Cyclone Sweeps Paris

The Paris Mercury, June 25, 1915

A cyclone of unusual intensity, following a cloud-burst in which ten inches of water fell in less than an hour, swept a path 300 yards wide through the east half of the town of Paris, and in addition to giving the town the worst scare in its history, did property damage estimated at $10,000. The twister came during a lull in the rain which had blown in sheets from the northwest for nearly an hour, and darted down on the town from the southeast. The cloud was smoky and elongated, shaped like a huge serpent, and literally writhed through the air. In less than two minutes it had passed, seemingly bounding upward, and no damage was done outside the town, little or no wind being reported.

The twister first came to the ground in a field of rye just southeast of W. R. Baskett's residence on Fairview Heights, where it wrecked a self-binder belonging to Harris Henning. It then swept through the Paris fairgrounds, where it wrecked everything in its path, uprooting beautiful oak trees a hundred or more years old, reducing both amphitheaters to kindling wood, snapping big timbers as if they were straws, and making debris of the art hall, agricultural building, nursery and woman's building.

It was at the fairgrounds that the miracle of the story occurred. A party of young men and women, 13 in all, had gone there for a picnic, given in honor of Miss Myra Sharp of Fulton, visiting Miss Oma McGee, and had sought refuge from the rain on and under the amphitheater. Misses Rubey and Marguerite Goetz and Oma McGee, James Branham, Robert Horn, Paul Nipps and W. C. Scott of Rushville, Ill, were in the director's room on the small amphitheater. When the structure blew over it split just at this point and four of the party fell one way and three another. Strange enough, and beyond explanation, no of them received a scratch. Paul Shaw, John Woods, Loyd Pool, Miss Kittie Blakey, Miss Myra Sharp and Mary Margaret McBride were standing in the exit under the center of the main amphitheater and the big structure, with all of its heavy timbers, by some chance equally as strange, blew back of them. Immediately after the cyclone the branch between town and the fairground was a veritable flood, having run over both bridges on south Main street and though the wreckage was visable it could not be reached. Alarm was allayed only when the young people, safe and unharmed, came over into town a few minutes later.

The storm next unroofed the old Ashcraft house, occupied by Lew Smizer, and blew down James J. Browning's barn.

It then struck the railroad dump east of town and blew four box cars out of the middle of a Wabash freight train, dropping them at the bottom of the embankment, Brakeman Bridgford stood on the long trestle at the time and saved himself by lying down between the rails and holding to the ties.

Fireman Ackerman, who was working on the engine, was blown from the cab and down the embankment when the cyclone struck the train and engineer Ross was stunned. The engineer was preparing to take water at the time and the top of the tank was blown over on it.

The Dooley hotel was partially unroofed, as was also the Masonic Temple and Main street filled with debris.

Tile was torn from the roof of the courthouse and part of the tin roof on the Odd Fellows' building stripped off. Rain that night did much damage to interiors.

Part of the Major livery barn blew down and the barns of Dave Thomas and Will Meteer were wrecked. The porch of the Arnold house was blown down and the top taken of the Katy water tank.

West of Main street little or no damage was done save to shade trees, the streets being almost impassable for fallen limbs. East of Main street the town looked as if it had been bombarded with German seize guns, all Friday and Saturday being required to get rid of the debris. The rain preceding the storm was the hardest Paris had ever seen. The streets looked like rivers and the branches became torrents, Salt River being out of its banks, as well as Elk Fork, before the storm was over. A steady downpour continued all night and lights and telephones were both out of commission and trains delayed.

A strong wind set up again at 11 o'clock that night and did considerable damage southeast of town. The side of Jim Waller's home was blown in and the roof damaged, the home of Walter Bryan unroofed and the house occupied by the Boyd women, each over 100 years old, was unroofed.

Wheat was badly blown down and oat fields suffered.

It is estimated that 200 culverts were washed out over the county, not even concrete structures being able to withstand the torrents. The branch in south Paris ran over the top of the wagon bridge on Main street and through the Westpheling pasture for a width of 75 feet. North of town the water washed away nearly all of the crushed rock recently placed on the Cunningham hill.

A hen and chickens (33) were placed in a box by Mrs. Claud Bedford when the rain began and boards placed on top of the box. After the cyclone the box and the boards were found in W. E. Flanders' garden across the street and the hen was discovered hovering her chickens on the spot where the box stood.

Fair directors met Friday afternoon and decided to hold a meeting of stockholders Saturday afternoon to decide upon what action should be taken to save the fairgrounds from falling into private hands. The new association which has never been able to hold a fair on account of droughts, inherited a debt of $3,200 and storm losses will run this up to nearly $6,000, the value of the grounds. The plan is to issue new stock, probably 100 shares at $25 a share.

The most acute distress caused by the cyclone is being suffered by Squire Crawford, who had two dozen spring chickens just big enough to fry blown "clean away". Chas. Forbis had 60 chickens drowned.

Chas. Wills' horse was lifted bodily from his barn lot and set down in his chicken lot.

Twenty acres of corn belonging to R. M. Brown south of Paris was inundated by Elk Fork.

The home of Estel Combs north of Paris was unroofed and other damage done.

Out at Oak Ridge, the most beautiful place in Monroe county, the grove of big oaks and elms, many of them over a hundred years old, was literally torn to pieces. Many of the trees were uprooted and others stripped of their branches, The church was not damaged.

In the bottom back of the Poteet place south of Paris the cyclone mowed a path fifty yards wide through the timber and uprooted nearly every tree in its path.

At the home of Dennis Young the family had just finished supper and left the table, the meal having been served on the porch. After the storm the dishes were found piled under the table, not a dish being broken.

Out at the Waller place the destruction was almost complete, only the log portion of the house escaping damage. The barn and all outbuildings were wrecked, fences scattered and every chicken on the place blown away.

The Mercury office was deluged with water after the roof of the Masonic had been blown off and suffered damaged at $150. The wind of Sunday evening lifted the temporary roofing and let in another deluge, adding to the damage.

The Bell Telephone office was also deluged and Manager Harley with assistants worked all night and Sunday night as well, sweeping back water to save the main cable and keep the system in commission.

A pile of brick from a flue on the Masonic temple went through the roof of the Dooley house and the rain that followed did damage estimated $200.