St. Louis, MO Tornado, May 1896 - Cyclone's Deadly Work

The Story of the Cyclone's Deadly Work Told After Daylight.


Corrected List of the Dead in St. Louis and East St. Louis--Judge Foulke, of Vandalia, One of the Victims--Action By Congress

St. Louis, Mo., May 28. -- Two hundred lives were snuffed out in the city and as many more in East St. Louis, property destroyed, in value running into the millions is the record of yesterday evening's tornado. This is a conservative estimate. No possible idea of the number killed in the tornado in this neighborhood, in Missouri and Illinois can be made at this time. South St. Louis is littered with the bodies of the dead. East St. Louis is a gigantic cemetery. Under the debris of buildings in that city scores are buried whose bodies will not be brought to light for many days, perhaps never. It was the most disastrous storm from every point of view in the history of the city. It did little damage in the business and northern portions of the city, save along the river front, where the destruction cannot be estimated. Nor will it ever be known just how many gave up their lives in the waters of the Mississippi where the tornado tore all the boats in the harbor from their moorings. The channel is full of wreckage. In South St. Louis, where the storm spent its force, all the way from Patin street to Carondolet it put a stamp on the face of the city that will not be effaced for years. Strong buildings fell before the wind like houses made of cards. From where it entered the city in the southwestern suburbs to where it left near the Eads bridge, there is a wide path of ruins. Factory after factory went down and piles of brick and timbers mark the spots on which they stood. Dwellings were picked up and thrown in every direction. Business houses were flattened with no chance for escape of the occupants who are now in the ruins covered with bruises, mangled bodies that will not be recovered until a systematic search is made. Thousands of families in South St. Louis are practically homeless, and temporary hospitals shelter hundreds. Early in the storm the plant of the Laclede Gas company was destroyed and a large portion of the central part of the city was cut off from the gas supply. Wires were torn down all over the city, elevators blown down, boats sunk, church and school houses demolished. After the wind and rain had done its work, fire added to the destruction. The destruction of the water works early in the storm cut off the water supply and Chief Purdy and his men fought fire with a bucket brigade as best they could.

There is no way of estimating the number of lives lost on the river craft that happened to be near when the cyclone came. Hundreds of barges were moored all along the river bank, in some instances with as many as ten to twelve persons on board. The men were blown into the water and the barges were capsized. The destruction of life in this way is certainly large. A rumor that the excursion steamer Grand Republic had gone to the bottom with 500 excursionists is denied by the officer of that company, who said the boat left for Alton at noon. The storm struck the city on the southwest, just north of Tower Grove park, and traveled in a northeasterly direction to Grand Avenue, then followed the Miller Creek valley to the river. At the levee it swung almost at right angles, and swept straight up the river to Madison, where it veered east again. Judging from the reports of the greatest damage the path of the storm averaged ten or twelve blocks wide with an extreme of sixteen blocks wide. In places where large manufacturing building went down are piles of dead. At Seventh and Rutger streets, more than twenty bodies are imbedded and as many more in Fred Mannhemeher's tenement; twenty-nine of the employes at Liggett & Meyers Cigarette factory, and twenty-five of the employes (sic) at the St. Louis Wood Ware factory.