New Ulm Tornado

 (Look below the image for the article text.)
New Ulm Headline
Saint Paul Daily Globe, Sunday Morning, July 17, 1881, Volume IV, Number 198, Page 1




 WILD WINDS Rend New Ulm, Minn. DEATH AND DESOLATION In Track of the Hurricane.

HALF TOWN DESTROYED, 7 or 8 Killed — Many Injured,
LOSS OVER $400,000

Four Other Towns Cycloned, LOSS OF LIFE REACHING 20,
Making Total of 28 Victims Of Friday’s Death Tempest.

[Special Telegram to the Globe.]
NEW ULM, Minn., July 16. – About 4:45 yesterday afternoon a black cloud was seen approaching this city from the north – a cloud of such intense blackness as to shut out the light of day and create the impression that the pall of night was falling upon the town before its due time.  Men, women and children were affrighted, and apprehending a severe storm all set about securing their portable property out of doors.  A stiff breeze was blowing from the south when the cloud first made its appearance, which at first gave promise of averting the impending danger.  For half an hour the people were kept between hope and fear – hope that the storm cloud would not burst over the city, and fear that if it did great disaster would result.  Shortly after 5 o-clock


Its violence did not seem to proceed from the direction from which it was first seen approaching, but with the noise of a raging torrent it burst upon the town in the form of a terrible hurricane from the west.  Darkness enveloped everything in its sable mantle, and it was impossible for one to distinguish his most intimate friends at a distance of ten feet, while the large brick buildings on the opposite side of the street upon which your correspondent was located could scarcely be outlined against the inky sky.

The first effects of the tornado were felt in the northern part of the town, among the modest residences of the laboring portion of the community.  These were somewhat scattered, but within less than two minutes were all either carried off bodily or leveled to the ground.  Over a hundred dwellings, all of modest pretensions, were absolutely swept away on the wings of the wind, and


in the twinkling of an eye.

But the work of destruction was not to be confined to the outskirts of the town.  On the ridge to the westward are situated the German Methodist and the German Lutheran churches, both of them handsome edifices with tall spires reaching towards heaven.

Both of these were hurled to the ground in an instant of time, inflicting a loss upon each congregation of about $10,000.  Scarcely a vestige of the first-mentioned building remained to mark its site; the latter was so badly wrecked as to be absolutely worthless.  The Catholic church and the school building adjoining are both almost irretrievably damaged.  The tower of the church, that contained a chime of three bells, was completely overturned.  An addition to the church, recently completed, was entirely destroyed.

After demolishing the structures of the ridge the tornado struck the business center of the town, and in a few moments the air was full of flying timbers and debris of every description.  Fence boards, fragments of roofing, wagons, window sash, doors, and all conceivable articles were flying through the air, while


could be heard the frantic shouts of men, the piercing shrieks of women, and the agonizing wailings of children.  The darkness was intense, and though some rushed hither and thither in blind frenzy, the more collected awaited their fate with calmness or sought refuge in the cellars of their buildings.  The noise was deafening.  Roof after roof was torn from its fastenings, and was carried away by the wind or dashed with a deafening crash against the walls of some building on the opposite side of the street.  The crash of falling walls was heard on every side, while ever and anon the scene, one of terrible picturesqueness, was lit up by lurid flashes of lightning.  For several minutes — it seemed almost an age — the play of the lightning was almost incessant, and nearly a score of buildings were struck and more or less injured by the electric fluid.


could not be heightened by any appliances conceived by the most vivid imagination.  It was a hades of darkness and lurid lightning flashes; a babel of confusion of sounds.  The tornado roared with terrible fury for the space of fifteen minutes, when a lull came, and the people of the doomed city drew a sigh of relief.  The cessation was of very brief duration, however, for almost instantly a counter storm broke out, coming from the east, and raged with unabated fury for ten or fifteen minutes, nearly completing the work of ruin that had already progressed so far.  Walls that had withstood the first onslaught of the winds succumbed to the later blasts.  Huge timbers were carried hither and thither, now crushing through the front of stores, and anon breaking in the roofs of houses or barns.  Cattle, released from their corrals by the action of the wind, ran bellowing through the streets, and horses, tearing themselves from their fastenings, rushed wildly hither and thither.  Men seemed to have lost their reason, and madly stampeded for places of refuge.  Women, with their children clinging to them, vainly implored and prayed for aid, while above all was the crash of falling timbers and the howling of the hurricane.  It was an occasion


by any that were present.  Some of the more superstitious believed that the end of the world had come of a surety, and their wailings were pitiful in the extreme.  Others had concern only for the material losses they had sustained, and bemoaned their sad fate.  When, at last, the storm passed away and the light of the waning day fell upon the doomed city there was a feeling of relief, and men and women calmed themselves sufficiently to take a view of the situation.


presented itself.  Where but an hour before there had been long rows of elegant business buildings, ample private residences for the wealthy, neat abodes for the poor, or manufactories teeming with industry, there was now but a mass of shapeless ruins.  Where an hour before there were handsome dwellings there were but a few disjointed timbers and a heap of debris.  Where thrifty cottages were situated there were but the foundation timbers, but far and wide were scattered the ruins of many pleasant homes – here a section of roofing or a piece of siding; there fragments of a bedstead, a table or a chair, and far over the prairie in the track of the storm could be seen portions of the houses or their contents.

There was a perfect


Husbands were looking for their wives and children; mothers for those whom they had borne; children for their parents.  It was almost impossible to ascertain results with any degree of definiteness.  A cursory view of the ruins only could be ascertained, and the estimates of the damage done can only be estimated.  I give, as far as possible, a detailed report of the principal damage done.  Aside from the almost total destruction of the houses to the northward of the city, and the loss to the churches above noted, the following may be mentioned as among the principal losses:

The roof of the court house was carried off, and a new barn attached to the county jail was entirely demolished.  Loss about $3,000.

The roof of Turner hall, one of the best buildings of the kind in the State, was lifted, and the interior and walls considerably damaged.  Loss $2,500 to $3,000.

All of the stores on Minnesota street, from the shops to Center street, were either unroofed or demolished.  Many of these were brick structures, two or three stories in height, occupied by merchants, physicians and lawyers.

The stores of F. Boock and Joseph Schaubicum were entirely destroyed.

The saloon of T. Vogel and the saloon of his brother, Joseph Vogel, were nearly wholly demolished.  Loss on both $1,200.  The wife and three children of Joseph Vogel were injured, none of them, it is hoped fatally.

The three story brick, owned and occupied by Mainrad Epple, as a butcher shop was completely demolished, scarcely one brick being left upon another.  Cletus Epple, a brother of the owner, had his leg broken in two places and sustained internal injuries, from which recovery is exceedingly doubtful.

The residence of Major Boblettee, not yet completed, was laid low, and will have to be entirely reconstructed.  The loss is about $3,000.

The saloon of E. Hall is completely ruined.  Loss $600.

The millinery store of Miss T. Westfall was completely destroyed, the stock of goods being scattered in every direction.

The saloon and grocery of Mr. Schraum and the general store of Mr. Jacobs were both entirely ruined, involving a loss of nearly $5,000.

Lightning struck the two story brick building of C. Bathurst twice, and completed the ruin that the wind had commenced.  The loss will reach $7,000.

Dr. C. Weschke, the mayor of the city, occupied a drug store in his new two story brick.  It was struck by lightning, and badly wrecked, the wind completing the ruins.  Dr. Muller, who occupied an office in the building, lost all he had.  The loss on the building and contents will reach $5,000.

The Dakota house escaped with comparatively little damage.  The back part was unroofed, involving a loss of $600.

The store occupied by Dr. Marden and Mr. Popp as a bookstore was unroofed, and their goods considerably damaged.

Siebold’s two-and-a-half story brick was unroofed and the back wall thrown down.  Loss $600 to $800.

The store occupied by Cheap Charley was most fortunate.  The roof refused to give way, but the wind blew the windows in, both front and rear, and his goods made most fantastic expeditions in all directions.  He estimates his loss at $1,000, but it is possible that it will fall below that amount.

Mr. Schmidt’s two story brick building was unroofed, and Mr. Palmquist injured, but not seriously.  The building adjoining, occupied by Mrs. Rhodes, was considerably damaged.

Rudolph’s building was of frame, and was twisted completely out of shape.  The west wind raised it from its foundation and gave it a whirl, when the east wind took it in hand and twisted it out of all semblance.  The stock of boots and shoes it contained was considerably damaged.

The agricultural store of Peterson & Hornberg was unroofed, and some of the sulky plows and other agricultural implements it contained were carried several hundred feet and hopelessly wrecked.

The Union house fortunately escaped with comparatively little damage.  The rear of the hotel was unroofed and the barn totally wrecked.  The loss will foot up to $5,000.

The store of Michael Mullen, the most extensive in the city, suffered badly.  It was of brick, two stories in height, and was almost completely demolished, while the contents were scattered far and wide.  The loss will not fall short of $7,000.

The three story brick store of Theodore Crone was struck by lightning, the fluid tearing a hole ten feet in circumference through the upper story front.  The wind subsequently demolished the greater portion of the walls.  The contents, a stock of general merchandise, were badly damaged.  Loss $6,000.

The drug store of Maj. Bobletter, a two story brick, was unroofed and otherwise badly damaged.  The post office, located in the same building, suffered somewhat.

The two story brick of H. H. Beussman was also unroofed and one of the rear walls blown down.

The harness store of A. Quense, a two-story brick, lost its roof.

The millinery store of A. Olding was pretty effectually demolished.

The dry goods store of A. Bauke was denuded of its roof, and much of the goods damaged by the rain.

The Brown County bank was unroofed, suffering a loss of about $500.

Keisling, Keller & Co., dealers in merchandise, found themselves without a roof to protect them from the fury of the elements, and sustained a loss of nearly $1,000.

The stock in Dr. Kuhlman’s drug store was considerably damaged.

The store of C. W. A. Crooks was badly used up, and will be of little service hereafter.

The saloon of F. Meiles, a two story brick, is badly demoralized, and it will require $800 to repair it.

The planning mill of Jacob Muller is a complete wreck, scarcely two timbers being left together.

The three story stone building owned by Charles Somers was unroofed, but the walls were substantial and withstood the blasts.

The engine house of the Empire mill was completely wrecked, but the mill was but little injured.

Hawenstein’s brewery and residence suffered greatly, the residence being wholly and the brewery partially destroyed.  The loss will be $20,000.  It is rumored that there are two men buried beneath the ruins of the brewery, and men are now engaged in searching for them.

The sugar factory is a total wreck, involving a loss of $2,500, which falls upon a stock company.

Schumaker’s brewery was pretty badly shaken up by the cyclone, and it will require $4,000 to place it in order again.

The livery stable used by Chas. Roskoff was a complete wreck.  There were nine horses in it when the tornado struck it, all but one of which were rescued.

Great damage was done to the buildings east of Minnesota street, while those on the slough were almost completely swept from existence.


will not fall far short of $400,000.  The loss falls mainly upon poor people, through the destruction of their homes.


cannot at present be estimated.  Among those known to have been killed are:

Annie Leash, aged 10 years.
Miss Reitz, aged 16 years, had her head cut off by a flying plank.  Her head had not yet been found.
Albert Eckert and son.
Miss Warner, aged 6 years.
Ida Loomis.
Joseph Holloway and child.
Several others are missing, but may turn up safely.  A number, who were supposed to have been killed, have already been found unhurt.


A large number of persons suffered injuries of a more or less serious nature.  With the exception of Cletus Epple, mentioned above, none of them are thought to be fatally injured.


The La Crosse board of trade, which had been on a visit to this city, left on the morning train for their homes.  When the news of our calamity reached them en route they proceeded to take up a collection, and in a few minutes a handsome purse had been raised, which was telegraphed here to be applied as far as possible to the wants of those who were suffering.  The act will be keenly appreciated by our citizens.


After an informal meeting of citizens, held this evening, a committee was appointed to call upon the governor and consult with him relative to the proper means to be taken to prevent suffering and assist the victims of the cyclone to repair the damage done.  The committee consisted of Major Joseph Bobletter, Col. Wm. Pfaender and Senator S. D. Peterson.  They left on the train for St. Paul, and will call upon Gov. Pillsbury at the earliest possible moment.


Fearing that some of the citizens might be subject to pillage, the Governor’s guard was called out, and have been on duty all afternoon and evening.  If lawlessness should manifest itself they will be prompt to bring the offenders to justice.

Saint Paul Sunday Globe
Sunday Morning, July 17, 1881
Volume IV, Number 198, Page 1 




Share Button