Morris, IL Tornado, July 1919

Tornado Sweeps Grundy County--Trees Torn Up, Roofs Blown Off, Buildings Crumbled by Storm--
Miles of Telephone and Electric Light Wires Leveled by Gale and Streets of City are Blocked by Fallen Timber; Many Silos and Barns in County Are Demolished.

Morris, IL., July 10 - Heavy winds developing with lightning like rapidity into cyclonic velocity swept over Morris and vicinity about 6:30 o'clock last night developing into the most disastrous storm in the history of the city. Giant trees, the pride of the city, quivered, shook and then crashed to the ground many of them being lifted out by the roots leaving excavations twenty feet in diameter. Streets in all directions were blocked by the trees falling across the roads and it was an hour after the storm had spent its fury before automobiles were able to travel onto the thoroughfares, and only then with great danger from fallen electric wires.

Roofs of several buildings were torn loose, plate glass fronts were blown in, chimneys were demolished, porches were wrecked by fallen timber, the whole city suffering from the teriific storm.

Electric light service was put out of commision and the telephone wires were down in all directions making it impossible to obtain accurate accounts of the severity of the tornado in surrounding territory. Damage to the grain was impossible to estimate, but the loss will be enormous. Fields where the wheat had been cut and shocked were completly stripped and bundles of grain were carried over a radius of ten miles in certain directions.


Service on the interurban car lines were suspended and no cars were operating during the night, the first to get over the line leaving about 6 o'clock this morning. Giant trees blocked the interurban traffic and it was necessary to remove these heavy timbers before progress could be made.

From all accounts the tornado took a wide sweep covering the territory as far south as Coal City, west to Ottawa, east to Minooka and for a considerable distance to the north for which direction the storm came.

During the afternoon the humidity of the atmosphere was terrific. There was scarcely a breath of air and every indication pointed to an electric storm.

At about 6:30 o'clock there was a light wind which grew stronger every moment. Most of the citizens were at the supper table but those who were on the streets state that heavy rolling clouds were noticed in the north west and moving swiftly. There was a sudden gust of wind that wrenched many slender branches from the trees which was instantly followed by the storms mad fury which lasted for fifteen minutes.


Branches were blown in all directions, then came the cracking and creaking of the heavier trees and the resounding crash as they toppled to the ground. It was unsafe for pedestrians as the trees were falling in all directions. Families rushed to their basements for safety fearing that the residences would be twisted from their foundations.

The tornado was followed by an intense electrical storm followed by a heavy downpour of rain. Like magic the streets were thronged with people as soon as the wind had subsided anxious to view the effects of the tornado. Men and women picked their way over the fallen timbers utterly oblivious to the rain.

The storm first came more directly from the west. On Liberty Street there was a crash and the big plate glass window at the W. L. Baker drug store smashed to the sidewalk. The storm then swerved more to the northwest and a crash told of the west window at the drug store being demolished. At about the same instant the plate glass window at the bakery of Bernard Roth, corner of Liberty and Jefferson streets was blown to bits. Insurance it was understood will cover the loss at both places.


Considerable damage was done to both places by heavy rain which followed in the wake of the storm.

The wind whipped loose the roof on Fraternity hall on West Washington street tearing loose part of the rafters and for a time it was feared that it would be blown clear off the building. The chimney was demolished and the bricks were hurled through the roof of the Cronin hardware store. A strip of the tin roof probably twenty feet long was blown across the interurban wires at the corner of West Washington and Wauponsee streets and hung suspended until removed by police officials.


Mrs. Lee Dix, of Illinois avenue, was slightly injured around the shoulder and hip when she was blown to the ground. Mrs. Lizzie Ferguson, of East Washington street, was cut on shoulder when she was hit by a falling tree. She had left her home and was hurrying to a neighbors house when the accident occurred.

Another freak performance of the tornado was the tearing loose of the roof over the porch at the rear of the second story occupied by Robert Fox in the N. Robinson building on Liberty street, lifting it to the top of the building and depositing it on the roof at the front where it hung suspended partly by the front of the roof and partly by electric light wires.

The tin cover over the skylight at the Empire theatre was blown off and deposited in the center of East Washington street. The Empiro theatre was flooded with water by the heavy rainfall.

The plate glass front in the Hornsby building in Primrose Place, was blown out.

The telephone company sent extra men from Joliet and Aurora about 45 of them to repair the damaged lines and temporary service at least was resumed in a short time. Large telephone cables were laid on the ground in the country districts and miles of poles were broken off at the bottom.

The Fox & Illinois Union trolly wires were put out of commission when poles along the route went down. The service was crippled for most of the day.

Cars on the C.O. & P. were stopped about 7 o'clock when the storm was seen coming out of the northwest. The tracks were obstructed with trees this morning. All the small telephone stations along the route from Seneca east to Minooka went down.

At Stockdale the smokestack and roof of the Guano Co. building and even the rafters went down before the gale. Parts of two sheep barns were also destroyed and corn and other grains laid flat.

The storm had completely put the electric service out of commision in the city and there was a merry hunt by Morris residents for candles. The darkened houses and streets made an interesting contrast with the usually brilliantly lighted city.


At the Frank H. Hayes residence on East North street a huge oak tree on the George Woelfel property was blown down and fell on the garage at the rear of the Hayes lot. The garage was smashed and the automobile was badly damaged. The pony, which was the delight of the Hayes children and which was in the building at the time was not injured, although it took a number of men with axes to extricate it from the damaged building. A cow belonging to Mr. Hayes which was in the Cunnea pasture was killed when the barn where it sought shelter was blown down.

One of the big wooden turrets affixed to the Catholic church was blown off and a tree in front of the building was torn up by the roots.

The signal arm at the Wauponsee street crossing of the Rock Island was torn loose and cross arms on the telephone poles in various parts of the city were ripped off the poles.

A tree at the home of H. Lindon on East Jefferson street was twisted off at the roots, leaving a six foot excavation and uncovering the sewer.


The silo on the farm of J. J. Hutchings in Wauponsee township was demolished and considerable damage to the grain.

The barn on the farm of Thomas Lynes was leveled and the top was lifted from his ice cream wagon. Silos on the farms of G. Telfer and George Griggs were destroyed. The roof was taken off the top of the barn on the Richard Buck property and at the Joseph Thompson farm in Nettle Creek township, the barn was demolished.

A live wire set fire to the trees in front of the Beacher Griggs place on Liberty street and a guard was placed to protect pedestrians until the Public Service linemen could repair the damage.

At least a mile of telephone cables and poles were down on the Conklin road.

Rural mail carriers were handicapped in covering their routes this morning by reason of fallen timber across roads. In many places the carriers were forced to detour as they were unable to remove the trees from the road.

After making a trip over Norman, Goose Lake, Aux Sable, Saratoga and Nettle Creek townships today F. E. Longmire, county farm advisor stated that in his opinion the damage to the grain will not be as large as anticipated. The higher corn he said was damaged the most and in places the stocks had been broken off or were stripped. He said that this damage would probably affect 20 percent of the corn in some districts.

Oats, while being considerably flattened out, would mot be injured to any great extent and damage to spring wheat was negligible.

Persons needing firewood are authorized to help themselves by Mayor T.H. Hall, who stated that the work of clearing the streets would be accoomplished as rapidly as possible. Residents are requested to place all fallen brush into piles, keeping as much of the heavy trunks of trees for firewood as possible.

The storm of last night recalls the tornado which swept over Mazon and the southern part of the county in July 1903 where property loss was estimate at $100,000. But little damage resulted from it in Morris. Again in 1912 another terrific storm did considerable damage at Mazon and other southern points in the county, but which did not affect Morris.


The roof over the National Biscuit company warehouse at Marseilles was lifted off and the smoke stack of the McKindley syndicate power house was blown down. A part of the roof at the power house was also blown away. Many trees were down some of them being torn away from their roots. No one was injured.

A special car on the interurban line carrying a party of Chicago people were marooned there and had to stay during the night as the cars were unable to run.


The storm had subsided by the time it reached Gardner and little damage was done. A few of the smaller trees were blown down but no buildings were damaged. The Chautauqua which is in season there gave their regular performance last night all though the electric light service was out of commision. Automobile lights and lanterns were substituted.


At Coal City trees were snapped off and many were lifted from the ground by the roots the city presenting a dilapidated appearance this morning. At the corner of Division and Broadway a giant cotton wood tree was torn from the ground ripping loose several cables in its fall. Porches were torn away, windows in residences were blown in and chimneys were demolished.

The only business house to suffer was that of Mrs. Mary Miller, milliner, where the plate glass window was broken.

Notwithstanding the severity of the storm the Chautauqua which is holding forth there this week gave their regular performance last night substituting candles, lanterns, lamps and automobile lights for the electrical service.

The tops of a few trees at Ottawa were blown off but outside of this very little damage was done, the real force of the gale being confined mostly to this county.

Morris Daily Herald 1919-07-10