Bunker Hill Historical Society
Bunker Hill, IL  62014
Bunker Hill 1948 Tornado

March 19, 1948 - Tornado Devastates City of Bunker Hill, IL*

80% of Bunker Hill was destroyed causing 19 deaths and approximately 165 injured.  Reported damage of 1 1/2 million dollars was left in the tornado's wake at 6:45 a.m.  The following is a reprint of the March 25, 1948 Bunker Hill Gazette News article...

Terrific disaster descended on Bunker Hill at 6:45 am Friday morning when a tornado ripped through this 112-year old city, taking a toll of 19 dead and 126 injured, and left a tumbled mass of wreckage in its wake.  The storm rolled over the business and residential area like a giant steamroller smashing brick and frame structures like paper boxes, laying 80 percent of the city waste and caused damages estimated at 1 1/2 million dollars. 

As soon as Dr. Draper was freed from the wreckage pinning him and his wife, he got Mrs. Draper, who was seriously injured, ready for the ambulance when it arrived, he hurried, although injured himself, with Phyllis Baker, a registered nurse who was home on vacation, to the Meissner School and took over the first aid station there.  The station had been set up earlier by Paul Wisch, coach at the school, and Paul Byron Hale, Meissner music instructor.  He was soon joined by Dr. Lusk of Carlinville, one of the first out-of-town arrivals on the scene and the two doctors with the assistance of Miss Baker gave emergency treatment to the injured.  A morgue was set up in another room of the school and the dead were laid there until they could be removed. 

In the meantime, Dr. George Hess was working feverishly in the business area, giving medical attention to all the injured brought to him and directing the ambulance to the victims who were to be hospitalized.

Mr. A. H. Wise and son, Bill, of Jacoby Funeral Home, got into action early using the local ambulance and firm trick and made two trips to Alton Memorial Hospital before the out-of-town ambulances arrived.  They did yeoman's duty  all day long.  Passenger cars were also pressed into service to move the injured and dying to the hospital.

Early Friday morning road blocks were established by the Illinois State Highway Patrol to re-route traffic and keep out sightseers.  By nightfall, the Army and National Guards had posted patrols all over the city to prevent looting and they were assisted by auxiliary guard from Legion and V.F.W. posts, who reported from surrounding towns.

Ambulances were slow in appearing on the scene, because all communication lines were destroyed by the storm, but in the interim some of the farmers in the community hurried to town with bulldozers and tractors and with local work crews, managed to clear some of the main streets so that the ambulances could get to the school house and other points where injured were collected.

About 9 o'clock ambulances from Litchfield, Carlinville, Alton, and Gillespie arrived and from then on aid in all forms came from all over the area.

Power service was also cut off by the storm and the telephone lines, which were out, were replaced by powerful radio systems which police and highway units brought in.

The first emergency food line to be established was set up on the business district by the Bahn's Grocery Store, which while damaged to some extent had most of their grocery stock intact.

The First National Bank Building in the heart of the business district was the only other building in the business area that was left intact, and the post office was immediately set up in the lobby.  By afternoon, food stations were set up by the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Lebanon Legion Post served sandwiches and hot coffee, which by that time was welcomed by the wearied workers.  By evening these food stations had things well enough organized so that they could serve hot food.

All of Bunker Hill's five churches were completely destroyed and the entire business district with the exception of the First National Bank building and Bahn's Grocery Store.

By Saturday the clean-up and digging out was well underway and the process of reconstruction started as residents whose homes were not completely destroyed, began making the necessary repairs that would get a roof over their heads.  A heavy rain all day Sunday did not slow the work of the citizens and the volunteer workers appreciably and all hands were going at it zealously all week.

Fields and pastures for miles northeast of Bunker Hill in the storm path were littered with twisted corrugated roofing and storm debris.

Many homes southwest of Bunker Hill were also wrecked.  In their eagerness to come to Bunker Hill's aid, the relief agencies inadvertently overlooked sending help to the farm tornado victim's, it was learned Tuesday, and help was immediately rushed to them.

A list of deceased are as follows:

Allen, Jacqueline Jean (Jean Fensternman Allen's baby).
Gregory, J. C.
Gurley, Marrin
Hales, Elizabeth
Kay, Jacky
Kay, Georgette
Landreth, Georgie May
Landreth, Mrs. Rachel
Langacher, Mrs. Chris
Osburn, Juanita
Pollock, Mrs. Isabel
Ridgely, Rose
Tipton, William
Vroman, Caroly Sue
Vroman, Danny
Vroman, James
Vroman, Norma
Weimers, Mrs. Oscar (Jane)
Kehr, Charles

*Source: Bunker Hill Gazette News March 19, 1998 - Reprint of March 25, 1948

H.F. "Buzz" Lund was FCC licensed as Amateur Radio operator W9KQL

He was a member of the Springfield, IL  Amateur Radio Club and also an active member of the Red Cross

His son, Thomas "TJ" Lund is also FCC licensed as N9PFC and now lives in Champaign, IL