While the news report descriptions of the storm damage were good, just think what a picture after the 1911 storm could show. The Wayne County Democrat newspaper reported that, “many amateur camera artists were busy, but the day was too dark for good pictures.” Therefore, it was thought no images from this natural disaster existed. However, after browsing the OhioLINK Digital Resource Commons online database, which claims to be a treasure trove of unique content from Ohio’s Colleges and Universities, and is accessible via our Wayne County Public Library’s association with the Clevenet consortium of libraries across twelve counties in Northeast Ohio, a pleasant discovery was made: the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station Department of Forestry had gone around town and taken a number of professional photographs of damaged trees in the area. While some folks may not find the images of broken trees all that interesting, the photographer also captured what some of our buildings, roads, and people looked like in 1911.
The storm that swept through Wooster was never officially declared a tornado, as the National Weather Service did not come out and evaluate damage like they do today, and nobody ever reported seeing a funnel cloud. However, the newspaper report from the Wayne County Democrat dated June 7, 1911 stated that it was “the most severe twisting windstorm in the history of the city.”The description of the storm says it started up in Michigan and swept down into Ohio from the northwest where it hit hard at Norwalk, then smashed through Wooster, and on to Canton, and continued it’s path of destruction eastward into Pennsylvania. It sounds very much like what we know today as a bow echo squall line of convective thunderstorms. The winds that went through Wooster could have been some form of a derecho, or straight-line winds rather than a tornado. Anybody that remembers the storm of June 22, 2006 in which many trees in town were damaged and the Wooster Country Club saw 189 trees go down on it’s golf course and spent nearly $100,000 cleaning them up afterward were witness to the damage derecho winds can do.
The newspaper stated that most of the wind damage in 1911 was done in the first five minutes of the storm while the heavy rain that followed the wind and fell for about 30 minutes, turned downtown manholes into gushing fountains as the sewers were too small to handle the amount water. The Wayne County Courthouse and six area churches were ravaged by the wind. Hundreds of trees were either uprooted or broken off at their weakest points. North St. from Grant to Buckeye St. and the immediate vicinity showed the greatest amount of damage. It was reported that practically every one of the fine shade trees on Grant St. from Liberty to North streets was damaged or completely blown down. Many trees further on North and Grant streets were uprooted. Larwill St. both east and west was hard hit as was S. Walnut St.The spire was twisted and turned on the Baptist church, and the spire on the Episcopal church was completely blown-off. Both the First Presbyterian and Lutheran churches were partly unroofed. The Methodist church suffered damage when bricks from the mock windows near the roof on the Market St. side blew through the ceiling and crashed through the building into the pulpit and choir loft with one breaking the organist’s seat. The German Evangelical church had a whole section of it’s roof blown away.
The Wayne County Courthouse suffered severe damage when the big sandstones capping one of the chimneys were blown off and broke through two big sections of the skylight and crashed down into the court room below. One of the chairs in the jury box was completely smashed by one of the stones and it left a big dent in the hardwood floor.
The roof of the building occupied by the Palace Restaurant on E. Liberty St. was blown off. The roof over the front part of the building occupied by the Daily News office was rolled-up like paper. The chimneys on the Wooster Preserving Company’s factory fell in the gale. A large tree on S. Bever St. crashed down and struck the porch of the meat market. All the awnings on the windows of the Archer House hotel were ruined and torn to pieces. The awnings at the Bliss Grocery, the Bloomberg clothing store, Shaffer & Blacks, and at other places were demolished. At the Canton-Hughes Pump factory the storm did considerable damage to the steel window sashes which had been temporarily placed in the casements. Many of them were bent and had to be sent back to the factory for repair.Many residences in town were also damaged by the fierce wind: a sort of summer house with open sides at the Imgard home on the corner of Beall Ave. and Bowman St. was smashed into pieces. The roof on the W. A. Craig home just north of the Courthouse was peeled and rolled-up, a barn at the rear of the Spruce St. home of George Blake, President of Buckeye Aluminum Co., was flattened and wrecked the automobile parked in the barn. The chimney on the Curry home on E. North St. fell on their slate roof causing great damage. Two fine poplar trees standing in front of the Charles Barrett home on Beall Ave. went down and grazed the porch on the north side of the house.
Fortunately the University of Wooster (The College of Wooster) suffered very little damage from this storm. Only 3 trees on campus were blown down, and a part of the athletic field fence was flattened by the wind. The storm moved-on from Wooster but it had lasting effects on our city for years to come as the trees that were destroyed in five minutes would take years to grow and replace. There are a total of 12 photographs taken by the Ohio Agricultural Experiment Station Department of Forestry after the storm of June 4, 1911 that you can view online at their full-size by clicking the links below. Enjoy a look back in time!