Olmsted County, MN Tornado - Viola, Quincy, Cascade, Oronco, July 1883

A TORNADO of extraordinary severity swept over the northwestern part of this county on Saturday, July 21, 1883. Its origin was traced as far west as Spink county, Dakota, where the storm is said to have occurred about 6 o’clock in the morning, being a combination of rain, hail and wind, killing two people, seriously wounding a number of others and destroying the claim shanties and improvements of many settlers. Its course was eastward, almost along the boundary line between Kingsbury and Brookings county, at some points ten miles wide, striking Minnesota in Lincoln county and hitting the neighborhood of Lake Benton, Sleepy Eye, New Ulm and St. Peter, the principal damage being to the crops. At Mankato, Waseca and Meriden a number of buildings were destroyed. An east-bound passenger train was blown from the track near Owatonna and twenty-five persons were injured. Alan K. Williams and Miss Zickrick, of Rochester, and Miss Blakeslee, of Pleasant Grove, were seriously injured. At Owatonna many buildings and the fair grounds were damaged and a man was seriously injured. At Mantonville the court house and a barn were unroofed and on several farms in the neighborhood buildings were destroyed or damaged; one person, Mrs. Norton, was fatally injured and in the county of Dodge about twenty were wounded.

The storm struck Olmsted county, at noon, on the west line of Kalmar township. A new home of Richard Middleton was destroyed, and Mrs. Middleton, who had retreated to the cellar, was killed. A farm a mile from Middleton’s was destroyed and the occupant, George Arnold, his wife and his aged mother were severely hurt; one daughter was scalded and another had her leg broken. William Chilson’s buildings were destroyed, but the family escaped.

L. Young’s home was destroyed, but he said he could not say he was destitute, for he had some flour and a ham. Henry Witsey lost all his property, but none of his family was hurt. The house, and its surroundings, of J. Rud and his wife, an elderly couple, were swept away and they were badly bruised and disabled. A large barn on the farm of Thomas Jorns was unroofed and a hundred tons of hay were destroyed. Frederick Portier’s barns were unroofed and hay and other property destroyed. At Jacob Grassle’s two barns were destroyed and parts of them carried half a mile. The roof of a barn was divided, half of it going to the northwest unbroken, and the other half going to the northeast and breaking into thousands of pieces. Thousands of trees in the heavy timber were blown down. A new barn, belonging to John Hoffman, was destroyed and a log barn unroofed.

Going northward the storm followed the town line between Cascade and Oronoco, eastwardly eleven miles. In Cascade township the barn and all outbuildings on the farm of C. Kimball were wrecked; all the buildings on Martin Kolbe’s farm and a new barn on the farm of P. Koul were destroyed. In Oronoco township the brick school house, at Stone’s Corners, was blown away, leaving the floor with a cabinet organ standing unharmed. At E. Clason’s, everything was gone except the main part of the house. A large barn and a fine orchard were swept away. The buildings of D. Waldron and E. J. Gates escaped with less damages. The home of James Fleener, with all its contents, was destroyed. Mrs. Fleener, who was ill, was much shocked. Mrs. Mary Crofoot lost house, barn and everything. Every building of C. J. Hubbard was destroyed, and his wife badly hurt. Mr. Hubbard had placed his children in the cellar and thought he had jumped in himself, but the building had moved and he found himself under it. Mrs. Jones had nothing but the foundations left of a new house and new barn. Andrew Nickells lost every building and all their contents. A farm of E. Clason, occupied by Carl Ruebel was stripped of buildings and trees. D. Sonnenberg’s house, barns and all their contents were destroyed. Mrs. Sonnenberg and two children were badly hurt.