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Deadly Tornado Strikes St. Cloud, Sauk Rapids – On This Date In Central Minnesota History

St. Cloud railroad after the 1886 cyclone, courtesy of the Stearns History Museum

ST. CLOUD/SAUK RAPIDS - April 14th, 1886 – Stearns and Benton Counties hit by what is called the deadliest tornado in history of the state.

One of the most destructive tornados to ever hit Minnesota occurred on April 14, 1886 in the St. Cloud/Sauk Rapids area.  The great tornado of 1886 claimed the lives of 73 Stearns and Benton County residents, wounded many others, destroyed 109 buildings, and caused an estimated $300,000 in damage.  The great 1886 tornado changed the course of history in the St. Cloud area.

Damage from 1886 cyclone in Sauk Rapids

The horror began about 4 p.m. in the afternoon when the tornado touched down about 1 mile southwest of St. Cloud at North Star Cemetery.  The tornado created a wide path of destruction as it carved its way through the city of St. Cloud killing 22 persons, overturning railroad cars, and smashing homes and continued its deadly path to the city of Sauk Rapids.

Another image from the damage in Sauk Rapids

The city of Sauk Rapids suffered even more devastation and death than the city of St. Cloud where almost every business was annihilated and 38 people lost their lives to the force of the great tornado.  After wiping out the city of Sauk Rapids, the tornado turned north toward the city of Rice where 7 members of a wedding party were killed, including the groom, and then continued on to Buckman, Pierz, and Sullivan Lake in Morrison County where three more persons were killed.

A Sauk Rapids home destroyed by the cyclone

Prior to the great 1886 tornado, Sauk Rapids was the more prosperous city between Sauk Rapids and St. Cloud.  The city of Sauk Rapids was unable to recover after the tornado.  The city lacked the funds and the desire to rebuild and soon the city of St. Cloud rose to prominence in the area.

The great tornado of April 14, 1886 remains one of the most memorable events in the history of St. Cloud / Sauk Rapids area.

5 members of the Fink family were killed in one Sauk Rapids home

Thanks to the Stearns History Museum and Museum Volunteer Cindy Meyer for their help with our series, “This Date In Central Minnesota History”.

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