Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group

Clark County Illinois
Genealogy and History


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BIG TORNADO VISITS
CLARK COUNTY
FRIDAY EVENING

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1907
A quiet, peaceful and happy village at 5:30, almost a total wreck, with dead, maimed, wounded and terrorized people at 6:30 PM—that describes the condition at York in Clark County, Illinois, on the evening of Friday, June 7.
The people of Marshall were horrified Friday evening to learn that a cyclone had swept over the Southeast section of the county an hour before, carrying death and destruction with it. News was hard to obtain for a time owning to the fact that telephone lines were demolished by the storm and the only words received were from carriers who rode to West York, a mile and a half away.
The storm coming in the evening, accompanied by hail and torrents of rain, followed by early darkness, only added terror to the already panic stricken people but willing hand were soon at rescue work. Fathers and mothers sought children, children sought parents and there was general rejoicing as dear ones were restored to each other.
The two fatalities that occurred were lamented by all, but the feeling seemed to be that only the hand of Providence saved many lives from being crushed out.
The most destructive storm in the counties history visited the southeast section of Clark County Friday evening at about 6 O’clock, almost destroying York, one of the oldest villages in Illinois.
The general direction of the storm was from the Northwest to the Southeast. The first point touched was on the Morton farm in Melrose Twp. The next place damaged was at the farm of T. W. Richards between West Union and West York; there a barn and other outbuildings were laid low. Rising a little then, the next point touched was at James Weldon’s where the damage was similar to that at Richards. Passing on to James Nicols, the storm gathered in fury and barns, wagon sheds, wind mills, and every thing in its path was shattered. The house was there also badly damaged. Roof gone and a hole in the South Side of the brick residence large enough to drive a team through. Fences disappeared like chaff in a mill.
A building in a field next was unroofed, and then the York Cemetery was struck. Giant trees were twisted and torn to pieces as though by a monster hand. Hardly a tree remained in the cemetery, but strangely enough none of the grave stones seemed to of been damaged. Swerving South a short ways the storm entered York from the Southwest and moved northeast. Every house in the way was turned to scrap, and in many cases there is nothing to identify even the location of a building.
The house in which were Mrs. Malinda Pinkston, aged about sixty years, her aged mother, her daughter and granddaughter was one of the first to go down. The rescue party found Mrs. Pinkston lying against a tree that had gone down in the storm, almost lifeless and she died in less than one hour, never regaining consciousness. Her mother was found in the top of the same tree, slightly scratched about the face but not otherwise hurt. The daughter and granddaughter were found in the street beyond with a section of roof over them and unhurt.
The body of Henry Rook was found about 60 foot from his house. He had passed Pritchard’s store just a few minutes before the storm struck and it is presumed he did not reach his house. He breathed his last a few minutes after he was found.
Backwards and forwards through the little town swept the storm, leaving wreckage of every kind, striking the canning factory on the South then the lumber yard to the northeast. The furious little black cloud passed over the river where all the trees in the path and also the roof of the Miles dwelling, close to the ferry landing on the Indiana side, were carried away. Then proceeded to the southeast apparently raining and was lost to view. Rescue parties did a systematic search for the dead and wounded.
Following is a list of the damage to property as nearly as it could be obtained at this writing.
Canning factory building badly wrecked and thousands of cans blown into the river.
Lumber yard owned by Henry Rook, saw mill, wind mill, ect, almost total loss with thousands of feet of fine lumber blown into the river.
Large two story frame dwelling of Henry Rook badly damaged.
Steve Freeman, large two story frame, unroofed and building as it stands nothing more than a shell. Almost a total loss.
Mrs. Malinda Pinkston, killed, house utterly destroyed with all contents missing. Hardly a board left on the place.
M. R. Newman, total wreck.
Ben Miller, total wreck.
Andrew Pinkston wrecked and wreckage caught fire, but was extinguished. Total loss.
Mrs. Jane Roberts, total.
William Myers, total.
John Fitch’s house badly damaged and barn totally gone.
Mrs. Lydia Foster, total.
George Daugherty’s house and building formerly occupied as a saloon, total wreck.
Henry Hodge’s old curiosity shop in which were thousands of valuable relics of all kinds, badly damaged and much of contents of building carried away.
Dud Sander’s, total.
Frank Dudley, total.
Frank Starks, roof gone.
John Keller, barn gone.
Will Whitman, barn gone.
Reece Pritchard’s new barn totally wrecked.
Maurice Johnson’s barn gone.
The old store building formerly occupied by P. C. Murphy’s store total.
Corn cribs and ware rooms of various kinds, a dozen or more, entirely disappeared.
The houses of Ab Jackson, George Coryell and Charles Johnson badly damaged.
Methodist Episcopal Church, moved twenty feet east and almost a total wreck, though the frame stands.
Methodist protestant church, roof torn off and plastering off the walls.
Clarence Myles, just across the river, roof gone off residence, other wise badly damaged.
James Nicol’s, house damaged half and barn and other outbuildings literally scattered over a forty acres field.
T. W. Richard's, barn and other buildings demolished.
James Weldon, barn total wreck.
The story was going around Sunday that over a year ago Rev. Batey preached a sermon in York in which he stated that the village would be destroyed June 7, 1907. We were unable to verify the story.
The rim of one wagon wheel was blown several hundred feet, leaving the wagon standing.
A sewing machine was found in a tree.
Parts of a buggy were found wrapped in bed clothes as carefully as though packing valuables for shipment.
At Ben Miller’s besides his family were Mrs. Steve Freeman and two children and not one of them was wounded to speak of though the house was demolished.
A buggy shed belonging to Henry Rook was blown away, leaving a surrey standing unharmed with the exception of one seat which was thrown so hard that it is still sticking in the side of a house.
A letter over twenty years old and known to have come from the Rook house was found four miles from the scene.
One pitiful sight noted Sunday was a little curly haired dog sitting in front of his master’s former home, now a scrap heap, looking at the wreckage and howling as loud as he could.
In the home of M. R. Newman were himself, wife, two daughters and Henry Hodge. The house is as flat as it can lie on the ground, yet the only injury was the younger daughter sustained a severe cut on one arm. Mr. Newman said the wind first struck the front of the house, and then hit the building from the rear just opposite.
While the storm seemed to follow one general direction, yet trees were torn from the ground by the roots from every possible direction.
The area covered in the village is almost a half square mile.
A part of a skiff was carried a long distance and pierced the house of Howard Jackson.
There four horses killed and one cow. Many carcasses of chickens and birds strewn over the village.
Straws are sticking endwise in heavy timbers, as solid as though they had grown there.
One window in Pritchard’s store was literally sucked out entirely but no other damage done to the building.
There were only three insurance policies covering cyclone damage that we could hear of in the village. They were as follows: On Will Murphy’s store and it was unhurt, on Fred Murphy’s house and it was not touched and on the M. P. Church (for $500) damaged considerably. All the rest of the damage will be total loss to the owner.
Farming implements of all kinds were literally torn to pieces.
It is now known that the cyclone came farther than first thought. It struck one section of the Tarman farm in Orange Township tearing out hedge fences by the roots. It had a terrible velocity even at that point.
One of the curious things at York was loss of a cow’s tail. Some say the bovine’s caudal appendage was blown off but it was probably struck by a flying timber.
It will never be known how much furniture, chickens, ect. Were blown into the river.
York Saturday and Sunday was visited by thousands of people for miles around and every visitor was horrified by the sights.
The wife and daughter of John Bostick, near Grayville, Indiana, were reported fatally injured by this storm. Their home was demolished.
Ned Foster was on his way from West York to York when he saw the storm coming. He said it looked as though two clouds joined west of him. He ran into a grain building in a field knowing by the great roar that it was no ordinary storm. He thought the building unsafe and ran back to the road and lay down by a short stout hedge fence and held tight. The building he had just left was unroofed. When the wind struck him he was beaten violently on the ground but managed to hold on until the storm passed.
The largest hail stones were found near West Union. One was carried into the store of Mr. Frakes that tipped the scale at one and a half pounds. Larger ones were found that were not weighted. The stones were mostly dish shaped.
Henry Rook, who was killed, had been living in Terre Haute for some time with his wife and daughter. He was at York on business. He was considered a very wealthy man. He was about 60 years of age.
The funeral of Mrs. Pinkston was held Sunday morning at 10 o’clock and was largely attended. She leaves a mother, three daughters, two sons, granddaughter and brother.
There were several versions of the horror, all given by good reliable people. Reece Pritchard, merchant, told the Herald representative that he was standing in front of his store watching the approaching storm. By the great roar he knew it was no ordinary storm. When the cloud came into his view, it appeared to be not more than 60 feet wide and running to a point at the bottom, twisting, turning and distorted at a fearful rate. As it swept toward him from the southwest, he ran to get away from it. According to his version, it swept through the village from the southwest to the northeast then turned to the south, then back again to the northeast making three paths of destruction. After running for some time trying to escape, Mr. Pritchard was literally picked up and carried for 150 yards when he struck a wire fence and was badly bruised. If he had not lodged in the wire, he would have gone into the river. Enos Mills was with Mr. Pritchard at the start and after running a while he went in Pritchard’s store and remained and the building was unharmed.
A number of people rushed down to the rivers edge and were partly sheltered by the high bluff. They had to hold tight to the shrubbery. Some say that as the storm crossed the river, the water parted and the bottom of the river was plainly visible.
Jacob Scott and son were in the lumber yard and that they came out alive seemed miraculous.
Relief committees have been at work soliciting funds for the suffers who lost all they had and there have been liberal responses.
[CLARK COUNTY HERALD, 18-JUNE-1907 - Submitted by: Ron Cornwell]




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