Cyclone of 1912



The Cyclone of 1912

Event Date Area Tornadoes Casualties Notes
April 1912 Tornado Outbreak Sequence April 20 - 29, 1912 Southern-Central Great Plains - Middle Mississippi Valley - Southeastern U.S. - ≥104 fatalities, ≥630 injuries (≥59 significant, 17 violent, ≥34 killer)



The St. Paul's Lutheran Church,  in Chatsworth, which was a small wood frame building, purchased from the Beet Factory in 1878 was destroyed by this cyclone.

SOURCE: Article in The  Blade, July 30, 1997 showcasing the 125th anniversary of the church. 


The Lutherans Built a new brick church building to replace the frame building wrecked by a tornado in 1912.  One Sunday afternoon about 5 o'clock a terrible storm came up. Citizens noted it to be a tornado as it approached from the southwest. It dipped low enough to take part of the roof off the T.P. & W. depot, then raised, went up over the Grand and down again picking up two metal awnings. the frame Lutheran church was in it's path. This building was completely wrecked. Barns and sheds were blown down and some larger buildings were moved off their foundations. It took the barn on the Pat Lawless place at the east edge of town.

Source: Sands of Time by Helen Louise Plaster Stoutemyer Pg. 28-29 


1912 — One Sunday afternoon about five o'clock a terrible storm came up, which .soon disclosed itself to be a tornado approaching from the southwest. It dipped low enough to take about a 5-foot- square piece off the slate roof of the T. P. & W. depot, then raised and up over The Grand and down again where it picked up the two large metal awnings from in front of the L. J. Haberkorn and Garrity & Baldwin stores, parts of which were found one mile north east of town. The frame Lutheran church was completely wrecked, barns and sheds were blown down and some larger buildings were slightly moved off their foundations, but at that we were very lucky as nobody was hurt or killed. 

Source: The History of Chatsworth,Illinois by L.J.Haberkorn 



There was an article in the Idaho Statesman newspaper dated April 23, 1912, under the headline of Bloomington, Il. . It tells of the twister in Chatsworth and quotes a number of 44 at the beginning of the article ( I am going to assume 44 buildings)  and in order to read the rest of the article you must subscribe for the price of $19.95 a month.


This article is from the United Press report on the Tornado of 1912, Illinois and Indiana. Under the headline of Bloomington, tells of damage in Chatsworth. 

Read the rest of the reports at  

Rips Roof Off Building
Bloomington, Ill., April 22 – A cyclone passed over Chadworths (should read Chatsworth), forty miles northeast of here on the Illinois Central at 5:30 yesterday afternoon. Many buildings in the city were unroofed and store fronts blown in. In the country the farm houses and out-buildings are reported demolished. Telephone wires are down. No loss of life had been reported. At Odell, fifty miles north on the Chicago and Alton all wires are down. 
The storm swerved northwest of Odell and swept a path about eighty rods wide, demolishing practically everything in its path. 



This is a photo of the barn of Charlie Dorsey, well known Chatsworth citizen, that was destroyed by this cylone.

Thanks to their great granddaughter, Eileen Miller for this photo. 



This photo postcard that sold on ebay. It does not state who the house belonged to.

Written in bottom margin "Cyclone at Chatsworth, Ill., Apr. 21, '12" in top margin is written "the people living in this house had their auto all smashed up with wagons".

 Postally sent from Cooksville, Ill., 1912 


The Thurner Home damaged by the cyclone

Picture from"Chatsworth Area Centennial Celebration" 1967

This appears to be the same house as above , different angle. 





The P.J. Lawless farm after the cyclone.




From Illinois Academic Science

Eight separate dates stand out because of the relatively large number of tornadoes on each

of those days, e.g., 21 on 18 May 1883, 11 on 12 May 1886, 10 on 27 March 1890, 8

each on 24 April 1880 and 21 April 1912, 6 on 17 July 1903, and 4 each on 27 March

1908 and 11 November 1911.


Well, it seems 1912 was a vicious year for cyclones, not only across the U.S. , but in other countries also. Australia and China were very hard hit and just two months later, a cyclone hit Regina, Saskatchwan, Canada, which today remains one of their worst disasters. It seems that there were many, many cyclones across the United States that year. Evidently even our Chatsworth.




This is damage done to the S.E. Wells home in Piper City
Picture from "Wagons to Wings-a History of Piper City, Illinois" by Peg Johnston 



In a report at

Chicago, April 23. -- Latest figures regarding the storm which swept over Illinois and Indiana Sunday evening show 72 dead, 200 injured and nearly 100 families in a destitute condition, as a result of the storm. More than 100 homes were demolished and the property loss totaled several hundred thousand dollars. Greatest damage done at Bush, Willsville, Murphysboro, Campus, Freeman, and Kankakee, Ill, and Morocco, Ind. Governor Deneen and Adjutant General Dickson have arranged to exceed state relief to the stricken districts in Illinois.

The dead are as follows

Bush, Ill, 18 dead, 100 injured.

District east of Bush, Ill. 8 dead, 30 injured. .....

Of 15 persons killed at Bush, Ill., 11 have been identified. They are: Mrs. Alex Williams, Valentine Farmer, J. W. Campbell, wife and six children and Joseph Wood.

J. W. Campbell was section foreman at Bush. With his wife and six children, he was sitting in the section house when the storm demolished it, killing the occupants instantly. One son, 16, was in Benton when the storm hit and escaped injury. The number of injured at Bush will reach more than 100.

Bush, a village in the northwestern corner of Williamson county, suffered most damage. Two storms met at Bush, one coming from the northwest and the other from the southwest. The storms met at a velocity of 75 miles an hour and in a few minutes Bush was in ruins. The building of the Western Coal Mining company was destroyed, as were the post office, general department store, hotels, restaurants and 40 dwellings. Thirty-five other dwellings were partly wrecked.

John Pumphry, superintendent of the mining company, received injuries from which he will probably die.

A trainload of injured was taken from Bush to Murphysboro, where three died.

Seventy-five families are homeless and destitute in southwestern Illinois. Until help comes from the state, officials of the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad, led by W. E. Merrifield, division superintendent, are looking after the survivors.

The Newark Advocate, Newark, OH 23 Apr 1912

Bush, IL Tornado, Apr 1912  


It states that 3 people died in Campus. Another article on this same site names Nelson Hulse, his wife and child as the victims from Campus.

At Morocco, Ind., 9 dead, 12 injured.

Chicago, April 22. -- A tornado that swept from Cairo to Grand Park, Ill., crossing the Indiana state line a little below the Kankakee river and bringing desolation to the county near Morocco, Ind., brought death to 35 persons, according to reports of the disaster that have been received today.

Wires are still postrated in many parts of the stricken district and it is believed that complete details may increase the list of dead. Hundreds of persons were injured.

The latest reports show 18 killed at Bush, Ill; five killed at Willisville; three killed at Campus and nine killed at Morocco, Ind.

The identified dead:

NELSON HULSE, wife and daughter, crushed in the wreckage of their home, Campus, Ill.

CASSIE SMART, 14 years old, Morocco, Ind.

BABY SMART, Morocco.

MRS. CHARLES RICE and four children, Morocco.

Two other children are fatally injured.

The others have not been identified.

The storm left a trail of wreckage for its entire course, but the greatest devastation was near Murpshysboro, Ill., and Morocco, Ind. .....

The town of Bush is near Murphysboro. The storm struck there before 6 o'clock last night. The village was practically wiped out of existence.

Houses were crumpled up and toppled over and 12 persons were killed outright. News of the disaster was telephoned to Murphsboro [sic] and a special train send out. Two hours later the train carrying 42 injured reached Murphysboro.

At Morocco, the storm struck a little later in the evening. The town, with about 1200 inhabitants, was swept from end to end. Houses were wrecked and the storm, sweeping on across the country, demolished a number of farm dwellings.

In one of these two miles east of Morocco, Cassie Smart and her baby sister were crushed to death.

The Newark Advocate, Newark, OH 22 Apr 1912

Morocco, Indiana Tornado April 21, 1912