PLATTING AND SETTLEMENT
Located in Union Precinct on the northwest corner of section 27, on the line of the Burlington Railroad, Sioux
City branch, is the Town of Yutan, a thriving little community, German in nationality, and one of the best trading
points in the eastern half of the county. The Valparaiso Omaha branch of the Union Pacific Railroad also supplies
the town with good train service.
Yutan was platted in 1876 on land owned by Robert Weidensall, John Kearns and P. R. McCoy. Jake Sievers afterwards
bought the land owned by McCoy. Until 1883 the town bore the name of Clear Creek, then was given the cognomen Yutan.
In 1876 Mr. John Peters settled three miles south of the present town on preempted land. Henry Heuck, Harming Heuck,
John Schulz, Dave Heldt, Fred Spech and George Munn were other first settlers in the immediate vicinity. John Peters
was the first storekeeper in the town and is still living in California. Fred Munson opened a stock of general
merchandise about the same date as Peters. W. J. Parmenter may be mentioned as another prominent business man of
the early town. M. M. Runyan kept the first hotel, in the same building as the depot, of which he was the first
agent. The first residence in Yutan was constructed by Tom Meeker. It was very small and was built of boards. The
first schoolhouse was also built of frame and was located on the site of the present building. Another frame schoolhouse
was put up in 1890 and in 1900 an addition to it was made. There has been considerable planning done by the citizens
of Yutan for the erection of a new school building, one that is modern in every respect.
In the matter of civic improvement Yutan boasts of a modern waterworks system, owned by the city, and established
in 1910. An adequate supply of water is given the town for domestic use and for fire protection.
The Bank of Yutan was incorporated in 1890, with John Peters and J. T. Dunning as the principal stockholders.
The first capital stock of the institution was $10,000. John Peters was the president, J. T. Dunning the vice president,
and A. B. Detweiler the cashier. Mr. Peters continued as the president until 1907, then O. F. Peters took the office.
John N. Peters has been cashier since 1904. The present capital stock of the Bank of Yutan is $15,000; there is
$15,000 in surplus, $10,000 in undivided profits, and the deposits average on the year about $140,000. The bank
building was put up seven years ago and cost $8,000.
The Yutan News is an eight page, six column weekly paper established March 15, 1915, by Manley Williams. The
publication is a very creditable one for a town of the size of Yutan. This is not the first paper ever in Yutan,
however. There was a sheet called the Yutan Breeze established in 1893, but did not long survive. So it has been
with several papers and many owners since that time; their existence has been measured by weeks. Mr. Williams'
News shows good signs of stability, though, and will undoubtedly prove to be more enduring than any of the preceding
THE 1913 CYCLONE
The day of Easter Sunday in the year 1913 will be remembered by the residents of Yutan and their descendants
as the date of the worst calamity that ever visited Saunders County; the date when a raging tornado whirled towards
the town from the southwest and ripped a path through the community and destroyed the lives of nineteen people
then living in Yutan. In proportion to the population Yutan suffered more than any other town in the path of the
cyclone, even more than Omaha, where fully two hundred lives were lost.
Easter morning, 1913, dawned with crisp, clear atmosphere and a bright sunshine, an ideal Easter morning. As the
morning advanced, however, the heat became rather unusual for the time and season and dire predictions were made
by several men of the town who were accustomed to observe the weather accurately. Late in the afternoon of this
day, March 23d, the sky became overcast with storm clouds and the wind velocity rose to the degree of a gale. About
5 o'clock rain began to fall and the clouds assumed angry shapes. The situation was very ominous.
Although the actual eye witnesses are few, it is known that suddenly a funnel shaped cloud formed in the southwest,
its spiral edges tapering to the ground and whipping its way intermittently toward Yutan, traveling northeast.
The few who were able to summon their courage and wits dashed for cellars and other places of safety, but the larger
part of the population did not know what was happening until the immense cloud had fairly struck the town. The
storm passed in less than a minute, leaving the dead and injured and damage to property estimated to equal one
hundred thousand dollars. The tornado struck the town in the west part and passed through, cutting a path from
three to five blocks wide. The standpipe of the waterworks was the first object in the town to be struck and it
was leveled to the ground.
As nearly as can be learned the funnel cloud formed near the Town of Mead, six miles west of Yutan, and struck
the ground in very few places until the latter town was reached. It came with a tremendous roaring sound, compared
by some to the rattling of a wagon along a rough road, only much exaggerated. The storm passed, a quiet settled
over the town for an instant and then people rushed from their homes and places of business, to seek medical aid
for the injured and to take care of the dead. Fire broke out in the ruins which was fanned by a gale from the northwest.
The loss of the standpipe and the consequent lack of water with which to fight the flames was a great handicap,
but the citizens worked with a tremendous will and cleared a space in the ruins, with the purpose of checking the
blaze. The pumping station had been damaged and a group of men were there endeavouring to repair the machinery.
The roof had been blown in onto the machinery and pump, but after this was pried loose it was learned that water
could still be pumped. This gave a fairly good supply of water with which to fight the flames. While the men were
working to save their homes, another storm of near tornado character passed over the stricken section. Aid had
been summoned from Ashland, Wahoo and Lincoln, and of these Ashland was the first to arrive. However, before this
the fire had been controlled. Three wells were pumped dry before the pumping station was repaired. The delegations
from the different towns soon began to arrive and they lent material assistance in caring for those hurt and taking
the dead from the ruins. They also subscribed liberally to a fund for the assistance of the sufferers.
A careful search revealed the fact that nineteen persons had lost their lives and seventeen others were injured
and many had minor bruises. Twenty two buildings were almost totally demolished and a score of others were badly
damaged. There were some miraculous escapes from death and many lives were saved by the freakish actions of the
storm. People were hurled through the air and carried several hundred feet and yet escaped. One child was carried
a quarter mile from his home, but was unfortunately killed. The path of the storm could be followed through the
town by the wreckage, but there were some peculiar turns and twists outside of the path, where a building would
be wrecked and those beside it not touched.
The nineteen persons who lost their lives in the storm or died afterwards from injuries were: Mrs W. A. Steinbaugh
and baby, Mr. and Mrs. A. R. Hammond and child, Mrs. Fred Gilster, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Starrman (postmaster), Henry
Schele, Mrs. William Babcock and seven year old daughter, three children of Fred Haynes, child of H. C. Jensen,
child of John Rhode, Mrs. William Soggert, Mrs. Hans Behrens, and infant of Fred Ohm.
The injured were: Mrs. Storm, John Heldt, daughter of Herman Starrman, William Soggert, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Haynes,
son of William Babcock, son of Dan Harmon, Mr. and Mrs. R. Jensen, Mr. and Mrs. John Rhode, Mrs. Fred Fuscher,
Mrs. Chris Passo and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ohm.
There were four churches in the village and all of them were more or less demolished. The Reformed Church and the
Free Methodist Churches were totally destroyed. St. John's English Church was jammed out of shape and was torn
down. St. John's German Evangelical Lutheran Church was moved from its foundation, the steeple and entire front
torn out and the interior damaged. The first two churches have never been rebuilt.
The following residences were demolished or nearly so: Hans Storm, Mrs. Amelia Jacobs, Fred Steinbaugh, Mrs F Hirsch,
Miss Mertins, Henry Bierbaum, John Bender, Mrs. Wibka Behrens, William Soggert, J. Batton, Mrs. Gilster, Henry
Hirschman, Chris Passo, Ben Freeman, Ed Hayden, F. C. Mamann, Fred Hayden, Mrs. McNett, Susie Wuethrich, Dan Harmon,
Henry Held, W. J. Parrnenter, Mrs. Adsit and J. Holdst.
The following homes and buildings were more or less damaged: Fred Stamp, Herman Stang, Fred Hirsch, Claus Eggers,
John Zugg, Mrs. Siepkin, Fred Fuscher, John Heldt, John Ohm, Mrs. Nellie Bell's drug store, Otto Peters, Fred Hamann,
H C Peters, B. & M. depot, Trans Mississippi elevator, Reverend Iffert, Mrs. Hubble, W. J. Parmenter, Doctor
Koerber, Mrs. Wirmer.
There were a number of people living in tenement houses who lost everything they had. A terrible gloom came over
the town after the disaster and as soon as possible a relief commission composed of William Miller and R. H. Parks
was appointed and they received and distributed many articles of clothes and furniture and gave out a cash fund
of nearly six thousand dollars. The committee aided many families and assisted in building nine cottages for the
most unfortunate. Other donations were received from outside towns and from various personal sources.