Ellison, IL Tornado Destroys Village, June 1858



The Chicago papers have full particulars of the fearful devastation of the village of Ellison by a whirlwind. A brief account of this desaster was given in our telegrams on Wednesday.
The number of persons killed, so far as known, is twenty-five; and from fifty to sixty others are badly injured. The following are the names of killed and wounded:
MARTIN WENWORTH; MARY McWILLIAMS; LUCY McWILLIAMS; MRS. THOMPSON and child; MRS. BRAZLETON and child; MRS. HAND and child; MASTER HAND, 14 years of age; Unknown Married Woman; WILLIAM THOMPSON; MR. JOHNSON; MISSES JOHNSON, two sisters; S. JOHNSON; and Nine Others.
Q. McWILLIAMS; J. McCARTNY, compound fracture of leg and thigh; SAMUEL McCARTNY; MRS. BECK and Child; J. WARNER, ribs broken and leg broken; ELIZABETH KELSHAW; ANN KELSHAW; J. L. KELSHAW; MRS. BOYD; MR. THOMAS; MRS. SMITH and child; WALTER FERGISON; HORACE SAWYER; MRS. McWILLIAMS; DR. YOKO; JOSHUA SKEETS; GEORGE CHARLES; JACOB SMITH, arm broken, head fractured; MRS. SHERWOOD, compound fracture of thigh; W. W. THOMPSON; MRS. HANDY and two children; L. RAPELYEA and mother; MR. HUGHS; GEORGE McCARTNEY; MR. SALISBURY, fractured head; MR. CLARK; JACOB BRAZLETON; MRS. BRAZLETON; MR. HURD and son; THOMAS McWILLIAMS.
The Chicago Press describes the town and the catastrophe which befell it:
Ellison is a village in a township of that name, lying due south of the line of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, the nearest station of which, Young America, is five miles distant. Monmouth, the county seat of Warren County, is twelve miles to the northeast and Galesburg, Knox County, is twenty-five miles nearly northeast, and the Mississippi is about sixteen miles west.
The village was a farming community and one of the older settlements of that section. The larger share of the structures, some sixty or seventy in number, that constituted the village, were ranged on a single straight, street, running in a direction almost east and west, being the main county road running to the Mississippi and Burlington.
The surface is level prairie thence extending to Monmouth, a dead level, and on a clear day the Ellison timber can be seen skirting the horizon from Monmouth.
In this belt of timber the first traces of the tornado appear, Saturday and Sunday seem to have preserved very nearly the same characteristics in the vicinity of the ill-fated village as in this region. Sunday was showery throughout the day. As the afternoon waned the sky to the southwest had a most threatening appearance. A heavy bank of clouds of inky blackness seemed to rest upon the very surface of the prairie. In the language of JOHN McWILLIAMS, who is a relative of several of the victims,
"they seemed to sweep the very prairie." MR. McWILLIAMS noted the approach of the storm from his farm-house, about a mile north of the street.
He saw two threateningly black clouds meet apparently about a mile west of the village, with the wildest commotion, and move on towards the village. The utmost alarm filled the minds of his own family, and of those in adjacent farm houses, but how much less than the abject terror of the villagers who saw, but not in season to avoid.
The track of the tempest must tell the rest. The tornado struck the village about 5 1/2 o'clock, and during ints continuance no rain fell. The houses were frame structures. There was a large tavern stand and three stores, those of SAMUEL JOHNSON, JOSEPH KNOWLES and another. The appearance of the dwellings and structures after the passage of the whirlwind, is described by one eye-witness "as if one should tear to pieces and scatter a lumber yard." Of roofs and walls, and the various structures, there was seen in many instances scarcely a trace, as if a giant's hand had reduced and torn them to shreds and splinters. They lay scattered over the fields; here a piece of broken furniture and there a shattered door, and beyond an undistinguishable mass of timbers and boards, floor beams, ceiling and rafters. Even the bodies of some of the sufferers were torn to pieces.
An iron safe weighing nine hundred pounds, was taken from JOHNSON'S store and carried thirty feet. Horses, cattle and hogs were taken up by the wind, carried in the air and dashed to the earth, killed by the fall.
The track of the whirlwind seems not to have been very wide, nor was its course a long one. Scattered farm houses about the village in various directions still stand, and though the wind was high, were uninjured, but of the village proper only three small cabins or shanties, which were to the southward of the line of desolating destruction, were spared, and they alone remain of the ill-fated village of Ellison.
Among the dead are a MR. JOHN HAND, his son, about ten years of age, and a babe, the latter of whom is supposed to have been drowned. The whole family appear to have been whirled with the fragments of theis dwelling quite up into the air and deposited a considerable distance from where the house stood near a slough. MR. HAND was carried about fifteen rods, and in his terrible flight received a frightful wound in his side from a timber. He survived until the next morning.
Another family named McWILLIAMS suffered terribly. MISS MARY ANN McWILLIAMS, about 22, her sister HARRIET, aged about 16, and her brother THOMAS, about 14, are among the dead, and the poor old mother, eighty years of age -- the only remaining member of the family, except some older children who were living at a distance -- was very badly injured.
W. E. THOMPSON, his wife and child, MRS. BRAZLETON and her two children, a son and daughter, MARTIN WENTWORTH, LEVINA LACEY, HIRAM JOHNSON and child, and two other persons whose names were unknown to the informant, make up the list of the fourteen instantly killed, comprised in a special dispatch to us from Monmouth last evening. These embrace all the names of the dead which we have been able to obtain.
As near as can be ascertained in the confusion which prevailed, about fifty persons were very seriously and many more slightly injured. Among the injured was MR. SAMUEL JOHNSTON, merchant, who has one leg and three ribs broken.

The New York Times New York 1858-06-07