Westervelt, IL Tornado, May 1917

$50,000 Loss In Shelby County Town-Evangelical Church Wrecked As Children Practice For Special Exercises.

Shelbyville, May 26-Six persons were almost instantly killed, three probably fatally injured and a score less seriously hurt at Westervelt, ten miles northwest of Shelbyville, about 3 o'clock Saturday afternoon. A tornado, traveling from the northwest to the southeast struck the town, demolishing buildinngs (sic) and wrecking homes, the total damage amounting to approximately $50,000.


MRS. HERMAN CHRISTMAN, aged 65, crushed in the ruins of her home. MRS CHRISTMAN was Westervelt correspondent for The Review.


MRS. KATE JACKSON, aged 63, also crushed under Christman home.

DAVID MCDONALD, aged 65, struck by falling timbers.

EVERETT GLENN MCDONALD, aged 15, nephew of DAVID MCDONALD, killed at farm seven miles east of Assumption.

GWEN CARROLL, aged 8, daughter of JOHN CARROLL, crushed under ruins of Evangelical church. Died at 9 o'clock Saturday night in hospital at Pana.


MRS. DAVID M'DONALD, struck by flying missile while running for safety. May die.

LAWRENCE LICHTENWATER, aged 14 son of MRS. HESTER LICHTENWATER. Leg broken and other injuries to head and body. May die.


Three children of O. CORLEY. Not serious.



F. W. MIELKE, Bloomington, fireman on Illinois Central, struck by flying timbers near Dunkel. May die.


MRS. HERMAN CHRISTMAN and MISS MYRTLE CHRISTMAN and MRS. KATE JACKSON were killed when they started to go down the basement stairs in the HERMAN [CHRISTMAN] home, to a place of safety. MR. CHRISTMAN had gone to the basement when he realized the danger from the tornado. He had called to MRS. CHRISTMAN and MISS MYRTLE CHRISTMAN to come to the basement and they were answering his summons when the house was lifted from its foundation, catching both women as they started down the stairs. Both were killed instantly.

Another woman, who was a guest in the CHRISTMAN home and who did not leave the upstairs portion, was uninjured. The house was demolished.


One of the most heartrending scenes was in the United Evangelical church, a large frame structure, where between forty and fifty children had gathered to rehearse for the children's day exercises Sunday. The tots were in the middle of their exercises when with a terrible roar the tornado struck the building.

Terror-stricken, the children made a rush for the organist, MRS. OTTO CHRISTMAN. The church building came toppling about their heads. Many of them sustained broken arms and legs. Some nearly died of fright.

The big belfry came down in a heap on top of them. It is believed that this saved many of the children as it formed a sort of canopy which prevented the heavy timbers from crushing them. When the wreckage was pulled away, the children were found huddled together near the organist. It was at this point, that the little CARROLL girl, who afterwards died of her injuries, was located.


The tornado cut a swath 150 feet wide through the best residence district of the town. It swept the houses clear for a distance of three and a half blocks. Among the residences totally destroyed were those of LLOYD ROBERTSON, HOMER CALVERT, MISS DORA DONNELL, MRS. KATE JACKSON, AUGUST CHRISTMAN, HERMAN CHRISTMAN, THOMAS DUCKETT and the Evangelical church.

Among the residences which were bady [sic] damaged were those of DAVID DOUGHERTY, E. E. LICHTENWATER, CHARLES CALVERT, REV. S. E. EBERLEY, MARK JACKSON, BRYANT CORLEY, LLOYD ROBINSON and E. O. CORLEY. The Farmers National bank building and DR. C. B. KERR's office and the HOOD WEAKLY house were also damaged. Many barns and garages were blown away. A new automobile belonging to MISS DORA DONNELL was almost completely demolished. Scarcely any of the stores were damaged.

The body of MRS. JACKSON was found crushed into the earth at the CHRISTMAN home. She was the mother-in-law of JUDGE A. J. STEIDLEY of Shelbyville.


While no definite figures have been complied on the property loss in Westervelt it is estimated that the value of the dozen or more good substantial homes, together with the United Evangelical church destroyed, would total about $50,000.


The dozen or more stores in Westervelt were not in the path of the tornado. Only one business structure, the First National bank, was touched by the cyclone. The cornice on this structure was slightly damaged

The Daily Review, Decatur, IL 27 May 1917



Death Toll at Westervelt Remains at Six.

Shelbyville, May 30-The death list at Wetervelt [sic], resultant from the tornado that devastated that village Saturday afternoon, remains at six Hopes are growing stronger that there will be no increase in the number through the death of more of the injured

It is reported from the Pana hospital that MRS. DAVID MCDONALD and LAWRENCE LICHTENWALTER, the most severely injured of the survivors, are improving FERN LICHTENWALTER an older sister of LAWRENCE, was taken to the hospital at Pana Monday evening, her condition having shown no improvement since she sustained her injuries


The condition of little RUTH CORLEY, who sustained a fracture of the collar bone of two other children of MR and MRS O E CORLEY, of MRS FLETA CHRISTMAN, MISS PEARL MCDONALD LORRAINE CHRISTMAN, the daughter of MR and MRS HARLEY CHRISTMAN, whose eye was injured MRS HOMER CALVERT and MRS CHARLES CALVERT, together with the others who were more or less seriously injured including the three children of REV S G EBERLY, is reported satisfctory The three EBERLY children each with a broken limb, are at the hospital in Pana.

A careful estimate Tuesday by a man who knew the character of the buildings destroyed in the storm at Westervelt, placed the loss on buildings wholly and partially ruined at a total of $21,150

In Rural township where GLEN F MCDONALD was killed in the yard of his home and his father GENE MCDONALD was seriously hurt the MCDONALD residence and those of WILLIAM ROGERS and ROBERT HARPER together with the Center church were completely wrecked while several other houses in the same neighborhood wr (sic) damaged


One of the most striking escapes was that of MISS MAUDE CHRISTMAN, who was in the home of her parents MR and MRS HERMAN CHRISTMAN when it was lifted from its foundation, and her mother MRS KATE JACKSON, and her cousin MISS MYRTLE CHRISTMAN were killed MAUDE CHRISTMAN had started to follow the other women out of doors to the cellarway but had not passed through the door when the tornado struck the building An instant before she had reached out and drawn little Catherine CHRISTMAN, a daughter of MR and MRS Harley CHRISTMAN who was running to the cellarway, into the house Both she and the child escaped unhurt.

The Daily Review, Decatur, IL 30 May 1917