Manchester looks back at devastating F-4 tornado and the Manchester Monument


MANCHESTER — The town of Manchester, South Dakota, is known as the home community for Harvey Dunn, Grace Ingalls Dow, and the 1961 Dakota Territory Centennial celebration.
But on a warm day 14 years ago, Manchester became known for another reason when a massive F-4 tornado destroyed the town’s buildings, but not it’s spirit. The tornado struck on June 24, 2003.
On June 23, 2007, nearly 500 people gathered under a big tent centered on the main street of Manchester. Friends of the small but lively community, just eight miles west of De Smet on Highway 14, were there to dedicate the newly completed Manchester Monument.  
To commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Monument’s dedication, two spirited videos are being released, one devoted to the June 23, 2007, morning dedication ceremony and another to afternoon storytelling.  Both were recorded on-site at those historic festivities.  
Now they are available for everyone to enjoy by googling Manchester Monument Dedication Program and/or Manchester Monument Dedication Storytelling. Both are on YouTube.  
The programs, plus a copy of the dedication brochure, are also available at http://garymarxcpo.com/manchester-monument-dedication/. (Others might also want to link the programs to their web sites or distribute links to friends and neighbors.)
A theme that resounded during that historic dedication was: “That storm could take away our buildings, destroy our possessions, and injure our people, but it could not destroy the Spirit of Manchester. The Spirit of Manchester is alive and well in each of us, wherever we are.”
Everyone has a standing invitation to visit and be inspired by the Manchester Monument, often claimed to feature some of the world’s most magnificent sunrises and sunsets.  A possible event at the site is being considered for June of 2018, which will mark the 15th anniversary of the devastating tornado.
The Monument, built on the site of the old Town Hall and including a fabled Town Pump, displays plaques that colorfully explain Manchester History; the 1961 Dakota Territory Centennial Gold Rush Celebration that brought 150,000 people to the town, plus personages such as Lawrence Welk and Clint Eastwood; tributes to famed pioneer painter Harvey Dunn, who was born just south of town, and Grace Ingalls Dow, “Baby Grace” in her sister Laura Ingalls Wilder’s book, who lived in Manchester most of her life; and the devastating F-4 Manchester Tornado, which destroyed the town and two nearby farms just after supper on June 24, 2003.  
Etched into a large central stone are the names of families who lived in Manchester Township since homesteading.  The monument also pays homage to “those who came before us, whose names we might never know.”
The Manchester Monument was constructed by the late Harold Yost. He and his family lost their farm in the in the June 24, 2003, tornado.
His wife, Loretta Yost, wrote a classic item titled, “Phlox Blooming in Manchester,” the evening before the tornado struck. (Her article appears at right.)  
Members of the original Manchester Monument Advisory Council included  Jim and Jan Bowes, Harold and Loretta Yost, Loren Moore, Gail Marx Eberlein, and Gary Marx.
Manchester, a prime example of a pioneering community that sprung to life in the late 1870s along the Chicago & Northwestern Railway and the Black & Yellow Trail (now Highway 14), boasted numerous homes and businesses, a newspaper, two grocery stores, a pool hall, two churches, a post office, a restaurant, a lumber yard, a cream station, a hotel, and two stately grain elevators.  It was home base of the Manchester Township School District, with a town school, including a high school, and a network of country schools.
The community thanks the The De Smet Development Council, which has made the site one of the numerous features of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little Town on the Prairie; the South Dakota Art Museum in Brookings, which is home to a treasured Harvey Dunn collection of paintings; the Laura Ingalls Wilder Memorial Society for keeping history alive; the South Dakota Highway Department for installing signs for Manchestre; Kevin and the late Jan Wallum Muilenburg for lighting the Monument; Lynn and Dianne Perry, the late Loren Moore, and others who have kept watch over flags flying over the Monument; and Robin Wallum who also support monument lighting, and others who have brought flowers to the site; Dave and Desiré Jennings for keeping the site trim and joining others in watering some new tree plantings; the Wilkinson & Wilkinson Law Firm for its continued counsel and assistance; the Manchester Township Board for its maintenance of surrounding roads; the many who have supported the integrity of and upkeep of the Monument and contributed to the project; Rausch Brothers Granite for its services; Tom Tornow and the Harvey Dunn Grasslands Project; those who have shared history and personal stories about the community; tornado researcher Tim Samaras who was in Manchester at the time of the tornado and later lost his life in an Oklahoma storm; and National Geographic for its insightful research and feature articles; the news media for their attention to this prairie community and its contributions.

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