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Big Heart, Oklahoma Downtown after Tornado April 1911, click to enlarge »   Big Heart, Oklahoma after Tornado April 1911, click to enlarge »


Big Heart, Oklahoma Tornado

April 12, 1911 


In Big Heart Eight Were Killed and About Thirty Injured in a Storm. 

PAWHUSKA, OK., April 13. – Nine persons are known to have been killed and many others are believed to have met death, about one hundred were injured and the town of Big Heart in Osage County, having a population of about one thousand persons, is razed to the ground by a tornado which struck there about 5 o’clock yesterday afternoon.  The following dead whose bodies were recovered were identified: WILLIAM MORROW, JOHN KERNS, FRED HAMMOND, MRS. WILLIAM MORROW, T. S. Hann, _____ Brown, a child.

The cyclone formed southwest of the city, according to reports received here.  It appeared in the traditional funnel form and came without warning.  People fled from the crashing buildings only to be struck down in the streets by flying timbers or picked up and carried away through the air.  About one hundred Indians were camped near the village.  The storm struck them first, tearing down their tents and tepees and scattering them about.  Several of the Indians are reported to have been killed and injured.

The first news of the disaster was received at Pawhuska about an hour after the tornado passed.  A relief train carrying physicians and nurses was immediately organized and sent from Pawhuska.  Another was organized at Avant, south of Big Heart.  The dead and injured will be brought here or taken to Tulsa, where proper hospital facilities and medical attention can be had.

Fully four hundred people are homeless.  The work of rescuing the dead and wounded form the debris and wreckage is being carried on by lantern light and progress is necessarily slow.  Many of the bodies were carried far beyond the scene of destruction and searching parties are hunting for these in the fields.  Timbers from the demolished building are said to have been found half a mile from where they were picked up. 

The Kansas City Times, Kansas City, MO 13 Apr 1911


Fourteen Dead.

PAWHUSKA, Okla., April 18.- Fourteen persons are known to have been killed in the section of the Kansas tornado that swept southward into the Osage nation.  Fully seventy-five others are injured and the property loss may reach a million dollars.

The town of Bigheart, Osage county, was almost completely razed and almost 1,000 persons in that vicinity are homeless.  These being cared for in Tulsa, Sapulpa and here.  The following dead have been identified: JOHN KERNS, WILL MORROW, FRED HAMMOND, MRS. WILL KERN, T. S. HANN and a child named BROWN.

Bigheart is cut off from communication, all telegraph and telephone wires being down, but it is known that the amount of damage in the town itself will amount to $500,000.  J. S. Harris, superintendent of the Midland Valley railroad, was near Bigheart when the storm struck there.  He was traveling in his private motor car.  He made a record run to Pawhuska and transported all the physicians he could find to the stricken town.  He then went to Avant and sent a work train to be used in transporting the dead and wounded to hospitals in Tulsa.

Four deaths here occurred in the hospital at Sapulpa.

The Galveston Daily News, Galveston, TX 13 Apr 1911


J. H. Harris, general superintendent of the Midland Valley Railroad, was near Big Heart in his motor track car when the cyclone struck.  He made a record run to Pawhuska and took back with him all the doctors he could carry.  He then run [sic] to Avant and there he got a work train, which he sent to Big Heart to take care of the injured.  These were taken to a hospital at Tulsa.  A train of empty box cars was sent to Big Heart for the homeless persons to sleep in.  Mr. Harris wired to the general office of the Midland Valley road tonight that the new brick depot, the brick schoolhouse and the oil refinery were totally destroyed by the cyclone.  The wires are down and only meager details can be secured.

It is feared the Midland Valley station agent and telegraph operator were killed.  The depot building and section house were blown away.  A Midland Valley passenger train had passed Big Heart just ten minutes before the tornado came.  The dipping plant and stock pens were wiped out and all the cow ponies used by the cattlemen in dipping train loads of Texas cattle were killed.  A passenger coach will be sent to Big Heart tomorrow for a depot.

PAWHUSKA, April 13. – Details of the disaster have been difficult to obtain.  All telegraph and telephone communications were severed and communication with the stricken town was almost impossible.  The valuable oil field surrounding the town of Big Heart is a complete ruin, every derrick and rig having been leveled to the ground.  The property loss in the town of Big Heart is place at ˝ million dollars and the loss in the oil field is almost equally as great.

J. H. Harris, superintendent of the Midland Valley Railroad, was near Big Heart when the storm struck.  He was riding in his private motor track car.  He made a record run to Pawhuska, where he gave the alarm and took back to Big Heart all the doctors he could find.  He then went to Avant, Ok., and got a work train which he sent to Big Heart to be used in transporting the dead and injured to the hospitals at Tulsa.  A train of box cars was also taken to Big Heart to be used by the homeless ones.

The train carrying the injured reached Tulsa at 1:30 o’clock this morning.  Hundreds of men were working in the oil field at the time.  It has been impossible to learn how many were killed and injured there because the rescuing parties have spent the night searching the wreckage about the townsite of the town proper.  It hardly seems plausible, though, that all should have escaped with their lives. 

The Kansas City Times, Kansas City, MO 13 Apr 1911

Articles transcribed by Jenni Lanham.  Thank you, Jenni!


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