A Tornado in Butler County, Kansas
From: History of Butler County, Kansas
BY: Vol. P. Mooney
Standard Publishing Company
Lawrence, Kansas 1916


A TORNADO.
By Mrs. B. F. Adams, in 1895.

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.

Twenty one houses were moved from their foundations. Some were damaged considerably, others but slightly. I do not now recollect the number of buildings entirely destroyed. Silas Welch, on South Main street, had just finished a kitchen and porch. All, with the contents of the kitchen, were carried no one could tell where. The main part of the house was moved on an adjoining lot and the furniture badly damaged. William Price and his bride, who were enjoying their honeymoon in their cozy home on South Main street, had their kitchen torn oway, the house badly demoralized and themselves set out in the beating storm. Judge W. P. Campbell suffered severely. His house stood on the ground now occupied for the city park ; it was entirely demolished, himself, wife and Miss Susie Lawrence all being roughly handled by the elements and their child seriously injured.

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.

Jacob Carey's house, just south of it, was lifted and moved so that the family deserted it and swam accross to the livery barn. That barn, the old stone hotel and Dr. White' s house seemed to be tornado proof and were place's of general gathering, for the homeless and benighted suferers. Mrs. Thomas managed through difficulties to reach the barn, but found that some of the back of her dress was gone and she was minus a portion of her hair that so beautifully ornamented her head. The next day her hair was found fast to the tin roof of the court house down in Silas Welch's yard. This is one of the hairbreadths. A. Mussulman's house was laid in ruins. His family of seven were scattered and lost, groping their way in different parts of town. Mrs. Mussulman found her way to Carey's barn, having lost the most of her clothing. Col. H. T. Sumner was found on his knees imploring Divine aid, as his house was about to be carried away. Col. W. H. Redden's house, which was not yet completed, was blown to pieces, himself injured and household goods badly damaged. George and Eugene Younkman, who were keeping house for I. M. Bobb, had their shanty carried off from them and for a time they sought refuge under a buffalo skin. After the storm had somewhat subsided they undertook to go home and came very near being drowned.

The next morning was just as lovely as a Kansas June morning can be. But there was devastation all around. Crops that the night before had seemingly looked more promising than ever had been broken and beaten into the ground so that there was scarcely a blade visible. Yet for all these we had great reason to be thankful. Thankful that we were spared to look at the beautiful sunlight, and while it was thought that no good thing would come out of what seemed to be lifeless, the wind started up from the southeast and in forty eight hours the mangled and bruised stalks of corn and vegetation took on new life so that we were blessed with a fair crop after all. During that entire summer whenever there was a cloud commenced to rise in the northwest we might see those who had their homes wrecked starting for places of safety and the bruises and cuts from the great hail stones were a constant reminder of what they had passed through and what they wanted to steer clear of if possible.


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