On February 19, 1888, at 4:50 PM, a cyclone (now known as a tornado) devastated Mount Vernon, Illinois. As this was a time prior to the benefits of weather radar and emergency alert systems, the storm struck without warning. Thirty people were killed, hundreds injured, and over a thousand left homeless. As impossible as it might seem, even the Jefferson County Courthouse, in the photo to the right, was demolished.
As noted by Mr. Samuel Rollinson in a letter to his brother still living in England, those who made it through the disaster considered themselves lucky to be alive. Clara Barton, the founder and first president of the American Red Cross, came to the area in person and organized relief efforts. As was noted in a document by a local teacher and historian, Mildred Warren: "The cyclone was a terrible tragedy and it brought sorrow and loss to many Mt. Vernon citizens but it brought also a realization of the kindness and mercy of others and it developed a spirit of cooperation among citizens that has been marked in the community's later development."
This song tells the story of the tragedy through the lyrics of "The Mount Vernon Cyclone." Note how these simple but plaintive lyrics appeal to the sympathy of the listener and encourage helping others in their time of need.
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