National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

More Details on the August 21, 1883 Tornadoes

1) Pleasant Grove Tornado (Olmsted County):
The tornado was the first significant tornado of the day.  This F3 tornado touched down around 330 PM about 10 miles south of Rochester near Pleasant Grove (Olmsted County).  This tornado caused damage on four farms during its 3 mile track through southern Olmsted County.  One of these farms was completely destroyed.  It killed 2 people and injured another ten people.  Damage was estimated to be $2,000 (in 2007 dollars this would be $42,000). 
Estimated track of the Pleaant Grove, MN tornado
Possible track of the
Pleasant Grove Tornado
Due to the extensive media coverage on the other two tornadoes (especially the one which moved through Rochester) on this day, little else is known about this tornado.  The map below is the estimated track of this tornado.

 2) Rochester Tornado (Dodge & Olmsted Counties):

Dodge County and Western Olmsted County...

The tornado initially touched down 4 miles northwest of Hayfield (Dodge County) around 6:30 PM and then moved east northeast through southern Dodge County. Westfield, Hayfield, Ashland, Vernon and Canisteo Townships experienced damage from this tornado. At least 10 of the 40 farms hit in the county were leveled by the tornado.
Estimated track of the tornado through Dodge and Olmsted counties
Possible Track of the
Rochester Tornado through
Dodge & Olmsted Counties
The tornado derailed a train engine (No. 12) and six freight cars near Zumbrota Junction.  William Higgins, the fireman on the locomotive, jumped from the train, but the engine fell on top of him and he was killed. 

Between 7:00 PM and 7:05 PM, the tornado moved northeast through northern Rochester.  Charles Wilson's barn on College Hill was about the first building struck and demolished.  The tornado then unroofed W. S. Booth's house.  The cupola of the court house was lifted and dashed through the roof to the auditor's office.  Two chimneys on Albert Harrington's new residence were blown over and broke the rafters.  The steeple of the Methodist church was blown over and through the roof.  It pressed out the east wall and crushed through the audience room and eventually ended up in the basement.
Estimated track of the tornado through Rochester, MN Possible Tornado Track
through Rochester, MN

The steeple of the Congregational church, where 35 children had just returned from a picnic, was blown off.  Fortunately, no children were injured. The Baptist church's roof was injured slightly.  Nearly every tin roof of the business blocks on Broadway was blown off.  Geo. Stockings's new brick grocery store on the corner of Fourth and Broadway was demolished with its contents.  Vedder's block of three stores had the roof taken off and south side blown off.  Vedder's Farm Machinery depot was unroofed and badly wrecked.  Van Dusen & Co.'s elevator had about a third of the roof blown off and south side badly injured.  Whetton & Judd's elevator was unroofed.  Horton's elevator was cut into the middle and on-half thrown on a freight train on a side track.  The Rochester Harvester works buildings were completely demolished.  The Zumbro flouring mills had a portion of the third story blown out bodily and the whole structure is badly wrecked.  He had apparently left the mill to go home when he was killed by the storm.  The engine house and cooper shop were wrecked, two car loads of flour were blown into the race and eight cars on the track were turned over.  John M. Cole, the proprietor of the mill, was found dead in the street between the mill and his residence.  He had apparently left the mill to go home when he was killed by the storm.  The Chicago & North Western Railroad yards received severe damage from the tornado. Box cars, buildings and stock pens were destroyed.  Mrs. Gilbert Smith's house, standing west of the Asylum, had the roof of the main part blown off.  A railroad bridge was blown down. Trees and debris are scattered throughout the streets and great rolls of tin roofing were strewn around the business thoroughfares.  Chickens, absolutely devoid of feathers but otherwise uninjured, were found unharmed on North Broadway.

Over 135 homes were destroyed and another 200 were damaged.  All of the dwelling houses destroyed were occupied an owned by people in moderate circumstances, principally laborers, who lost everything they owned.  These buildings were mostly north of the railroad track.  Through the district, oak trees were stripped of their foliage, nearly all of them being twisted, broken and blackened.  Sidewalks were carried away and fences were gone.  Household effects, or rather the remnants of them, were strewn all over the place.  

Will Reicke was picked up by the tornado, hurled across the Zumbro River and deposited near the Oak Wood Cemetery, where all the gravestones had been blown flat.  He escaped with a broken leg, a fractured wrist, and minor injuries.

East of Rochester...

After leaving Rochester, the tornado moved direct east.  It devastated nearly everything in its path for a distance of ten miles, and about a mile in width.  Of the grain that was either in shock or in the stack throughout this distance, there remained scarcely a vestige, nearly every field was swept clean.  Only four farm houses were left standing.  The remainder of the harm houses and buildings were swept away with not even a board in sight.  One field of one hundred acres of corn laid flat and every leaf stripped from the stalk.  Mr. John Canty's house, which stood directly in the path of the storm, was carried some distance from its foundation, in an opposite direction to the general course of the tornado.  Extensive property damage was reported in the Plainview, Viola, and Six Oaks areas.

Overall, the tornado killed 37 people and injured 200 others.  Many of the injuries were very serious and other deaths probably occurred, but they are not listed in this total.  This tornado was on the ground for 25 miles and it was estimated by Thomas P. Grazulis to be a F5 tornado.  The total damage was estimated to be $700,000 (in 2007 dollars this would be $14.9 million).

3) St. Charles/Lewiston Tornado (Winona County):

St. Charles Area...

Around 8:30 PM, the final significant tornado (F3) of the day touched down two miles north of St. Charles. Mr. Thorington's house (about four miles northeast of town) was blown to pieces and all of the family seriously hurt. Drs. Clark and Chamberlin were summoned to attend the sufferers. When they arrived. Mr Thorington was still living, but shortly after breathed his last. He was hurt internally and terribly bruised about head and face, The family had just arisen from the supper table at the time the wind struck the house, when they made a rush for the doors, but too late for all of them to escape.
Estimated track of the St. Charles/Lewiston tornado Possible Track of the
St. Charles/Lewiston Tornado

Those that did get out were hurried they knew not whither. Mrs. Thorington, while considerably bruised, is not dangerously hurt. Her son George, wife, and child were also hurt. George, it is said, was carried in to a tree. The hired girl was badly injured. Dr. Martin's son Willard, one of the twins, was seriously hurt. At first, they thought fatally, but he is now better. In addition, the fine grove around this house was partially destroyed. A large oak tree was broken off close to the ground and carried more than fifty yards. The barn was also demolished. The horses were not hurt, although the harness was stripped from them completely. The family was tenderly cared for by the neighbors.

Considerable other damage was reported in the vicinity. Hay and grain, in the stock and stack, are strewn around promiscuously. It was at time rumored that Alex Gilmore's house was leveled -- a report that happily proved groundless. Parts of H. Lybarger's and Charles Robbin's houses were unroofed. A farm house belonging to V. Simpson, and occupied by a family named Binder, was wholly demolished, and the inhabitants were severely injured. The large barn on the Summit farm, owned at the time by H. W. Lamberton, was partially destroyed. This barn was erected in 1856 by William Ashley Jones. At the time it was built, it was the largest barn in the country.

Postmaster Pickert's barn was canted out of shape and J. Huckins's kitchen was loosened from the main part of the house and turned over. Other minor damage was done in the neighborhood, such as the demolition of chimneys and shade tree.

Lewiston Area...

Barns and granaries were unroofed, stock scattered in every direction, and grain in shocks completely carried away leaving the fields as dead as it could be done by teams. Every building on Conrad Stellwagen's farm was completely ruined. Mr Stellwagen broke two ribs and his nose. Several others there were hurt, but not fatally. Mr. Stellwagen had just completed his house and a very fine barn. His loss will reach $2,500. The storm could be seen from Lewiston; and had more of the appearance of a whirlwind than a cyclone. A great many others lost in blowing down of stacks and scattering of grain, but the above are the heaviest losers in this locality.

Overall, this tornado was on the ground for 12 miles. It killed one man and injured others. It was estimated that this tornado produced $1,000 in damage (in 2007 dollars this would be $21,000).