The Worst Tragedy in Every State

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress

41. South Dakota
> Tragedy: Wounded Knee Massacre
> Date: December 29, 1890
> Total fatalities: 146-300
> Other event considered: Black Hills Flood

In the late 1800’s, a movement called the Ghost Dance had grown in popularity among Native American communities. The movement promised the return of lands and resources, and the end of oppression from Europeans. Settlers were concerned the natives were plotting something and demanded protection from the government and 5,000 troops headed up to South Dakota.

On December 29, police attempted to arrest Chief Big Foot and a violent shootout began. At least 150 Native Americans were killed, though the number may have been twice that high and 25 American soldiers were killed as well.

Source: Archive of The Tennessean

42. Tennessee
> Tragedy: Great Train Wreck
> Date: July 9, 1918
> Total fatalities: 101
> Other event considered: 1952 Tornado outbreak

In 1918, 121 people died due to engineer error after two trains collided head-on just outside of Nashville, becoming the worst train wreck in American history. As the engineer of a Nashville-bound train was approaching the signal tower, he was given a clearing. Although being signaled to stop, the train continued and collided with the Memphis-bound train at about 50 miles per hour. The vast majority of the victims were African-American’s who were seated on wooden carts. Despite the high death toll, the news never made national coverage.

Source: NOAA Photo Library

43. Texas
> Tragedy: Galveston Hurricane
> Date: September 8, 1900
> Total fatalities: 6,000-12,000
> Other event considered: Assassination of JFK

The Galveston Hurricane of 1900 continues to be the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history. It’s believed that 8,000 people were killed in the high winds and 15-foot storm surge brought by the category 4 hurricane. But the true number could be as high as 12,000 people.

Though the storm was powerful, many of the casualties could have been avoided. The Weather Bureau, which became the National Weather Service, predicted the storm would land much further east. Warnings from Cuba about the storm were ignored and the city was largely unprepared. Galveston was once a booming port city, but the destruction of the hurricane was too much for the city to fully recover from as investors began to favor Houston instead.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

44. Utah
> Tragedy: Scofield Mine Disaster
> Date: May 1, 1900
> Total fatalities: 200
> Other event considered: Bingham Canyon Avalanche

The Scofield Mine Disaster claimed the lives of 200 coal miners, many of them immigrants from Finland. It was the worst mine disaster in America to that point, and the worst tragedy of any kind in Utah. When the blast occurred on the morning of May 1,1900, one miner standing near the entrance to the mine was thrown 820 feet. Many people died inhaling deadly gases that were suffocating the miners. State officials cleared mine operators and the Pleasant Valley Coal Company for failing to implement proper safety precautions. The company continued operating the mine until 1923. Since then, Scofield has become a ghost town.

Source: Vermont Historical Society

45. Vermont
> Tragedy: Great Vermont flood
> Date: November 2-4, 1927
> Total fatalities: 84
> Other event considered: Hartford Railroad Disaster

Autumn of 1927 was uncharacteristically rainy in Vermont, with the state getting more than double the amount of rain it normally gets in October. It’s believed those heavy rains made the ground unable to absorb the early November rains that led to Vermont’s greatest tragedy.

Some 84 people were killed in the floods, including the lieutenant governor. The waters also decimated the state’s infrastructure, wiping out more than 1,200 bridges, destroying homes and miles of roadway.