The Cyclone of ‘78
June 1878, all was quiet and peaceful until suddenly from nowhere a tornado swept down on the unsuspecting village of Richmond, Missouri. It ripped through the community with a devastating swathe destroying one-third of the City. The Ray County Chronicle reported the news as follows,
‘Language is too poor to adequately describe the desolation and ruin of Richmond. Within a few moments a third of the town was made desolate. Five hundred persons made homeless with many of them left penniless. Richmond is in grief and mourning. We have buried twelve bodies of our good citizens” (The Ray Chronicle, June 3, 1878).
Another paper described the destruction this way.
“The havoc and desolation which then ensued are beyond our abilities to describe. Not a house is left to mark that once beautiful portion of the town. . . . Nor is there a single foundation that was not swept away” (“The Town of Richmond, Mo., visited by a Tornado,” Phelps County New Era, June 8, 1878).
Among those structures destroyed was the county courthouse. Witnesses later declared that books from the courthouse were found 40 miles away in the aftermath of the storm, (John Hart Interview 1883).
David and his family lived at 213 East Main Street and were among those affected by what they called “the cyclone.” The Ray Chronicle further reported that his home, a two-story, seven room structure, built in 1843, was “torn to atoms,” when the house across the street was blown through it. David himself, an elderly man, was injured by flying timbers. It was a fact noted throughout the community and spread far and wide that, through it all, one small room of David’s house was unaffected by the killer storm—nothing was disturbed—the room was intact—not even the windows were broken, while the rest of the house was destroyed.
For the rest of his life, David and his family would assert that it was divine providence that protected that room and its contents.
What was in that room?—The Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, and David, was David Whitmer, one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon.
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