The Kirksville Cyclone

 Shortly after 6:00 p.m., April 27, 1899, a cyclone traveled through Adair County, touching the ground just south of Kirksville and lifting again several miles northeast of town.  It left a three block wide path of total destruction generally between Florence and Stanford Streets, from Patterson Street to just north of Illinois, as well as other damage throughout the city.  Thirty-two people lost their lives that evening and hundreds of Kirksville citizens were injured.  The May 12, 1899 edition of "The Kirksville Weekly Graphic" estimated property damage at a minimum $125,000.  Doctors from Macon and other near-by towns came to help local physicians treat the injured and over $24,000 in unsolicited donations came in from around the U.S. to aid those who lost their homes.


Presented by

Special Collections, Pickler Memorial Library
E.M. Violette Museum


Adair County, 1899


                                             Wallin's Directory of Adair County, Missouri, 1899-1900

The Cyclone’s Path through Adair County

First sighting …  

… was in the air near the lower iron bridge, about 12 miles southwest of Kirksville, shortly before 6:00 pm.

First touch-down …

… near Troy Mills destroyed the Lorton’s barn and the Leech orchard.

Second touch-down …

… a mile or so south of Kirksville, took out the slaughter house in Wilcox’s meadow and the residences of Otis Miller, Jr and Volney Johnson ...

… and on the crest of the hill south of town it claimed Mr & Mrs Calvin Little as its first fatalities.


… and cut a wide swath through the city from Patterson St on the south to the Quincy, Omaha & Kansas City RR tracks on the north … 

… and from Florence St on the west to Cottage Grove on the east. 

The next stop … 

… was 3 miles northeast of town where it took as its last victims, the 3 young daughters of Henry Lowe … 

… then destroyed the Moore, Hendrin & Yates homes … 

… and New Hope School … 

… before crossing the Salt River at the Furnish farm and tearing out the iron bridge across the stream. 

Final damage in Adair … 

… came when Mrs Mary Wilburn’s barn was turned completely around and all the buildings on the old Newcomb farm were demolished.



In the Whirl of the Tornado: A Personal Experience is the story of the storm told by local author John R Musick.  It appeared in the August 1899 issue of Century Magazine (Vol 58, No 4, pages 591-596) and can be found on line at Cornell University Library’s “Making of America” series.

The grainy, blurry photographs in this exhibit were scanned from faded and yellowed 100 year old newspapers so detail is not as sharp as we might like. We used them, however, because they identified specific homes and people that were affected by the storm. The rest of the exhibit’s photos were pulled together from several collections in the Violette Museum and Pickler Library’s Missouriana. Accounts of the storm and its aftermath that appeared in Kirksville’s three newspapers were used to compose the text.

For information concerning this exhibit contact:

Exhibits Gallery  |  Special Collections  |  Pickler Memorial Library  

Copyright © 1996-2004 by Truman State University, Kirksville, Missouri. All Rights Reserved.

Last Modified 28 September 2017
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