Pittsburgh, PA Tornado, Jan 1889 - The Pittsburgh Disaster


Awful Work of the Tornado in the Smoky City.

PITTSBURG, Jan. 11—The building which was blown down by the storm here Wednesday was located on Diamond alley, and was owned by C. L. Willey.

The building was in course of erection. It was 30 by 80 feet in dimensions, and seven stories high. The front of the building had not yet been put in, and the wind seemed to enter the huge shell from the open end. The high walls of bricks and undried mortar were parted, one falling each way, partly wrecking nearly a dozen surrounding buildings. Weldin & Co.’s bookstore on Wood street was crushed in and the front of the building forced out into the street, and the barber shop of Fred Schemaker, at 41 Diamond street, was completely demolished. The leather store next to the Witley building, occupied by W. H. Thoma, was also totally wrecked. The rear end of H. Walt company’s book store was crushed in, and part of the falling structure struck Joseph Richbaum’s building fronting on Fifth avenue, breaking the windows and injuring a number of employes. A portion of the wall of a millinery store next to Thoma’s was caved in, and the windows and doors in a number of surrounding buildings were broken. The building of Rea Brothers & Co., stock brokers, on the corner of Diamond and Wood streets, was partly wrecked, and the occupants barely escaped.

Of the forty-five or more persons in the Wiley building at the time, only five or six escaped uninjured. The wreck is one of the most horrifying that Pittsburg has been called upon to witness for many years. The scenes on the street were awful. Dozens of policemen and firemen kept the mob back from the vicinity of the disaster, while others, covered with soot and dust, ran in and out of the wrecked building, carrying in tools and bringing out the mangled forms of the victims as fast as they were recovered.

The following is a list of the killed as far as can be obtained:

Dr. C. P. Read, a prominent physician and former Methodist clergyman, aged 85 years.

George Mason, a carpenter employed on the wrecked building.

Charles Fritch, of Seerbysville, an employe of the barber shop.

Samuel Stringer, aged about 15 years.

Willie Goettman, of Allegheny, 16 years of age.

The injured are, as far as known:

Weldin Mason, Martin Heller, Elmer McKowen, Michael Ryan, Tim Watt, Alfred Lambert, ____ McCurdy, O. E. Smith, John Donnelly, Thomas Lemon, John Redut, Bernard O’Connor, Frank Barrett, William Springer, Morris Ryan, J. H. Herring, Ernest Rinehart, Owen Donnelly, O. E. Smith, Charles Petticord, J. M. Goehring, William Wilson, Charles Colly, Evan Pew, Thomas Barker, Gus Mesner, George Scott, T. E. Melvin, George Long, Harry Faulkner, Jerry Huckenstein, William Landan, John McGlone, Samuel Brown, Sr., Jere Huckenstein.

It is said that many of the above are fatally hurt.

Street Commissioner Flynn and Chief Steel, of the fire department, think there are at least twenty men yet buried under the Willey building. There are at least that many yet missing.

Of the thirty to thirty-five men employed on the building a majority of them ran to the cellar for protection when the storm came on. So far only seven men have been taken out. This leaves at least twenty yet to account for.

The News, Frederick, MD 11 Jan 1889

History of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania 1889 Read it online

Memoirs of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania : personal and genealogical, with portraits Read it online

History of Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania 1886 Read it online

Allegheny County : a sesqui-centennial review 1938 Read it online

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