Shinnston Tornado

The Shinnston News
June 29, 1944

Shinnston Buries Her Beloved Dead

Tornado Reaps Heavy Toll Of Death in Community

Fury of Storm Unequaled In History of West Virginia

While the search continues for missing persons following the disaster of Friday evening, Shinnston has gone about the sad task of burying its dead, and the people are just beginning to realize the enormity of the calamity that has befallen the community.

Many funerals have already been held and others are being arranged just as fast as possible because of the large number to be taken care of. Services have been held in some instances for whole families - five hearses having been required in one instance to carry the caskets of those who met death in one house. The victims were the Carlin family with three members of the Bean family who were at their home.

A monster of the elements, gathering from everywhere its particles of fury and might, and ridding the black clouds of destruction has rained death and disaster on a large part of Shinnston and numerous other peaceful communities of West Virginia.

The worst calamity of its kind ever to strike West Virginia, the death toll in Shinnston and the surrounding communities has reached 66 and the search is continuing for other bodies in the wreckage of homes and the territory for miles around.

The tornado struck Shinnston about 8:30 Friday evening, and while the people in the path of the storm had brief seconds of warning in the unnatural noises immediately preceding the blow and in the appearance of the awful cone-shaped cloud on the horizon, few of the victims had time to seek shelter, even in the basements of their homes. And as panic seized everybody the crash of death was heard, the havoc was wrought, and the devestating [sic] force moved on to spread its rage and destruction for many miles.

After the force of the tornado had passed, high winds prevailed and menacing clouds hovered over throughout the forepart of the night, but as if by providence there was no downpour of rain to add to the distress of wounded trapped in the wreckage of their homes or to hamper the work of the numerous people engaged in rescue work.

Immediately after the tornado had struck calls were sent to Clarksburg and Fairmont for help and amid the screams of ambulance sirens and general panic and confusion of the people, the rescue work quickly took form.

The Coffindafter Clinic, the only hospital in the city, was soon crowded with the wounded and stricken, and an emergency ward was opened at the First Methodist Church for the less seriously wounded, while Clarksburg and Fairmont Hospitals received the many critical cases.

Not more than ten houses were left standing in the Pleasant Hill addition to Shinnston, while South Shinnston was entirely wiped out and the four houses at Lucas Mill, just across the river from Pleasant Hill were blown into the river together with their occupants, some of whom have not been found.

The Solon row of houses was also reduced to wreckage, and some of the occupants of those houses have not been found. The top of the aerial at the State Police headquarters was broken off. Continuing its path of destruction, the tornado moved to Shinn's Run, leveling homes and buildings, killing live stock and blowing down trees, and completely destroying the large compresser gas station on Booths Creek, together with two dwelling houses adjacent thereto.

The town was plunged into darkness by the breaking of power lines and the telephone facilities were such as were possible by auxiliary means. It was sufficient, however, to meet the situation of the emergency until a few hours later when normal service was resumed and the lights were on again as usual. Red Cross head- headquarters [sic] were opened in the office of the News, and the State Guards and Army units from the Elkins district were on duty everywhere throughout the area.

All service organizations in the city, including the Fire Department and the officials of the city were quickly mobilized to co-operate with the Red Cross and the military personnel, and everything possible was done to alleviate the suffering of the wounded and those suffering from shock.

The tornado approached from the direction of Mannington, although that city was not in its direct path. The Glad Fork community, near Joetown, was the first to suffer the deadly blows of the storm. There were several fatalities there, while the villages of Grangeville and Oakdale, landmarks of the pioneers of that section, were entirely destroyed. At Grangeville the only building left standing was a small tile block garage. The church, store and all residences were reduced to wreckage.

Proceeding down the valley, the home of William Griffin, only a few hundred feet below the destroyed home of Mrs. Sena Mason was practically undamaged, although several trees were laid down around it.

A little further down the home of Herbert Moore was obliterated, not a trace of it left, while the home of his father, Ross Moore, a few hundred feet away, was undamaged. The village of Oakdale was next in the path of the storm and the only building left here is the home of D. D. Robinson. The store and home of Dallie Ashcraft, the homes of Carson Griffin, Ralph Robinson, the Loomans and the church were all completely destroyed.

Further down, the dormer windows of the homes of Okey Hess and his son in law, James Arnett were blown out, and the roots damaged, while the home of Mrs. Inez Robinson and her father Jack Garrett were destroyed. The Bragg home, also near the Robinson home, was swept away together with the barn and other outbuildings.

Ira Hawker lost two outbuildings and damage was done to the roof of his home. Throughout the valley trees fell in all directions, blocking the highway in many places. The home of Clark Anderson, a short distance from Hawker's was damaged, and his barn blown down.

Cutting a swath through the woods and crossing the hill, the tornado moved to Cunningham's Run, where several outbuildings were leveled, and many trees uprooted. The barn of Wayne Cunningham was laid low but his home was untouched. Walter Robinson lost some outbuildings, while the E. M. Hess houses seems to have had a narrow escape, as huge trees fell all around it.

Coming over the Peora hill the home of Charles William David Carlin was swept away and his family killed. Mrs. Carl Bean and two daughters who lived nearby were at the Carlin home and were also killed. Their home was moved from its foundation but was not completely destroyed.

The storm moved on toward Shinnston, scattering the large barn of Joseph Lucas, and uprooting many large trees there as well as across the road at the Lee Boggess house, now occupied by Mr. and Mrs. James Haislip.

Then the Lucas Mill homes were taken and the storm began its wholesale destruction in Pleasant Hill and other sections mentioned.

Many people report having seen the tornado approaching. Their descriptions are all about the same. It was the most terrifying sight of their lives, a monstrous mixture of fire and sulphur and blackness, forming its deadly funnel shape, and carrying tops of trees, large pieces of timber and debris.

Its fury and might was unequaled by anything produced by the devilish mechanizations of man or war. It seemed bent on total destruction, like unto some unearthly giant sweeping above the earth, blasting homes and intermittently scorching hillsides and denuding them of the trees by the mad swing of its club.

Results of its visitation are in many instances too horrible to describe. In its might, it performed such terrifying acts as sweeping the feathers of chickens clean and leaving them standing, stark dead, peeling the bark clean of trees and leaving them upright, carrying huge timbers which in some instances struck human beings to break their bones and disfigure them - and all the while in brief seconds killing and leveling homes.

Many miraculous escapes from death have been reported and numerous freakish incidents are told as the results of the tornado are surveyed.

The family of William Kendall in South Shinnston, with some neighbors who were in the house, making ten persons, were left standing unharmed on the floor of their home after it had been blown away. Their household goods, includnig [sic] a refrigerator, were scattered far and wide.

The storm seemed to have a special liking for refrigerators, iron stoves and the like, as they could be seen lying in many places, far from the site of the houses from where they came.

Automobiles were also moved nearly a hundred feet in some instances after the garage had been destroyed. At the farm of Ira Hawker, a large chicken house was blown over an embankment, landing on a hay rake. A few feet away a large wagon shed was knocked over the same bank, landing on a hay tedder.

Chalfant house, occupied by Robt Atkinson, partly destroyed.

It would be hard to estimate the number of people who have come to Shinnston to view the wreckage. Literally thousands of cars have clogged the highways, making it difficult for the State Police and the Army to handle the traffic.

Making death by the storm all the more sad and disheartening, several of the victims were hurled into the river, and some of them are yet unrecovered.

The bodies of Mrs. Emma Yost, 58, wife of Calvin Yost, and her daughter, Mrs. Loretta Metz, 31, wife of Edward Metz, were found Monday afternoon lying close together on the bank of the river at Viropa. There were four deaths in the family, the husband and a son Kenneth Lee, 12, having been killed in the storm.

Lola King, 62, and Neil Eckard, 65, both died at a Clarksburg hospital Monday. They were victims of the tronado [sic] here.

Bodies of Loretta Sharp, 10, and Mrs. Ora O'Connor, both of Lucas Mill, and Blaine Carder, Jr., 14, of the Shinnston area were found by searchers in the West Fork river.

The body of John Cavalier, 18-months old son of Joseph Cavalier was found on the river bank at Ehlen.

The bodies of the following persons who were listed as missing, were recovered Tuesday from the West Fork river: Josephine Capillo, 19, of Ehlen, near Big Elm north of Shinnston; Mrs. Thomas West, of Lucas Mill, who was found near the new bridge; Amos Lindsay, of Ehlen, found near the Country Club stop, near Fairmont; and Margaret Cavalier, 3, of Ehlen, who was found near Watson.

Still missing are Betty Lundell, 9, Shinnston, and Geneva Lindsey, 22, also of Shinnston.

Among the homes destroyed were those of the following in Pleasant Hill: Louie Seamon, Sam Book, Angeline Marino, Santa Rotunda, Tony Larry, Louie Marra, John Marra, Steve Fooks, Lillian Malone, Wm. Bart's home and store, Roy Moore, James Mike, Frank Verdigone, Mrs. Barron, Tony Oliverio, Golden Heldreth, Henry Heldreth, Mr. Flowers, James Bart, Eugene Cox.

Homes badly damaged in Pleasant Hill included those of Mrs. Sefro Martinez, the Shilley brick home, Joe Felosa, John Pillo, John Hacks, H. R. Andrich, Tony Storage, Emma Morgan, Andy Galayda, Rocco Romeo, Sam Scalis, Sam Were, Mary Somody, John Rease, Mrs. Ray Ashcraft, Joe Saporita, W. J. Stuck, Harvey Miller, Ned Zecco, Thomas Gregory.

At Solon homes of the following were destroyed: Mr. Lindsey, John Durante, Joe Allowatt, Okey Miller and Paul Palosak.

South Shinnston homes of Ben McFoy, the St. Clair home, Mrs. Irene Laughlin, Wm. Kendall, Peg. Wilson, Ralph Mahana and the Halpenny home.

In Howard place homes of Clarence Anderson, James McIe, Mrs. Robert Kann, Abe Hudkins, B. N. Moore, Mrs. Rose Toth, Carson Stemple, Mrs. Mary Senchina, Harry Linville and Doyle Loudin were almost completely wrecked.

Among the homes destroyed in the Shinn's Run area were those of Arthur Riley a house belonging to Mrs. Esther Hoffman and occupied by a Gillis family, Ezra Wright, Pete Cutlip, Harper's, Hubert Harrison and E. E. Righter.


The dead in the Shinnston community include the following:

John Barnett,
Robert Dale Basford.
Deloris Carder
Blaine Carder, Jr.
Johnnie Cavalier.
Neil Eckhard.
Charles Terry Lindsey.
Mildred Yost Metz,
Mrs. Tony Oliverio.
Frank Rotundo.
Loretta Sharp.
William Ray Stark.
William Ray Stark, Jr.
Mrs. Calvin Yost.
Kenneth Yost.
Mrs. Edgar E. Righter, Saltwell.
Mary Shinn, 50, of Shinn's Run, a teacher in the Wyatt school. She is thought to have died of shock.
Calvin Yost, Lucas Mill.
Carol Lindsey, 19, Ehlen.
Thomas West, 55, Robinson's Run.
Tony Oliverio, Pleasant Hill, died in Clarksburg hospital.
Santo Rotundo, boy, Pleasant Hill.
Charles Warren Lindsey, 5, and Jerry Robert Lindsey, 6, of Ehlen.
Denzil Kincaid, 22, of Shinnston and Pine Grove.
Mrs. Jason Craig, Ehlen.
Roberta E. Moore, 7, Oakdale.
Baby of Roy Barnette, 6 days of age and unnamed.
Mrs. Robert Carder
Mrs. Amos Lindsey.
Mr. and Mrs. Carson Griffin of Oakdale.
Mrs. Jessie Mahana, Ehlen
Anna Lee Mahana, 10 months old daughter of Mrs. Jesie Mahana.
Mrs. Carl Bean, Peora Hill, and Rose Bean, 19, daughter, and Hallie Bean, 21, daughter.
Mrs. Harvey Lundell mother of 13 children, visiting at Lucas Mill, and one child.
Margaret Gutierrez, 12, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Angel Gutierrez, of Erie, who was visiting in storm area.
Charles William David Carlin, 552 [sic], pit boss at Katherin eCoal [sic] Co. mine No. 4, of Peora Hill, and his wife, Mrs. Katherine Carlin.
Mrs. Beatric Hanlin, 25, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Carlin.
Kenneth Meredith Carlin, 16, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carlin.
Robert Lee Carlin, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carlin.
Mrs. Paul Cox, Shinn's Run, and two children, Allen Burl Cox, 3 and Paul Cox Jr., 15 months old.
Mrs. Leota King, Ehlen.
John Thomas Temple, 50.
Delores Arnold, 15.
Mrs. Pearl Sharp, 45, Ehlen.
Mrs. Ann Rutter, 50, Robinson's Run.
Louis Marra died at Clarksburg hospital.
Jerry Basford, 70, died at Clarksburg hospital.
Rose Oliverio, 22, daughter of Tony Oliverio.
Mrs. George O'Connor, 50, died in Clarksburg hospital.
Mrs. Okey (Bernice) Miller.
Catherine Miller, 17, daughter of Mrs. Okey Miller.
Fred Roberts and Mrs. Roberts.
Sonora Roberts, 19, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Roberts.
William Ray Star, died in Fairmont hospital.
Jack Garrett, 85, of near Oakdale.
Earl Milbourn, 60, a typewriter repairman from Winchester, Va., injured at Joetown.
John Barrett 59, Pine Grove.
Barbara Lee Zarbaugh, 5 months old.
Mrs. Frank Verdigan.


The injured, taken to St. Mary's hospital, included:

Austin Anderson, 6
Geral Bassart
Ralph Blair, 15
Nancy Ann Brown, 3 1/2 years
Mrs. Marie Baron, 63
Mrs. Mark Cunningham
Robert Carter, 35
Cora Courtney, 60
Mildred Fooks
Clara Fooks, 13
Mary Gillis, 16
Donald Gregory, 3
Peggy Gregory
Infant Gregory
Charles Hall
Mrs. Lillian Hall
Infant Hall, 3 months old.
Shirley Hall
Charles Jeffries
Darrell Lindsey (?)
Mrs. Angeline Loria
Doyle Loudin
Mrs. Vinginia Loudin
Ray Loudin, 13
Mrs. Bradford N. Moore
Mrs. Mabel McFay
John Marra
Mrs. Angeline Maroni
Mrs. John Marra
Infant Marra
Infant Donald May
Margaret Martinez
Mary V. Mahaney, 7
Scott Mackey Jr. 33
Edith Mackey, 37
Scott Mackey, Jr. 2 1/2
Charles Darrell Mackey, infant.
Patty Mackey, 4
George O'Connor, 14
Antionette Oliverio, 21
Anna Oliverio, 21
Eulanda Pillo, 12
Alma Ridge, 6
Mary Rotunda, 10
Santo Rotunda, 65
Lee Spring, 65
Mrs. Helen Sutula
Mary Stefhovich, 8
Frank Verdigan, 49
Elsie Ray Bowers
Marcie, 4, last name unknown.
Ercie Moore
Angeline Nero

At Union Protestant hospital:

Jean Gregory, 16
James Richard Lindsey
Rosa Lee Barnett
Lawrence Barnett
Mrs. Dean Zarbaugh
Louis McEldowney

At Fairmont General Hospital:

Eight critically injured include:
Mrs. Lizzie John) [sic] Barnett, 61.
Raymond Ballard, 8, probably of Shinnston.
Mrs. Frances (Frank) Rotunda.
Gladys Lamp, 38
Mary Garrett (Mrs. Jack) 69, of Oakdale.
Sarah Malone, 72.
Mary Lou Stary, 4
Leslie Mills, 60, of Joetown.

Twenty-nine also at Fairmont General Hospital not listed as critical:
Clarence Barnett, 20.
Ray Barnett, 27, serious after an operation.
William and Anna Barta, 53 and 49, both serious.
Wayonda Bragg, 14, only fair.
Fay Bragg, 38, only fair.
Carolyn Sue Cunningham, 3, fair.
Mart Cunningham, 54, fair.
Bessie Fetty, 42, fair.
Bonnie Hall, 33, Mingo Junction, Ohio, who was visiting at Joetown, fiar.
Dale Hall, 9, son of above, fair.
Larry Allen Heldreth, 43, fair.
Lillian Malone, 45, fair.
Milton Malone, fair.
Martha Mills, 36, Indian Run, fair.
Pearl Mills, 36, Indian Run, fair.
Tom Mills, 65, Indian Run, fair.
Mary Myers 27, serious.
Mary Price, 26, fair.
Maxine Riley, 15, fair.
Rotunda baby boy, serious.
Frank Rotunda, serious.
Earl Stark, Jr., 9, fair.
Virginia Stark, 8, fair.
Lucille Stark, 2, fair.
Anna May Stark, 27, mother of the three, fair.
Luch Stark, 67, fair.
Lester Tetrick, 23, fair.
Virginia (Mrs. Lester) Tetrick, fair.
Their son, David, 18 mo., fair.

At Fairmont Emergency:
Mrs. Bessie Moore, R. 2, Mannington.
Charles R. Moore, 5, son of the above.
Mrs. Freda Collins, 29.
Tommy Collins, 6, son of above.
Dona Jane Farrell, 22.

Tornado Sidelights

A well known colored man, Alex Taylor, who lived in a small shack on the Harmer ground in South Shinnston, was walking toward his house with two bags of oats. He saw the approaching storm, and also saw his shanty begin to quiver. Quick thinking enabled him to drop to the ground between his bag of oats and grab a stake which he had driven in the ground to tie his donkey to. The house disappeared, but he was unhurt. Mr. Taylor kept his donkey, a dun colored little fellow staked near the highway in Pleasant Hill most of the time, and it was there when the tornado struck. But after everything had been swept from around him, the little donkey was unhurt.

Herbert Moore was at work in the mines when the tornado hit. He had a feeling that something was wrong at his home above Oakdale, and told the superintendent he was going home. On the way he saw a truck load of men going in the direction of his home, and this added to his anxiety. When he reached his home it was not there. His little daughter Roberta had been killed. His little son told him that Roberta had been thrown against the corner of the house and that he had been thrown against the fence, but he had held fast and his life was saved, but he and his mother are both in the hospital. The children were playing in the yard at the time of the storm.

Of the many heart-rending experiences, from the standpoint of one fortunate enough to be only an observer, was to see a young man hesitatingly enter Red Cross headquarters to inquire about his family, only to find that his father is dead and his mother and his little brother are missing. And to see that young man leave the room, sit down on the steps and cover his face as he sobs out his grief. And to think that he is only one of scores who are deprived of their loved ones.

Mrs. Cena Mason age about 80, was found sitting in a chair in the wreckage of her home at Grangeville after the storm passed. She was unhurt, but her home, as well as those of her two daughters and sons in law were reduced to kindling wood. Leslie Mills, a son in law, was critically injured and his daughter, Mrs. Cecil Brown and small baby from Parkersburg, who were visiting there, were taken to Fairmont General Hospital after they had been dug out of the wreckage.

As an indication of some of the bad news many soldier boys serving in foreign battlefields will learn when they hear the particulars of the tornado's destruction, one instance is noted. Cpl. Gail Robinson, who is in England will learn that his home is destroyed, his grandfather is dead, his grandmother is critically injured, his truck and his car are both wrecks, and all that is left is the land on which he was reared.

An incident that has an unexplainable angle has to do with the closing of the graded school. Esta Cunningham, teacher of the second grade, as a part of the closing exercises, had many of her pupils to write on sheets of paper their plans for the vacation period. One little boy, Robert Basford, said "I am going away this summer." He is missing after the tornado.

A word reaches here from California that provides a sidelight also. Harlan Janes, who is in the Navy, was on a train going from San Pedro to Shumaker, Calif. A passenger was reading a newspaper, when he abruptly turned to Janes and inquired, "Where are you from?" Janes replied, Shinnston, West Virginia. The fellow passenger said, well, Shinnston has been completely wiped off the map by a tornado.

When Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Anderson saw it coming they got under their dining room table. When Mrs. Anderson came to herself minutes later, her dog was lying between them. She called to Mr. Anderson and he did not answer. His head had been pushed through the wall. He soon recovered consciousness, however, and was not seriously hurt.

A four year old girl, who was unable to tell her last name, kept the nurses at St. Mary's hospital all excited for two or three days until she was finally identified as Marie Barnett, daughter of Ray and Alice Barnett. The child is such a winsome little thing that many would have jumped at the chance of adopting her, in case her parents and family had not been found.

Among the distinguished visitors who came to show their deep concern and express their sympathy to the community were Bishop James H. Straughn, of the Pittsburgh Area Methodist Church, who resides in Pittsburgh; William K. Anderson, Education Director of the Methodist Church, Nashville, Tennessee; Rev. W. W. Ware, district superintendent of the Methodist Church, Fairmont; Dr. A. J. Walton, New York, of the Board of Missions and Church Extension of the Mehtodist [sic] Church, who was calling on his niece, Mrs. H. W. Andrick; and Rev. W. S. Overstreet of Spencer. The gentlemen are conducting a school of ministerial training at Wesleyan College. They were accompanied over the stricken area by Rev. E. C. Zinn.

Rufus Taylor, local manager of the C. & P. Telephone company, had a scare while making his rounds of the devestated [sic] district in search of broken telephone cables. It was pitch dark and he was using a flashlight. Fearing he would step on the body of some unfortunate victim, he was feeling his way carefully, when he stepped on what he thought was a small mound of debris only to find it was a large live hog. When the hog gave a loud grunt, Taylor rose in the air about four feet. In another section he came across an electric refrigerator, and opened it to find a dressed chicken. Some ice cubes were also in the box. He also found a large glass cake plate for out on the hill that wasn't broken.

The News has been greatly distressed to learn that one of the little girls who has been selling this paper every Wednesday for many moths, has lost her eyesight as a result of the tornado. She is Antoinette Oliverio, whose parenst [sic], Mr. and Mrs. Tony Oliverio and her sister Rose, aged 22, were all killed when the storm destroyed their home. Annette is a patient at a Clarksburg hospital. Another little News girl, Clara Fooks, who also sold the papers for us, was injured when her home was swept away in the storm, but she is not critically hurt.

The Salvation Army has opened headquarters at the Christian Church for the purpose of giving out clothing to those who lost their belongings in the tornado.

The local canteen has been on duty since Friday night in the Legion Hall, and the motor corps has also been active. The jeeps of the Army have been racing here and there on missions of emergency following the disaster.

Mrs. Mary Bart Myers, wife of Sgt. Horner Bud Myers, is at a Fairmont hospital with slight hope for her recovery. She was badly cut and bruised about the head and throat. Her shoes and stockings were blown off by the terrifying force of the storm, and her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Bart are both hospital patients. Their home was destroyed.

Roy Moore, whose home and garage were leveled in the storm, would like to recover his operator license which is missing from his car. The car was blown several hundred feet after the garage had been destroyed. If anyone finds the card, please leave it at the News office.

Mrs. Carl Bean and two daughters Rose and Hallie left their home on Peora Hill and went to the home of Charles Carlin nearby when they saw the storm coming. They were killed, along with the Carlin family, while the Bean home was left standing. The Carlin house was swept away.

The only damage to Shinnston north of Pleasant Hill was in the yard of Mrs. Wm. J. S. Harmer on Main street where a large shade tree was uprooted. The tree fell away from the house, tearnig [sic] up a part of the cement walk.

Eulando Pillo, 12, was one of the more critically injured who survived the storm. She was blown through a window when her home was wrecked and she was found hanging by her head on a fence. Her recovery seemed doubtful Tuesday. She is at a Clarksburg hospital.

With sad hearts but stout determination to bear their burdens, many of those who lost members of their families and most everything in the way of property have begun the task of clearing the wreckage from their ground in preparation for repairs and rebuilding.

Indicating the mad fury of the storm, a boy tells of his family rushing from their home as the storm nears, when a piece of timber comes flying through the air, strikes his father in the jaw and goes on through a fence. The father was terribly injured.

Many local soldiers and sailors will learn even more distressing news from their homes, when it is revealed that their parents, their brothers and sisters and other near and dear ones are victims of the storm.

One brave and willing little member of the Boy Scouts collapsed from the baking heat of Sunday and was in a serious condition for some time. The Boy Scouts aided the Red Cross very materially in running errands and the like.

The Red Cross, with Mrs. Lola Heavener in charge, remained on the job day and night, collecting and giving out information to the hundreds who came seeking news of relatives. They also sent numerous messages to service men in different parts of the world.

Volunteers from Clarksburg and Shinnton tied a row of boats together, reaching across the river to drag the stream for missing bodies. Several were recovered.


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