Troy has been very blessed over the years. Yes, the community has had numerous homegrown business and industry ventures prosper and several philanthropic-minded individuals who have voluntarily reinvested into the community and helped to enrich many lives. These things are known and rightfully celebrated, but it is not what I am referring to this time.
Considering this past weekend, in which two tornadoes which hit the county, I was pondering other times when tornadoes had come close to Troy and how blessed we have been not to have had a completely devastating twister go through the city.
Obviously, through 213 years of history, the county and community has experienced many bad storms with high winds and even tornadoes, but I would like to give an overview of several that stand out.
The earliest known tornado in Miami County was on June 27, 1812. Of course, this was during a time when numerous men in the county were preparing to serve in the war, which had been declared nine days prior. A tornado is mentioned in news accounts as doing extensive damage to houses, outhouses, fences and crops west of Ludlow Falls on Ludlow Creek. In one account, it was noted there were several deaths resulting from the tornado.
In the fall of 1885, an extraordinarily bad year for tornadoes throughout the nation, one tornado’s destructive power hit and caused much destruction in Washington Court House, which is southeast of Xenia. This same storm also did damage in Miami County and caused harm to many rural homes, barns, outbuildings and at least one schoolhouse. While there were two deaths in Washington Court House, none were reported in Miami County.
A very intense storm which stretched from the Rocky Mountains to the Alleghenies came through the area in June 1902 and left its mark in Miami County. West Newton Township suffered much damage to “scores of houses, barns and bridges, and numerous people were injured, some seriously.” Most of the destruction was on rural, private property and Pleasant Hill itself was spared from a direct hit.
This same system also missed Troy, but dropped a “twister” just southeast of town on southern Staunton Township, where the barn and roof of the LeFevre house on State Route 202 were demolished. Mr. LeFevre was trapped and almost lost his life. The nearby iron bridge was also picked up and tossed into Lost Creek. School House No. 1 of Concord Township, which was located on the northwest corner of County Road 25-A and Swailes Road, was also destroyed.
Early morning, May 13, 1933, a strong storm “near tornado stage” went through Troy and southcentral Miami County for 30 minutes and caused significant damage, including uprooting about 50 trees within the city and levelling a dozen buildings. Numerous barns and outbuildings were demolished in the rural areas. Fortunately, no loss of life was reported. Fifteen years later, a similar type storm impacted the county.
On March 19, 1948, another huge system which affected the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys, but also spawned storms in the Great Lakes, brought very high winds to the area. Gusts up to 70 miles per hour caused significant damage to the drive-in theaters in Piqua and Troy. Trees were uprooted, and several buildings were damaged. A 75-pound trap door on the roof of the Troy City Hall was lifted off its hinges and cast down onto Franklin Street. In addition, several plate glass windows in the Public Square were shattered, along with several lampposts globes near the county courthouse.
In the rural area, an estimated 25-30 power poles were snapped in half, causing wide loss of power for customers. Throughout Ohio, about $3 million in damage was caused by the storm, along with some loss of life.
Another harmful tornado hit Troy in March 1955. This one could have been very bad, as it left a destructive path from Highland Park on the west side through the southern part of the community to the east at 1:50 am. Much of the loss, beside down trees and some significant residential damage, was sustained at the Troy Sunshade Company. It was estimated that $500,000 harm was sustained. Several railroad cars were also turned over by the storm.
For those old enough to remember, the 1974 “Xenia Tornado” was the most devastating storm ever experienced or witnessed. I can still remember as a boy, large trees just sheared off and whole neighbors that looked like a large bombed had been exploded. In Xenia, there were 33 deaths and over a thousand people injured.
Troy and Miami County were once again spared any major loss. A tornado was noted west of Troy, but it went back into the clouds only to reappear on the east side of the county. Several farms and barns, along with life stock were effected by that funnel cloud.
With the May 2019 tornadoes still fresh in many minds of people, one should recognize there is always the possibility of one horribly destructive storm hitting Troy or other parts of Miami County. We should be grateful that, thus far, we have been very blessed.
Patrick D. Kennedy is archivist at the Troy-Miami County Public Library’s Local History Library, 100 W. Main St., Troy. He may be contacted by calling (937) 335-4082 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.