On June 23, 1914, a tornado hit St. Louis Park so powerfully that those who lived through it swore it was a hurricane. Pictures show tremendous damage to buildings in the Park, but only one person was killed: 17-year old Esther Munson, who lived at 5816 Oak Street [now 5812 Cambridge]. Esther’s father, Muns Munson, had come to the U.S. in 1880 and the family came to St. Louis Park in 1910. Proceeds of the Village’s 1914 Fourth of July celebration would go to Esther’s father, who built a new house in 1918.
The following is a newspaper account of that terrible day:
Minneapolis Morning Tribune; Thursday, June 25, 1914
St. Louis Park Girl Is Killed By Falling House
Esther Munson Is Crushed To Death Under Falling Timbers
Father and Brother on Front Porch Escape Without Injury
Esther Munson, 17 years old, was instantly killed when the wind blew down the residence in St. Louis Park. She was in the dining room. Her father, M.C. Munson, and her brother, Harold, were on the front porch and escaped uninjured. Mrs. Munson was visiting in another town.
The house collapsed as though made of toy blocks. With a roar it crumpled up. Father and son had just time to jump from the porch. The daughter was crushed to death.
Mrs. Roy W. Sherman, wife of the camp foreman on the Dan Patch construction work in St. Louis Park, was unconscious for several hours as a result of injuries. She was sleeping in a tent when the storm struck. The ridge pole fell and struck her on the head. She had recovered by morning and is not expected to suffer permanent injury. The tented city suffered much damage.
L.M. Thompson’s residence was partly destroyed. The wind blew one corner off the house and the rain poured in. Mr. Thompson suffered a crushed hand when a window fell on it. Others of the family were unhurt and all escaped. The damage at the Thompson house is estimated at $1,500.
The General store and postoffice, owned by C.H. Hamilton, was wrecked. The damage was placed at $1,000. E.M. Trenkley’s general store was damaged to the extent of about $500.
Damage to the Munson house was complete. The house was valued at $2,500.
William Triden lives near the Munson home. His barn was picked up and moved 40 feet. No damage was done the house. A greenhouse owned by Thomas Johnson was ruined. Truck gardeners suffered heavy losses. Vegetables were torn up by the roots. The ball park fence was blown down. Other damage in the neighborhood.
It was estimated by residents and property owners in St. Louis Park that the damage would reach well into the thousands.
The storm approached a tornado at St. Louis Park. Old residents said it was the most violent storm in the history of the village.
The Minneapolis Journal of June 24, 1914 reported it like this:
Esther Munson of St. Louis Park
Caught in Storm Wreckage
Esther Munson, 18 years old, was killed in the storm at St. Louis Park by the collapse of her home, a frame home, after she and her father, Carl Munson, had succeeded in dragging younger children from the house. A heavy timber fell on her, crushing out her life and other debris was piled upon her. Her father was literally blown clear of the wreckage and escaped injury.
… The roof was blown off of the Monitor Drill Company’s warehouse, an automatic alarm summoning the fire department, which made a run through the rain and wind, but discovered no fire.
…All the Tri State telephones in St. Louis Park were put out of commission and a line of poles three quarters of a mile long from Goodrich to Excelsior Avenues carrying trunk lines leading into southern Minnesota was snapped into a string of shattered lumber and tangled wires.
…L.M. Thompson [Deacon of the Union Congregational Church], living next door to the family, suffered severe bruises on the hand and arm by a door slamming upon him as he was taking members of the Munson family into his own home.
Many thanks to Mr. Al Pooler, a Munson descendant, for his research and transcriptions of these hard-to-read newspapers.
The Hennepin County Review, which was based in Hopkins, had this report on June 25:
SEVEN DIE IN NIGHT STORM
A Seventy Mile Gale Accompanied by A Deluge of Ran Takes People
Unawares, Destroying Property to the Amount of $100,000.
Hopkins People Have Minimum Losses But St. Louis Park
Has One Death and Big Property Damages. Three are
Drowned in Lake Harriet. Worst Storm Since 1904.
The storm hit the area at about 10:00 pm, with a sudden high wind followed by a downpour of rain. Barns, chimneys, trees, buildings, and utility poles all were sent flying.
The twister took a straight path through the northern part of the village going in an easterly direction. Gilbert Anderson’s barn was the first to be torn from its foundation and be strewn in pieces for several blocks. Next came the barn of Arthur H. Anderson which suffered the same fate. Anderson’s house escaped the heavy force of the storm although it was only thirty feet from the barn, but pieces of shingles, straws and boards were firmly imbedded in the side of the house, one piece of timber about two inches square and four feet long being driven through the siding, sheeting and plaster and into an upstairs room where Mr. Anderson was taking a bath. Window glass was broken and the west side of the building looked like it had withstood a heavy bombardment of timber and debris.
Then the freaky part of the storm asserted itself. Wm. Tilden had a small new barn standing next to an older and much weaker structure. The wind lifted the new barn intact and placed it right side up on the opposite side of the old barn. It must have been lifted directly over the top of the old building, which shows not a scar of any kind.
The Northwestern Telephone company’s line which runs in from Excelsior Avenue on Jackson Street [Alabama Ave.] to the Park [today’s Elmwood] had seventeen consecutive poles broken off.
The Excelsior Road near Commissioner Waddell’s home [approx. Excelsior & Grand] was strewn with broken poles, wires and limbs of trees to the extent to make it almost impassable.