Submitted by Fred Hauck
June 25, 2016 marked the 101st anniversary of the Redcliff Cyclone (as it was called). I felt it necessary to write and dispel a few myths about that event that you hear from time to time. I have, possibly, studied the 1915 Cyclone more than anyone, and during my research I found accounts that other people have written, and some just don’t make sense. To me, in this article, I endeavour to look at these accounts and clarify a few things.
The last of the residents to have lived through the June 25, 1915 Cyclone passed away many years ago. Now, with all the first hand accounts gone, as the years progress these stories which have been passed down have their memories fade and change, and so change history with them.
I’m sure there was a time when some wanted to forget what happened, an aside from the newspaper accounts of the time, (which tend to be the most reliable as far as the facts go), no major writings were done on the event. As I have studied the Cyclone’s history, one thing has stood out— the fact that many didn’t get their stories right.
The first myth I want to take on: The Town of Redcliff’s economic demise was because of the Cyclone. It was certainly a factor in Redcliff’s early 20th century downturn, but not the sole problem. The decline started with the breakout of the First World War in 1914. A lot of Redcliff’s young mean, 249 of them to be exact, joined up; meaning a good part of Redcliff’s workforce went to various parts of the world, some never to return. And Redcliff also had another problem— it was too far away from the major eastern markets and a lot of the military contracts didn’t come this way.
The Redcliff truck factory did sell a few trucks for military use, but unfortunately not enough. It closed before war’s end. After that, the building’s new owners were the Canadian Foundry and Machine Co. They produced large shells for field guns. Aside from these examples, I have found no other evidence of military production in Redcliff during the First World War.
Another myth: The town was completely wiped off the map by the Cyclone. Although the Cyclone was indeed very devastating and destructive, the town survived the ordeal. But I’ve heard many say over the years: “Redcliff would have been bigger than Medicine Hat if the tornado didn’t wipe it out.”
The Cyclone destroyed many commercial and residential buildings, including the newly built Knitting Mill, Louis Rosin’s home, (he owned the cigar factory), the cigar factory and the Planing Mill. Many structures like the Water Tower, (in Lion’s Park), the Ornamental Iron Works, the Laurel Hotel and several residents’ houses just had roof damage, and were eventually rebuilt. And a great part of the town was left untouched. The Redcliff Hotel, for example, had no damage; where the Ornamental Iron Works, just a block away, had its whole third storey taken off.
The cigar factory, in the end, did relocate, the Ornamental Iron Works was rebuilt, and the Water Tower had its roof replaced and continued to be used for many more decades.
Watch for Part II next week when Fred Hauck takes on a few more myths about the Redcliff Cyclone.