Transcript:The Deadly Cyclone!


The Decatur Daily Republican ( Decatur, Illinois); 21 May 1883, Mon; Page 3, column 4
The Deadly Cyclone!
Full Account of the Tornado's Terrible Work in this and Other Counties
'Republican' Representatives Visit Austin Township and DeWitt County.
Dwellings Demolished, Barns Blown Away, Clothing and Bedding Scattered and Orchards Ruined
Stock Killed Outright - Miraculous Escapes - Scenes of Desolation Everywhere.
A Full List of the Killed and Injured in Macon and DeWitt Counties.
Scenes Along the Route of the Storm Demon

In Macon County
Macon county had its first destructive cyclone on Friday night last, May 18th, and, desiring to lay before our readers as full and accurate a description of the extent of the calamity as possible, a representative of the REPUBLICAN visited the scene of destruction Sunday, and passed over the greater part of the track of the storm, from the place where it entered the county on the west to the point where it crossed the north line and entered DeWitt county. The distance traversed by the storm in Macon county was about four miles, covering portions of sections 18, 7, 6, 5, 4 and 3, in the order named. The width of the track was about forty rods, and it nowhere deflected much from a straight line, going east by northeast.

The first house struck in the county was that of DeMain Gordon, on section 18. This was blown away only in part, and, strange to say, that portion in which the family was at the time was not hurt much. Next was a tenant house on the farm of I. J. Michner, occupied by Isaac Jocelyn and family. This was entirely blown away and Mrs. Jocelyn had an arm broken. Next came the barn of Conrad Stark, on the Evans tract in section 7, which also disappeared like a flash of lightning, and the terrible demon of the air rushed on to play havoc with whatever stood in its way.

Near the middle of the west line of section 8 the cyclone met its next obstruction. Here stood the comfortable farm house and buildings of Clarence F. Emery, for many years the home of his father, the late Joseph W. Emery. The house and barn were literally blown to atoms, and the scene beggars description. The inmates of the house at the time were Mr. Clarence F. Emery, his wife and two small children, besides his mother and unmarried sister. Mr. Emery states that when the storm struck the house the family were sitting in a room in which was a stove with a fire in it. He says the floor appeared to part in the middle of the room, precipitating four out of the six people in the house into the cellar. The stove went down with them, and in the wreck all received some bruises and scratches, and slight burns from the stove, but no serious injuries. Mrs. Emery, Sr., and one of the children found themselves in the yard, but how they got there they did not know. The furniture and contents of the house were scattered far and wide, and but little was saved. The barn was a very large and well built structure, and in it was a large amount of hay, four or five horses, a lot of implements, wagons, etc. One horse was killed outright, another was hurt slightly, the implements and wagons were wrecked, the hay tossed in every direction, and the surrounding trees still hung full of various sorts of debris. East of the house was a large and fine orchard, which was well nigh obliterated. Large trees were literally pulled up by the roots, others were broken off close to the ground and scarcely one escaped uninjured. A granary that stood north of the other buildings escaped without great damage. For a long distance to the eastward the ground is covered with lumber, shingles, pieces of implements, harness, clothing and furniture. Just south of the buildings is a grove, which was outside the main track of the storm, but which must have been considerably agitated by the wind, judging from the defunct fowls scattered through it. The grove was a favorite roosting place for crows, and large numbers of their dead carcasses are scattered around. Fifteen of these were counted in a space of 200 feet square. The loss on the Emery place will aggregate between two and three thousand dollars. In the barn was a good spring wagon, of the Hamsher make, which was smashed and twisted into fragments by the falling timbers and weight of hay that rested upon it.

In the northeast corner of section 8, on the farm of W.F. Montgomery, stood a small tenant house, occupied by Charles Lennon and family, all of whom had retired for the night before the blow came. The storm struck the house and burst it open, and in less than a minute the building and everything it contained - except the inmates - was scattered to the winds. It was literally swept away as with a broom, and every vestige of furniture, clothing and provisions disappeared on the wings of the wind. Mrs. Lennon was badly bruised in addition to having a broken thigh. Her husband was fearfully jammed, and looked on Sunday like he had engaged in a free fight, and the children were more or less bruised, though not seriously. In the darkness of the night, with the fearful storm raging around her, the husband unable to render her much assistance, the children crying with fright and pain, and every shred of her own clothing blown from her body, this poor woman lay for two hours before relief came. Even then she could not be moved until some kindly disposed neighbors - themselves sufferers from the general disaster - had brought clothing to cover her, and a litter was improvised upon which to carry her. She was taken to the residence of H. H. Hoover, near by, and though even this shelter had been nearly demolished she was made as comfortable as possible. A physician was summoned to attend to her case, and on Sunday she was apparently comfortable and quite cheerful. Her husband seemed to be suffering great pain, and complained much of his injuries. Mr. Lennon is a poor man and deserves to be helped. The Maroa people have contributed liberally for the relief of himself and family, but they have absolutely lost their all, and ought to have still more assistance. Mr. Montgomery began to build a new house for them on Saturday, and work was pushed all day on Sunday with the expectation of getting it ready to move into to-day.

The farm of H. H. Hoover, in the south west corner of section 4, was next struck, and the result was perfectly fearful. The house, which is a large one-story building, was not destroyed, but was moved from its foundation and turned part way around, being badly jammed and broken. The barn was utterly demolished, and all it contained, except the horses, scattered far and wide. One mule was killed where he stood, and the horses were all found tied to the timbers of the stalls, but at a considerable distance from the proper place. All the implements in and around the barn were broken and scattered, some of the pieces being carried nearly half a mile. A heavy farm wagon, apparently almost new, was broken apart and blown across a field, while a tree from an older wagon was found lodged against a hedge, with no sign of felloe or spoke about it. Dead chickens lay scattered around, their carcasses stripped clean of feathers, and the whole scene was one of such desolation as we never want to witness again. One of the strangest freaks of the storm at this place was the game it played with a granary. This was a stout frame building, weatherboarded (sic) like a house, which stood west of the dwelling. It was unroofed (sic,) but not much was broken otherwise, although it was carried about 300 feet from it's original location. In this building was a bin of rye and another of oats, but little of which was spilled out. On an empty barrel in the same building some boards had been laid, and on these were piled eight 50-pound sacks of flour, not one of which was disturbed. On the outside of this building, on the side next the storm, was to be seen a shingle driven by the force of the wind clean through the weatherboarding, and still remaining there. The roof of Mr. Hoover's house, as well as that of the one next to be mentioned, presented a very singular appearance. The shingles in places were torn off, just like the scales of a fish are removed, and in other places left intact. At Mr. Hoover's place the orchard is badly damaged, more that half the trees being destroyed. Mr. Hoover, although the victim of such a disaster, seems to be in good spirits, and he and his plucky little wife were doing all in their power to assist their still more unfortunate neighbors.

A little distance to the northeast of Hoover's is the residence f J. P. Woody, a tenant on the farm of Andrew Hawkyard, one of the best known citizens of the township. The ground on which the building stand - or stood, rather - is an elevated knoll, and just west of the improvements was one of the finest orchards in the neighborhood. Mr. Woody says that when the storm struck the house he tried to get the door open, but could not. He then succeeded in getting a window open on the south side of the house, and through this he and his wife and two children, together with the hired man, made their exit. He threw himself to the ground and caught hold of a low bush with one hand, holding his daughter with the other. By his direction Mrs. Woody and the hired man caught hold of the same bush, holding the other girl between them, and all clinging together as best they could. Of course this was but the work of a moment, but in that brief space the air was filled with flying timbers and limbs of trees, and it is a miracle how thy all escaped injury, but none were hurt. He thinks the severe part of the blow did not last more than two minutes. When the worst was over they got up and found the barn totally destroyed, the shed portion of the house was entirely swept away, and the main part of the house, though still standing, was moved 5 feet east and as much south of its former position. A large apple tree, eight inches through the trunk, was lodged against the west side of the house, having been carried 50 or 75 feet from its place in the orchard, in which not a tree is left standing, many being literally plucked up by the roots. All around lay the scattered debris of the cyclone - boards and timbers from the barn, plows, cultivators, wagons, furniture, and the broken limbs and bodies of trees. Some piece of the barn were carried nearly or quite a mile, while the hedges were solid masses of trash through which a rat would find it difficult to make its way. The course of the storm was plainly marked by pieces of timber, some of them driven into the ground to a depth of from one to two feet, and many of them apparently then broken off and carried still further. Mr. Woody has suffered the loss of all his farming utensils and a good portion of his household goods, and is a worthy object of assistance.

On the east side of section 4, about three-fourths of a mile northeast of the place last named, stood the house of Marion Gordon, a tenant on the farm of Erastus Nice. This house was neat, new building, and Mr. Gordon and wife being a young married couple, had furnished it with much taste, everything being new. There was also a good barn on the place, but now scarcely a vestige of anything remains. The house and barn are totally destroyed, and everything they contained went sailing away in that fearful tornado. Mr. Gordon was considerable hurt, his wife had a leg broken, and was internally injured so that it is feared she may not recover. A young man named Crossman, who was in the house at the time, also had a leg broken. In front of the spot where the house stood the remains of a top buggy were seen, a portion of them in the ditch, while one pair of wheels and the axle lay far east in the field. The destruction here was terrific.

Only a short distance to the northeast of Gordon's place, and on the west side of section 3, stand the remains of a lot of buildings on the Buchanan farm. occupied by Henry Isaacs. None of these were blown away, but all are twisted and racked so as to be practically useless. The family escaped without injury. This was the last place in the county struck by the cyclone, which crossed into DeWitt county a short distance to the northeast, and played sad havoc among the once happy homes of that region, as will be described hereafter. The suddenness of such a calamity makes it difficult for any one to tell much as to the features it displayed at the time. From all appearances, however, this storm was like most of its kind. It partook of the nature of a whirlwind, the current seeming to throw obstacles now in one direction and then in another. For instance, at Hoover's place the trees lie towards the south while at Woody's near by, they all fell eastward. The cyclone evidently was a whirling column of wind, which traveled in a straight line, but did not have the same force at all points, and most probably acted like what is known by artillerists (sic) as a "ricochet" shot - striking the earth at intervals and then bounding up, only to come down again a little further on. It occurred about 9 o'clock in the evening and lasted not to exceed two minutes.

The Storm in DeWitt
The work of destruction in DeWitt county was equally as fearful as that witnessed in Macon county. On Sunday Solon Royal and Thos. N. Leavitt, of Maroa, visited the places laid waste in DeWitt county, and they made notes of the sad sights they witnessed. From them we obtain the following facts: In DeWitt county, David Squire's house and stable blown down, no one injured.

The tenant house of J. S. Todd's place, occupied by Henry Coats and family - all absent except Mrs. Coats and 8 year old son. House and stable completely demolished. Mrs. Coats was badly bruised and the boy was blown 200 feet and dropped unhurt. This is the second storm this boy has been in. He was in a cyclone in Iowa 3 years ago. About the Coats place were scattered in profusion heaps of broken machinery, and wagons and cultivators were blown into fragments. No spoke or hubs, nor hubs in wheels, and no whole thing anywhere to be seen. The cyclone next struck J. S. Todd's home place, a quarter of a mile distant, unroofing (sic) a large barn and knocking a chimney off the house.

On the Henry Rybolt place, less than a mile from Todd's, the house occupied by Wesley Anderson and family was blown away together with the barn. Mrs. Anderson's foot was crushed, and Mr. A and five children were more or less bruised. A brother of Mr. A. was in the house and he was also injured.

John M. Cree and family occupied the George Hutchins place, and the house, cribs and stables were totally demolished. Fortunately the whole family was absent attending a surprise party. A house on the place had a rail driven clear through him, and he was killed instantly.

John Bailey, living on Hattie Munson's place, was visited. The house and stable were blown down. Mr. Bailey had two ribs broken and was badly bruised, and Mrs. Bailey was also seriously hurt.

Sim Barnett's barn and wood house were demolished.

From this point, about 7 miles northwest of Maroa, the cyclone veered around a little, and visited Blue's Switch, on the Midland road, and demolished John Blue's nice barn, turned about and wrecked his large new house, moved the Blue grain office 40 feet, and shook up corn cribs. A Midland box car was wrecked.

The bounding cyclone then struck the Silas Owens place, a mile northeast, demolishing the dwelling and barn, but doing no serious injury to the inmates.

Uriah Blue's place close by was next visited. Here the storm just struck the ground after leaving Blue's switch. It struck the ground hard, unroofing (sic) Uriah Blue's house, blew two new barns down, one 40x60, both completely demolished. A large oak timber 10x12, 30 feet long, was blown from one of the barns 400 yards and driven into the ground 10 feet and badly twisted. It was found broken off. The Blue wool house was demolished and all of this year's wool clippings blown into the timber. Mr. Blue had 500 sheep. A lot of them, about 200, were killed and many injured; 100 of the lot were buried on Sunday. Mr. Blue's individual loss is estimated at $3,000.

From this place onward the timber was laid in waste, large trees broken off, stumps torn up, and everything in the path of the demon was wrecked.

Elijah McPherson and family, occupying a frame tenement house on Job Blue's place, had a remarkable experience. In the house were six persons. The sire of the house is at a point fifty yards north and east of an orchard. The cyclone struck the building, and lifting it off its foundations it was carried around the point of the orchard and eastward to a point 150 yards distant, where it was completely wrecked - exploded - and scattered to the four winds. All the family were in the house and made the balloon like journey, but not one of them was hurt. On a shelf in the house were a lot of books, and all were left undisturbed and none missing except one - an account book, containing about $2,000 worth of saw mill accounts. Anyone finding this book will confer a favor by mailing it to E. M. McPherson, DeWitt, Ill.

Here the cyclone blew its horns a little, and struck Peter Clifton's place, a quarter of a mile east. The path of the cyclone was not more than 50 yards wide at this point. Here a most terrible scene of destruction was witnessed. The house was demolished completely. Peter Clifton was found dead near a tree 50 yards from the house, the top of his head crushed. Mrs. Clifton was killed. She was found lying near the house with the back of her head crushed, and on her breast was lying a six months old infant, alive and not injured a particle. Ollie Clifton, aged 8 years, was killed - head and shoulders crushed. A boy 3 years old, head and arm injured; cannot live. A girl 5 years old, severely injured; she will survive. A boy 4 years old was not hurt. Mr. Clifton had taken a policy in the "Home" for $2,000 on his life, and the policy reached J. S. Sargent at Maroa, Friday afternoon. This sum will go to the children.

The cyclone next struck Salt Creek, sweeping away George Bennison's house, particles of which cannot be found. There were five persons in the house, and all were more or less hurt, two seriously.

All of Henry Hartsock's barns, outbuildings, etc., were blown away, but the house in which the family were sleeping was not disturbed. Mr. H. had a lot of sheep, and many of them were killed. Loss $3,000.

Wm. Shaw's barns and sheds, southeast of Clinton, were blown away. The top of Shaw's house was torn off.

The blow at the Shaw place was the good-bye shake-up of the cyclone. Parties from points 10 and 20 miles distant visited the Shaw and other places, but from the Shaw farm onward no other damage could be heard of. All along the route mattresses, bedding, pillows and a great variety of household articles, were scattered about, some torn in shreds, and some not damaged at all.

It will be observed from the foregoing items that nearly all of those who have suffered losses are tenant farmers, and many of them are in immediate aid (sic.) In Maroa on Saturday and Sunday $150 were raised as a relief fund, and more secured today. Those Decatur people who desire to contribute to the fund in aid of the sufferers in Austin township, can do so by leaving their contributions with Leavitt & Royal, agricultural implement dealers, south side old square, or at the REPUBLICAN office. All contributions of money, clothing or provisions will be promptly forwarded to Maroa, and placed in the hands of Andrew Hawkyard for distribution among the needy. Many of the farmers, besides being left homeless, have had all their implements destroyed, and they cannot do any sort of farm work until they procure new supplies.

Major Emery came down from Maroa this morning, bringing with him a relic of the storm, which may be seen at the REPUBLICAN office. It is a long "toothpick" splinter, sample of the strips torn out of a huge oak tree.

Leavitt & Royal have a lot of broken bits of machinery, etc., that they gathered on Sunday.

Near Mt. Pulaski
The storm four miles south of Mt. Pulaski raged with terrible fury. Peter Shaffers house, containing five persons, was torn from its foundation s and in an instant the air was filled with flying timbers and human bodies. Mr. Shaffer was thrown into the branches of a large cottonwood tree that had been prostrated by the storm. He found his wife lying at the base of the tree in an unconscious condition. Further on, under a pile of rails, he found his little girl, also unconscious, and, as was afterward discovered, so badly injured she will likely die. A babe was undisfigured by even a scratch, and was found complacently viewing the spot where its home had stood but a few moments before. Not the slightest vestige of the house remained. Everything had been swept away. A house occupied by George Johnson and family was also demolished, and Mrs. Johnson had a limb broken by being struck by a falling timber.

ABOUT STAUNTON. Around Staunton, on the St. Louis Division of the Wabash road, the country was laid waste. Everything was totally wrecked in the track of the cyclone, which extended for seven miles and was 200 yards wide. Those killed were E. A. Cantwell, aged 45, railroad contractor and a Master Mason; Alva Berry, aged 14; Florence Berry, fatally injured; Mr. and Mrs. J. Livingston, badly injured; Carton Cobin, James Dugan, Minnie Berry, William Smith, Mike Shea, James Riley, George Burns, Arthur Robinson, Mike Butler all more or less hurt. Mr. and Mrs. Livingston were lifted from their bed and hurled to the ground 40 feet from the site of the house. Seven people in one house went into the cellar and all escaped without injury.

NEAR SPRINGFIELD AND DAWSON. Saturday the REPUBLICAN printed partial particulars of the devastation about Springfield and Dawson. A correspondent writes: "On a window sat a wooden bowl; this was split midway. One half was left in its original position, and the other half was taken up and thrown somewhere along the path of the cyclone. At one place a flock of geese were found naked this morning - their feathers had been stripped from their backs and hung up on a hedge fence. When the cyclone struck Round Prairie, a few of the county people imagined the judgement day had come. Says one of the more intelligent class; "it was not the wind power that did the work, but the electrical fire power. Wind can not cut a wooden bowl in two, leave one piece of stationary and carry the other piece into the next county. Wind cannot drive a rail through a horse and leave it dead. I tell you it was a ball of flame, conical-shaped. Whenever it dropped down and found no house, barn or fence was in range, it reached for the earth and seemed determined to lift it out of position." Near Dawson the tornado exhibited a violent force.
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Along the track of the fearful monster in that vicinity could be found nothing that had not been damaged. In all the fields were dead horses and cattle. Three were prostrated and fences were no more, the roads in some places being blockaded. In one place a hay stack impeded travel - a shapeless mass. It had been raised and set down from an adjoining field. The cyclone at Dawson and other points, according to eye-witnesses, presented the appearance at times of a vast ball of fire. Shaped as a vast funnel, it seemed to possess heat and power at the little end. Nothing of human construction could survive its touch. One and a half miles east of Dawson the old Hamilton place was wrecked. The saddest human calamity occurred here. A woman and a child recently born were killed outright. At Buffalo the force of the cyclone was as strong as at any other point. Visitors from that place say it is shrouded in mourning. Mrs. Thomas Chandler was killed by flying timbers from her beautiful residence, which fell a victim. Two of Mrs. Chandler's children were also severely, but not fatally, injured.

The cyclone in the vicinity of Jacksonville was terribly destructive of life and property. At the town of Liter the spectacle is a sad one. The storm swept through the residence and business portion of the town, and lasted one minute. In that brief period the Baptist and Christian churches were both completely demolished, four stone buildings were destroyed and contents blown away, and about 15 dwelling-houses levelled to the ground. The killed were John Trotter, aged 75; Mrs. John Trotter, Agnes Griffin, aged 22; Mrs. Mary J. Stevenson, aged 65; Lilly Griffin, 6 months. The seriously wounded are Dr. S. Griffin, who was unconscious up to Saturday night; Mrs. Dr. Griffin, leg broken, also unconscious; five members of the Griffin family more or less injured, all of whom are now in Jacksonville receiving attention. The others hurt were Mr. and Mrs. C. K. Hudson, Thomas Hammond and family of five; James Stevenson, Mrs. George Vaughn, David Campbell, Mrs. E. Foster's three children, Mrs. Martha Ray and daughter, Mrs. Fleming, Geo. Fleming and daughter, Henry and James Crum. West of Liter Taylor Henderson lost 80 head of sheep; Bayles Rexroat lost 12 head of hogs. A pair of heavy cultivators were lifted up and carried nearly a mile. The loss of property at Liter is estimated at $100,000. South of Jacksonville the property of Chas. Waters, Marion Edwards, John Hawlins, Judge Samuel Woods, at Woodlawn, and James Oxley was partially destroyed. Mrs. Oxley was about to become a mother. A tramp in Judge Woods' barn was fearfully injured. The Jacksonville & Southeastern Railroad depot at Woodlawn was totally demolished, and heavy cars were lifted up and dissected in mid-air.

In the vicinity of Roodhouse much damage was done. Westrope's house took fire and was burned, and Charles Kelly, aged 18, died from injuries received. The Ebenezer church yard, near Roodhouse, was badly torn up - tombstones were leveled and broken, etc. The church itself was not in the least harmed, though the roadway between was only 40 feet wide. James Goocher's dwelling went the way of the others. He saw the storm coming, and rushed into the house, clasped his wife and child and started to go out into the open air with them, when the crisis came and he found himself standing in the middle of the floor, with wife and child in his arms, and not a hair on their heads touched or a piece of timber between them and the heavens. The entire house had been lifted straight up and carried away, while the floor was left intact.

About Murrayville, in Morgan county, numerous houses were destroyed. Rev. A. Gunn's dwelling was demolished, and Riley James, J. W. Story, Sam Kensher, A. C. Kiblin, Jessie Covington, Joseph Warcup, and J. K. Fanning and their families are homeless. The path of the tornado is covered with debris of horses, barns, furniture, clothing, bedding, valuable papers, home treasures, rails, boards and shingles, in endless profusion.

THE LOSS OF LIFE Associated Press advices (sic) compute the loss of life in Illinois, given by counties and towns, as follows: DeWitt county ......................... 4 Mason (sic) county .................... 3 Livingston county ..................... 2 Near Grafton, Jersey county .......... 3 Madison county ........................ 1 Winnebago county ...................... 5 Literberry, Morgan county ............. 7 Roodhouse, Green county ............... 8 Douglas county ........................ 1 Logan county .......................... 1 Macoupin county ....................... 5 Hillsboro ............................. 2 Staunton and Mt. Olive ................ 8 Cayoga ................................ 1 McHenry county ........................ 5 Sangamon county ....................... 5 Buffalo Station ....................... 1 Total ................................ 61

In Wisconsin the storm centered at Racine, carrying off a corner of that town and causing a loss of over twenty lives.

In all the storm has been the death of something like 100 persons, while the injured are many times that number.