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Peggs, OK Devastating Tornado, May 1920



By the Associated Press.
Muskogee, Okla., May 3. -- Thirty-seven bodies have been recovered by rescuers from wrecked houses in the storm demolished town of Peggs, according to a telephone report from Tahlequah. This information was brought from Peggs by the first man to arrive at Tahlequah from Peggs today. Twenty of these bodies are reported to have been taken from one building alone.
JOHN LITTLEFIELD, his wife and six of their seven children were among those killed in the storm, a report to Tahlequah said. The only physician in the town, DR. W. R. HILL, also was killed.
Tahlequah, county seat of Cherokee county fifteen miles south of Peggs, is the nearest railroad town to the storm area.
Those familiar with the roads in the vicinity say it is impossible to reach Peggs by motor car. The Tulsa Tribune started a newspaper man by airplane to the stricken district this morning.

Muskogee, Okla., May 3. -- Fifty persons are reported killed and more than one hundred fifty injured in a storm that wiped out the little town of Peggs, Oklahoma, Cherokee county at 9:30 o'clock last night.
Reports from Locust Grove and Tahlequah where dead and injured from Peggs are being taken said that not a house was left standing in Peggs.
A special train carrying doctors and nurses and equipment left Muskogee for Peggs this morning. All doctors and nurses in Tahlequah also have gone. Practically every store in Tahlequah, county seat of Cherokee county, has closed and several hundred people have gone to Peggs to do rescue work.
Direct communication with the stricken town was impossible this morning, as all wires from Muskogee to Tahlequah are down.

Muskogee, May 3. -- Forty-three bodies have been recovered at Peggs by rescue parties up until noon today. Families were crushed to death when their homes were torn to pieces by the force of the gale. Nine members of the STEVENS family were killed, seven of the LITTLEFIELD family, eight persons by the name of FRANK and five members of the WILKERSON family are now numbered among the dead.
Only three buildings remain standing after the storm at Peggs.
Forty-two coffins are being sent to the scene of the storm from Tahlequah. This is as many as could be found in the city. Temporary hospitals have been organized amid the wreckage and scores of slightly injured are being given first aid. If they can stand the trip to Tahlequah, they are being taken there. When rescuers arrived in Peggs they found the twisted, mud-splattered bodies. Heavy rain and hail accompanied the storm and when the rescuers began collecting the bodies from the wreckage, many were so plastered with mud that they had to be washed off before their identity could be established. The dead were collected in shelters of walls that were left standing. Twenty bodies were piled in one corner, while the searching party ranged the immediate vicinity. Doctors and their assistants pressed into service have worked incessantly since early this morning caring for the dead and injured.

The Ada Evening News Oklahoma 1920-05-03



Doctor's death in Peggs OK

He was my relative. I would like any information you have on Dr. Hill. Thank you

I realize this is and old

I realize this is and old post just clarifying that the town hit by the tornado in 1920 was Peggs, Oklahoma not Beggs. Peggs is located about 15 miles north of Tahlequah. I live in Peggs and my family has always lived in and around the area.


I was born in Tulsa but raised elsewhere...came back as an adult w/ a child of my own. I've never heard this story 'til I moved to Peggs. I'm a volunteer cemetery census taker & stone photographer. My cousin told me about this either before or after I visited cemetery & noticed all the stones w/ d. 5/2/1920. I'm also the family genealogist & found I'm related to the Wilkerson family via Martha Gass Wilkerson. She died in 1909 & husband James married again to gal named Roxie. James, a couple of Martha's sons & all 4 of Roxie's children were all killed. Very sad. Thanks for posting this.

Today's tornadoes made me

Today's tornadoes made me think to look up the Peggs tornado. My mother is "Baby Stephens"; now Anna Lou Martin. It was a pleasant surprise to see her mentioned by people here who remember her and my father and to whom I'm related! Anna Lou is still alive at age 92, although she is now institutionalized and in the final stages of Alzheimers. Everett died a little over three years ago just short of age 89.

Thanks for documenting this disaster on your site. It was very nice for me to be able to connect to this in a small way.

reply to John Easly

I wrote the message about the newspaper article about the tornado in Peggs. I did not mention that Del Robison was my father's adopted father. Jim Littlefield was a realtive of my step father Bert Neel. Bert Neels first wife was Juanita Gore. Was or is she a relitive?

R.J. Stephens

Hi, Karen. I was working with my daughter on a school project and ran across this article. My great grandfather was Rufus Stephens and was one of a few survivors of the Stephens family in the 1920 tornado in Peggs, OK. Is R.J. The same as Rufus? He had a son named Homer who married Ruby Spradlin. Is this he same family?


1920 Peggs Tornado

My grandmother, Maudie Marie Forbes (Bevard-married name) was the girl born during the 1920 Peggs tornado. She passed away several years ago but given that today (5-2-2011) would have been her 91st birthday and consequently the 91st anniversary of the twister I wanted to do some research on the topic.
She, along with my mother, told my brother and me the story of her birth many times over the years and I have always wanted to find articles and stories on the event.
As I now have children of my own, I reflect on the truly incredible story of how my great-grandmother gave birth during such a violent storm and I am solemnly amazed at the twist of fate that allowed my grandmother to survive through a storm where so many lost their lives.
My grandmother lived in Broken Arrow most of her life with her husband of over 60 years, Howard Bevard.
For several years my mother, Maudie's only surviving child, has tried to gather information on the storm and I have recently begun helping her.
If possible, I would love to obtain copies of any articles or stories anyone has regarding the storm. I would gladly pay for any coping expenses too.
My personal email address is and I would welcome any additional information.
Thank you.

I belive the reference in

I belive the reference in the article to the baby that was born is referring to my mother (Maudie Forbes). The family history is that the storm collapsed the roof of the house where my grandmother was in labor. My grandmother crawled on top of the roof and gave birth to my mother. My great-grandfather (Mr. Gabbard) saw the collapse of the house from his home, hitched a team of horses to a wagon, drove to my grandmother's house (driving around bodies) tied the umbilical cord in a bow, and then cut it. He always told my mother that the bow he tied was the reason she was so pretty! I believe his wife (my great-grandmother) was in the house with my grandmother and mother and was injured by a rusty nail to the forehead. I believe she developed tetanus and eventually died from that injury. I appreciate the information posted on this site - much of it is new to me. It is very interesting.

My mother was born May 2,

My mother was born May 2, 1920 in Peggs, OK. The story we were always told was that the tornado collapsed the roof of my grandparents' house (Forbes). My grandmother crawled on top of the collapsed roof and gave birth to my mother. Her father (my great-grandfather Gabbard) saw the tornado hit the house, hitched a team of horses to a wagon, and drove to my grandparents' house. He had to drive the wagon around bodies in the road. According to family history, when he found my grandmother and mother, he tied the umbilical cord in "a pretty bow" before cutting it and claimed that was why my mother was so pretty! I believe his wife (my great-grandmother) was also in the house and was injured. A local newspaper tried to get my grandparents to name my mother "Cyclona" but they declined. With tomorrow being my mother's birthday, I was thinking of her birth and was pleasantly surprised to find this information on the Peggs tornado. I have always suspected it had something to do with my parents naming me Peggy!

Peggs tornado

The story contains an account of a woman having a baby who wasn't injured, but the other woman in the house was killed. That woman was Olla Ford, my great-grandmother. Her one year old son James was also killed. The family always told the story that my great-grandmother was a midwife who had gone to help deliver the baby. The storm blew the chimney over on her and James, but the chimney missed the woman and her baby in the bed.

article | by Dr. Radut