Remembering the 1958 El Dorado tornado

Deanna Bonn
The Tornado Memorial is located in Graham Park and stands along the path the "wrong way" tornado took in 1958.

At 5:45 p.m. on June 10, 2021, the exact moment a tornado struck south and southwest El Dorado on that same day in 1958, tornado sirens could be heard all across town as a gathering of members from the El Dorado Rotary Club paid tribute to the 13 lives lost.

The annual ceremony brings community members together with survivors and others who remember the event.

The backward, or “wrong way” tornado as it was called, killed 13 people, injured over 80 others and resulted in damages of nearly $3 million.

Following the tornado siren, Dave Stewart who was one of the architects of the memorial project, shared historical information with the audience.

The memorial, a project of the El Dorado Rotary Club and spearheaded by Steve Pershall, was erected thirteen years ago in 2008, during the 50th anniversary. $35,000 was in cash was raised by the Rotary and many in kind donations helped bring the memorial to life.

The harp was removed from it's base for cleaning and the chords were plucked as each name was read.

Thirteen pillars, some with plaques, commemorate the historic event that changed the course of the neighborhood that now houses the memorial located at Graham Park, 1600 Edgemoor.

According to John Prigmore, founder of Gravity::Works, the company that designed the memorial, “the intent was to mimic the lines of a tornado.” It has been said that the design also represents the community whose spirit was bent but not broken.

At its pinnacle, is a wind harp fitted with thirteen strings - one for each life lost that day. The wind harp was designed by artist Ross Barrable of Pagosa Springs, Colorado, and can be heard singing when wind blows through its strings.

For this year’s ceremony, the harp which had been removed for cleaning, was left off the

pedestal and set upon a table. each victim.

Tornado historian and ceremony emcee, Dave Stewart shared information about the events of June 10, 1958, with the audience.

A string was plucked by Stewart as Prigmore read the names of: William Cantrell, Minnie Cantrell, William Welty, James Kirby, Howell Phillips, Elanor Phillips, John Phillips, Bessie Diaz, Arthur Sharping, John Jenkins, Mary Jenkins, Roberta Daniels and  John Daniels.

1958 Tornado Eyewitness John Prigmore: Courtesy of Reed and Darci Campbell
John Prigmore was an eyewitness to the tornado and it's deadly destruction in 1958.