On March 11, 1920, a large tornado traveled through southern Taney County, leaving death and devastation in its wake. Melva, a modest mining and railroad town along the Missouri Pacific line, was completely destroyed by the storm. The tornado took eleven lives and left only foundations intact. Damage to stores, homes, and other buildings amounted to $250,000 or $3.4 million today. As residents grieved the loss of the town, many relocated to nearby Branson, while others were displaced across the state to St. Louis.
Lucy Wood, a Presbyterian missionary, lived in Melva at the time of the storm. As the tornado tore through her home, Lucy took shelter beside her large stone fireplace. Although her home was destroyed, Lucy only suffered minor cuts and bruises. The home’s stone foundation and the fireplace that likely protected her stand today as a reminder of the devastating tornado that wiped Melva off the map a century ago.
Subject: Tornadoes; Natural disasters
Contributing Institution: The Society of Ozarkian Hillcrofters
Photographer: Tammy Morton