. The brick building is blown into a
disorganized mass. The distruction [sic] could not have been more complete Seven
students were known to have been in the building. They were all in the third
story in their rooms. Frank Pinnell felt the building shake and jumped, was
scratched and bruised, came right down by the well, picked himself up, and ran
to town and gave the alarm. The people ran to the college. Those there first
heard three boys under the debris. They were taken out, Will H. Brainerd with
little difficulty. Henry R. Baker with a good deal of work, and Eugene Gunnison
was removed by moving some rubbish. Brainerd was cut in the face, one ear nearly
taken off and bruised. Baker has a severely bruised back, and Gunnison's face is
a network of gashes.
George Kessel, W.B Pinkerton and B.H. Bergett were in
room No. 4. The two former found themselves on the ground slightly injured, not
knowing how they got there. Burgett was caught on the hips and lower extremities
and held under a pile of ruins ten feet thick. He was perfectly conscious and
told the helpers to hurry up, as he could not extricate himself. He felt on pain
on account of the shock. He was recovered after the jack screws had been
procured and an opening made down through with axes and saws. He was carried to
Prof. Parker's, but died before morning. Up to eleven o'clock Sunday night 41
deaths had occurred at Grinnell and 23 at outside points, seventeen of them at
Malcom and in that vicinity and five in the country northwest of Grinnell. The
doctors say that 6 or 7 and even more of the wounded at Grinnell won't live
twenty-four hours, and some of the physicians put the final death toll at
Grinnell alone at more that 50, while some fear it will reach as high as 75. Of
the wounded in that city there are now over 140 known cases some 80 of them more
or less..[cannot read line]...country there were also several serious cases of
injury. The best posted news at Grinnell yesterday estimated that the death roll
of this calamity is not unlikely and is indeed very probable to reach 100. It is
now 64 as we have it. There were six deaths yesterday and last night- among the
rest of Conductor Diegnen, of the Rock Island road. One hundred and forty-one
houses were destroyed in Grinnell besides the College, the loss amounting to
We glean the following from the Gate
City. "Saturday night by half past nine the wind began to blow, and by 10
o'clock the storm cloud gathered intense darkness. The whole heavens were aflame
with continuous flashes of vivid lightning and most terrible claps of thunder
successively followed. Then came the hurricane sweeping destruction in its path,
and with unbridled fury the storm raged. Chimneys by the thousands fell; trees
unnumbered twisted and snapped and fell, and by morning no language could
picture the scene. All over the city devastation and destruction was before our
eyes. Every street and the square were filled with debris, so that it was
impossible for teams to pass, and the pedestrians could only creep under or
climb over fallen trees and scattered boards and bricks. The fine church of the
Baptists, valued at $25,000 was a perfect mass of crushed ruins; but the great
old organ still remained in the unbroken alcove, neither injured by the crash
nor by the rain. The Methodist and Presbyterian and Christian churches all had
their steeples hurled off and thrown away in the streets. The Union Hall and the
post office and Odd Fellows Hall were partly unroofed, and numerous other stores
and buildings were alike injured. Great massive rolls of tin roof, as if mere
paper, were rolled up and cast away from their places. The public square and
college campus were rather frightful in appearance, as hundreds of the trees
were cut and torn and prostrate. The Centennial and Winona school buildings were
badly hurt; the Catholic cathedral, damaged to at least five thousand dollars
worth; Mr. Birt's house demolished, also Mr. Shotwell's, the woolen mills torn
up; Mr. Garner's carpet store unroofed and all wet, so that numerous carpets
were spread out over Sabbath. T.Bird's furniture store uncovered and wet, so the
pavement was strewed with chairs, sofas, bedsteads, etc. Indeed it was wonderful
and beyond all describing, for all over and around the city in all directions
sorrowful sights of the dreadful march. Miles of fencing were laid low. Only one
death occurred. Mr. Scott by trying to rescue his aged mother was struck by a
falling timber and killed instantly, and the old lady, ninety years of age,
badly wounded. As we retuned home, thousands of large trees were twisted off and
many uprooted and houses uncovered for a few miles. It is quite impossible for
any one to give a true delineation, for it would require two or three days to
visit the scenes and see the vast amount of general destruction. It was a
wonderful lucky escape for the citizens that the tornado occurred at the late
period in the night when all were in bed, otherwise vast would have been the
Mail reports from Story county
represent the damage there by the cyclone of Saturday night as very serious.
Several buildings were swept away at Kelly. All the buildings on the farms of
J.A. McFarland and William Templeton were obliterated. Further east all the
buildings of sixteen farmers were swept away and two schoolhouses in Nevada were
demolished. All the growing crops in the trace of the wind was destroyed, and
cattle, horses, hogs and poultry carried long distances, and killed. Mrs. L.D.
Thompson's little girl was killed and here own arm was broken. C.W. Hempstock
had a leg broken. His wife and child was internally injured.
IN BOONE COUNTY
a number of farm houses and barns were carried off, and an eight
year old boy of Christian Peterson was killed.
The loss from Saturday night's storm in
Henry county will reach a half million of dollars.
Fourteen persons were buried at
Grinnell on last Monday at one time. All killed by the storm. The funeral
procession was upwards of two miles long. Twelve thousand visitors from abroad
Gov. Sherman has issued a proclamation
to the people of Iowa calling attention to the needs of those living at Grinnell
and Malcom who suffered so greatly by the recent storm.
A lad eight years old was found alive
at Grinnell about 9 o'clock Monday under the debris of a destroyed house. There
was no child known to be missing in that place, and the boy cannot tell where he
The only son of an aged couple who were
killed in Grinnell by the cyclone, left that place for Des Moines to get liquor,
before the storm came. When the relief train started from Des Moines, the was
lying on the platform, too drunk to know what he was doing. Going afterwards by
another train he carried his liquor along, and after weeping bitterly over the
remains of his parents, he drank again until he was drunk. Why not prohibit