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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: New Richmond tornado (1899)


The state's worst tornado occurred on June 12, 1899, when the town of New Richmond was almost entirely obliterated.

"The day had been unseasonably warm, clear and sunny until about 3 p.m., when the sky clouded darkly. At 4:30 it began to rain, stopping after about 20 minutes. The sky became still darker. Then the murderous cone of wind swirled in, tearing homes and business blocks from their foundations, hurling timber and uprooted trees like javelins in every direction, sweeping men and women from their feet and crushing them against walls or the ground." The Milwaukee Journal reported that 500 buildings were destroyed and the only structures of any note still standing were the Catholic and Baptist churches. A large safe, weighing 300 pounds, was caught up and carried for a block. 117 persons were killed in New Richmond and vicinity and 125 injured. The safest place proved to be a cellar, but even there several persons perished. One family of seven had scarcely taken refuge in the cellar when the house was lifted off and destroyed. The owner had a number of mowers and binders and rakes on the premises, which were blown into the cellar, almost completely filling it; miraculously, no one there was seriously injured. Property damage totaled about $600,000. View more information elsewhere at


[Source: Milwaukee Journal, June 13, 1899; Ashland Daily Press, May 9 & 10, 1935; Anna P. Epley, The Modern Herculaneum: Story of the New Richmond Tornado (privately printed, 1900) ]
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