Macon Hit Hard by Tornado in 1883
From the Macon Times - May 14, 1883
All day Sunday dark and ominous clouds overspread the city of Macon, bearing a threatening aspect, but very few contemplated the terrible work of destruction that was in store for them. Between eight and nine o'clock a dark, inky mass of clouds gathered in the southwest, which soon developed into a more dense and darker blackness as they approached the city to the west. They passed just west of the town and passed on to the northwest where they seemed to stand as if to reinforce their fury.
Meanwhile large clouds of a similar nature were gathering in the southeast, and like two enemies at battle, amid an incessant roar of thunder and flashing of lightning the two masses advanced on each other, and a terrible roar like an unremitting peal of thunder told too truly the terrible story that the warring masses had met, and the battle of destruction had begun. Crashing timbers could be heard as they flew through the air on the wings of the whirlwind, striking houses, fences, barns and other out-buildings. Houses rocked to and fro as a cradle. Some were lifted completely from their foundations and whirled a distance of from three to 15 feet. Some houses were completely out of shape and unroofed; while the majority were injured slightly, a number were completely wrecked.
Fortunately for the city the path of the cyclone was across the south part of the town, or what is called South Africa. While a few good houses were damaged, most of those destroyed were huts and cabins. [Descriptions of numerous damaged homes listed].
Though we could not obtain a very clear idea of the character or the manner of creation it seems that the cyclone formed in the Chariton bottom, about one mile west of A.B. Lewis, 14 or 15 miles southwest of Macon, and was accompanied by the usual funnel-shaped cloud.
No fences were left in any part of the storm, which was about one-quarter of a mile wide, and in many orchards and in the woods the trees were torn up by the roots or twisted into shreds.
The first damage to buildings was the partial destruction of Mr. A. B. Lewis' barn 14 miles southwest of Macon.
The place of C.E. Miller, about one mile northeast was next in line, and not a thing of the fine house and barn and outbuildings was left standing. His orchard and trees were torn up by the roots. Part of the building was blown two and a half miles. Miller's wife was seriously injured. He sustained some loss of livestock, including one fine mule.
Nothing but ruins was left of the house of John Clarkson, and Mrs. Clarkson was instantly killed. Clarkson and his wife had been standing together when the shock hit. When Clarkson regained consciousness he found himself and his wife lying in a pile of debris about 25 feet from where they had been standing. Attempting to pick his wife up, he found that she was dead. The house seemed to have rolled over. Loss on the property was about $2,000.
The house of Thomas Banta was lifted up, the end carried around 40 or 50 feet and set down entirely away from the foundation, the east front turned north.
At the home of Elijah Banta a number of relatives and friends had assembled to see Mrs. Banta and her father, Mr. James, both of whom were confined to their beds with illness. There were 17 persons in the house, not one of whom escaped entirely unhurt, and not a stick of a single building on the place was left standing. Mrs. Elijah Banta was fatally injured, living about half an hour. Mordecai Harp and his son, Alonzo were seriously hurt. Alonzo later died of his wound; he was to be married the next day. He had a wound large enough to admit three fingers torn into his side. The bedstead on which Mr. James was lying was carried away, and he was left lying on the ticking where the bed once was, Charles Ross had recently built a small house. The storm hit, killing Mr. Ross, and nothing was left standing on the place.
The public school building for the colored people, a commodious brick structure, was leveled, the walls falling in every direction. The African M.E. Church was struck from the southeast and toppled over. Luckily there was a tornado risk on the church for $1,000.
The storm struck the two-story frame house of Willis Turner, the timbers of the house falling on George Turner, his father, who is supposed fatally injured. Mrs. Vaughn was in bed when the tornado struck and was picked up, bed and all, and was carried out into her garden, and was gently let down, receiving no injury. Her house, a two-story, was mashed into match-wood.
The stable of Thomas Bledsoe blew down upon his horses, and he and his wife rushed out in the hall and wind and heroically threw boards and heavy rafters off the poor brutes, thereby saving their lives.
Paul Walker was lifted by the wind and carried a distance of 100 feet, over the railroad track, receiving severe injuries. In the business part of town little damage was done, excepting to Hagy's building. A few window glasses were blown out of the stores of J.W. Angus, J.T. Gellhaus and E.J. Newcomer and Co. A portion was blown out of the front of Jackson and Raines' livery stable and the fronts out of two small building on Weed Street.
The roof was-blown from the building housing the Republican printing office in the upper story. The office was flooded with water.
A woman named Irving was hung up in a large oak sapling where she remained, badly frightened, for an hour. It was reported that a five-month-old infant, belonging to a Mrs. McKenny, was lifted by the wind and carried over 300 yards and dropped into a field owned by Charles Lawrence, where it was found in the morning uninjured, though drenched to the skin.
From the Macon Times - July 13, 1883
The storm began, at a little past three o'clock, and made earth hideous for more than an hour. At one time it was so dark that one could scarcely see in a room, and during a great time of the storm it was difficult to tell whether houses were down or standing across the street, the water, which fell so fast, being blown in such blinding sheets.
The heaviest loss in the city was that of St. James' Academy, prized by all as the pride of the city. A three-story wing to the old building was nearing completion. It was to have been finished in five weeks, but the storm laid the new addition in ruins, leaving the original building standing. The walls of the academy fell upon a portion of the residence of the rector, Rev. Mr. Talbot, and crushed it to, the ground; but, fortunately, no one was in the house at the time.