1968 Freeburg, IL Tornado

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On the evening of Wednesday, May 15th, 1968 an estimated F3 tornado ripped through the southwest side of the small town of Freeburg, IL. (located in St. Clair county, 25 miles southeast of St. Louis, MO. 1968 population approx. 2,000)   This tornado was part of the severe weather outbreak of May15-16th that hit parts of 10 states and produced 39 tornados.   The Freeburg tornado was estimated to have stayed on the ground for 2 miles and was estimated to be 600 yards wide.

I was almost 7yrs old at the time and my family lived on South Richland Street which was in the tornado's path.  The color pictures below were taken at our house (no longer standing) and show some of the damage.  I don't remember too much of that night other than looking out our back porch and seeing the destroyed garage and the shelves on our back porch had fallen over.   I do however, remember that day.   It was very hot and muggy and later in the evening it was very windy. 

The following account was taken from: "Freeburg's Calamity - The 1968 Tornado and Its Aftermath" - David G. McGraw.

At approximately 9:30 Freeburg Marshall Clem Borger entered Sam’s Café on State Street and saw two Freeburg locals, Willard Wild and Paul Anderson.  Having often accompanied Borger, they were asked to ride to the edge of town on the Freeburg-Douglas Road to watch the incoming storm.  Now just out of town, the trio was hit by high winds, light rain, and frequent lightning.  Soon the pressure in the car was so great that talking became difficult.  In the rear window, Paul Anderson saw what appeared to be a trailer fly up in the air and slam against the Freeburg Milling and Grain Company’s large storage bin.  Anderson told Borger, “Clem, it’s a tornado.”  The Marshall quickly turned the car around and raced toward town calling on his car radio to the dispatcher that as many ambulances as possible should be sent to Freeburg at once.  The dispatcher’s immediate reply was “why?”  The Marshall, in a frenzied voice, replied that he was just ahead of the funnel and it was headed straight for Freeburg.  Borger would later describe the twister as “being white with a tail, with black clouds on either side.


One of our neighbors W.C. Eckert wrote about his experiences in "Ten Seconds of Terror."


My Mother, Marcia Mobley gave her account of that night;  Click here to read.


Click here to view the KMOX-TV (St. Louis) News Extra about the tornado and its aftermath.  (Narrated/Reported by Jim Bolen.)   Also includes video from the other Midwest towns affected by the May 15th-16th severe weather outbreak.


I was also sent additional higher resolution black/white pictures.  Click here to view.



Freeburg, IL - Service men picking up debris.

Tornado Rips Path Through Town - Kehrer's Trailer Court Completely Demolished; Four Dead; $2 Million Property Damage.

A tornado ripped through Freeburg at 9:45 p.m. Wednesday, May 15th causing over 2 million dollars damage.  There are four dead and over fifty known injured, but this number is rising. 

The tornado and storm that uprooted trees, smashed windows, buildings and demolished 16 trailer homes moved from the Smith-Douglas Road, down Apple street, past the Palomar Trailer Court out toward Mascoutah, leaving scores of injured and countless damage in its wake.  Most residents have not been able to complete the estimate of their damages.

Those known dead are Miss Edna Lurtz, 5 West Washington Streer; Robert Kehrer, 26 and his 7-year-old, son Randy and James Forbes Jr., two years old.

Hospitalized with injuries at St. Elizabeth Hosptial are Diane Bush, 21, Bernard Lybarger, 46, Virginia Lucash, 47, Mary Myers, 49, Betty Mueth, 21, Meta Grossman, 79, Janet Kehrer, 24, Gary Kehrer, 4 and Gallen Baker, 25.

Hospitalized at Memorial Hospital are Mary Lybarger, 41 and James Bush, 21, who are in intensive care, Gregory Bush, 8 months, Roger Papproth 25, Frances Papproth 24, Brian Papproth 6, Edward Akers and Eddie Akers Jr., 2

Many people were treated and dismissed at both hospitals, and many people who have helped with the rescue work have received minor injuries.  The entire populous of Freeburg is running around bleary eyed, as everyone spent a sleepless night.

Mrs. Olga (Elmer) Klingel, 66, or R.R. 2 Mascoutah is in a critical condition at St. Elizabeth's Hospital.

Kenneth Mueller, R.R. 2 lost barns, machine sheds, trailer home and everything except his home, Norman Lembke, R.R. 2 Mascoutah lost large machine shed.  Cletus Dennis Frerking, New Memphis station lost a farm home and Kenneth Eidman suffered some property damage.

In Freeburg, the E.M. Weigmann & Comapny, large industrial plant, received major damages.  Freeburg Community High School has only about four class rooms left, they lost the roof to the old gym, the machine shop, six classrooms, and the bus garages were damaged.  Kehrer's Trailer Court of eleven trailer homes was completely demolished.  The two trailer homes East of the Kehrer trailer court owned by Bernard Lybarger and Roger Papproth were demolished.  The milling building of Freeburg Milling and Supply Company was badly damaged.  The soda storage building belonging to Donald Smith was destroyed.  Valentine's Hotel and the Hanner Standard Station across from it were badly damaged.  Palomar trailer homes and at least two other trailer homes were overturned.

The Renner Funeral Home is unable to use the funeral home for funerals because of severe damage to the ceilings and roof of the funeral home building.  The garage in which the ambulance and other funeral vehicles were stored was a mess of debris.

Many, many other homers, and store buildings were also damaged.

People who saw the tornado hit the Kehrer Trailer Court described it as exploding and flying everywhere.  The clothes were completely torn from many of the casualties.

Freeburg was in total darkness from the time the tornado struck (except homes in goose bottom) until repairs could be made to the power lines.

The telephone service was hampered, no one could call out of Freeburg, but people of some areas were able to call in.  Gas lines were broken in the path of the tornado, and Illinois Power was summoned to stop leakage.


Freeburg, IL        Freeburg, IL - View of what once was a garage.


Freeburg District Hit Hard by Storm - Damage Expected to Run Into Millions - Four persons were killed and at least 39 injured when a tornado struck Freeburg at 9:35 p.m. Wednesday.  Minutes later the twister touched down in rural Mascoutah and injured two more persons.

The dead are:  Miss Edna Lurts, 57, of 5 Washington Street, who was found dead in her housetrailer; Robert Kehrer, 26 and his son, Randy, 7, who live in a trailer court owned by Mr. Kehrer's father, Louis Kehrer, Sr., 72; and James Forbes, Jr. 2, whose parents reside in the same trailer court.

The injured included Mr. Kehrer, Sr.; Robert Kehrer's wife, Janet, 24 and another son, Gary 4.  Mrs. Kehrer and Gary are confined to St. Elizabeth Hospital while Louis Kehrer was at Memorial Hospital and dismissed.

The twister struck and demolished the home of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Klingel, R.R. 2, Mascoutah.  Klingle's wife Olga, 66 is in the intensive care unit at St. Elizabeth's and her condition is critical.  She suffered head and chest injuries.  Her husband, who is 63 was treated at the same hospital and dismissed.  The tornado which struck St. Clair County was one of about fifty that tore through communities in 10 states from Minnesota to Alabama.

In addition to the 41 treated at St. Elizabeth and Memorial Hospitals, State Police said four persons suffered minor injuries at 10:50 p.m. when a twister struck south of New Memphis in Clinton County.  The four were treated at Scott Air Force Base Hospital.

The tornado picked up all ten trailers at Kehrer's court located west of Freeburg on the Douglas Road.  Some were hurled several hundred feet.

The twister hit Freeburg Community High School and ripped off the roof of the old gymnasium, damaged the roof of the administration building, shattered a wall on the west side and broke numerous windows.  Superintendent Frank Nation called off classes for the day.

The Freeburg Elementary School was damaged to a lesser degree and Superintendent Carl Barton L. Barton cancelled classes for the day.  Teachers from both schools joined in helping remove the debris.

Wiegmann Plant Hit

The E.M. Wiegmann Company's plant sustained serious damage.  It is directly east of the Kehrer trailer court.  Some of the girders from the plant were found four blocks away.  One girder slashed through the trunk of a car given to a girl for a graduation present.

The George Renner and Son's Funeral Home reported its garage was demolished along with an ambulance and a floral truck.  The funeral home will be out of operation several days.  Caskets were thrown about the premises.

There was some damage to the Methodist Church, across the street from the funeral home.  The American Legion Home, was struck and several cars on the parking lot were pushed together in an accordion fashion.

The roof of a Standard Service Station on U.S. Route 460 was found on the parking lot for Valentine's Restaurant.

Mill Damaged

The Freeburg Milling and Supply Company's two grain elevators were damaged and there was extensive damage to some of the community's stately trees over a 10-block area.

The Illinois Central Railroad was tied up for 1 1/2 hours until debris could be moved from its tracks.

Telephone communications were knocked out along with power service.  In some instances, gas escaped from pipes that were severed as houses and trailers were damaged.

State Police rushed reinforcements to the community and they were joined by some National Guardsmen, Army and Air Force detachments, Civil Defense Center workers and deputy sheriffs along with Belleville police officers.

Power was restored in many sections by midday and telephone workers hoped to have service back to normal by night fall.

Damage Estimated

At 5 a.m. the State Police issued a preliminary estimate of the damage and said it would exceed $1,500,000.

The same survey said 50-60 houses were damaged along with 15 house trailers.  Numerous autos were smashed.

For several hours, traffic was halted along U.S. Route 460, the artery that flows through Freeburg.  But later traffic was restored and a plea was issued for sightseers to stay out of the community.

Belleville escaped damage from the storm although rainfall at the News Democrat measured 1.5 inches in about an hour's time.


Mt. Vernonites See Storm and Help in Rescue - (Mt. Vernon Register News - May 16, 1968)

A Mt. Vernon couple watched "a huge funnel cloud, during terrific flashes of lightning" as it struck the little town of Freeburg, Ill. last night.  The Rev. and Mrs. I Gibson of 1018 Clonger Avenue, were enroute to St. Louis in a Litton Ambulance, to return a patient to Mt. Vernon.  "I drove into Freeburg moments after the tornado struck,"  the Rev. Mr. Gibson said.  "Limbs were down and there was evidence of considerable damage on the main highway street."

The Litton Ambulance was the first one to arrive.  Gibson stopped when he saw that the killer wind had heavily damaged the Hanner Bros. gas station, in the middle of town.  One of the operators, Bill Hanner, was injured and Gibson rushed him in the Mt. Vernon ambulance, to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Belleville.  "Mr. Hanner was bleeding profusely and I drove fast, even though it was raining so hard that you could  hardly see the road." Gibson said.  He said a bus had slowed to about 30 miles per hour because of the violent downpour, and he passed the bus on the way to the hospital.

"The skies in the Freeburg area were like the huge Fourth of July fireworks demonstration as we approached,"  Gibson said.  " AS lightning lighted up the sky me wife pointed to the big funnel cloud that was approaching the town."  The funnel cloud was clearly visible when the lighting flashed."

Because of the darkness the Gibsons were unable to see any flying debris as the tornado struck.  They were unable to see the section of town away from the highway, which was hardest hit.

Gibson said that ambulances, state police, Civil Defense workers and others responded quickly to help the town.

He said that he and his wife reached Freeburg about 9:45pm. On their way back to Mt. Vernon, about 12:30am today, they noted that the lights were back on in the town and that the main highway was cleared for traffic.


Area Couple Lives to Tell of Tornado - (Centralia Sentinel - May 17, 1968)   By: Judy Phelps

A husband and wife employed at Murray Children's Center in Centralia found themselves separated at homes of relatives in Freeburg Wednesday night with a tornado bearing down on both of them.

John and Sheila Husted, 1401 S. Jonquil St., were in Freeburg visiting relatives.  He was at the home of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Clarence McDonald, and she was at the home of her sister, Mrs. Jane Gale, when the tornado cut a path of destruction in the southwest edge of town, killing four persons and injuring 69.

Husted said he and his in-laws were watching the final 15 minutes of a television program when the air became very still.  The family went outside on the porch just as the funnel of wind became visible roaring north toward the high school.

The high school is about 50 yards from the McDonald home, Husted said.

"When we saw it, we beat if for the basement.  My dog was out and I called to him once, but didn't have time to wait any longer," he said.

The Husteds' German Shepherd dog was found outside unharmed after the family came up from their shelter in the basement.  Husted said he estimated they were in the basement no longer than 30 or 40 seconds.

"The first thing I wanted to do was find my wife, who was visiting her sister several blocks away.  I started down the street, going north.  I had to step over power lines and they were all over.  My car, which had been parked parallel in front of the house, was sitting in the middle of the street, sideways.

"Sheila's sister's house had been damaged.  The roof was blown off, the windows were all out and most of the furniture was damaged.  My wife, her sister and three small children had managed to get in the basement before the tornado hit."

Husted said he and his wife and her sister carried flashlights and joined the throngs of other neighbors rushing toward the trailer court in the southern part of town.

"You wouldn't have believed it had been a trailer court unless you had seen it the day before.  There wasn't one trailer home left standing."

"Everyone was walking around, not knowing what to do.  Many had cuts on them from glass, but I couldn't see anyone bleeding profusely.  A lot of the people had internal injuries and broken bones and my wife and I helped calm them down and tried to get them to lie still."

Husted is a psychologist and his wife is a registered nurse at Murray Center.

"People were digging into the wreckage, trying to find others who had been pinned under it.  Husband and wives were asking which hospital the injured would be taken to, so they would know where they were, " Husted said.

It was about 30 minutes before doctors and ambulances began arriving from Belleville and Husted said he and his wife stayed at the trailer court and helped load the injured into ambulances.

Mrs. Husted's sister is also a registered nurse and gave assistance to the injured.

Help began arriving from Civil Defense units and Scott Air Force Base, and they helped direct traffic and guard homes from looting, Husted said.

"The people in the trailer court just didn't have any place to go when the tornado hit.  People who had basements were the lucky ones."  Husted commented.

Husted and his wife remained in Freeburg until 4p.m. yesterday.


Memento of Tornado Disaster - (Centralia Sentinel - May 17, 1968)

Marion county Sheriff's Deputy Glenn Walker, Patoka, and Stanley Meador, Vernon, look over a piece of aluminum siding which is thought to have been picked up by the deadly tornado which ground its way through Freeburg Wednesday night.  This piece of metal is of the type used in fashioning the exterior of trailer homes.  It was found yesterday by Meador along Rte. 51 near Patoka as he went about his work as a state highway employee.  Walker said he could "fill a pickup truck" with the twisted pieces of aluminum siding found in the vicinity of Patoka and presumed to have been dropped as they swirled to the outer edge of the twister.


U.S. Disaster Aid Sought for 8 Illinois Counties - (St. Louis Post-Dispatch - May 22, 1968)

Taylor Pensoneau (Springfield Correspondent of the Post-Dispatch)  SPRINGFIELD, Ill., May 22 - President Lyndon B. Johnson was asked today to declare St. Clair county and seven other Illinois counties disaster areas.

The action was taken to qualify the counties for federal aid to repair public facilities damaged by the tornadoes and flooding last Wednesday.

The request, made by Gov. Samuel H. Shapiro in a telegram to Mr. Johnson, pertained to about $1,000,000 in repair work for public property.

Freeburg, a community of about 2200 persons eight miles from Belleville, was one of the communities hardest hit.  At least five persons were killed and a number of others injured.  A tornado demolished a trailer camp, extensively damaged the Freeburg Community High School and destroyed or damaged many house and buildings.

St. Clair county authorities have estimated the over-all property loss in the Freeburg area may approach $2,000,000.

Donavan M. Vance, the state civil defense director, said that early estimates of public property damage in the county totaled at least $38,000 for roads, bridges, and other facilities.

Beside St. Clair, the counties in Shapiro's request are Champaign, DeWitt, Logan, Mason, McLean, Piatt and Vermilion.

In his telegram, Shapiro said that "this state has sustained a major disaster."  He said that "communities in the affected localities have exerted great effort in accomplishing recovery work but have exhausted their resources."

Vance said that the federal Small Business Administration had declared Illinois a disaster area to qualify individuals for low-interest loans.  Damage to private property was estimated at $8,000,000.  Farmers are eligible for federal aid through the Farmers Home Administration, he said.


Aid Sought For Freeburg; Price here Today - (Freeburg Tribune - May 24, 1968)

According to reports, Gov. Samuel Shapiro asked President Johnson to declare St Clair and seven other counties disaster areas, Wednesday, in order that Federal funds can be made available to those who suffered from last Wednesdays tornadoes.

    The morning, Friday, Congressman Melvin Price is to meet with Mayor Leon Dickerson and member of the Village Board, to discuss the disaster.  The meeting is set for 11:00a.m. at the Village Hall.

Other counties declared disaster areas are Champaign, DeWitt, Logan, Mason, McLean, Piatt and Vermillion.

If President Johnson makes the designation, Freeburg will be eligible for Federal grants to repair its Municipal Electric Light System and the Community High School.


Marshall Borger Saw Three Tornado Clouds - (Freeburg Tribune - May 24, 1968)

A report was received from Marshall Clem Borger, on the night of Wednesday, May 15, the night of the Freeburg Tornado.  He had been driving on the Douglas Road toward Smithton, when he observed a funnel cloud approaching Freeburg on the route of the storm.  He described the cloud as being white with a tail, with black clouds on either side.

Bill Waldheuser of, the US. Weather Bureau, Lambert Field, this week, when asked to discuss this observance made the following remarks.  An observance, at night, must be made during flashes of lightening.  It is quite difficult to accurately define the skies appearances under these conditions.

Waldheuser mentioned that a funnel cloud had been observed over Jefferson Barracks bridge earlier before the storm struck Freeburg and most likely Clem Borger had seen the funnel cloud approaching Freeburg where is touched down, as a tornado.

Waldheuser, said the Weather Bureau is unable to define a precise spot where a tornado will occur, they had issued Tornado Warning earlier in the evening that had included St. Clair County.  Rarely, if ever, he said, can a warning be pinpointed to a finer area.


Tornado Carried Papers from Here to Vandalia - (Freeburg Tribune - May 24, 1968)

Vandalia Union (Contributed by Eugene Hubbard) - Wednesday, Edmund Rubin and his son Lawrence, worked their field until is was smooth as ribbon.  Then came the tailwind from the tornado which among many other places touched down at Freeburg.

Thursday Edmund and Lawrence went back to their freshly worked field which lies more than half a mile off a  road, and found in the middle of that field souvenirs of the Freeburg tornado.

There as a piece of shingle, a part of a sheet from a recreation center, a sheet from a cookbook and also No 22. March 10, 1968 envelope, St. Joseph's Church, Freeburg, Illinois.  Outside of the mud marks, all printed material was quite legible.  The contribution envelope carried space for record gift to the church support as well as record for gifts to school addition building fund.

The Rubin farm lies about 3 miles southwest of St. Peter, in a straight line with Freeburg which is located some 66 to 67 miles away.

Evidently the tornado for some reason was either high in the air, or, had lost its momentum by the time it arrived at the Rubin farm.  In either event, the Rubins are most thankful they escaped its vengeance.


Tornado Carries Paper to Fayette County - (Freeburg Tribune - May 31, 1968)

The Farina News - Fayette County carried the following small item about the Freeburg Tornado.

Mr. and Mrs. McKinley Turner live on a farm about 2 1/2 miles northeast of Farina.  A severe tornado struck Freeburg, on route 13, southeast of St. Louis on Wednesday night.  Mrs. Turner reports that on Friday morning she found part of a shipping tag sent to a lady in Freeburg from Florida.  According to the tag it had been on a half bushel of citrus fruit.  It must have been deposited on the Turner back yard by the winds of Wednesday night.  -  Contributed by Elmer Kessler


Disaster fund - (St. Louis Post-Dispatch - May 31, 1968)

A disaster fund for the victims of the Freeburg, Ill., tornado May 15 has been started by the Freeburg Lions Club and the Freeburg Volunteer Fire Department.  Other civic clubs are aiding in the fund.  Contributions should be mailed to Rudy Freivogel, Route 2, or Charles Kaiser, Route1, Freeburg


Declared Federal Disaster Area - (Freeburg Tribune - June 7, 1968)

Mayor Leon Dickerson announced yesterday that Freeburg has been declared a "Federal Disaster Area by the Emergency Planning Center of the Civil Defense",  because of the tornado damage of May 15th.  Village Clerk Clarence Teter and Trustee Frank X. Heiligenstein have been appointed to represent the Village in a meeting with that group in Springfield Monday morning,  Mayor Dickerson said.  They are authorized to sign any papers needed to receive federal funds.   Mayor Dickerson cannot attend the meeting because of other commitments.


Original High School Building Condemned - (Freeburg Tribune - June 7, 1968)

Superintendent Frank R. Nation is in receipt of a report from the State Office of Supervising Architect concerning the Structural Inspection of Freeburg High School as a result of tornado damage.  A committee of the High School Board of Education will meet with the insurance people and Wm. Potter, the school architect this afternoon in the band room of the high school at 2:30 o'clock.  The State Inspection Report, which follows, and is self explanatory will be used as a basis for improvements.

"In response to Mr. Wm. Potter's telephone request Mr. Passailis, our Structural Engineer, visited the site on May 17, 1968 along with Mr. Ben Wood of our office.  Accompanying Mr. Passialis on his inspection was William Potter, Architect of Belleville, Eugene R. Siebold, Engineer of St. Louis, Clarence D Blair, County Superintendent of School, Belleville, seven (7) member of the school board, and yourself.

The tornado struck the school on the afternoon of May 15, 1968, traveling in a southwest to northeast direction.  Considerable havoc was created from five (5) to ten (10) feet above the ground and upward.  Certain Sections of the building complex were damaged considerably.  Following is a summary of the damage along with Mr. Passialis' recommendations.

The High School consists of many units all erected since 1927 with an enrollment of about four hundred (400) students.  The south portion of the complex accommodates boys' and girls' locker room, gymnasium, band room, lobby, boys' and girls' toilets, cafeteria and boiler room.  The unit was erected in 1950 and the tornado damage in this unit is of a minor nature and easily repairable.  The entire south part of the complex can be used, with minor repairs.

The northern part of the complex consists of

(1) A bus garage, which is a one (1) story structure built in 1940.  The piers of the garage are all down, and the roof was completely blown away.  This unit is a total loss.

(2) The old gymnasium, which was built in 1927, consists of steel and wood framing members which have been destroyed.  The steel columns and beams remain and are twisted and bent.  The proscenium beam has been dislodged from its bearing and twisted.  The walls adjacent to the proscenium opening have been pushed eastward.  This unit has received considerable damage.

(3) The remainder of the 1927 unit consists of classrooms, lounge, boys' and girls' toilets, laboratories and corridor, on two (2) levels, that is, basement and street level.  The floors and interior partitions in the unit have been slightly damaged.

(4) The first floor of the 1927 unit consisting of classrooms, office, homemaking room and corridors, suffered serious damage.  Floors are warped partitions cracked, and exterior wall pushed our of plumb.  The second floor of this unit consisting of classrooms and study hall received even more damage than the first floor.  Floors have been warped by standing water over the entire area.  In one room on the east end the exterior wall is out six (6) inches.  The ceiling of the large study hall and the roof above are badly damaged and twisted our of shape. 

The roof over the 1927 unit has been seventy percent (70%) blown away, and the parapet wall completely demolished.  The entire 1927 unit (original building) has been damaged considerably, and in our opinion beyond repair.  Mr. Passialis recommend this unit be abandoned and demolished.

The 1950 one story unit consisting of six (6) classrooms has been damaged, but not beyond repair according to Mr. Passialis.  This unit can be put back into safe condition if the school board so desires.  Another 1950 one story unit north and adjacent to the heavily damaged bus garage consisting of shop and drafting rooms, classroom, farm shops, and storage can also be rehabilitated and repaired if the school bard desires.

This office understands that the school board has engaged the services of Mr. William Potter, Architect of Belleville, and Mr. Eugene Siebold, Engineer of St. Louis.  We recommend the school board follow their advice concerning the future building requirements of the school.


Thanks so much - (Freeburg Tribune - June 14, 1968)

We wish to express our thanks to our neighbors, Ed Kraft, Elroy Barkau, Clyde Eitzenhefer, Mr. and Mrs. Rich Loveless, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Schiermeier, Clarence and Ronnie Engler, Eugene and Brad Auer, Ed Taff, Employees of Monsanto Chemical Co. of St. Louis, relatives and friends for helping us clean up debris after tornado struck our home and farm buildings on May 15.  Also Wahlig and many others we did not know who came that night to see if we were hurt or in need of emergency assistance, those who brought food, Father Freese for his visit, donation from Princess Peggy, Mr. and Mrs. Hahn and employees of Bismarck Cafe.   Floyd Krupp and family - Louise and Marie.

** Editor note:  Although there were many Thank You notes in the Freeburg Tribune over the weeks and months after the tornado, this thank you came from a family and farm west of Freeburg by approximately 2 miles.  I include it as well for informational purposes to track the possible path of the storm. 


Disaster Committee Has Final Meeting; Funds Dispersed - (Freeburg Tribune - October 11, 1968)

The United Freeburg Disaster Fund Committee met Thursday evening, October 3rd at Sam's Cafe.   Co-chairman Rudy Freivogel reported that a total of $6535.20 had been donated to the fund.  Of that amount, $4980.00 was dispersed to tornado victims in early July.

Thursday night checks were written for the remaining funds, and were sent to the tornado victims.  The original point systems was used to determine amounts assigned each individual.

This ends the work of the committee.  We wish to extend our thanks to all members who worked so diligently and faithfully.

The committee especially wishes to extend sincere thanks and gratitude to all organization and individuals who contributed to the fund.  

Dorothy Brueggeman,  Sec.


ESSA World (Environmental Science Services Administration - (April, 1969)

"The 15th of May"  - (Ann K. Cook) (page 6) 

(page 6)  ... At 8:35 p.m., a funnel was sighted over Jefferson Barracks Bridge, some 35 miles west-southwest of Freeburg, Illinois.  Thirty minutes later, the same funnel entered the town of Freeburg and passed through the entire length of the mile-long community.  Four people died, forty-eight were injured, and property damage was estimated at one million dollars.  Two of the dead and forty of the injured were in trailers.  A tornado warning had been issued for the county at 7:45 p.m. and had been broadcast to civil defense units, fire departments, police departments, hospitals, and to the general public, more then 45 minutes before the twister struck the town.




Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


The above picture was taken in the parking lot of the American Legion Home (south west corner of South Richland and West Apple) looking north east.


- The Methodist Church building is no longer standing.

- The Methodist Church education building is now the Freeburg town hall building.

- The American Legion Home is no longer standing.

- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- The Renner Funeral Home still stands on the north-west corner of South Richland and West Apple.

- Picture from the Belleville News Democrat


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- The destroyed trailer court was on the south side of West Apple street between South Walnut street and South West street.

- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- West Apple Street is also known as Douglas Road.

- The E.M. Wiegmann plant is still operational. (now Hubble/Wiegmann)

- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Smith's Soda garage was on South Alton, just north of West Apple.

- The garage is still standing today and used by the family.

- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- The building of the former Freeburg Milling Company is still standing. (Dressler Grain company)

- Picture from the Belleville News-Democrat.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage

The above picture was taken at the north-east corner of South Richland and West Apple looking south-west.


- The Renner Funeral Home still stands on the north-west corner of South Richland and West Apple.

- The American Legion Home is no longer standing.

- Picture from the Belleville News-Democrat.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- The E.M. Wiegmann plant is still operational. (now Hubble/Wiegmann)

- Picture from the Belleville News-Democrat.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage

The above picture was taken at the north-east corner of West Washington and South Richland and West Apple looking south-west.


- The Renner Funeral Home is in the background.

- The Methodist Church building is no longer standing.

- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Picture taken along West Apple street looking west.  (info provided by Lee Smith)

- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Picture taken along West Apple looking south

- Picture from the Belleville News-Democrat.



- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage


- Picture from the Freeburg Tribune.


Freeburg, IL - tornado damage

Fragments of Housetrailers lie strewn among broken furniture in an open field east of the Louis J. Kehrer Sr. Trailer Court, leveled by Wednesday night's tornado that struck Freeburg.  All 10 of the trailers in the court were demolished by the twister, which struck without warning shortly before 10 p.m.  The court, near the house in the background, is just off Douglas Road.


- Picture from the Belleville News-Democrat.



Storm Reports from around the area:


Storm Routs Family From Farm Home - (Centralia Evening Sentinel - May 16, 1968)

NEW BADEN  -  An Air Force sergeant, his wife and daughter, who occupied a farm home near here,  today appeared to have been the only Clinton Country residents injured by last night's tornadoes.

Given emergency treatment at the Scott Air Force Base Hospital, after the twister struck in the area of their home about 10:30p.m., where T. Sgt. William B. Thomasson; his wife, Mary, and their daughter, Evelyn.

They remained in temporary housing on the base after their release from the hospital.  The were reported still there this morning.

They lived on a farm about a mile south of New Memphis.  The house, moved from its foundation, sat about a quarter mile off Rte. 177.

Extensive damage occurred on another farm about one-half mile south of Rte. 177 a short distance west of the Thomasson home.

There, the Norman Schuetz family escaped injury as the storm demolished all buildings except the house in which they had taken refuge.


Tornado Smashes Bartelso Farm - (Centralia Evening Sentinel - May 16, 1968)

BARTELSO -- By Jim Pegg  -  A windstorm, believed to have been a tornado, demolished farm buildings and damaged the Alphonse Varel home on Covington Road south of Bartelso last night.

Varel and his family, asleep in the house, escaped injury.  However, several head of valuable milk cows were injured and at least one had to be destroyed.  Others may also have to be shot.

Varel said he had gone to bed early last night but was awakened by a noise which sounded like a great rumbling.  Moments later the house began to shake and the farm buildings toppled.

A neighbor, Alois Gross, who lives a quarter mile north of Varel, said he had stepped outside after listening to the baseball game.  He said it suddenly became very dark and he heard a rumbling which sounded like a train passing very close.  When lightning flashed, Gross said, he saw the funnel cloud streaking across fields moving toward the Varel farm from the southwest.  He said it was moving near the ground and as it came to the farm it dipped down, smashing into the buildings.

There apparently was no damage at the Gross farm, but damage figures will be high for Varel.   The milking parlor, large barn, cattle barns, silos, and machine shop were destroyed.  The amount of damage to the farm house was not determined but pieces of roofing were torn loose, storm windows broken, and eves ripped loose.  Sheet metal from out-buildings are strewn around the farm.  The injured cattle were in the barn area.  Two large silos were leveled.   In the machine shop, a combine was overturned and a truck was buried under a pile of broken lumber, twisted sheet steel and roofing material.

As the rain stopped after the storm, members of the Clinton County Civil Defense team moved in to give assistance.  Directed by Chief Deputy Sheriff Lavern Ilges, Breese, who is also Civil Defense director, the men moved in a large mobile generator and set up portable lights around the house and remains of the barns.  The lights were kept burning until dawn to aid Varel and his neighbors in starting the cleanup.

Many of the Civil Defense workers who showed up last night and early this morning had already spent most of Tuesday night and yesterday morning near Aviston where 39 cars of a B&O freight train derailed.

Severe storm warnings were posted for the area during much of last night and into the morning hours.  The Clinton County area was placed under a tornado watch after a killer storm smashed into Freeburg.  The warnings were not lifted until nearly 2a.m. today.


Farms Launch Tornado Cleanup - (Centralia Sentinel - May 17, 1968)

CARLYLE - Clinton County farm families are cleaning up today trying to salvage what they can from farms damaged by tornadoes and high winds Wednesday night. 

The Clinton County sheriff's office said no further reports of injuries have been received from the storms.  Two children were reported injured during the high winds that struck a farm south of New Baden.

One of the hardest hit farms was that owned by Alphonse Varel on the Covington Road south of Bartelso.  All the farm buildings were destroyed or severely damaged and several head of cattle were injured.  At least one had to be destroyed.

The tornado, possibly the same storm which killed four at Freeburg, skipped across the county about 10:30 p.m.  It was sighted at New Baden, Bartelso and Huey and was last reported by civil defense workers heading in the general direction of Salem.


Bridge and property destroyed - (The Breese Journal - May 23, 1968)

A private bridge, located three miles southeast of Damiansville and one half mile from the Kaskaskia River, used by neighboring farmers to cross Shoal Creek, was lifted off its foundation and dumped into Shoal Creek by last Wednesday night's tornadic winds.  The bridge was originally built in 1929 by Joe Heiman, Sr. and reconstructed with new concrete pillars and foundation in 1966.  Many trees in the immediate area, and a clubhouse owned by Cletus Furhne were completely flattened by the winds.


Another twister hits in county - (The Breese Journal - May 23, 1968)

The third tornado to strike Clinton County within the past five months hit in the Bartelso area last Wednesday night, nearly demolishing one farm, and causing damage to several others.

Hardest hit was the Alphonse Varel farm, located about two miles southeast of Bartelso on the Covington road.

Varel and his family, asleep in the house when the twister struck about 10pm, escaped injury.  However, several head of valuable milk cows were injured and one had to be destroyed with possibly others having to be shot if they do not respond to treatment.

Varel said he was awakened by a loud, rumbling noise, like that of a freight train.  Moments later the house began to shake and the farm buildings began crumbling and blowing away.

A neighbor, Alois Gross , who lives one-fourth mile north of Varel, said that he saw the black funnel cloud just before it struck the Varel farm.  He had stepped outside after listening to the baseball game and noticed that it had become very dark and windy.  He also heard the rumbling noise and when lightning flashed, Gross said that he saw the tornado funnel bearing down on the Varel farm from the southwest.

The milling parlor, large barn, cattle barn, silos, and machine shed were destroyed.  The house was about the only building left standing and it had considerable damage, but is still apparently livable after repairs.  Two large silos were leveled while a combine was overturned in the machine shop and a truck buried under a pile of broken timber and twisted sheet metal.

Just west of the Varel farm, the Leo Winkeler farm was also heavily damaged by the tornado.  The roof on the Winkeler's home was ripped off, and the chimney fell into the bathroom, while many small buildings were destroyed.

Overall the damage on the Varel farm was worse than Winkeler's but the latter's home my have sustained more damage.

Further southwest from Leo Winkeler, the Frank Winkeler farm also was reported to have some damage.

Many of the Civil Defense workers came to the Varel and Winkeler farms Thursday night, and early Friday morning to help where ever they could.  They had spent most of Tuesday Night and Wednesday morning at the 39-car freight train pile-up at Aviston, as they had a full week of gratis work.

The twister that killed five persons at Freeburg may have been the same tornado that struck near Bartelso.

Also, in its northeasterly path was the New Memphis area where an Air Force sergeant, his wife and daughter were slightly injured by the tornado.

Given emergency treatment at the Scott AFB hospital were T. Sgt. William Thomasson, his wife Mary, and daughter, Evelyn.

They remain in temporary housing on the base after their release from the hospital Thursday night.  They live on a farm about a mile south of New Memphis.  The house was moved from its foundation, but did not collapse.

Heavy damage was reported on another farm about a half mile south of Route 177 just west of the Thomasson home.  There, Norman Schuetz and his family escaped injury as the tornado demolished all buildings except the house.

There was also damage to farm buildings near Huey which was also in the path of the same tornado that had just struck near Barelso and New Memphis.


Effects of the Storm  -  (The Kinmundy Express -  Kinmundy, IL  -  May 23, 1968)

Mr. Clyde Bassett reports finding a piece of wood paneling from a trailer and a sheet of aluminum trailer siding 3 feet by 6 feet in his barn lot on Thursday morning.  Just where the debris came from will never be known for certain.  But it could be and it might be parts of trailers which were demolished in Freeburg, Ill. the night before by the tornado.  Mr. John W. McCalley reports that he also found a piece of wood paneling 2 feet by 8 feet, supposedly from a trailer in one of his fields on Thursday afternoon.

Note #1  -  Kinmundy is approximately 80 miles east northeast of Freeburg.

Note #2  -  My wife (Dolores Ford Mobley) ran across this article while doing local research.  Dolores grew up in the Kimundy area and her grandfather is Clyde Bassett!!!


Trenton News - (The Breese Journal - May 30, 1968)

Local People and Former Residents Escape Injuries In Tornado in Freeburg - by Erwin Brunner, Reporter:  Wednesday, May 15, was an unusually hot day here. The temperature reached 92 shortly after noon and everyone knew that an awful storm was developing.  Toward evening dark clouds began to form and the wind that had been blowing hard all day from the east changed to the southwest.  Thunder and lightning came then rain but Trenton was fortunate. There was no damage and no one was injured.  Later in the evening reports stated that a vicious tornado struck Freeburg, Ill. about 9 o'clock.  Many from here went there at once to volunteer their assistance in any way they could.

On Sunday thousands of people went there to view the damage or to help in any way the unfortunate victims. The damage caused by the storm will reach several millions of dollars.  Five persons, thus far have lost their lives.

John Milford, a brother-in-law to Arnold Ebel of this city, who resides there and is a teacher in a school there, escaped injury.  He resided here several years ago and attended the local public school  None of the children who attended the school where he is an instructor, suffered any injuries.

Walter Kunz, a son of Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Kunz of this city, was visiting with friends in Freeburg that evening.  He and his girl friend were riding in an automobile.  They heard the roar of the storm.  It sounded like an approaching train.  Mr. Kunz drove his car to the bottom of a steep hill.  Both crawled in a ditch.  They heard the storm passing over them.  Neither one suffered any injuries.  Later they surveyed the damage caused by the tornado.



The following account of earlier storms in Freeburg was taken from: "Freeburg's Calamity - The 1968 Tornado and Its Aftermath" - David G. McGraw.

Apparently 1968 wasn't so lucky for Freeburg...  On Wednesday, April 4th at about 6:15pm a violent thunderstorm or tornado struck the Growth Implement and Service station collapsing three walls and part of the roof.  Damage was estimated at $100,000.  Many of the Cub Cadet tractors and a combine sold by Groth's were found in the pond of Mitch Stookey's farm.  The storm/tornado also destroyed a shed on the Stookey farm located 1/4 mile from the Groth station.  Roofs were also torn off on the east end of town and the city electricians worked until 1am restoring electric service.  Telephone service was halted in and out of Freeburg most of the night, with relatives unable to call to see if their family members had survived the storm/tornado.  Many people, unable to get their relatives by phone, rushed to Freeburg after hearing the news of the storm on radio and television.  Major damage also resulted in Belleville, Millstadt, and other surrounding communities.




National Weather Service Forecast Office

May 1968 Tornado outbreak (Wikipedia.com)

A Forgotten Outbreak? (May 15, 1968 Outbreak)

Freeburg Community High School - History



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