New Richmond, WI Tornado, Jun 1899 - Maybe 200 Dead

Thinks Two Hundred Dead 
Reporter from St. Paul Tells of the Devastation 

St. Paul, Minn., June 13. -- A reporter of the Dispatch who went to New Richmond, Wis., last night on the first relief trains returned this morning and fully confirms the reports of the dreadful calamity which visited that place about 6 o'clock last night. 

The pretty little town is almost totally wiped off the map, and of its 2,500 inhabitants, 200 lie dead amongst the ruins of their homes; about 1,000 are injured, many fatally. Scarcely two score escaped without injury of some nature.

Inhabitants of the village felt no alarm until about 5:30, when heavy dun-colored clouds gathered on the western horizon and soon spread over the sky, gradually growing denser and darker and presaging a tornado. 

Great alarm prevailed shortly before the storm broke and refuge was sought in cellars, wells, caves or other underground structures that promised safety. The wind began blowing with terrible force. 

Trees were broken off short by the force of the gale, which struck the town full in the center, and in ten minutes awful destruction had been wrought. The largest brick blocks crumbled like eggshells. The lighter frame structures were whisked away like so much straw and many houses were carried for blocks and dashed to the earth. 

Five hundred buildings, the finest in the town, were wrecked and when the storm had passed, about the only structures of any note left standing were the Catholic and Baptist churches. 

Not a residence was left uninjured. 

Lumber yards went up in the clouds, the huge planks being sliced into shingles. A large iron bridge over Apple river was blown into fragments and the parts distributed along the banks a half mile away. 

Two large iron safes were caught up and carried a distance of a block. One of these weighed 3,000 pounds. 

Within a space of a few blocks a hundred bodies were counted. Legs and arms were missing in many cases. One body was found with the head clipped off. 

Not all who sought refuge in cellars escaped. In some cases houses collapsed and those in the cellars were entombed. To add to the horrors of the situation fires started by overturned stoves, and many wounded, unable to drag themselves out of danger, suffered death by burning. 

A circus was in town and farmers had gathered to see the show. A few minutes before the storm struck many who had just come from the circus, rushed to a brick building close at hand. This building was destroyed. It is difficult to say how many perished there. 

At the Nicollet hotel guests were at dinner. All sought the cellar. So far as known most of those in this house were saved. 

As nearly as can be ascertained the storm first struck at a place called Catfish bar, a short distance below Stillwater, and laid waste the entire country from that point to New Richmond. 

Three Hundred Coffins 
Order Sent to Minneapolis for That Number 

Minneapolis, Minn., June 13. -- The through Wisconsin Central train succeeded in reaching here this morning, having come through New Richmond at an early hour. The tracks were all clear save where the contents of a lumber yard were scattered over them. 

Conductor Gavin says he took twelve refugees to St. Paul with him. When the train came through the air was so full of smoke from burning buildings that it was difficult to tell the extent of the disaster. The central part of the town, however, was wrecked. A fire engine had arrived from a neighboring town and was doing its best to check the flames. There was no medical assistance at that time, one of the local doctors having been killed and the other had both legs broken. The railroads had brought in large numbers of visitors for the circus and Gavin says there must have been from 2,500 to 3,000 people in town. He brought an order for 300 coffins, but this, of course, was simply an estimate of the possible dead by the local relief committee. 

The Nebraska State Journal, Lincoln, NE, 14 Jun 1899