Tornado Damaged White Hall Elementary

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Tornado Damaged White Hall Elementary


The tornado that swept across Cottonburg and Tates Creek around 7 p.m. on April 3, 1974, struck next on U.S. 25, just north of the 1-75 exit. In addition to the Fitzpatrick service station and houses destroyed, it was particularly destructive at White Hall School, where it caused more than $1 million damage. On the evening of the tornado, there were a dozen boys playing basketball in the gymnasium, as well as several adults who had come to prepare the place for an evening square dance. Oscar Neal, the custodian, ran from his house behind the school to warn the persons in the gymnasium just before the twister hit. They all escaped serious injury by huddling in the inside hallways as the roof was ripped off and the steel girders fell twisted to the floor. The custodian's house was pushed off its foundation, landing in a nearby pond. Mrs. Neal was admitted to the Pattie A. Clay Hospital. In the area of Three Forks and Lost Fork Roads, and Peacock, Hackett, and Stony Run Pikes, there were at first count 11 houses damaged or destroyed, as were six mobile homes and at least seven barns. Trees which had been literally ripped apart were found throughout the area, in some places lying across the country roads. How many cattle were lost in the storm could not be determined immediately. So great was the devastation in the Hackett and Peacock Pike area that many carloads of curious people clogged the roads, making it necessary to call on the local National Guard unit to keep things under control. Thomas J. Spurlin lost two barns and a tenant house. A couple of days after the storm he started cleaning up the collapsed wreck of his stockbarn on Peacock Pike. As some timbers were pulled up, a young bull that had been assumed dead struggled to his feet and staggered out, apparently not too badly injured. Four persons who lived on Peacock Pike were killed by the tornado. Coroner Embry Curry listed them as Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Lainhart, who lived in a tenant house on the D. T. Cosby farm; and Mr. and Mrs. Benny Joe Pearson, both age 31. Coroner Curry stated that every one of the four bodies on Peacock and the three bodies near Cottonburg was found at least a quarter of a mile from their homes. This was a worse tornado than the one in 1923 that killed three persons on U.S. 25 North, and the one that hit the Kirksville-Barnes Mill area in 1956.


Dr. Robert Grise




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Dr. Robert Grise, “Tornado Damaged White Hall Elementary,” Madison's Heritage Online, accessed May 29, 2023,