The Sherman Tornado of 1896
On Friday, May 15th, 1896, Sherman Texas was hit by a devastating Tornado that killed more than 100 people and did immense damage to the surrounding area. The storm destroyed around 50 houses, and damaged many others, leaving nearly 700 people destitute. The people of Sherman were eventually aided by the nearby community of Denison, who delivered food and medical supplies to those impacted by the storm. The death toll of this disaster remains a mystery, as many people disappeared in the storm. The victims were buried in West Hill Cemetery.
Backstory and Context
On Friday, May 15th, 1896, at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, Sherman, Texas was hit by a devastating tornado that killed 66 people immediately and injured countless othersi. The storm was an F5 tornado, a storm with wind speeds over 261 miles per hour, that hit the ground near where West Hill Cemetery and Houston Street are todayii. The tornado continued its path of destruction for about two miles before it vanished as suddenly as it arrivediii.
The immediate effects of the tornado were apparent. 66 people died in the storm itself and of the hundreds more wounded, another forty would eventually die. The town of Sherman was devastated. Around 50 homes were outright destroyed, with 20 of them completely disappearing in the storm. With nearly 700 people left destitute in the wake of the storm, the town was forced to look for help from its neighboring communities.
The nearby town of Denison sent a relief committee in an effort to help clean up the city and distribute necessary medical supplies, such as bandages, to those who needed aid. The need eventually grew so great that people were pressed into service in order to better supply those effected by the tornado with medical aid and food.Total deaths caused by the tornado are estimated at 106 people, though that number is questionable, due to many people being lost in the storm, never to be heard from again[ix]. The dead were eventually buried in West Hill Cemetery, though the exact location of their graves is unknown due to how long ago the disaster happened and the amount of graves that were needed. This deadly storm has continued to be remembered in the years since, due to the massive amount of damage the stormed caused, both in lives lost and property damage.
2. Sherman City Services. The Great Sherman Storm of 1896. Historical Marker 1976.
3. "Relief Work in Texas." New York Tribune(New York)May 18, 1896. , 1-1.