Peggs, OK Devastating Tornado, May 1920

CYCLONE WIPES OUT PEGGS.

FIFTY ARE REPORTED KILLED IN OKLAHOMA VILLAGE AND ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY INJURED.

By the Associated Press.
Muskogee, Okla., May 3. -- Thirty-seven bodies have been recovered by rescuers from wrecked houses in the storm demolished town of Peggs, according to a telephone report from Tahlequah. This information was brought from Peggs by the first man to arrive at Tahlequah from Peggs today. Twenty of these bodies are reported to have been taken from one building alone.
JOHN LITTLEFIELD, his wife and six of their seven children were among those killed in the storm, a report to Tahlequah said. The only physician in the town, DR. W. R. HILL, also was killed.
Tahlequah, county seat of Cherokee county fifteen miles south of Peggs, is the nearest railroad town to the storm area.
Those familiar with the roads in the vicinity say it is impossible to reach Peggs by motor car. The Tulsa Tribune started a newspaper man by airplane to the stricken district this morning.

Muskogee, Okla., May 3. -- Fifty persons are reported killed and more than one hundred fifty injured in a storm that wiped out the little town of Peggs, Oklahoma, Cherokee county at 9:30 o'clock last night.
Reports from Locust Grove and Tahlequah where dead and injured from Peggs are being taken said that not a house was left standing in Peggs.
A special train carrying doctors and nurses and equipment left Muskogee for Peggs this morning. All doctors and nurses in Tahlequah also have gone. Practically every store in Tahlequah, county seat of Cherokee county, has closed and several hundred people have gone to Peggs to do rescue work.
Direct communication with the stricken town was impossible this morning, as all wires from Muskogee to Tahlequah are down.

Muskogee, May 3. -- Forty-three bodies have been recovered at Peggs by rescue parties up until noon today. Families were crushed to death when their homes were torn to pieces by the force of the gale. Nine members of the STEVENS family were killed, seven of the LITTLEFIELD family, eight persons by the name of FRANK and five members of the WILKERSON family are now numbered among the dead.
Only three buildings remain standing after the storm at Peggs.
Forty-two coffins are being sent to the scene of the storm from Tahlequah. This is as many as could be found in the city. Temporary hospitals have been organized amid the wreckage and scores of slightly injured are being given first aid. If they can stand the trip to Tahlequah, they are being taken there. When rescuers arrived in Peggs they found the twisted, mud-splattered bodies. Heavy rain and hail accompanied the storm and when the rescuers began collecting the bodies from the wreckage, many were so plastered with mud that they had to be washed off before their identity could be established. The dead were collected in shelters of walls that were left standing. Twenty bodies were piled in one corner, while the searching party ranged the immediate vicinity. Doctors and their assistants pressed into service have worked incessantly since early this morning caring for the dead and injured.

The Ada Evening News Oklahoma 1920-05-03

Continued

Comments

Rufus Stephens

Rufus Stephens was my great grandfather. As I understand he was out of town when the tornado hit. My grandfather survived he was Homer Rufus Stephens age 2. He married Ruby Spradlin and they had 8 children. My dad Kenneth was the oldest boy. I wasn't familiar with any of the Stephens side of the family. I understood Rufus got remarried. I have one picture of him and his wife. I would like to get in touch if possible. Deborah.hull@ymail.com.

Tornado

LeDona Franks was my great aunt, daughter of Thomas Jefferson Cabe and Elizabeth Lewis Cabe. Another relative left Arkansas and travelled to Peggs after the tornado to check on them. When he returned home he told the story that they had found Aunt Donie with her head caught in a barbed wire fence, her long black hair tangled in it. They never found her body. They buried them in a mass grave dug by highway equipment pulled by mules. They covered the wooden caskets with dirt over and over again until the mules' hooves no longer reverberated with the sound the wood beneath them. Her relatives in Arkansas never wanted to speak of it many years later.

Peggs Oklahoma Tornado 1920

John I think we're related. Both my Maternal side which was the Hatfield Family and my Paternal side which was the Millers lived and farmed in Peggs and my Grandmother and her Brother had Cherokee allotments. One of my GreatGrandparents collected money to have a silver bell mounted on a wooden frame in the church cemetery in honor of those lost in the tornado. I have a photo of it somewhere. On the Miller side my Grandfather was named Thomas A Miller and had a brother Hiram. I'm not aware if there were other siblings. My Grandmother Bessie Hood Miller eloped with my Grandfather Thomas Atlas Miller and they had 3 children. The youngest, Fern who they called Little Fern I beieve is buried in the Peggs Cemetery but not sure. I'm sure Delpha Miller had to be related but Grandpa never spoke about his family other than Uncle Hiram.
On the Hatfield side was Cora Butler Hatfield my Grandmother. I believe the victim John Butler must have been a relative. My email is brookeschiavi@centurylink.net Love to hear from anyone about this. I heard the bell was stolen. It was by the church in the graveyard.

Juanita Gore Neel

I am try to find the death date of Juanita Gore Neel and where she might be buried.
Would you happen to know?

Thanks,
James

Juanita Gore

I am researching the Gore family in OK.

Juanita Gore married Bert Neel. I am trying to find where and when she died and maybe where she is buried.

Do you know?

Thanks,

James L Gore

Peggs Cyclone

My Grandfather survived this cyclone in May 1920. He lost 13 members of his family. His name was Homer Rufus Stephens. His skull was crushed and had to live with a steal plate in his head. He also had a fore finger missing, not sure if this was from this incident or another accident. His family members were buried in a mass grave with one headstone in Peggs,Ok. His name included because they didn't expect him to survive. He married Ruby Mae Spradlin. Her parents were Frank Spradlin and Ada Beamer. My dad Kenneth Eugene Stephens was one of their 8 children. Kenneth married Bonnie JoAnn Lytle. I am the oldest of their 3 children. My name is Deborah Ann Stephens Hull.

Stephens - Peggs Oklahoma

Jim: I'm interested in visiting with you as my family too was a part of Stephens clan living in Peggs at that time. I'm interested in your ancestral lines. Could you please send me an email? My grandmother was 6 and living in Peggs at the time (Sarah Stephens). Her father: Isaac "Ike" Stephens; his father Elihugh Stephens brother to Solomon Stephens. Elihugh and Solomon came to Arkansas on a wagon train with other children of David Stephens from Kentucky. Some of the Stephens clan migrated down to Indian Territory around the Peggs area..

Doctor's death in Peggs OK

He was my relative. I would like any information you have on Dr. Hill. Thank you

I realize this is and old

I realize this is and old post just clarifying that the town hit by the tornado in 1920 was Peggs, Oklahoma not Beggs. Peggs is located about 15 miles north of Tahlequah. I live in Peggs and my family has always lived in and around the area.

Wilkerson

I was born in Tulsa but raised elsewhere...came back as an adult w/ a child of my own. I've never heard this story 'til I moved to Peggs. I'm a volunteer cemetery census taker & stone photographer. My cousin told me about this either before or after I visited cemetery & noticed all the stones w/ d. 5/2/1920. I'm also the family genealogist & found I'm related to the Wilkerson family via Martha Gass Wilkerson. She died in 1909 & husband James married again to gal named Roxie. James, a couple of Martha's sons & all 4 of Roxie's children were all killed. Very sad. Thanks for posting this.