A 1911 postcard carried this hand-written message, “This is how the storm looked [as it] passed over Antler … wrecked a barn and killed one man, 1 ½ miles from where I am working.” On the front of the postcard is a picture of the tornado that hit on this date in 1911 – a large black mass extending down toward some buildings.
Whoever took the photo must have had a hard time of it, worrying about the approaching twister. By that time, gelatin emulsions had made it possible to take pictures with shorter exposure times. Film could be bought ready-to-go, and developing could take place well after the fact – improvements that made tornado photography much easier. The earliest tornado photograph was taken in 1884 near Howard, a Dakota Territory town now in South Dakota.
On the day of the Antler tornado, there were also pictures taken that show the destruction. All that remained in place of one house was the floor, with the roof sitting nearby. Another house was demolished, with wooden boards scattered across the yard.
Antler’s newspaper detailed the damage to homes and crops, proclaiming property losses would total more than 100,000 dollars. The paper also told the story of those caught up in the storm.
The twister hit one home where more than 20 people had gathered. Most fit in the cellar, but there wasn’t space for one man. He hid in the trees and came away with only a “scalp wound.”
There was also a group at the picnic grounds on Mr. Manning’s property that day. Mr. Manning offered up the space so frequently that many forgot the land was private. The “Pride of Antler,” with its welcoming shade and natural beauty, the picnic grounds had hosted 150 people earlier that day. Most left when they saw the approaching storm, but by the time the twister headed towards the picnic grounds 15-20 people remained. Taking shelter in the pavilion, many were injured as the place was lifted from its foundation and the structure was destroyed. All had initially survived the tornado, but several died of their injuries.
Mr. Manning pledged to restore the picnic grounds, so in time the place would regain its former glory.
Dakota Datebook written by Alyssa Boge
The Antler American – August 24th, 1911.
“Photographs: Archival Care and Management” by Mary Lynn Ritzenthaler and Diane Vogt-O’Connor – 2006