VILONIA — The headline on the top story of the Log Cabin Democrat reads “21 Persons Injured, Three Seriously; More Than Dozen Homes Reduced to Rubble, Line of Destruction Runs From Point West of City to Northern Edge; Ida Burns School Hit. The paper is dated May 14, 1957.
In the body of the story, the tornado is described as “narrow but ferocious,” and spreading a path of destruction west of this college town.
That newspaper was carried the 90 miles or so to a yard in Batesville as the wave of tornadic winds blew through that city April 27, carrying debris believed to be from the Vilonia and Mayflower areas. It was found in the yard of Tanya Cox, a cousin to Debbie Rappold of Vilonia. Rappold said her cousin “went through her yard and pieced it back together like it was a puzzle.”
“It’s battered a bit and torn in places but in incredibly good shape,” Rappold said. Rappold has several other family members and friends, living in that area, have also contacted her with finds including scrapbooks, photos and report cards. One report card, she said, was found, in Concord, belonging to a boy who was a first grader in the 1998-99 school year at Vilonia Elementary student.
Her family, she said, has made it their mission to “look for other treasures” and try to save them for returning to their owners. Rappold said her sister Andrea found a photo of a baby that had been torn into. She was able to find both pieces in her yard and have them in safe keeping.
“Like the baby,” Rappold said. “That might be the only one that someone has. We just want to get the items home.”
On a related matter, Erin Rappold, a teacher at Vilonia High School, launched a project the day after the tornado to help get the lost items back to their owners. Items found may be dropped off at the high school. Working with the East Lab students, she plans to clean the items and get them back to their owners. She said she will set up locations in the affected communities, Vilonia, Saltillo, Black Oak and Mayflower, allowing residents to take a look at items and network. Items, she said, that have already been brought to the high school include an autographed basketball, graduation announcements, letters, Bibles and deeds to houses. “I have paper boxes,” Erin Rappold said. “This is going to be an-going project and it may go on for a couple of years. I’m planning on being here for the long haul.”