THE ST. LOUIS TORNADO AND A SEQUEL
Every city, it seems, has its one great disaster to which it reverts with horror and from which it dates its renaissance. The Tornado of May 27, 1896, was ours. The years have healed the physical wounds it made, but not the deeper and more vital hurts. It was a terror which no one can forget who saw it – a few moments of dreadful foreboding, a few awful moments of horror and stupefaction, and a brooding cloud of memories that long years have not effaced. For my part I shall never forget the Tornado. I was attending a meeting of the United Elevator Company, tenth floor of the Rialto Building. D. R. Francis, John N. Booth, Webb M. Samuel, the President, Green Larimore and others were present. Suddenly the sky was darkened and took on a peculiar terrifying olive hue, the color of impending tragedy. I think of it as Doom’s Day color. We exchanged glances as if dumb. At last Mr. Francis said: “Boys, I don’t like this, I am going to get out of the building.” I also left it getting home just as the full force of the tornado struck us. The wind broke down many trees and some houses in our section, but the havoc was worst in the southern part of the city. The next morning, Mr. Francis, Webb Samuel and I got a carriage, and tried to drive to Given Campbell’s house on Lafayette Avenue. It took us two hours to reach the house, owning to the wires and poles lying in a tangle in every direction. There was not a tree of any size left standing in Lafayette Park.
I was a director in the United Elevator Company and being in need of
more capital, we had determined to issue second mortgage bonds. All the
directors took a portion, believing them safe. Shortly before this a teacher
in one of our schools called to ask me about these bonds, as someone had
recommended her to invest in them. I told her the directors had all taken
some and believed they were good. She told me to buy $4000.00 of the issue
at 90, which I did. A few days after this the tornado destroyed three
of our elevator buildings, and the company having no tornado insurance,
was obliged to make an assignment. This rendered the second mortgage worthless.
I felt so sorry about this lady investor and her ill-starred bonds, that
I told her I would stand half of the loss, $1800.00, and paid her this
sum. She wrote me that she would provide for restitution in her will.
I was not morally bound as a broker to make good the investment, yet I
felt that I should not let her bear the entire loss.