The Tornado of 1925

Jackson County, IL

* These newspaper articles was generously contributed by Sheila Cadwalader who obtained the article from a collection of Newspaper clippings at the Brehm Library in Mt. Vernon, IL.  Some of the newspapers were not identified.  A special thank you  goes to Carla Pulliam who aided Sheila in compiling this information. The obituaries are extracts from Harold Felty's Legacy of Kin.  
Thanks, Sheila!

Also, some information here comes from: 
History of Illinois and Her People
; pub. 1927, pgs. 405/406

Jackson County, IL

DeSota  Gorham Murphysboro


DeSoto, IL

The storm passed over the north half of the village of DeSoto.  Not a single business house was left nor a church nor the public school.  A score of children lost their lives in the wreckage of the public school.  It was a miracle that any pupils or teachers came out alive.  This little town lost 154 residences beside all store.  In less than an hour from the time the storm hit the village relief parties from Carbondale were rescuing the injured and caring for the dead.  The injured were rushed to Carbondale and soon the hospital and the churches were filled with the injured.  Before six o-clock sandwiches and coffee were being served to the workers and the homeless on the street in DeSoto.  Within twenty four hours the injured were under proper treatment in homes or in the hospitals of Carbondale.
[History of Illinois]


DeSoto, IL: Large number of dead will be placed side by side in nearby cemetery.  This desolate wreck of what until two days ago was a little village of 500 contented men, women and children, today is the scene of the last act of the prank of the elements,  - the internment in DeSoto soil of all that is earthly of thirty of it's inhabitants.

Besides the lonely piles of debris that once were homes, a great grave yawned today. Nearby in neat arrangement, guarded by a few sentinels, neighbors of those that watched, were the caskets of a score of the victims brought here throughout the afternoon by hurrying hearses which disgorged their burden only to return to nearby towns for others.

Today the hearses bring more of the now silent neighbors back to their silent village. Then beside the great grave will gather about 200 DeSoto people, all that escaped uninjured of last Wednesday's tornado, and the caskets will be lowered one by one in the earth.

The services themselves will be simple. A minister will say a prayer, there will be hymns, a short reading of scripture and another hymn and neighbors will replace the earth they removed today.

The caskets, in varying sizes, are black or gray. In the large black ones are the fathers and mothers of DeSoto, in the smaller gray ones are the school children, some of the thirty killed in the collapse of the DeSoto school as screaming tots sought to escape the falling bricks.

Two of the 69 known dead, 49 of which have now been identified, were buried today. They were a mother and daughter. Beside the large grave in the little DeSoto cemetery two other single graves will be opened. Sunday others of DeSoto's people will take their places in the little plot beside their neighbors, following the services. Tonight the little town was dark except for a few dim lights in half a dozen homes that almost miraculously escaped destruction, the flickering candles of those who have come back to try to recreate homes out of a mass of debris, and the lanterns of the sentinels maintaining their lonely vigil beside their silent neighbors.

The list of known dead from Wednesday's tornado follows:

Margaret NEAL       Fay HYDE
Ruth BROTHER, baby Ruby AUSTIN
Mrs. S.O. SOUTH  Mrs. SILB
___ BROWN   Tina May BRYANT
Frank WOODS   Mrs. Arch WILL
Nora WILL Millard BAKER
John BARR  Mrs. Barbara HALL
_____ AUSTIN      Mr. and Mrs. Frank REDD  (REED?)
Mrs. Morton BASH  Mrs. WESTWOOD
Helen WATTS    Viola FORD
Man Named OLIVER (name unclear)  Eula MORRISON
Mrs. Henry BULLARD  Joseph HARTLEY
Richard BEASLEY     R.L. HYDE
Mrs. ____ HUGHES  George HUGHES and daughter
Son of Rev. STECESS   _____ BAINBRIDGE, girl
_____ DICKSON, girl     Three unidentified women
One unidentified boy.

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Gorham, IL  

The little town of Gorham near the river in Jackson County was completely wiped out.  There was scarcely a house left undamaged.  The depot, high school, and all the business houses on the principal street were leveled to the ground.  Several people were killed and scores were wounded.  Most of the seriously wounded were taken to the hospitals in Cairo.  

The situation was extremely distressing.  There were no public buildings left and few private ones.  There was no drug store left and medical aid was limited.  No hospital, no nurses, and night was soon upon them.  A train carried some of the wounded to Cairo and the living ministered as best they could to those left behind.  [History of Illinois]


Gorham, IL:   Twenty nine bodies remained here  to be buried today, twenty-two were sent
to St. Louis and an unknown number to Cairo, the record of Gorham's toll to last Wednesday's tornado. Fifteen to twenty persons are in a few of the homes which remained standing after the twister had passed.  Such is the count of J.P. GLENN, acting city clerk, the only person here who has kept a tally of the death amidst the scene of devastation hardly expressed by that phase. 

Of the eighty houses originally in the village of more than 500 inhabitants, only twenty houses stand and not one of them escaped damage. GLENN indicated his belief that the original number, 67, fixed as the loss of life here was not an exaggeration.  The basement of the school house was the only place left for a temporary morgue. The super-structure of the school building was entirely carried away, but the first floor was left to serve as a roof above the dead.  Between Gorham and Murphysboro, eighteen miles to the east, the country side presents a scene of utter devastation.

Visible from the road was the wreckage of more than a score of farm houses, barns and other buildings, and more than 50 farm homes and their complements seriously damaged. The tornado, as it twisted its angry way through the rural section, cut a swath from 200 yards to mile wide in which no trees remained erect, and in which farm animals were strewn about.  Farmers and their families were prodding the ruins of their homes for precious belongings.

Death seemed not to have stepped heavily, however, despite the scenes of confusion left in the twister's wake. It seemed that the comparatively flimsy construction of the farm houses in itself provided salvation in that, easily swept away, they were not driven in on their occupants. The SCHOFIELD farm, a show place just outside Sandridge, was blown away flat.

Eighteen box cars were wrecked in Gorham, and the Missouri Pacific railroad station was wrecked. 

Ernest SWARTZ, Cashier of the First National Bank, heard the approach of the tornado, grabbed the money and records and rushed into the vault. Just as he closed the door the building caved in. Only one $20 bill was lost. SWARTZ said that after the storm he picked up all the silver money he had been unable to clutch in his dash to safety.  The day previous, SWARTZ had talked about a storm with his mother, and had told her that he would follow the course he did if one should approach. She warned him not to go into the vault, because of the possibility of his being killed by a poison gas protection devise.  Today she said she was "tickled pink" because her son disregarded her advice.

Fire did not follow the tornado as it did at Murphysboro, where it added to the horror of the situation. Only one house was burned here, but in it three persons were incinerated.

The damage was estimated here at $150,000.  A serious food shortage developed here today, although relief forthcoming immediately when the Red Cross shipped in a carload of food. 

"It took us twenty-five years to build this town to what it was" said Mr. GLENN, "and now in one instant it has been wiped out."  Gorham's death list from the tornado includes two entire families, one of three members and the other made up of a mother and four grown children.

The list as established by J.P. GLEN, the only man to keep even a partial list of the casualties, follows.

Gorham, IL Death List

ASBURY, Murray  BARTON, Charles
BEAN, R. BROWN, Margaret
CASEY, Bertha  CRAIN, Reuben and wife Ollie
CRAIN, Ollie (w/o Reuben) CRANE, sister of R. CRAIN  
CROSS, Della, Gerald DUNN, Joe Robert 
FONCREE, William GALE, Lawrence 
NEEDHAM, Lafayette MOSCHENROSE, Mrs.  Mary
STAMP, Frances    THORMURE, George
WHITE, Kitty

Twelve of Gorham's 65-70 victims were buried today The precise number of victims whose life was snuffed out by a whimsical factor probably will never be known for in the devastation and confusion, only one man kept a list and that admittedly incomplete. It showed 29 bodies here, 22 sent to St. Louis and an unknown number forwarded to Cairo, Illinois. Only about 15 injured persons remained here. The serious cases were sent to St. Louis and Cairo. Gorham, the first town hit in Illinois as the whirling fury leaped the Mississippi River, after its onslaught on Annapolis, Mo., suffered tremendously. Of its approximately 80 buildings, 60 were destroyed, and of the remaining 20, not one escaped unscathed.

Gorham spurned all outside aid, although a food shortage threatened until the Red Cross sent a carload of food. "Gorham will fight its own battles," said B.B. EASLEY, chief storekeeper of the town. "There is a food shortage, but we can not let that get to the outside world.

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At Murphysboro the northwest portion of the city was laid waste.  One hundred and twenty blocks were included in the devastated area.  The township high school was in the right edge of the storm.  It was seriously wrecked.  Three students died from injuries and many were injured.  The Longfellow ward school was laid low with 10 deaths.  The Logan school was wrecked and five children taken out dead.  Among other buildings razed were the Baptist Church, the Mobile & Ohio round house and shops, the Reliance flour mill, the Christian church, a large hotel, a second hotel greatly damaged.  The Brown shoe factory employing several hundred hands was badly damaged but fortunately no lives were lost in this building.  At Murphysboro the hospital was soon full, and temporary hospitals were installed in the Eagles Homes, in the Elks Home, the Masonic Hall, Legion Home and in some of the churches.  The city was without light, gas, telephone, or telegraph.  However the city was lighted by a fire which raged from the early evening till midnight or after.  It defied all efforts of the firemen assisted by the fire trucks from neighboring towns.   About midnight a relief train arrived from St. Louis bringing doctors, nurses, supplies, and helpers. The total number of deaths in Murphysboro was 204.  [History of Illinois]

Benton Evening News  -  21 March 1925 Issue  


Death List at Murphysboro Still Growing

Murphysboro, IL. - Murphysboro's death increased again today when the recovery of bodies and deaths of injured brought the total to 180. Despite the growing death toll and predictions that it would be still further increased, the atmosphere changed suddenly from one surcharged with tension, fear and strict plodding to one of the fair equanimity. The change was manifested in the attitude of relief workers, national guard officers and the townspeople themselves who,  accustomed after three days to the tangled wreckage which litters virtually the entire city and the veritable wilderness where 1,000 residences stood, joked over narrow escapes and freaks of the whimsical wind.

Through it all, however, there was no let up to alleviate the sufferings of the approximate 700 injured, 300 of whom still were in a serious condition and the nearly 4000 homeless. Enough doctors and nurses were in the Murphysboro area to take care of the situation, desperate though it was, and the 108th Medical Regiment from Chicago was held at Carbondale today as there was no need for it here. There was no excess of relief supplies however, and a constant stream of victims, many of whom possessed nothing but the clothing on their backs with much of it in rags, passed through relief stations, obtaining at one place an order for necessary clothing and at another food tickets.

Medicine, dressings, clothing and food was coming in by the car load but those directing the work of relief had no fear that quantities than needed would be available.

Most of the debris was cleared from the main streets today, but many blocks remained so badly clogged with fallen poles, roofs, uprooted trees, twisted wires and the other litter that once had made beautiful residence districts divided by tree-lined streets that even foot passage was slow and tedious.

The feared death list in rural communities hereabouts had failed to develop tonight but a few deaths are being reported from the territory surrounding Murphysboro. The path of the storm as it tore through the rural districts was no less severe than that recorded in the urban sections. Farm houses, barns, sheds, hay stacks, trees and growing crops were flattened but for some reason, possibly best explained by the comparatively flimsy structures, the frenzied wind failed to add deaths to its toll of destruction in any appreciable proportion.

Scouts sent out from Murphysboro to review the rural condition reported some suffering but added only three deaths and since they were in the immediate vicinity of this city, they were attached to Murphysboro's list.


Murphysboro, Ill, March 29...With the death of Mrs. Eliza Humphreys in a Murphysboro hospital Friday the tornado death toll here was increased to 215.

Lightning Thursday killed Granville Whitelaw, who was living with his family in a tent on the site of where his home was destroyed by the storm last week.


From: The Daily Independent - Extra
Thursday, March 19, 1925

Storm and fire -  dead is 106 here on Thursday. More bodies are reaching the morgues hourly.  Hundreds are injured, many seriously. DeSoto dead reported at 118. School collapsed, town flat. Gorham destroyed.

Italian woman, four children     Mrs. J.W. GIBSON
J.W. MIFFLIN        Frances HAMMER
Unidentified woman at high school. Joe MOORE
John HAMERHELH and brother Ben Mary DAVIS
Mrs. Ardell SPANGLER and child  Mrs. Louis MILLER
3 unidentified children   Robert PILTZ
Clara BAILEY Dr. L.R. WAYMAN's son
1 unidentified girl 3 dead in Tower Grove settlement
Alworth GREGORY Mrs. George BAKER
BAKER's child  HASSEBROCK's child
1 unidentified child Dorris STEVENSON
Jerry CALLAHAN's child  Albert CALLAHAN's child
1 unidentified girl         Joe CORRENTI's child
Helen May COOK (child) Colombus PEIRSON's child
Dr. FORSHEE's son-in-law Mrs. Mary BRANDON
1 unidentified woman  Mrs. George BERGER
1 unidentified man Mrs. Mart HALLIDAY
S.M. HANEY, Meridian, Miss. J.A. JONES
Son of James FIELDING      Claud LIPE
Jerry N. MIFFLIN WILLIS, (child)
Joe BARONI  Albert NAUSLEY, son of Ray
unidentified man Mrs. Wallace BLACKLOCK
Ivan LIPE  Bernard SHELEY
Mrs. L.E. FILE Minnie BECK
Edna HAYS Child of Robert McCORD
Mr. and Mrs. O.S. SILVEY - - - GREGORY
3 unidentified children William SPURLOZZIE
Dolph ISOM, colored Mrs. JONES, colored
Mrs. KELLY, colored  1 unidentified man
Mary MAINARD  Major VERBAL and wife
1 of STIVER's children 3 unidentified women
Mrs. Sam RODMAN Mrs. SLATER, colored
Sister of Necie COFFER Joe HENRY
Mrs. Anna LOY    Charles LOY
Thomas LOY     Mrs. HALL

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