Various Towns, MS, AL Tornado Destruction, Apr 1883




A cyclone of the most destructive character swept through Southwestern Mississippi on the afternoon of Sunday, April 22, and laid the four towns of Beauregard, Wesson, Tillman and Lawrence in ruins. Thence it struck north and east through Georgia and wrought great devastation at Albany, Eastman, and other towns and villages. The number of persons killed is estimated at over 100, and the wounded at more than double that. No catastrophe of like character has been recorded in many years, and it is feared that the worst is not yet known.
A dispatch from Jackson, Miss., says that for three days the wind had blown a gale, and lowering clouds indicated a coming storm. At Wesson the storm's approach was marked by deep rumbling sounds, rattling windows and quivering earth. Thunder roared, and the lightning flashed with dreadful force and dazzling vividness. Then, with the fury of ten thousand demons, the gale burst upon the town. Fences were torn to pieces and sent whirling through the air; trees that had stood the fiercest storms for ages were uprooted and hurled hundreds of yards. Houses were demolished, and the pine forest encircling the town was blown out of existence. As soon as the wind's violence had somewhat abated, and the citizens had begun to look about, the church bells rang out in loud peals the signals of distress and death. Men ran from all directions toward West Wesson, though the rain was pouring down in drenching torrents. When Peach Orchard street had been reached, a scene terrible in the extreme, but simply indescribable, burst upon the view. There the houses of a large number of the operatives of the Mississippi Mills had stood, and there the greatest destruction had occurred. Dwellings on all sides had been torn to atoms, while under the debris the groans of the wounded and dying were heard, striking terror to the stoutest heart. A momentary hesitation only occurred, and then the work of removing the dead and extricating the wounded began. The maimed were removed to the nearest houses which had escaped the tornado. The dead were taken from the ruins and laid on the grass, while the rescuers turned hastily from them to answer a cry of distress. Several of the corpses lay out in the storm and rain for more than an hour, but as soon as the wounded and living were cared for they were taken up and reverently placed on stretchers in the churches. Sixteen persons were killed outright, and eighty wounded, at Wesson.
A correspondent gives the following graphic description of the scene at Beauregard. Many people in Beauregard saw the black wind coming, for its roaring and moaning had brought them to the doors of their houses and stores. These people described it as like a black smoke, filled with flame, rolling along the earth, while high above it were tossed trees and plants and bricks. The smoke seemed to do little harm, but in the vortex which was behind it everything went down. It was about a minute in reaching Beauregard and three seconds in passing over it, and when it went by, the town was no more, the houses and trees being beaten down and ground into dust and splinters. The route of the cyclone was followed by the cries of fear and the wails of anguish of those who were buried under the ruins of the buildings.
A deluge followed the blow. The rain came down in sheets, and the ditches and gutters became raging rivers. The Mayor states that when he came to himself he actually feared that he and his family would be drowned. The darkness of the night followed the darkness of the storm so closely that it was impossible to realize the terrible destruction, but the morning sun laid bare a scene of desolation, with every house, save three, swept sway, and nothing but splinters left behind. Even beyond the town where stood a heavy pine forest the trees had been felled and carried away in the path of the cyclone. MARTIN MOODY, a prominent merchant, was found close by a tree, his face buried in his hands, and fatally wounded, his wife near him, also badly injured. They were out walking when the storm came up, and sought refuge in a boxcar in which seven negroes were playing cards. The car was lifted from the track and carried away a hundred yards, three of the negroes being instantly killed. DR. LAMPKIN'S residence was in the center of the town. When he emerged from the ruins of his house he found his wife painfully wounded, and her little boy seriously injured. They had been blown away a hundred yards. On the porch of the home were JOHN S. TERRILL, DR. JONES, his wife and two children, and a little boy. All were dead. Only one child of the JONES family is alive. MR. GEORGE HOLLOWAY and J. WESTERFIELD sought refuge in a deep gully, but were struck by flying timbers and WESTERFIELD injured and HOLLOWAY killed. MR. WILL PARKER, his wife and son were buried beneath the timbers of their house. MRS. PARKER will lose an arm. The other two are dead. The cyclone went through Beauregard due north and south, nearly along the line of Main street, the chief business street, demolishing the most solid brick stores, and leaving only three houses standing in the upper portion of the town, and killing twenty-six and wounding 100 persons. The scene in the town is fearful. It looks as if a fire had swept over it. The houses are not blown upside down, but are flattened out and torn to splinters. Twenty-six persons were found dead in the ruins of the town, and over 100 were wounded, many of them beyond the hope of recovery.
The town of Tilghlman was almost in the track of the tornado. Several houses were demolished, and four or five people killed.
The cyclone passed over that portion of Aberdeen known as Freedmen's town, inhabited almost exclusive by blacks. Fifteen lives were lost, and about fifty people wounded, mostly negroes. At Caledonia several houses were blown down, three persons killed and ten wounded. At Starkville, many houses were razed, five persons were killed and sixty maimed. Meridian, West Point and other towns suffered heavy losses in life and property. Through the rural districts the cyclone swept everything before it, leveling houses, fences and trees, and killing many people. A section of the tornado was also felt in Alabama and Georgia, though not so severely as in Mississippi. At Albany, Ga., a house was blown down, killing a man and his wife. Afloat on Flint river were six colored men, named EDWARD JONES, PINK SIMMONS, CHANCEY GRIFFITH, NED LESTER, JOHN KIMBROUGH and PETER SMITH, who ran against the shore and in paddling in the darkness for land all were drowned. At Cruger's Postoffice, near by, six were killed and eighteen wounded. At Eastman and vicinity half a dozen were killed and some forty wounded. In and about Preston, four or five were killed and many injured. The track of the storm was about 90 yards in width, it did not blow more than fifteen minutes, and was followed by torrents of rain and hail. Some of the hail-stones were four or five inches in diameter, and weighed a pound.

Perry Pilot Iowa 1883-05-02