Chandler, OK Tornado, Mar 1897


Works Frightful Havoc at Chandler, Oklahoma.

The LittleTown Demolished and Many People Killed.

GUTHRIE, O. T., March 31. - A terrific cyclone struck the town of Chandler, 40 miles east of here, last evening, and the lastest [sic] news is that 45 people were killed and more than 20 injured, a dozen of them fatally. A despatch received here at 2 a. m. reported the ruins on fire and many of the injured people burned to death. So far 24 dead bodies have been taken from the ruined buildings.

Chandler is a town of 1,500 inhabitants and was almost completely devastated, only two buildings being left standing.

The known dead are:
Mr. and Mrs. Woodman.
Mrs. Henry Mitchell.
Mrs. Thomas Smith.
John Dason.
F. Demoff.
Emma Dressinger.
K. C. Johnson and wife.
Mrs. Philip Johnson and child.
Mrs. Lee.
Unknown woman and babe.
W. Keller and wife.
Five unknown children.
Mayor A. McIlhenny and wife.
Geo. Pierson.

Among the fatally injured are:
Arthur Jewett.
Peggy Johnson.
Mrs. Frank McCann.
D. C. Gooding.
Maggie Reeves.
Andrew Asher and wife.
Mrs. Cullum.
Jennie Woodsworth.
Alex Bishop.
Arch Shepard.
Mrs. Frank McCall.
Mrs. Emery Foster and baby.
Nettie Ulan.
Wilson King.

The others injured so far as known are: Andrew Asher, Mrs. Andrew Asher, Patrick Doolan, John Foster, Geo. McHenry, George Herring, Samuel Hightower, John McGagegy, James McCartner, F. A. Niblack, John Niblack, Bessie Unlan, Samuel Williamson, and Samuel Winthrop.

The scenes were heart rending, people dying on all sides with but one physician on the ground who is not hurt. Six persons in one building were pinned down and were slowly roasted to death. Darness [sic] came on soon after the cyclone struck, and the work of rescue was carried on under the greatest difficulty. A large number of physicians and other citizens left here for the scene with surgical instruments, drugs and other supplies.

A later message states a large number of people known to have been in the business buildings are missing, and it is feared they are dead under the ruins.

Chandler is the seat of the Oklahoma agricultural and mechanical college which it is reported has been badly wrecked. Many people are reported injured in the wrecked court house and the disaster is believed to be much worse than at first thought. There is no shelter and no adequate medical attendance, and it is believed that many of the injured will die from exposure. In one building five injured people were burned to death and at another place the incindered bodies of three children have been taken out.

Another message received at 2:30 this morning, asked for help and a rescue party immediately started from Guthrie and near by town [sic]. The message said that the entire business portion of the little town was burned after being wrecked by the wind. The scene was described as terrible and almost beyond description. Several of the injured became temporarily insane and rushed up and down the streets in a state of delirum [sic]. The main street of the town is a mass of dead and injured people, and teams and wagons, buggies, trees and debris from buildings. Every building put [sic] one on Main street was wrecked and burned.

James Woodyard and wife, of Eldorado, Kansas, visiting at Chandler, were instantly killed. Their little daughter was fatally crushed and their son badly hurt. John Dawson of Lincoln, Neb., a lawyer, was burned to death.

The St. Albans Daily Messenger, St. Albans, VT, 31 Mar 1897



Cyclone in Oaklahoma [sic] Fully as Bad as Reported.


Harvest of Death Began Before the Terrified Inhabitants of Chandler Realized What Was Taking Place - Fire Added to the Horrors of the Night - Storms in Kansas.

Guthrie, O. T., March 31. - Chandler, an interior boom town, 50 miles southeast from Guthrie, is a mass of ruins. At 6 o'clock last evening a cyclone dealing death and destruction to everything in its path swept down on the town and almost completely swept it off the earth. Of her 1,500 inhabitants 25 were killed outright or burned to death and fully 170 injured. Of these latter is is thought 14 will die; 21 others are in dangerous condition. The remainder of the population is homeless. The Presbyterian church, Mitchell's hotel and two other buildings are all that remain standing. These have been turned into hospitals. The property loss will be half a million. There is not half enough coffins to bury the dead.

The storm came up from the southwest almost without a moment's warning, and sweeping across the town, first demolished the business district, then laid low the residence portion and, passing on, spent itself in the open prairie. The wrecks of many of the store buildings took fire and in a short time an awful holcalust [sic] was in progress. Many of those injured and buried in ruins were burned to death before help could arrive. Fire broke out first in the ruins of the New York store and Lincoln county bank and spread to adjoining buildings, maiking it necessary to fight flames as well as rescue the injured.

People were slow to recover from the shock and not until today did anything like system prevail in the work of relief. At 11 o'clock tonight particulars are still meager. Save one slow working telephone wire out of Chandler and but the telegraph wire from Guthrie, the town is still practically cut off from the outside world.

The storm broke upon the city suddenly. The sky was clear an hour before. Shortly before 6 o'clock a mass of dark clouds gathered in the southeast and then whirled north. They sono [sic] developed into a funnel-shaped monster and bore down upon the outskirts of the town. As the mass touched the ground the roar was deafening. The funnel split as it struck the southwest border of Chandler, which it [sic] situated on a hill overlooking Cow Creek valley, and one-half went through the town and the other turned north. Before escape was possible the cyclone had passed through the town. Tearing through the business districts, stores were hurled right and left or liftted high into the air and tossed in every direction. On Main street the Lincoln county bank building was toppled over and was soon enveloped in flames.

Here before aid could reach them five unfortunates were burned to death, pinned down by heavy timbers. Further down the street three children suffered a like fate. A mass of injured people, dead and injured horses, wrecked wagons and buggies and debris of all kinds from buildings transformed Main street into a funeral pyre. Passing on into the residence district the cyclone toppled over dwelling after dwelling, turned houses on their tops, and made streets unrecognizable, piling them high with debris.

A two-days-old babe was carried four blocks and not injured while the mother was crushed in her bed.

Finally, when an effort to send for outside help was made, it was found that all communication with the outside world had been cut off, the telephone office being among the buildings destroyed. It was several hours before communication with Guthrie was secured. A brief idea of the nature of the devastation wrought, together with an apeal for aid, had been sent to the neighboring city when the wire snapped and Chandler was again cut off. In the meantime, however, a train bearing physicians and others left for the scene. The wire came up later and further appeals for aid met prompt response and additional rescuing parties were sent out as the extent of the damage became known.

The night in Chandler was one of indescribable horror. The injured in many cases unavailingly cried for help and lay in the wrecks of their homes until daylight made it possible for them to help themselves or when aid from surrounding towns arrived.

By midnight some show of systematic rescue had been perfected and dead and dying were being released from the ruins. Improvised hospitals were erected and the unfortunates cared for as best as was possible. At 1 o'clock 20 dead bodies had been taken from the ruins while dozens more or less badly injured had been removed to places of safety.

But one of Chandler's physicians escaped injury and even after aid from Guthrie arrived there was a scarcity of surgeons. Only two were able to do anything last night and of these Dr. Walcott, with blood streaming from a sightless eye, worked until he fainted. It was not until noon that an organized effort was made to aleviate [sic] the suffering.

Queer sights greet the eye on all sides. Ten trees have a house roof on each; clothing and household goods are scattered in the streets; dead horses and cows are to be seen everywhere, while a pile of ruins has a piano perched on top of it.

Many ciitzens wander about the streets dazed by the calamity and almost on the verge of insanity at the loss of family and homes. Two or three have gone stark mad.

By nightfall tonight 10,000 people had flocked into the city. Many of them came to render assistance but a majority are there as morbid sightseers. A great quantity of clothing, bedding and provisions have been sent in and the Guthrie club has raised $1,500 in cash to send tomorrow. The city has put to use all its cash, about $700, for immediate aid. Hundreds of tents have been sent from Fort Reno and Guthrie and will provide temporary shelter for the unfortunates. All are homeless, however, and substantial aid must quickly follow. Food is scare and there are not half enough coffins to bury the dead and practically all the towns supply of medicine has been destroyed.

List of the dead: Attorney John Dawson, F. R. Demoff, Emma Dresinger, unknown woman and child, all burned to death by being pinned down by the wreck of the Lincoln bank; Mrs. Tom Smith, crushed; Mrs. Philip Johnson and child, Mrs. Dr. L. Lee, A. W. Keller and wife, unknown man, three unknown children, Mrs. Mitchell, James W. Woodyard and wife, of Eldorado, Kas.; Mrs. Dement, H. Bemar, A. Barber, D. E. Johnson, E. M. Ritterstein, Mrs. E. G. Johnson, babe and little boy.

Fatally injured - Woodyard girl, Dr. L. Lee, Arthur Jewett, Peggie Johnson, Mrs.Frank McCall, D. C. H. Goodling, Mollie Ulam, Andrew Asher and wife, Sidney Kennon, D. C. Johnson and wife, William Tilohman, Geo. Herndon.

Badly injured - Mrs. Emery Foster and baby, the mothers leg broken; Mrs. Cullom, Mrs. J. D. Lumley, Maggie Reeves, Chandler Reeves, Arch Shepherd, Alec Bishop, leg broken; Mrs. Coburn, G. C. Niblack, F. A. Niblack, Jns. CcCartney [sic], Ulam girls, Sam Hightower, McElhaney family, Woodyard boy, arm broken; W. B. Herod, arm broken; Dr. Walcott, eye torn out; S. D. Decker, bruised; Tom Wilson, Wilson child, P. S. Hoffman, arm crushed; M. W. Sawyer, C. D. Ray, Mrs. Frank McGraw, Matt Reeves, Mrs. Sarah Gillespie, Geo. hendrickson, dozens of others received.

A messenger who arrived late tonight from the country southwest of Chandler reported that many farm houses were demolished there, that two persons were killed and a number of others badly injured. It is reported that the little settlement known as Parkland was completely destroyed and that several persons were injured there.

Chief Justice Dale, of the Oklahoma supreme court, who was holding court when the cyclone came up, narrowly escaped. he ran with his wife to a hollow and the two were protected by a large boulder and were unhurt. Others in the court house, which was crowded, did not fare so well, one being killed and a dozen injured. The structure was twisted around and hurled into the street, a complete wreck.

Kansas City, Mo., March 31. - A disastrous wind storm, in some places of a cyclonic nature, passed over central and southern Kansas last night. The loss of property is heavy. As far as is known no fatalities occurred. The storm was most severe in Harvey, Sedgwick, McPherson and Marion counties. At Florence the entire end of the Santa Fe round house was blown away and the building was wrecked. There was heavy damage also in other parts. At Burton, Harvey county, cars standing on the siding were blown off the track. Many buildings in town were unroofed and some completely wrecked. McPherson City suffered severely. Telegraph service is badly damaged.

The Butte Weekly Miner, Butte, MT, 1 Apr 1897