New Richmond Tornado – Wisconsin – June 12, 1899

An F5 tornado struck New Richmond, Wisconsin. As the tornado traveled toward New Richmond it destroyed many farms, killing in all 117 and injuring 200 others.

On June 12, 1899, the New Richmond tornado of F5 level strength originated as a waterspout on Lake St. Croix, about twenty-five miles northeast of New Richmond, Wisconsin. As it became a tornado and moved southwest toward New Richmond it leveled farms on its way and killed three people in them. The tornado entered New Richmond about 4:30 P.M., shortly after a crowd of 1,000 had dispersed. The crowd had come in from surrounding areas to watch a circus that was there for the day.

New Richmond had virtually all of its buildings either totally destroyed or seriously damaged as the tornado passed through the center of the community. A total of 117 people lost their lives and more than 200 were injured. The damage was estimated at $300,000. The death toll might well have been much higher had visibility been poor, as it was, the funnel cloud could be seen at a considerable distance and many were able to get to safe shelters.

The massive amount of flying debris resulted in multiple deaths in twenty-six families. Each of six families lost four of their members. The main reason for these unexpected multiple deaths was the presence of the Gollmar Brothers Circus and the large numbers of whole families that had come into New Richmond for the occasion. Schools had closed down at the end of the previous week so children were free to join the rest of their family.

A 3,000 pound safe was picked up and carried for a distance equal to the length of one block. Trees and timber were thrown high into the air. The community’s electrical plant and water facilities were destroyed, so fires were out of control. Many bodies found in the aftermath were burnt beyond recognition. It was impossible to tell if they had died from the tornado or from being trapped and burned alive. The damage wrought by the tornado was so complete that the town had to be rebuilt.

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