A Tornado in Butler County, Kansas
From: History of Butler County, Kansas
BY: Vol. P. Mooney
Standard Publishing Company
Lawrence, Kansas 1916
The people of the Eastern States have an idea that Kansas is the home of the cyclone and the hurricane. We once
combatted their errors, but have long since quit it as unprofitable. This is no longer a pioneer land. The fact
is that Kansas is no more subject to such disturbances of the atmosphere than other States and not so much as many.
When they do come they are usually "twisters," i. e., cyclones. Here is one that was quite general in
the county, resulting in the loss of several lives and the wrecking of much property, especially the lightly built
"claim" houses of those days. This was in the nature of a tornado. A striaght blow from the northwest.
The late Mrs. B. F. Adams told the story of its work of devastation: How vividly the picture is photographed on
the tablets of memory of all who were residents of El Dorado at the close of that eventful day, June 16, 1871.
At this time we see little but a sad picture to present, which shows us fully "there is a time to laugh and
a time to weep." The day had been intensely hot and as the sun had nearly completed his round, a cloud commenced
forming in the northwest. As I lay in my bed with my new born son, Spencer, south of town (now the F. M. Myers
estate) my position was such that I had full view of the cloud from its inception that forboded ill to the town.
Its appearance really seemed indescribable; apparently a great wall of inky blackness, from which came the vivid
electrical flashes, grand in one sense, yet behind it were the missiles of destruction and death. Soon there was
a rumbling sound "as the rushing of a mighty wind," and so it was. A moment later, about 7;30, that bank
of blackness had burst upon us in all its fury, and continued with but little cessation for an hour and a half.
The appalling sensation at such times cannot be described; it is only realized when felt, and at these times do
we fully feel how frail we are and our utter helplessness. Our house, although rocked like a cradle, was left standing.
He who stills the winds saw fit to save and shelter us and for which our hearts turned with gratitude. Buff. Wood,
living immediately north of us, had his house broken and twisted so it was not safe, picked up his sick wife (Bessie
Carey) and sought shelter with us, Mrs: Fetterman, Mrs. Wood's sister, with her baby following them through the
beating s,torm, crawling and feeling their way along as best they could. Just north of them lived a widow and her
two daughters by the name of Leard, whose house and the contents were entirely swept away and the mother badly
hurt. They, too, crawled to our place for shelter and all that came to us for shelter were bruised and beaten by
the hailstones. They were indeed a pitable sight and we tendered them all the hospitality in our power. Mrs. McCabe
was tenderly binding up wounds and pouring "oil in wine." We could not make a fire for our shivering
guests and dry clothing was a scarce article with us. Nothing could be found dry but a couple of pairs of my husband's
pantaloons and the same of shirts. But there was no query about shape or fit. The old lady and Mrs. Fetterman donned
them with a will and were comfortable in that garb until the next day.
Those who received the most severe blows were the families of Sam Langdon and Dr. J. A. McKenzie. Mr. Langdon,
living two miles south of town, had his log house torn down and a little daughter buried beneath its ruins. Dr.
McKenzie, who had not long occupied his new home on Settler street, directly west of the John Caldwell home, had
it laid in ruins, the Doctor was seriously hurt and Mrs. McKenzie slightly. Their daughter, Gertrude, escaped unhurt,
but Lonell, their little three and one half years old son, perished that terrible night. Taken from his mother's
arms as she was preparing him for bed she saw him no more until shrouded in his coffin. His lifeless form was found
near where the El Dorado Carriage Works now are. Our hearts were all touched, for we had learned to love the bright
little fellow. He is safe over; no storm can reach him now, "and he is waiting and beckoning for thee."
H. H. Gardner and John Gilmore had their house and goods considerably damaged. Mrs. William H. Thomas had her house
badly wrecked and the most of her millinery goods ruined.