By Sam Sagastume
On June 15, 1912, southern Cass County, Missouri experienced the most destructive storm it had ever seen. Two tornadoes ripped through the area. One was in Drexel, ending northeast of town, and the other in the southeast part of Cass County and the northeastern part of Bates County. Lacking the life-saving weather-tracking technology of today, residents of Adrian, Creighton, Drexel, Merwin, and outlying areas were unprepared for the tornadoes that would devastate the area.
The first building damaged in Creighton was the brick schoolhouse. It was valued at $8,000, which would total approximately $226,000 today.
Photo from A Pictoral History of Cass County, Missouri by the Cass County Democrat Missourian
The Mat Dale farm
The greatest individual property loss along the entire route of the storm came to the Mat Dale farm southwest of Creighton. The loss of his seven-room two-story brick house, three barns and other buildings, 50 tons of hay (which was found blown and trapped to a depth of 2-3 feet into a catalpa and poplar grove), and all of the livestock that was near the barns, including sixteen work horses, a stallion, about eighty head of hogs and several head of cattle, came to an estimated $10,000-$12,000, which would be approximately $282,000- $339,000 today.
Though the Dale family was in the house at the time of the tornado, nobody in the Dale household was killed. He and his daughter, Esther, were dug out from a 3-foot deep pile of brick rubble over an hour and a half after the storm.
Photo at left shows workers gathering carcasses of hogs and cattle killed in the 1912 tornado on the Mat Dale Farm. From A Pictorial History of Cass County, Missouri by the Cass County Democrat Missourian
In addition to the unspeakable destruction, multiple “freak incidents” caused by the tornado were reported in and around Creighton.
- The house of Mrs. John McVicker was carried across the road, leaving Mrs. McVicker, unharmed, in her bed.
- Clifford Grosshart, 13, broke his arm in two places and had a spike nail driven into his lungs. Though he was not expected to recover, he went on to lead a full life.
- The wind twisted a house at the Aaron Gregg farm, but left the family in their beds, unharmed.
- A leaf of a spring from an old spring wagon was driven through a tree, protruding through the other side.
The tornadoes of June 15, 1912 had no mercy Drexel and Merwin, either. Besides killing fourteen people, the storm killed livestock and fowl, uprooted orchards and hedges, and blew a work train off the tracks.
While Will Tucker and his other two children were out of the house, the remains shown in the photo above, Mrs. Tucker and her baby were alone at home when the tornado struck. The house was picked up, torn to pieces, and scattered for miles. Interestingly, while the trees nearby were laying with their tops toward the east, the remains of the house were found to the west. Mrs. Tucker was seriously injured and later died, but the baby was only slightly injured.
Joseph F. Cory leaves his memory of the event:
“We were there, Drexel, Missouri, June fifteenth, nineteen twelve–we three, my sister Dorothy age nine, my brother William age five, and I, Joe, age seven, visiting with Grandma and Grandpa Cory.
Saturday supper time we heard the wind; the front door blew open, slammed shut, the house tilted, and we were in a field very wet. It was raining, it was dark, but we could see each other nearby in lightening flashes. We were found and covered with carpets to keep the rain off us.
I looked up and saw a cookstove with the fire still burning in it in the top of a tall tree across the road. Grandpa Cory’s house was gone.
Sunday the sand and plaster was combed out of our hair, and at Uncle Will Cory’s house we had green grape pie and turkey. Chickens looked funny without any feathers.
They said that my Mamma and Grandma would not come back. I was very lonely!
Yes, we were there, always remembering.”
- Drexel: The First 100 Years, Published by the Committee of Historical Events, 1989
- History of Creighton, Missouri 1885-1985, by the Creighton Centennial Book Committee
- A Pictorial History of Cass County, Missouri, by the Cass County Democrat Missourian, 1992