Elgin, IL Tornado Wrecks Most Of Town, Mar 1920

Tornado Damage in Elgin Melrose Park Tornado Tornado Damage in Melrose Park



Special to The New York Times.

Elgin, Ill., March 28. -- Eight people are known to have been killed and a hundred were injured when a tornado swept over this city shortly after noon today. The financial loss is estimated to be upward of $4,000,000. Virtually every building in Elgin was struck by the storm.
Late this afternoon a rumor came to Elgin that six persons thought to have been Chicagoans, who were motoring at the time the cyclone passed, were killed on a country road three miles east of town. Ambulances were immediately rushed to the location.
The entire city was paralyzed by the storm, which came at 12:10 P.M. In less than three minutes it had passed. Martial law was declared by National Guard troops at 4 o'clock.
Entire Business Part Wrecked.
The entire business section of the town was wrecked. Hardly a home was left with whole windows and roofs. Most of the people in Elgin were in church when the tornado swept down.
Three women and a little girl were buried in the basements of churches, where they had just completed their Sunday morning worship. Every street in Elgin is blocked with fallen telephone and telegraph poles. Shattered glass covers the pavements.
Plate glass insurance companies will be hit heavily by the storm in Elgin. Hardly a window is left intact in the business district. Insurance adjusters estimated the loss in plate glass alone at $750,000.
Ambulances carrying injured to hospitals were forced to go for blocks off the most direct route to the hospitals because of the impassable streets.
Sermon Was Prophetic.
In the First Congregational Church the Rev. J. W. WELSH had just closed his morning sermon with the words "Be prepared, for you know not when you will be called." As the 1,000 people arose to leave the church it began to rain. Then the wind rose, and the people remained inside the church waiting for the storm to subside. In the basement were seventy-five children, who had been attending Sunday school.
There was a terrific roar and then a crash. The roof caved in on the congregation. MISS MOWATT and MISS FOOTE were killed. In the basement little twelve-year-old ISABEL McCONNACHIE was buried beneath tons of brick and splintered timbers.
In the First Baptist Church the minister was just ending his sermon and 300 people were waiting the close of the service. The crash came and the entire north roof caved in upon them. MRS. KIMBALL, prominent civic and club woman, wife of a wealthy furniture dealer, was buried beneath the debris and was instantly killed.
In the business section roofs were torn completely from buildings, walls caved in, and bricks, splintered timber, stocks from stores and other debris filled the streets.
Actor and Wife Are Killed.
A theatrical company was rehearsing in the Grand Theatre. SAMUEL and ADA BEVERLY were in their dressing rooms, preparing to leave the theatre. Ten persons, some stage hands, some actors and actresses and musicians were in the building. MR. and MRS. BEVERLY were buried beneath the debris. They were killed instantly. MR. and MRS. FRANK LUCE, members of the "Musical Hunters," escaped death by rushing from the building.
In LANBORG'S Shoe Store, a hundred feet from the Grand Theatre, MILAN GLOSKI was working. He was buried beneath the wreckage. Frantic efforts of the Fire Department saved his life.
FRANK WIERECK had just put his little daughter in her high chair for the Sunday dinner when the crash came. He was able to push his wife and baby from the house before he was caught beneath the wreck and crushed to death.
FREDERICK EHRHORN was in his living room when the roof of his home crashed in and killed him.
MRS. WEIRICK at the Sherman Hospital asserted that the cyclone had passed so quickly that she hardly knew what had happened.
"My husband had just put out little girl in her high chair when there was a mighty roar and the roof came crashing in," she said. "My husband pushed me and my baby out of the dining room and then he was caught. The storm passed in less than three minutes."
MISS MARION MARSHALL was in the Congregational Church when the cyclone passed.
Clergyman Proves a Hero.
"DR. WELCH had just announced the benediction," she said. "Then I heard a terrific roar and a horrible crash. Then came the screams of the injured. It was terrible. The little McCONNACHIE girl was buried beneath a ton of bricks. She was instantly killed. DR. WELCH took off his coat and commenced to work with the firemen. He is a real hero. I know he helped carry three injured from the wreck."
DR. WELCH said: "The services in my church this morning were attended by about 1,000 people. I heard a crash, and on looking up saw the skylight coming down on us, and in the main room I saw the floor sinking into the basement. My first thoughts were for the children who had been attending Sunday school in the basement."
"I could hear their cries as the floor started sinking. Then the big tower crashed in on us, bringing the big roof and gallery with it. The tower crashed on the spot where I had been standing a few minutes before. I saw that my escape was cut off, and so I jumped out of a window, and, entering the church from another door, commenced assisting the rescue workers."
At 4 o'clock Mayor A. E. PRICE issued an appeal for volunteers to help clear the streets. A thousand citizens responded. At the same time Captain M. B. BREIGHTON, Commander of the 10th Illinois National Guard, called out his company and martial law was declared. Boy Scouts were also called out to assist in patrolling the streets and clearing them.
Telegraph and telephone offices were crowded with appeals for help from many of the citizens who had been made homeless by the cyclone.
With the establishment of martial law, all were ordered to their homes, but many people could not even enter their wrecked houses. Ten minutes after the cyclone had passed looters entered the wrecked Moose Club rooms and stole $200.

The New York Times New York 1920-03-29