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Rochester, Minnesota - Images of America Series

With nearly 200 photographs and insightful commentary that help preserve the city's rich history, this book is a tribute to the individuals and institutions that gave rise to this classic Midwestern city. The homesteaders of the 19th century, the founders of Rochester's tradition of medical excellence, and many of the enterprises that contributed to Rochester's growth are remembered here.



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Rochester, Minnesota Tornado ... Rochester, Minnesota Tornado
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Rochester, Minnesota Tornado

August 21, 1883

Swoop of Death.


The City of Rochester in Ruins.

Hundreds Believed to have Perished.

A Train Blown from the Track and 100 Passengers Killed or Wounded.

The Governor Called on for State Assistance.

The Disaster Thought to be Unprecidented in the Northwest.

St. Paul, Aug. 22.
-- A cyclode [sic] which raged at Rochester last night is reported to have been very severe. 24 are reported killed, 50 or more injured. Vague rumors of a train disaster by being blown from the track are also coming in, but no particulars.

St. Paul, Aug. 22.
-- The passenger train on the Rochester & Northern road was blown from the track last night during a cyclone and 100 were killed and wounded.

Governor HUBBARD just received word from Rochester, Minn., stating that the town is in ruins and forty persons killed. It is impossible to learn any details, as the telegraph wires are all down. The storm in other directions was only a severe hail storm and no great damage was done. Particulars are expected on the special train.

St. Paul, Aug. 22. -- Passengers from Owatonna state that 25 were killed in the R. R. accident. The injured were taken to the hospital at Owatonna. The Mayor of Rochester telegraphs for assistance and states that 25 were killed and about 40 injured. One-third of the train is an entire wreck. It is believed from all the reports that come in that the whole country around Rochester is in ruins. The killed may reach up into the hundreds. MR. COLE, proprietor of the Zumbrota mills at Zumbrota was instantly killed. He was in the mill when the storm struck the town, and the building was wrecked. Gov. HUBBARD has sent $5,000 to aid sufferers.

The Oshkosh Northwestern Wisconsin 1883-08-22



More Details of the Great Cyclone.

A Ruined Town, Ruined Crops and a Suffering People.

A Portion of the Deathly Calendar.


A correspondent at Rochester telegraphs. Just one month ago a fearful cyclone passed six miles north of Rochester. Now it passes through it. The day had been beautiful, although being warm until afternoon, when clouds began to gather. The atmosphere was oppressive, heavy and hot. About four o'clock it seemed as though it had commenced to clear up, but soon heavy black clouds came from the northwest and rain fell heavily. Directly after six the clouds assumed the greenish appearance that is the fore-runner of these terrible visitants, accompanied by a rumbling noise, and in a short time the wind rose, increasing in violence until the full force of the cyclone was upon it. What was once a well-populated portion of the city was a scene of ruin. To describe it is impossible. It must be seen for the mind to grasp its terrible destruction. The cyclone possessed the same peculiarities which marked the one on July 21st. Its main course was through the lower town, but its force was felt more or less in all parts of the city and its freaks were simply wonderful. It demolished well-built structures on Broadway, doing no harm to adjacent buildings beyond overturning chimnies {sic] and stripping the tin coverings from roofs.

As before stated, that portion of the city north of the railroad called Lower Town, received the most damage. Indeed there is not a house that is not injured and not to exceed twenty that are left standing. In some parts it looks at a distance as though there never had been a building standing in that portion of the city, while in other sections the remains of houses show the

of the wind. As soon as the cyclone had passed and people in the more favored portion of the city began to learn of the damage, they went at once to Lower Town to render what assistance they could, many working all night.

Commencing at the J. R. Cook House on the St. Paul Road, which was entirely demolished, the cyclone next took LELAND'S residence, barn and out-buildings, not leaving a stick standing. Thence it swept through Lower Town. From the appearance of the ground it seems as though a terrific flood had swept over this section. In many places where there had been a residence scarcely a board was left on the premises. The grass is filled with dirt and sand, as if a muddy stream had poured over it.

in the city, as nearly as have been estimated, are as follows: Court House unroofed and dome demolished, $2,000.
High School building, tower and part of the roof gone, $2,000.
Methodist church, roof gone and building wrecked, $6,000.
Congregational church, steeple off, $1,000.
Railroad depot unroofed, round house gone, bridge ruined and other losses, $15,000.
Vandusen & Co.'s elevator, $10,000.
'S elevator, $7,000
Harvester works and machinery, $12,000.
'S mill, side and roof off, mill wrecked and engine blown into river, $3,000.
Crescent Creamery, $9,000.
Cascade Mill, $5,000.
store and stock, $3,000.
building, $1,000.
machine depot, $2,000.
Ten business blocks unroofed, $5,000.
Two hundred and fifty houses, with contents, $185,000.
Twenty houses damaged, $80,000.
Making a total of $394,000.

So far as heard from about six persons were killed outside Rochester. The loss to crops is estimated at about $300,000.

During a session of the committee of the VILLARD reception at their hall, Gov. HUBBARD received the following dispatch:
Rochester, Aug. 22. -- Gov. HUBBARD: Rochester is in ruins. Twenty-four dead bodies and forty injured. Thus far one-half the city is laid waste. We need help immediately.

In fifteen minutes a demand note for $5,000 was signed by some of the largest business firms in St. Paul, and the cash placed at the disposal of the Mayor of Rochester. Three hundred houses are destroyed there and 200 more damaged.
Following is a list of the killed and wounded at Rochester as far as can be learned to-night:

hotel-keeper, son of the above,
his sister,
and infant child,
an old lady.
A daughter of LEWIS MANLY,
A child of GEO. HANSEN, missing and probably dead,
A daughter of LEWIS IRVING, missing and probably dead.
a prominent business man owning four mills, picked up by the wind and hurled to the ground, breading every bone,
Many others not identified.

Eight bodies were taken into the country before their names were learned, and four are still unclaimed, making in all 26 killed. The list of those wounded sufficient to be under a doctor's care number 51.

One of the most terrible features of the storm was the blowing of a train from the track between Rochester and Zumbrots, one the Rochester & Northern Division of the Chicago & Northwestern road, by which about 100 persons were killed and wounded. It was caught in the severe wind and hail storm that prevailed in that vicinity between 4 and 6 o'clock in the evening, and while running at a great speed was lifted from the rails and precipitated into an unrecognizable mass of ruins. A gentleman who had been to the scene of the disaster described it as one of the most horifying [sic] railroad accidents he had ever witnessed. Every car in the train was a complete wreck and was almost literally shattered to pieces by the sudden stop. The train was taken up bodily by the force of the storm and hurled in a mass from the track, burying the unfortunate passengers beneath the debris, killing many and injuring nearly every person aboard the train. The gentleman stated that nine dead bodies had already been taken from the ruins and a large number of those seriously injured had been removed to Rochester and Owatonna. As the time he left the work of extricating the unfortunate victims was still progressing, and it was believed that the number of killed would reach a score when there is a final summing up. The Zumbro Mill, in Rochester, was demolished, and the proprietor, JOHN M. COLE, was instantly killed. MR. COLE came to Rochester nearly twenty-five years ago, and was a business man and public citizen of the highest worth.

Ex-Congressman MARK. H. DUNNELL tells a correspondent at Owatonna that twenty-five dead bodies have been taken from the debris in Rochester, and 100 are missing.
MR. COOK, proprietor of the Cook House, JOHN COLE and other prominent people were killed. CHARLES M. ZIERATH'S mother and sister were also killed.

The roofs were blown from the Asylum and the Cook House. Horton's elevator lies across the main track. Seven persons were killed five miles south of Kasson in a Norwegian settlement.

Submitted & transcribed by Stu Beitler  Thank you, Stu!

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