New Richmond, WI Tornado, Jun 1899 - Disastrous Tornado

List of Injured Probably Double the Number of Killed -- Measures Taken for Relief -- Story of a Survivor

New Richmond, Wis., June 13.-- The tornado that has swept out of existence this prosperous little city is the most disastrous in point of fatality ever occurring in this section. The exact number of dead is still unknown, but it will certainly reach one hundred, and very probably will considerably exceed that figure. As they were recovered the bodies were brought to the school house or to the Catholic or Congregational churches. Thence they are to be taken to the cemetery, except in a few cases where homes still stood in which the remains can be kept for a few hours during which the final tribute of love can be tendered by the bereaved families. The bodies were prepared for burial by local and visiting undertakers, and as soon as identified were marked and disposed of as their friends requested.

Nurses and physicians who had come down by special train, were of great help, and when the day closed all the seriously injured were believed to have been cared for. Those whose injuries were serious, but whose chances for recovery were believed to be good, were quickly sent to the hospitals of St. Paul and Minneapolis, where better care can be given them. The slightly injured and those whose cases seem hopeless, were kept here and were given the best help possible.

Fire Adds to the Horror

A fire company kept two streams of water pouring on the smouldering ruins, for fire had been added to the horrors of the tornado, until the close of the day, when a heavy rain about extinguished the flames. Some of the merchants organized private salvage corps, and managed to save some property, although the amount was small.

The business portion of the city covered a space of four squares each way, and was solidly built of brick and stone. This entire space was swept clear, foundation walls and in some places masses of debris alone marking where the business places formerly stood. Trees that had lined the streets that had lined the streets of residence districts were broken clear off or twisted and uprooted.

The tornado came up the river from Hudson, where the damage was comparatively slight. Following the general course of the river, and the branch of the Omaha road the storm gained in intensity as it progressed and was at its worst when it struck the business district of New Richmond. Outlying residences in the path of the storm were stripped of shingles and boards or sides were blown off or as much frequently happened, were torn asunder and the fragments were scattered to the four winds.

The Town Full of People

Trees were uprooted and roadways blocked, washed away or so overflowed as to be made totally unrecognizable.

A circus was in town on Monday, and people had come in from all the surrounding country to see the show.

After the circus the people had crowded into the city to do their shopping before going home. It was at this time that the storm cloud came up from the southwest.

As soon as the news of the disaster reached the outside world, help began to come into the city. St. Paul was the first to learn of the storm and within two hours sent the first relief train with physicians, nurses, supplies, etc. for the people of the stricken city. A second and third train soon followed and speedily neighboring cities in Wisconsin sent in all they could gather. The Omaha and the Wisconsin Central roads promptly carried through all the supplies and delivered them to relief headquarters, whence they were delivered to the people of the city.

Congressman J.J. Jenkins of this district arrived early on the scene and promptly advised Governor Scofield of the situation and the need of relief. The Western Union Telegraph Company notified the mayor that all messages relating to relief and the needs of the stricken city would be carried out free. Hundreds of morbidly curious people from neighboring cities thronged the ruined town today and crowded about those whose hearts had been wrung with anguish.

A Scene of Desolation

The desolate view of the New Richmond of today is one not soon to be forgotten. Along the broken fragments of their homes the people wander helplessly, striving somewhat aimlessly and hopelessly to get together what had been left to them. On the east and west limits of the city many houses were still standing with little or no damage and to these homes the occupants welcomed their less fortunate neighbors and friends, giving them such aid as was possible and the sympathy that is so much to stricken souls. The property loss cannot be estimated at this time and may never be accurately known. It was almost total, as no tornado insurance was carried in town and only in small numbers of place where fire joined in the destruction of property will the owners be at all reimbursed for their losses.

Continued