Chandler, OK Tornado, Apr 1897


A Thriving Oklahoma Town Wiped Out by a Tornado.


More Than a Score Killed and Only a Few Buildings Standing – Houses Were Wrecked by the Storm and Then Took Fire – Many of the Injured Were Burned to Death – Other Towns Also Suffer.

GUTHRIE, Oklahoma (Special).--What was once the beautiful, thriving little city of Chandler, situated on a finely timbered hill near the centre of Lincoln County, is now a shapeless mass of ruins, a barren, devastated waste, peopled by a homeless, stricken, suffering, hopeless people.
The few homes that are left have been turned into hospitals. The remnant of the leading hotel is a morgue. Court had just convened and the city was filled with strangers from all parts of the county and court attaches and attorneys from Guthrie.
About the middle of the afternoon a bright sky quickly gave way to dark and lowering clouds. A few people from the country started for home, but the majority decided to wait until the shower was over.
Later the sky lighted for a time, but at 5 o'clock the wind suddenly changed to the west and north, and then went back to the south, and an ominous looking cloud piled up in the southwest and moved slowly toward the town.
There was a stillness and oppressiveness in the air which caused people to feel that something was going to happen, and first women and children and then strong men began hunting the shelter of caves and tornado cellars.
At 5:30 p. m. the clouds formed into a funnel-shaped mass and began bearing down upon the city. Five minutes later the awful roar was heard, and at 5:50 o'clock the storm leaped upon the city, enveloped it in blackness and all was chaos. Inside of three minutes the entire town was a mass of ruins and ten minutes later the wind had passed on.
The town's business portion lay north and south along four squares of Manvel avenue, and in all its business area but two buildings were left intact, Hoffman & Charles's store and Schlagel's saloon, which, together with a few scattering residences and the Presbyterian Church was what was left of the prosperous city. For a short time there was a deluge of rain and a beating of hail, while above the noise arose screams of terror and groans of agony.
Down the entire of the main street was a struggling mass of wounded human beings and horses, piles of wreckage, buggies, wagons and merchandise, with ghastly dead faces here and there, a sight awful to behold.
Soon the terror of the fire fiend was added to the devastation of the storm, as flames began to leap upon the wreck of the New York store and Lincoln County Bank. Next to the bank was a little restaurant, where five people were eating supper.
The bank toppled over on it, pinning the five down and holding them prisoners to meet an agonizing death by fire. At several other points the flames burst out, and it was a hard fight with fire until after midnight, many of the injured being badly burned and several meeting death in the flames, in addition to the five who perished in the restaurant.
A large majority of the people are left homeless and penniless, with scarcely clothes to cover their backs, and many are already suffering. The night turned very cold and the women and children exposed to the elements suffered severely.
There are not coffins enough to bury the dead, and carpenters are making boxes from the wreckage of the buildings. Never has a town been more completely wiped out, and the majority of the business men are wholly ruined.
A messenger from southwest of Chandler says that many farm houses were demolished there, a number of people injured and two killed. The little village or Parkland is reported completely destroyed with many injured.
The list of dead at Chandler is twenty-three, as follows: Attorney JOHN, burned to death; EDGAR DEMOSS, burned to death; MISS EMMA DRESSINGER, burned to death; MRS. THOMAS SMITH, crushed; MRS. PHILLIP JOHNSON and child; MRS. DR. H. D. LEE; JAMES N. WOODYARD and wife, of Eldorado, Kan.; JAMES KYLE and two children; MRS. DEMONT; MISS ETTA RITTENSTEIN; GEORGE BEMAR; A. W. KELLER and wife; MR. And MRS. D. C. JOHNSON and two children; ANDREW ASHER and wife. The injured number 100 or more.

The Cranbury Press New Jersey 1897-04-09