February 27, 1884 Issue of the FAYETTEVILLE OBSERVER

"Reuben and Delia Matthews were my great-great-grandparents. I have a picture of them and have heard this story all my life. However, I also heard that several of their children were killed and that her body was never found, only strands of her long hair throughout the storm's path after it left their property. The newspaper accounts don't verify this." Marty D. Matthews    Posted by Myrtle Bridges   April 05, 2007

[Excerpt] Details from the track of the cyclone which occurred in this State the night of the 19th, 
make it even worse than first reported. After passing through Darlington in South Carolina, where 
four person were killed and 50 housed blown down, the storm entered the State at Polkton, in Anson 
county, on the Carolina Central Railroad. The wind then moved east, and destroyed everything in its 
path. It struck the suburbs of Rockingham, and blew down houses and trees. The air was full of fence-
rails and timber of all kinds. Here 23 persons were killed and 18 were wounded, some of whom will die. 
Wednesday night 20 of the dead were lying in the Court House in Rockingham. From here the storm passed 
on nine miles and blew down McDonald's mills. The mill stones were found 50 yards from where the house 
stood. Lilesville, in the county, was struck , and several negroes were killed. A woman was found dead 
in a swamp with her babe on her breast alive. Six dead bodies were found near Lillington in Harnett 
county. The track appears to have been through Union, Anson, Montgomery, Stanly, Richmond, Moore, 
Robeson, Cumberland, Harnett, Johnston, Sampson, Nash, and Edgecombe.

In Harnett
Correspondence of the Observer
Lillington, N.C., Feb'y 25, '84

Mr. Editor: -- The cyclone that passed one mile north of here last Tuesday night, commenced doing the 
most damage in this county at Mrs. Atkin's. Then, at ex-Sherriff Grady's, damaged out-houses, grove, 
&c. Passing on to Andy Royals, (colored), it tore his house down. Crossing Cape Fear River on Calvin
Vestal's farm, it blew down a tenant's house, occupied by J. A. Mcdonald - none of whose family, however, 
were seriously hurt. Thence to W. F. Matthew's, blowing his house down, who, with his wife and children, 
was fortunately off at a neighbor's house out of the storm.  Thence To Arch. Matthews's and his son 
Bryant's, whose houses were destroyed. Mrs. Mily Johnson's house was blown down, but she was not 
seriously hurt. Thence to Reuben Matthews, Sr., who was at Raleigh. His house all destroyed and his 
wife killed. Merret Overby, wife and two children, who were living in one of Mr. Matthews' homes, 
were killed. Thence to Mr. Hockaday's and Mrs. McLeod's doing considerable damage, on to Arch. Stewart's 
whose house was destroyed. Thence to C. C. Barbee's mill on Black River, crossing the old stage road at 
John Adams's and W. A. Williams's - considerable damage being done there.

The Observer
March 5, 1884

Vivid Description of the Cyclone in Harnett
Correspondence of the Observer
Lillington, N.C., Feb. 1884

Mr. Editor: -- We give as a scrap of news from Harnett an account of the recent unparalleled storm that 
passed through our section. Much excitement and heartrending scenes, and more shocking stories exist, 
and it is impossible to approximate the truth from such. We write from notes taken upon the scene and 
from persons who were eye witnesses. 
	The wind fell upon the highlands between Upper Little River and Cape Fear with a perfect fury - above 
Summerville from the North-west, below from the South-west, as the line of the storm lay east and west 
from about Clark's Bridge on Little River to Summerville on Cape Fear. Upon the southern side of the 
village where the tornado proper first set in, after having leaped the country for miles to the west, 
it struck to the ground several hundred pines, and in as many different directions and lengths - some 
uprooted, some ten twenty, or thirty feet broken off - ten or fifteen crowded together like so many corn 
stalks. All the gathered fury of the wind gods while reaching this point now began to drip out. Making 
an estimate after walking over its trail there must be at least fifteen hundred trees from one to two 
feet through blown down in a distance of one half mile. A number of large oaks in Mrs. Mary Atkins's 
yard are uprooted, some are leaning against the dwelling, and we counted 75 or 100 upon the ground in 
Mr. Robt. Grady's yard, three of his out houses are demolished, his orchard and round pine forest are 
a complete wreck. In this pine timber the wind was so heavy that a large number of the trees broke in 
two before they could give way at the ground. There is at least one million feet of timber down in a 
mile of Summerville - a fine place for a saw mill. After blowing down two more houses on the south side 
of Cape Fear, no persons being seriously injured, it crossed the river and began to ascend the land that 
forms the water shed of the east side of the river - first falling upon the Vestal plantation, which it 
stripped of houses, shade and forest trees with perfect ease, dragging every monarch of the woods in the 
dust. Trees that had stood the winds of two hundred years lay down without making an effort of resistance, 
apparently. Passing through woodland now for the next two miles the wrath of the wind was set on fire, 
and it poured down in consummate fury seemingly maddened by the resistance the forest made each member 
of which manfully contested every inch of its advancing destruction. But resistance only augmented its 
power, for as it leaped into open fields the pent up torrents flowed in every direction, carrying with 
it debris of the forest, straw, knots, trees and stumps. The wind met no resistance in the open fields, 
it leaped here and yonder against stump and fence until it bore hard upon the barns and dwellings of the 
plantation; the barns burst open, the contents, corn and forage, blew as out of the mouth of a cannon 
in every direction, the wall of the dwellings dropped as readily as a candle before a furnace.
	Mr. Campbell says the family he was stopping with for the night had retired, and he was asleep: when 
he awoke he was standing on his feet and the house was entirely gone, while amid the howling of the wind
 he could hear cries for help. A gentleman who witnessed this scene from a distance said he could see by 
the flash of the lightning, and that it was at least a half hour after the wind struck the house before 
the inmates were seen, so heavy was the gale and so complete the bewilderment. There were four or five 
persons in this house, and all escaped alive, but more or less bruised. The roof of the house parted as 
it went up, one half going one way the other another. The body of the house leaped from its pillows fifteen 
or twenty feet, striking the ground in a shearing position, which caused the earth to roll up before it 
almost to the window sills; then the walls flew a splinter. Two trunks of clothing have not been found 
on the plantation. No trees stand whole, but broken in every way possible.
	Upon Mr. Reuben Matthews' place directly under the wind, all the bitterness and iniquity of the winds, 
storms, hurricanes, sand storms of Africa and cyclones of India seemed to gather in battle. All the damage 
done in the past ten miles is here surpassed. Nothing is left, houses, barns, fences, orchard and trees,
 man and beast, were scattered like feathers. Mr. Matthew's wife was found two hundred yards away with 
half of her head lodged in a stump. Mr. Overby, his wife and two children were horribly beaten to death; 
one other child is near dead.
	The scene is the most shocking ever witnessed by the oldest people. It appeared that an immense 
electric lake floated in the cloud, and the wind rushed in from both sides of the storm to supply the 
fire with air. Numbers of others are killed and wounded. The damage cannot be estimated. We hear much 
from further on but nothing definite.
					Yours truly, 		Z. T. Kivett.
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