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Tornado hits Tracy on Sunday, June 22, 1924

May 7, 2012
By Ellayne Conyers , Marshall Independent

Part I:

This following series is reprinted from the 2010 issue of the Lyon Tale, written by me, and offered to the public as historic information as we head into another "tornado season" in southwestern Minnesota.

"It was Sunday afternoon at 4:30 p.m. that a tornado swept through the town of Tracy, MN destroying property, taking one life, and injuring others. This mile wide cyclone caused hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage - with few people covered by insurance. 'Farm building, trees, household goods and farm machinery all massed together and scattered about, some being pitched up a mile from where it started, while other things found no one know just where, they had come from.'

Much of the narrative below is copied from the listed sources. This tragedy could not be reported so accurately and/or so movingly for posterity (and in this case recorded for history) as it was originally found in these publications.


The Garvin Leader Newspaper covered this tragedy in its June 27, 1924, issue. Dorothy Pamp (nee Evans) allowed me to make a photocopy of her grandfather's (Ellsworth Evans) newspaper in order that I might publish the Lyon Tale. The newspaper itself was very fragile and the print faded with time, but we were able to make a copy, and from this I can again tell this story of a small town in southwestern Minnesota that experienced a tragic storm in 1924.

The tornado first swooped down in the vicinity of Lake Benton and then swept through a strip of the county a little more than a mile wide and extended many miles in length. Destruction began northwest of Balaton and it traveled, 'increased in its frightfulness as it raged towards the east, and without a doubt the largest damages and the only death so far reported was in the vicinity of Garvin.'

The electric transmission lines from Tracy to Garvin and Balaton were all torn down for many miles leaving farms and city residences without electricity. The previous spring the Garvin Creamery had installed a steam engine to use in an emergency, so they were able to keep operating. The electric company placed 'a large force of men' to work on electric lines.

Telephone communication with Garvin was possible only from the south as the lines to the east, north and west were down for many miles, and it took many days to get the lines repaired. All fences in the wake of the storm were down leaving livestock to run at large.

Fifteen people took refuge in the Swift family cellar, and although a lot of rubbish and other stuff were blown into the cellar, only two occupants received slight scratches. Of five automobiles that were parked in the lot at the Swift place, four were blown many rods away, while the fifth one hung partly into the cellar. Some of the cars were badly demolished and buried into the soil of the field upon impact.

At this point of the storm it was one and one-half miles north of Garvin and the roar of the tornado was plainly audible above the din and roar of the rain and hail that was falling at the same time, and to some the rubbish could be seen flying through the air. The din and roar of the tornado could be heard in Garvin, long after the storm had passed, as it continued on its rampage, dealing destruction to everything it touched as it wended its way eastward.

'The Bert Willform family were at home, and realizing the approach of the tornado, ran into their cellar, and got there none too soon, for hardly had the last one got down before the house and its contents were lifted up by the wind, and their escape from serious injury is nothing short of a miracle as a lot of debris and some heavy timbers were blown into the cellar, their son Dan who was standing in the southwest corner of the cellar, experienced the thrill of having the two wheels and axle of an old corn plow, on the foundation just above his head.'

(Continued next week.)



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