This is a transciption of an article in The Arrow-Democrat on May 7, 1920, The Cyclone was on Sunday, May 2, 1920. This transcription was made to make the article more readable|
What was once a pretty village is now a mass of ruins. Desolation is all there is to see. There is only broken concrete walls left standing in the south part of town. Under those some goods can be seen, the larger part is scattered, no one knows where.
The school house that stood west of town, erected last year at a cost of $3, 500 and made of cement blocks, is partly standing. The east side and both ends are down. The roof and furniture was carried away.
What was a fine field of wheat Sunday evening was nearly barren of even the soil Monday morning. The wheat, soil, trees and everything removable was carried away with the storm. This accounts for the mud-splattered condition of everything. Animals that survived the storm were mud-covered. These, however were remarkably few, and how any living animal could have been in the path of the storm and still survived is a wonder.
Deputy Sheriff A. K. Ralston early Monday morning organized a force of about 75 volunteers to dig graves and in twenty four hours 18 bodies were placed therein, and Tuesday evening the work was completed, having buried 43 bodies in the New Home Cemetery.
All the Stevens family, 11 in number dead, was lowered into one large grave. Eight was the next highest placed in another. Three were buried in the cemetery north of Peggs and Dr. Hill and the two Watkins children were interred at Gideon.
In one house that had been badly damaged lay twenty mud-covered bodies of men, women and children. Here at least, all was equal and simular in appearance: size seemed to be the only difference. This was the most horrible sight witnessed. Bruised, mashed, mutilated and mud-covered, some stripped of clothing. Men carried the bodies out one at a time, the females to a back room where well-dressed ladies, not ordinarily used to hard work, with sleeves rolled up above their elbows scrubbed away the sticky mud, and the male bodies were carried into the back yard where men cared for them in a manner as the ladies were doing for their sex. When washed the bodies were carried back to await caskets. One seeing all this could not help but think after all that people really care for their fellow man.
All the instructors and students that could find conveyances went to lend a hand. The Post Office and drug store only remained open.
Bank presidents, merchants, county officials and men of all calling worked elbow to elbow in the work of mercy.
Peggs people are in want, having lost their all, clothing, bedding, food and even cooking utensils. They need help and need it in the worst way. Their crops and stock are destroyed and they are without a way to earn a living unless these essentials are supplied. The amounts subscribed are not sufficient for their needs. Temporarily every one has a bare sufficiency, but later how can their hunger be satisfied unless the people come to rescue more liberally.
One hundred persons were more or less disabled and of this number at least fifty were badly hurt, of which 32 are in hospitals at Tahlequah and Muskogee. The following is a list of the injured and where they may be found: Tahlequah Hospital: W.W Hudson and wife, John Hudson (son), Mrs John Hudson and baby, Jilson Littlefield and three children, Frank Littlefield, Lavere Littlefield, Delores Littlefield, Clebourne Lewis, John Butler, Mrs Gabbard, Mrs H. W. Suttle, Leo Franks (boy), Larkin Franks, "baby" Wagner, Mrs Watson and child, "baby" Stephens slightly injured taken to Locust Grove, Babtist Hospital in Muskogee:James Wilkinson, Pete Wilkinson, Virginia Wilkinson, Mrs Roxie Wilkinson, The M. O. &G Hospital in Muskogee: J. A. Wagner, Virgie Wagner, Vina Wagner, Vernice Wagner. The P. & S. Hospital in Muskogee: Charles Stephens, Homer Stephens, R. J. Stephens, "baby" Littlefield. The injured at Locust Grove are: Ten were brought to Locust Grove last night. With the exception of William Littlefield and wife, who are seriously injured, all were slightly hurt. Those at Locust Grove include the missing"Stephens Baby". Their names as well as those left at Peggs were not available.
What was a pretty prosperous and peaceful town called Peggs, 18 miles north and west of Tahlequah, in Cherokee County, is a desolate, barren waste today. Its buildings laid low, ornamental trees uprooted and homes wrecked. Fourty-nine of Peggs' population lie sleeping under the sod: 35 more lie broken and bleeding in hospital beds and private residences, while many others have cuts and bruises on heads and bodies.
Sunday evening, May 2nd , was exceedingly warm, otherwise Peggs was happy and at 8:30 the air was filled with a blinding flash after flash of lightning, accompanied by a storm of hail stones, people thought it only an electrical storm display. But horror, when a great roar was heard. Some knew the full meaning, that of a cyclone. A few minutes later those that were able commenced a search for loved ones and when found, torn and mangled, they were unrecognizable. Some without cloths, only shoes. Dead and dying everwhere. Some blown or carried some distance, while others were left where the awful tornado had found them. But how far they had been carried and returned never will be known. Stunned beyond grief, those that were able to begin the search and when body after body was found, only by the size could they be placed or named. All was covered with mud. With morning came help who hastened at the first call. All wires being down, word had come in person most of the way. At dawn every surgeon in Tahlequah was present and what as sight can hardly be imagined and impossible to describe.
The dead found and those dying afterwards were: John Littlefield-age 72, Mrs Jilson Littlefield-30, Willie Littlefield-19, Jennie Littlefield-17, Mattie Littlefield 14, Seggie Littlefield-11, Don Littlefield-12, Dr. Hill-55, Mrs M. E. Hines-60, Mrs Bell Wagner-33, Lillian Wagner-14, Rolla Wagner-9, Nancy Stevens-46, Walsie Stevens-81, Ola Stevens-23, Roscoe Stevens-22, Sam Stevens-21, Mamie Stevens-16, Fay Stevens-14, George Stevens-2, Mrs Olla Ford-35, James Ford-1, Mrs R. Hall-18, Jim Frank-40, Mrs Donna Frank-45, Vitgil Frank-8, Austin Watkins and brother-both boys, Mr and Mrs Will Blevins and baby, Mrs Larkin Frank and two children, Mr and Mrs Carl Kenyon and daughter, Jack and Wallie Wilkinson-boys 12 and 14, Girl Wilkinson and two small boys, Jack Bond 20, Vernie Timmons-girl, Son of Henry Hudson, Monroe Frank 20.
Tahlequah was appalled at the news early Monday morning. Every business house and office in town closed, every car was pressed into service. Before day every physician was on their way and every nurse and those that had any training went. All wanted to help and they were not choice in any thing, only that they could be of service, do something to relieve the suffering of the injured and care for the dead.
Arriving at the town, the first thing seen was the broken and fallen timbers, the large amount of dead stock, especially horses and hogs. From the south, looking into what was a town a few hours before, one could see nothing but destruction. Dead stock, rubbish of all kinds and not a single building in sight. The two large concrete stores lay in ruins with part of one corner still standing. What merchandise that was not covered with slabs of concrete was gone completely.
In the north part of town a few residences stood or what was left of them. Into these wrecked homes the dead were carried and laid in rows, some partly clad, others with only there shoes left on them. The wind had taken the clothing from most of the victims but mercifully gave them a thick coat of mud. None of the bodies could be recognized until the mud had been removed and when it was it only revealed torn and mutilated bodies. Some so badly battered that it was impossible to distinguish one from the other.
Mrs F. M. Miller and her family owe their lives to a small cellar, having taken refuge therein. After the storm a sorry sight presented itself as house, barn and stock were gone. She loses everything, food, clothing and furniture.
A conservative estimate of the loss is about $100, 000. Mr Dell Robinson is probably the heaviest loser and he thinks $10, 000 will cover his loss. Other property losses are: J.R. Yarbrough, J. F. Musgrave, John Littlefield, Post Office, Tom Musgrave- grist mill: Wm Napier-blacksmith shop, Peggs Gin Co., Isenogle Grist Mill and others, besides every dwelling was totally destroyed or damaged.
Mr Robinson intends to rebuild as soon as convenient and possibly others may start a new.
The home of Geo Medlin, who lives on the upper place of Mrs Grace Wilson on the Illinois River was totally demolished by the tornado that destroyed Peggs. Mr Medlin was injured on the head and his 6-year-old daughter badly hurt. The rest of the family escaped with slight damages. He lost everything as the house was leveled to the ground.