Thursday, October 4, 2018

Cyclone of 1890

People in western Kentucky still talk about the Cyclone of 1890.  On Thursday, March 27, of that year, the wind had been blowing at a terrible gale all day, with low, heavy clouds gathering  up until 4:30 p.m., when  a whitish cloud with  yellow tinge began gathering  in the southwest, accompanied by deafening claps of thunder.  Thirty minutes later a dark, funnel-shaped cloud could be seen in the southwest  - rolling, curling and twisting, carrying all sorts of things with it. Then it struck.

In Marion, Crittenden County, the first building struck was the court house. It tore off about half the roof on the north side. It next struck the Carnahan opera house, tearing the roof off and the water drenching the scenery and seats. The Masonic hall was unroofed and the rain damaging  the dry goods stock of A. Wolf. The roof of the Methodist church was also damaged. Stables and outhouses were nearly all blown down. Large trees were torn up by the roots and carried away by  the wind. The rain fell in such torrents as to make it impossible to see objects more than 8 or 10 feet away. [1]

The new town of Grand Rivers, on the Cumberland River, was destroyed and several people killed.  Near Lola, Livingston County, the people watching the storm were amazed and horrified to see the body of a man being carried along with the storm.   Another man had a team of mules blown out of his lot, carried half a mile, and then dropped without any injury. Dead horses, mules, cows and all kinds of domestic animals could be found scattered along the path of the cyclone.

It was reported that 11 people were killed between Lola and Hampton, in Livingston County.   It was also said that a total of  20 or 30 people were killed and about twice that many wounded. 

This is a list of  the wounded: [2]
J.E. Sultinger [Sullinger?], severely cut on head, probably fatal.
John A. Little, arm broken.
Jesse J. Boyd, wife and four children, severely wounded.
Adam Robinson, arm broken.
Mrs. Henry Little, dangerously wounded.
Jo Shoemaker, leg crushed.
Mrs. D.W. Kimsey, fatally injured.
Mrs. Burns, cannot recover.
Mr. Summers, reported dying.
Alex. May, leg broken.
Mr. Stanford, leg broken.
Mrs. R.A. Herroll, leg cut.
Mrs. A. Herroll, arm broken.
Scipes Dillard, fatally injured.
Mrs. Moreland and child, badly bruised about head and chest.
Mrs. Robinson, arm broken.
J.H. Robinson, wife and mother, all dangerously hurt.
S.F. Turley, head cut.
L.P. Conger, leg broken.
Thos. Clements and wife, Berry Rich and wife, all fatally wounded.
Miss Eva Williams, E.C. Moore, C. Moreland, injured fatally.
The following were killed: Mrs. C. Moreland and wife, two children of J.H. Robinson, Miss Burns, and a child of Jesse J. Boyd.[3]

The storm also hit Uniontown in Union County and, at Sturgis, there was hail and the wind unroofed several barns. For several miles in Webster County, between Clayville [now called Clay]  and Dixon, it swept everything away. The wife of W.B. Taylor and a son of Henry Hammock, among others, were killed outright.  It was estimated the killed and wounded at Webster would number not less than 50.[4]

There was no damage at Princeton, Caldwell County, Kentucky except for fences and chimneys being torn down.  Eddyville was a different story with four persons killed and 30 seriously injured. J.C. Church, Lyon County Coroner, his wife and three grandchildren were seriously injured. [5]

Metropolis, Illinois suffered a great blow from the cyclone. Over 100 buildings were wrecked or damaged. Not a one escaped damage. A large gypsy encampment outside of  town was totally demolished and two children were killed. One gypsy woman was carried across the backwater half a mile and seriously injured.[6]

One of the persons who died as a result of the cyclone was Mary Elizabeth (Porter) Kimsey, wife of David W. Kimsey of Lola. In addition to her death several days after the storm, the Kimsey home was blown down and the contents blown away.  Kimsey and several of his children were injured and all of his livestock except for one mule were killed by the storm.

After the cyclone, the city of Evansville collected funds and food to assist those who had suffered losses from the cyclone and the aid was then dispensed to relief committees in several different towns, including Salem, in Livingston County, Kentucky.[7]  David W. Kimsey, a pensioner of the Union Army in the Civil War,  applied for assistance, but was rejected. Crittenden Post No. 31, G.A.R. wrote a letter on Kimsey's behalf to the Evansville Journal , which published the letter 14 July 1890. In the letter, the displeasure of the G.A.R. post was expressed.  The letter ended with this statement:   "We think it very unjust that the Federal soldiers should be singled out and given nothing. [signed] T.J. Cameron, Com. and A.J. Bebout, Adjt.

The following day, a response was published in the newspaper, which stated Mr. P. Grassham of the Salem relief committee had received $150 to distribute among those left most destitute by the cyclone.[8] Apparently, David W. Kimsey was not considered to be among the most destitute.

Mary Elizabeth (Porter) Kimsey is buried at New Union Cemetery near Lola, Kentucky. No tombstone marks her grave.[9]

[1] "Cyclone in Kentucky," Arkansas City Daily Traveler, Arkansas City, Kansas, Thurs., 27 Feb 1860,
[2]  The newspaper article does not give the residence of the wounded and deceased.  Scipio Dillard lived in Bells Mines, Crittenden County in 1880 and 1900. Alexander May lived in Carrsville Dist., Livingston County in 1880 and 1900. Some of the others listed were not found on either the 1880 or 1900 census records.
[3] "The Cyclone's Awful Path," Evansville Journal, Mon., 31 Mar 1890, p. 8.
[4]  "Work of Wind and Hail," The Salt Lake Herald, Salt Lake City, Utah, Sun., 30 Mar 1890,
[5]  "Princeton, KY and Vicinity," Evansville Courier, 30 Mar 1890, p. 1.
[6] "The Cyclones's Awful Path," Evansville Journal, 31 Mar 1890, p. 8.
[7] "Loyalty A Crime, A Federal Soldier Proscribed for Being Loyal," Evansville Journal, 14 July 1890, p. 4.
[8]  Ibid.
[9] Find A Grave Memorial #46894712, Mary Elizabeth Kimsey, born 1858, died 30 March 1890.

Published 4 Oct 2018, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

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