Chris Hart, Newcomertown's historian, is in the process of putting together a new project. Hart's new living history production will take on the treat Tornado of 1955 and he is asking for the communities help. Many locals are old enough to remember various details about the tornado and its aftermath. Some younger residents can remember the stories told by friends and family. These are the people Hart wants to hear from to help him make his show as entertaining and historically correct as possible.
To refresh your memories here is an excerpt from William Casteel's story published in The News on March 31, 2010--
Many local residents can still recall the details of the March 11, 1955, tornado that struck Newcomerstown just before dawn. The tornado reportedly cut a path from west to east through the business district.
In its wake, it left about $200,000 worth of damage. The most common recollection from the tornado appears to be the damage to the East Elementary School building. The structure was left damaged beyond repair and 289 students were left without a school building. The students were later transferred to the River Street Methodist, Nazarene and Calvary Baptist churches, the Masonic Temple and CIO Hall (Congress of Industrial Organization) until a new school was built. Contrary to popular belief that the Maplewood Elementary building, which sat on the corner of River and State streets was also damaged by the tornado; it, in fact, received no damage. This is proven through a newspaper account (dated for March 12, 1955) that stated the plan was for the East school students to temporarily be transferred to the Maplewood building with East School students attending classes in the morning and Maplewood students attending classes in the afternoon.
It was decided later that the Maplewood building was falling into disrepair and should be closed, sooner than later. The end result was the construction of two new elementary school buildings that were completed in 1957.
Other village structures damaged during the tornado were Lenzo Grocery on Bridge Street, the Lutheran Church, and the College Street Methodist Church, Cooper's Furniture Store and Bair's Furniture Store on Main Street. Telephone and power lines were damaged and out of service for about a day.
While there were no fatalities, two citizens, Clarence "Pappy" Watts and Mrs. Archie Fletcher were injured by flying debris. Oddly, at the same time, the tornado was sweeping through Newcomerstown, a simultaneous tornado reportedly struck a small Pennsylvania town and took the lives of several persons.
The damage to Newcomerstown was repaired, buildings and structures have since been rebuilt and replaced. No traces of either event exist today. They only now lie in a distant memory of those who lived through it or were later told the story.
--Be sure to contact Chris if any of this sparks your memory and you have any stories or additions details to share. Chris Hart, 4882 W. Hill Rd., Port Washington, OH 43837 or firstname.lastname@example.org.