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Langdon to remember deadly 1909 tornado

People in Langdon, N.D., will pause for an hour or so Friday to observe the 100th anniversary of the worst natural disaster in the city's history -- the May 29, 1909, tornado that killed five and injured 15 people.

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People in Langdon, N.D., will pause for an hour or so Friday to observe the 100th anniversary of the worst natural disaster in the city's history -- the May 29, 1909, tornado that killed five and injured 15 people.

The Cyclone Remembrance Service will begin at 5 p.m. at St. Alphonsus Catholic Church.

The service will include a presentation of memorial wreaths to commemorate the two adults, two children and an infant who lost their lives:

-Mrs. J.B. Boyd, 39.

-Mrs. F.W. Bleakley, 42.

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-Joseph Power Jr., 12.

-Donalda Sheehan, 10.

-"Baby" Bain, 5 weeks.

The tornado still ranks among the deadliest in North Dakota history. Besides the five fatalities in Langdon, the same storm system generated tornadoes earlier that day that killed three people in Ypsilanti, N.D., near Jamestown, N.D., and caused severe damage in Jamestown.

A series of tornadoes in 1933 killed 18 people in communities throughout south-central North Dakota.

A 1957 tornado in Fargo killed 10 people, including 6 children, and injured 96.

An 1887 tornado in Grand Forks killed five, while another tornado in Grand Forks in 1947 killed seven people.

The most recent deadly tornado in the region occurred in August 2007, when one person was killed in Northwood, N.D.

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Friday's Cyclone Remembrance Service will commemorate the tornado that tore through the community about 6 p.m. on a Saturday evening in 1909.

Two local newspapers, the Courier Democrat and the Cavalier County Republican carried descriptive accounts of the devastation in their next editions, both published June 3, 1909:

From the Courier Democrat:

"Death, ruin and desolation were alike strewn in the path of the terrible storm in a most relentless manner after it began its death dealing advance through the residential portion of the city after crossing the track. Where, up to the time the storm broke, had stood some of the finest and most beautiful of Langdon's homes, occupied by residents who had aimed and prided themselves in giving their town a just claim to the name of 'The City Beautiful.'

"The death dealing storm performed its horribly gruesome task in a way that brought horror and terror alike to the hearts and eyes of those who sorrowfully viewed the sight on Saturday evening."

From the Cavalier County Republican:

"Five deaths, 14 people injured, 18 residences demolished, 2 elevators, 2 churches ..."

"It is the worst calamity that has ever befallen Langdon, for death thus entered the homes of five of our most respected citizens, which is the saddest of all, and property to the value of nearly $150,000 has been destroyed. The homes can be replaced, but the home circles are broken forever, and there will be none to take the place of the victim's of Saturday's tornado."

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Although families of the victims no longer live in the region, Friday's ceremony will include placing of wreaths on the graves of those who died.

Descendants of two of the victims live in Iowa and Montana, said Bill Brooks, a Langdon businessman who is coordinating the commemorative event. But it is unlikely they will be able to attend.

"Especially at this time of year, with Memorial Day, it's kind of a time to remember those who have died," Brooks said. "This kind of event pulls the community together.

Friday's event also will include a family history of the people who were killed. It will be presented by Rita Maisel, a local historian.

A memorial plaque commemorating those who died also will be placed on a monument at Boyd Block, a downtown historic monument.

"We remember what Grand Forks went through with the 1997 flood, and the people of Northwood with their tornado," he said. "We sense that. Younger people here didn't even know anything about the tornado in Langdon. Being this is the 100th anniversary of our tornado, we think it's a good time to remember."

Reach Bonham at (701) 780-1110; (800) 477-6572, ext. 110; or send e-mail to kbonham@gfherald.com .

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