Regina's Night of Horror

Regina's Night of Horror June 30, 2017 · 11 min. readThis article may contain affiliate links.

31 Known Dead; Over 100 Hurt in Disaster

Regina Morns for Scores Killed or Hurt as Tornado Cuts through Heart of City; Casualties and Loss are Terribly Heavy

Originally printed in The Morning Leader, July 1st, 1912

Cyclone drops to earth at south and of Smith and Lorne Street and clears houses, buildings and all obstacles to the north end – Early details probably exaggerated, but loss to city worst in Canadian history – Best buildings in city, Churches, Y.W.C.A, Y.M.C.A, Library, Phone Exchange, all destroyed – Hundreds of houses as flat as a board – Details.

"A Thousand Flags were flying where the Sky and City Meet"

A thousand flags droop disconsolately this morning, or lay in muddied splendor, grim, tricolored crepes to the memory of Regina's awful tragedy.

Today is Dominion Day, the glorious day of Confederation.

Today is a day of mourning in Regina.

Never in the history of a healthy, optimistic, growing Western city has happened a catastrophe so appalling, so paralyzing, in its awfulness.

But a few short hours ago the peaceful calm of the Sabbath afternoon had led hundreds to seek comfort at the lake. Hundreds of others wandered aimlessly about the street and to and fro in the parks.

Others lounged in the comparatively cool shade of their homes, or sweltered in the heat of the sun as it chanced, and all eyed with favor the growing clouds that gathered from the south, bearing a cool breeze or two in their fore.

Welcome clouds they were, even to those who lay crushed an hour later neath the ruins of their homes and dwellings.

Dominion Day.

For Regina, the day of the dominion of death.

Slowly, at first silently, the battalions of the elements gathered to the south, and commenced their march upon the city with the rumbling of their distant drums, growing louder as they advanced.

And still the people waited.

At last they came.

Those out of the direct line of march looked with amusement upon the queer prank of the storm fiend.

A barrel rolled down the street, narrowly missing capsizing a running figure of a man.

And while a score of refugees from the rain were laughing two score fine residences crashed down in tumbled heaps upon their hundreds of inmates.

A window gave with a crash, pelting those behind it with broken glass, and exposing them to the splatter of the raindrops.

At the instant a young man, visiting a friend on the top floor of the Y.M.C.A, was carried to the basement, to be picked up later, unconscious.

A chimney collapsed, and the bricks went rattling down the roof.

While the last brick was falling, the telephone exchange went down with a crash, burying beneath the ruins its human crew of busy operators.

Laughter rang out loud at the freaks of the storm, and while the sound still echoed moans of the injured rose unheeded beneath the heaps of debris in the path of the fury.

The loss of property will not be known for weeks, but conservative estimates place it at five million dollars.

The best residential part of Regina is gone. Wiped out.

Five million dollars will be total loss to property holders in Regina, for hardly a building in the city was insured against cyclones.

What the loss of life will prove to be, no one care to even guess.

Some twenty-eight were known dead at 2.30 this morning.

Hundreds were injured.

And the work of rescue and ministration was hardly begun.

Today the toll will grow. Tomorrow names will be added to the ghastly list.

Where it will end is with the future. Last evening inquires for relatives and friends were almost impossible – men were almost afraid to ask.

But the full horror of it is not known yet. None can appreciate the whole significance of the catastrophe. The shock of the blow was nice seen last night.

Even the sight of the crushed and bleeding bodies being carried from the ruins had but the effect of spurring the works on in their efforts. The calamity was calmly accepted as a fact – and there was work to be done.

Today, with the light of day, and time for all to see and understand – today will be the day of horrors.

Today is Dominion Day.

Today between five and six hundred families are homeless – between two and three thousand people are wandering the streets, dependent upon neighbors, or even strangers, for shelter they may claim at night.

And even yet they do not fully realize their plight.

There was to have been a regatta today on Wascana Lake.

A regatta on the waters which shelter no one knows how many of those who sought its coolness yesterday.

The telegraph wires stretching out of the city have often borne abroad a story of the death of one or another.

But last evening both offices were besieged with men and women anxious to tell anxious outside that they were SAFE.

Twisted, torn, crumbled into ruins, one of the finest parts of Regina's residential sections, the whole of the section occupied by the better laboring classes, the biggest and best of the city churches, some of the finest public and many office buildings, the grain elevators, and scores of other building lie scattered over the ground.

Injured and dead lie buried in the heaps of ruins.

Thousands of people wander about homeless, searching, almost without hope, for relatives – wives, husbands, children.

And this is Dominion Day.

This incredible power of the winds was strikingly shown in many ways in the railway yards but in no way more wonderfully than when steel girders piled upon a car were picked up and tossed away almost like straws. On one box car, a heavy piece of steel sheathing was flung against a rung of the iron ladder leading to the top of the car; so powerful was the impact that the sheet of metal remained fastened about the iron as if held by spikes.

To read more of the original piece, visit Google News Archives.

Regina after cyclone 1912 Regina after cyclone 1912 Regina after cyclone 1912

Headlines in The Morning Leader go on for pages about the cyclone. The night was called "The Night of Horrors" and the wind was said to have sounded like "40 million shrieking demons". Emergency aid came in from the Royal Northwest Mounted Police, the 95th Rifles and Moose Jaw. Boris Karloff, the famous English actor who would go on to play Frankenstein's Monster, would even help with the cleanup. It was the deadliest day Regina has ever seen, and the deadliest tornado in Canadian history.

Regina after cyclone 1912 Regina after cyclone 1912 Regina after cyclone 1912

The following day the death toll was decreased from 31 to 27. Shortly after, it would be finalized at 28. While the names of the 28 victims hang in the basement of Casino Regina, the final numbers are still disputed. Three names that are missing are those of a Chinese family that died in a laundromat where Bushwakkers stands today. They are recognized in the original article of The Morning Leader, but not in the final list of names. It could be that they survived, or that they weren't counted, or even that a misprint simply became a legend.

Regina church after cyclone 1912 Regina church after cyclone 1912 Regina railyard after cyclone 1912

The cyclone would also destroy the house of Francis Nicholson Darke, one of Regina's wealthiest citizens. His wife would later ask him to build a house that could withstand any storm, and he build the foundation of what is now Stone Hall Castle. He would then sell his original property to the Canadian Pacific Railway for $1,000,000 and on that spot, 15 years later, the CPR would build Hotel Saskatchewan.

Regina was shaped because of the cyclone, and a scar can still be seen when exploring downtown. Buildings with mismatched bricks or walls with incredibly long cracks are remnants of that faithful day, as are the memorials placed around the city.  

This Canada Day, remember not only our 150th anniversary, but also the names of the 28 known victims that died 105 years ago today:

  • George Appleby
  • Bertha Blenkhorn
  • Frank Blenkhorn
  • Andrew Boyd
  • Ywe Boyen
  • Joseph J. Bryan
  • George B. Carven
  • Arthur Donaldson
  • Robert Fenwick
  • Elta Guthier*
  • Mrs. Harris
  • Fred Henderson
  • Lawrence Hodsman
  • Donald Miller Loggic*
  • Laura McDonald
  • Ida McDougall*
  • James McDougall
  • Mrs. Paul McElmoyle
  • Charles Mckay
  • Isabelle Mckay
  • James Patrick
  • Andrew Roy
  • Charlie Sand
  • James Milton Scott
  • Mary Shaw
  • Vincent A. Smith
  • Philip Steele
  • Ye Wing

*denotes children

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And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.

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Regina's Night of Horror

Originally printed in The Morning Leader, July 1st, 1912

Cyclone drops to earth at south and of Smith and Lorne Street and clears houses, buildings and all obstacles to the north end – Early details probably exaggerated, but loss to city worst in Canadian history – Best buildings in city, Churches, Y.W.C.A, Y.M.C.A, Library, Phone Exchange, all destroyed – Hundreds of houses as flat as a board – Details.

"A Thousand Flags were flying where the Sky and City Meet"

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