Clark and Taylor Counties, WI tornado, Sept 1924
Death Rides Tornado
Worst Storm in History of County Levels Homes and Farm Buildings Last Sunday.
Sunday afternoon a terrific cyclone swept across the northwest corner of this county and across Taylor county, leaving dead, dying and wounded in its trail, with many dead farm animals and property damage probably running far over a million dollars. Rumors of the storm reached Neillsville toward evening, inaccurate and greatly exaggerated mainly to the effect that Thorp village was practically wiped out with several hundred killed, Withee and Owen also badly wrecked and country laid to waste. All over this region there had been thunder showers during the day and strong winds which blew down shade trees, fruit trees and small buildings. An intense and sultry heat prevailed which culminated in several different cyclones in the north part of the state. The one that crossed this county seemed to have originated in Eau Claire County and crossed Highway 18 between Fairchild and Augusta where a house was wrecked. It proceeded in a northeasterly direction, passing into Clark County and crossing a thinly populated region, it emerged from the woods at the Wm. Oberle farm almost 4 miles directly south of Thorp. The house was lifted clear off the foundation and carried fully ten rods, whirled to pieces and thrown into a creek, the barn and farm machinery being scattered far and wide. The Oberle family took refuge in the cellar and no one was hurt. The storm next struck the John Frese farm, taking the barn and house and injuring a boy; the next mark were the farms of Richard and Peter Biddle where their big barns were carried away, but the houses on the opposite side of the road were left standing though somewhat damaged. On the highway the whirling storm caught a Ford coupe in which were Joseph Schmidfrantz, cheesemaker at Bobb's factory and his wife and little girl two or three years old. They were carried through the air fully forty rods, striking the ground here and there and finally dropped in a field, the car smashed to a shapeless mass. Mr. Schmidfrantz was not much hurt, but his wife was badly injured and the child hurt so that she died soon after.
The next place struck was the Rogatski farm. The house and barn were torn to pieces and a girl 16 years of age killed. Here name is reported from the daily papers as Rose Graikowski. The Frank hedler barn was destroyed and house badly damaged. His son Thomas Hedler on the old Roy Brown farm lost his buildings and had his leg broken.
At the Nobilski farm the buildings were all carried away and here a man named Kobalockik aged about 65 was killed. Mr. Nobilski had about a dozen head of cattle killed. Up to Monday night no other dead except those mentioned above had been brought into Thorp. One woman reported dead was at the time still alive. An unconfirmed rumor was going that two men had been killed in the woods before the storm struck the Oberle farm. The storm crossed the Soo line about four miles east of Thorp, crossed the town of Withee and entered Taylor county, still pursuing a northeasterly course and passed out of Taylor county near Chelsea. All along the path death and destruction marked its way. The dead and injured along the line from some distance were brought into Owen, some being cared for at the County Asylum. Many fatalities are reported around Redville in Taylor County, north of Withee, fully 12 dead being reported brought to the undertakers at Owen. Some of the injured were taken to Eau Claire hospital. Some are reported brought out to points on the Soo line near Medford. Among the dead are M. Kolycrack, Harry Barry, Lydia Venet, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Norris, Peter Magyja, two Magyja children, Mrs. Sam Thorsen, Walter Hill and child, child of Frank Weaver, Mrs. Chester Dimeant, Mrs. Sam Munson, and Chas. Kanzus.
Fatalities are reported from other storms in Bayfield, Ashland, Lincoln, and Oneida Counties.
As is usual in cyclones the Sundaytorm played many freakish tricks. Along the line may be seen several barns completely carried away and scattered and the hay stored therein still standing like huge stacks on basements; wire fences were torn away and twisted into tangled masses. In the havoc wrought by the whirlwind there were doubtless many narrow escapes - in fact as one views the ruined homes, it seems strange that anyone in the path of the tornado could escape.
Measure of relief were taken at once; the Red Cross at Eau Claire offered assistance and medical assistance came from towns along the line. Squads of girls and boys with flags in hand stood on the highways with red tags in hand, asking the hundreds of sight seers to contribute to aid funds - all who contributed being tagged. Doubtless hundreds of dollars were taken in this way. A considerable number carried wind insurance which partly covered the loss, but all of those will be but a small thing compared with the damage done. It is quite probable that some organized relief will be undertaken.
The reports to daily papers on Wednesday morning give the estimated number of dead in Clark and Taylor county at 34. John Graikowski near Thorp whose daughter was one of the victims went violently insane on Tuesday. The red Cross and local contributors are rushing to relief to sufferers along the line of the tornado. The Lynn Mutual Tornado Co., completed adjustments of its losses in the district on Tuesday amounting to about $22,000, which the company will pay immediately.
A survey has been made by the Thorp Red Cross along the line of the storm, each family's loss being estimated the financial condition of families, what each needs at once, etc. Second hand clothing and furniture are needed first. All who can contribute useful articles will please bring same to Geo. A. Ure, Red Cross Chairman, at the Court House or send directly to Mrs. Geo. Zillman in charge Red Cross branch at Thorp.
A meeting of citizens is called by the Mayor of Neillsville for Thursday evening at the City Hall.
The Clark County Press, Neillsville, WI 25 Sept 1924