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Marshall Cyclone

It was reported in the "Insidental Incidents" column on page 1 of the Marshall Evening Chronicle Newspaper on May 23, 1959:

"Old Timers of the Marshall area long will remember May 23, 1903. The day a cyclone passed over Marshall. Pearl A. Townsend today exhibited a postal card of that cyclone of 1903.

No lives were lost and no one was seriously injured in the cyclone but considerable damage was caused. The cyclone struck in mid-afternoon.

It was recalled that the Abe Hirth home, near the Catholic cemetery, was flattened and some trees were felled in the cemetery. Other houses were raised off their foundations and considerable roofs were damages."

The Marshall Statesman on May 29, 1903 carried the original story:

"Saturday afternoon Marshall had a visitation from the elements and no one longs for a repetition of the experience. Shortly before three o'clock threatening black clouds darkened the western horizon and soon the whole sky was overcast accompanied by vivid flashes of lightening and heavy peals of thunder. It was evident from the first the oncoming storm was not the ordinary kind. For a moment prior to the bursting of the storm an ominous stillness prevailed and the air was hot, almost suffocating. A great, grey cloud which came tumbling up from the west assumed a funnel shape and directly above the city it appeared to drop to the earth. The stillness was broken by a deafening roar and in less time than it takes to tell it the cyclone had swept through the northern part of the city and on through Marengo township leaving in its wake nought but ruin.

A tracing of the tornado in its wild career reveals many peculiarities. There were instances where a single brick was knocked from a chimney while the next building was converted into kindling wood. Great towering oaks, which had stood the tempests of scores of years were uprooted with an ease which but unmasked the tremendous power of the storm and the little sapling near by was passed by without the loss of a leaf. The fury of the storm was first manifest at F. W. Dicky's at the western limits of the day, where two gigantic oak trees were torn up by the roots. Swerving a little to the north the tornado rushed eastward. Josiah Philips had his barn move from the foundation and a portion of the roof removed. A barn belonging to Jonas Treadwell was completely demolished. The homes of Mr. Burton, Mrs. Phoebe Potter, Mrs. (??) and Mr. Moses [names hard to read in original] on Mulberry Street were somewhat damaged. But little further damage was done to houses until the Dulcenia home was reached but the wind played havoc with the shade trees rendering impassable the streets north of State Street. Hundreds of trees were toppled over, telephone and electric light poles were overturned and wires were hopelessly tangled. At Snyder and Liberty streets a falling tree snapped off a water hydrant. R. L. Jackson, Joel VanArman, John Roe, Andrew Baty and Fred Waidley who reside in this neighborhood suffered slight losses.

The storm seemed to gather fury as it rushed onward and passing the Old Ladies' Home the roof of the rear half of the building was torn off and carried several rods away. The upper veranda in the front was also torn loose and the brick walls were seamed and cracked in several places. The barn was totally wrecked. The cyclone swooped down the hill catching the home of Abe Hitch in its fierce grasp and tearing it into kindling wood. Scores of trees in the Catholic cemetery were blown down and many monuments overturned. A barn belonging to Mrs. Easter was totally wrecked and her home twisted from its foundation.

Across the interurban track Alexander Skinner's barn was demolished. Further east John Welles' house was unroofed and his barn wrecked. The storm traversed Marengo township paying its respects to everything in its course. Barns belonging to H. J. Coisman, James Hughes, R. Raesley, Col. Godfrey, Wm. Lowe, Peter Mulvaney, Fred Thomas and Ed Billingburst were blown down or wrenched from their fastenings. Chas Fish lost the roof from a portion of his house, orchards were laid waste and eight acres of timber belonging to Ed Vogt were uprooted presenting a most peculiar sight.

It seems a miracle that in all this destruction of property, aggregating upwards of $50,000, that there was no loss of life. Mr. and Mrs. Hirth and Mrs. Easter were trading in the city otherwise they undoubtedly would have been killed. A construction gang on the electric railroad was directly in the path of the cyclone but by lying close to the earth in a deep cut escaped death. Fourteen of the gang were in the Skinner barn when it collapsed, but no fatal injuries resulted. Joseph Higbee, the foreman of the gang was struck in the head by a flying timer and badly cut but will soon be about his duties. Two lineman, names unknown, are said to have suffered fractured arms. An Italian laborer was sucked into the air and after an arial flight of several hundred feet, was dashed to earth where he lay unconscious. He was reported dead at first but happily the reverse proved to be true. A buggy containing a gentleman and his wife was overturned the lady lacerating her hand badly on a wire. Other slight bruises are reported. An electric car, containing about a dozen passengers, was within twenty feet of the cyclone when it passed. There were many narrow escapes from death.

This is Marshall's first experience with cyclones and while other localities have suffered worse we have had our fill as at first mentioned and will not pass our plate for more.

Sunday the usual quiet did not prevail. Every carpenter and all mechanically inclined, who could hammer a nail, were pressed into service and before nightfall much of the lesser damage was repaired. Under the direction of the marshal the streets were cleared of the debris and gangs were employed in restringing the telephone and electric light wires. Over two hundred phones of the Independent lines were put out of commission and on Saturday night the norther part of the city was in darkness. Monday several in St. Mary's parish in part repaired the damage in the cemetery but her as well as throughout the city were the works of nature have been laid desolate the heavy hand of the destroyer will be noticeable for many years to come."

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