Story of the Storm

Part 3: Storm still continues

Next south on this side of the street was the cottage of August Hjelm, the family consisting of himself, wife and little girl nine years old. This seemed to be about the line of the storm's worst work of twisting things. The ruins were scattered in almost every direction. Mr. And Mrs. Hjelm were carried from ten to fifteen rods north of where the house had stood and the daughter was taken twenty rods south. Mr. Hjelm and wife had bad cuts in the head and were among the wounded taken to Sioux City hospitals for treatment. The daughter was found late that night in a ditch filled with water. It is considered remarkable that she had not perished, but she soon recovered.

Had the storm not swerved from its course, turning considerably southward, as it struck the west side of town, the residence of L. W. Moody, at the north end of Otsego Street, would have been swept out, as well as a good portion of the business part of town. As it was, the Moody residence was left, although considerably damaged, as were also three more houses south of it, in the next block, the houses of D. Parker, W.E. Davy and Charles Lockie. But back of these, in the same block, the buildings facing Seneca Street were swept clean. W. D. Parker lived on the northwest corner of this block, but he and Mrs. Parker had fortunately gone to their son's house – one of the three left standing on the east side of the block. The two families were in the cellar when the storm went over and they saw the northeast corner of the house twice rise off the foundation and settle back again.

A Successful House Moving

South of W. D. Parker's, on Seneca Street, was Ed Troon's residence, a story-and-a-half structure of good size. This house was lifted in the air and carried a half block south, where one side plowed into the ground nearly up to the windowsills when it struck, but the house did not fall to pieces. Edwin Troon, his wife, mother and child, and N. H. Trimble, wife and three children, were in the house and none of them were harmed. Mr. Troon was one of those who were looking for a storm of unusual severity. He tells of having remarked to Tim Mudge at about 6:10 that evening, that a cyclone was coming. Tim's only response was, "Well, let 'er roll." After the promptitude with which his permission to "roll" was acted upon on this occasion, Mr. M. will doubtless hesitate before again speaking flippantly of the tornado when it is likely to be within hearing distance.

At the home of James Mellor when the storm struck were Mr. And Mrs. Mellor and two children, Miss Emma Orthman and Mrs. Ed Rankin. The house was carried across the street in a southwesterly direction, and piled up amid the ruins of the German Lutheran Church. The inmates were all badly hurt, but none fatally.

Riding a Rough Sea

Joseph Keleispe, with his wife and four children, were carried with his house into the next block east and found amid the ruins. Strange to say, none of them were badly hurt. Mr. K. says that the sensation he experienced was as though the house was riding over rolling waves. After what seemed a much longer time than it really was an obstruction was encountered and he found timbers lying across his body. He attempted to remove them and again felt that he was lifted in the air, after which he knew nothing more until regaining consciousness at the place to which he was removed.

Where the Storm Cave was Useful

Gus Peterson, of the firm of Williams & Peterson, had the lucky foresight to go over to M. F. Mullan's place with his family some ten or fifteen minutes before the main storm struck. The women folks all went into Mr. M's. cave when the first flurry came, but came out again. It was soon seen that something more serious was at hand, however, and all then went into the cave. They evidently had no time to spare in gaining the place of safety for as they descended, the peculiar pressure upon the ears was experienced which betokened the withdrawal of air about them, although the cause was not realized by them at the time. They had been in the cave but a very brief time when Mr. Mullan went to the door and startled the little party with the intelligence that there was not a house in sight in the town. The home of the Petersons, which they had so lately quitted, was among the piles of ruins, and they went out to rescue and succor the many with whom fate had dealt even less kindly than with them.

Just south of Mr. Peterson's lived Henry Nieting and wife whom some of the neighbors warned about the approaching storm, suggesting to them the advisability of going to the cellar, but they failed to heed the advice and both were killed. The last seen of them alive was a moment before the storm, when they were engaged in moving some potted plants out of the storm into the house.

At August Schnell's home, in the same block, the family went into the cellar, and their neighbors, Henry Werefe, with his wife and two children, went with them. The house was swept away from above them and much debris was flying through the air, but the only one of the party that was hurt seriously was Mr. Werefe who was hit with a stone and received a bad cut on the head. Pieces of stone were taken from the wound weeks afterward and his recovery was very slow.

L. Loll, wife and four children lived just across Seneca Street, opposite the tile factory. They were in the cellar when the storm came and all escaped injury except Mr. Loll, who was struck by some missile from the tile works and his collarbone and one rib broken.

Narrow Escapes and Queer Incidents

At the home of John Reis on South Oswego Street, at the time of the storm, were Mr. And Mrs. Reis and five children, Mr. Reis' mother who lived next door, and Eugene Fitzgerald, wife and four children, whose residence, across on Seneca Street, was completely demolished. The Fitzgerald family went into the Reis' cellar, but Mr. Reis came out again to look at the storm and saw the wall of the house on the side where he stood coming toward him. He jumped through a window and landed safely in the cellar again. Mr. Reis went to close the west door of the house and was drawn out into the street. At about this time the east wall of the house went out and the elder Mrs. Reis was carried out to where the barn had stood. The barn had been blown away, but a parlor stove that was sitting inside the barn remained in its place and the old lady caught hold of this and was saved from being taken farther. She was badly bruised but not seriously hurt. Some of the family who were in the house were saved by dropping between the foundation wall and a rain barrel, immediately after the wall of the house went out. Heavy timbers fell directly over them but found a resting place on the barrel. In an upstairs closet of Mr. Reis' house stood a bundle of sixteen windows, each window containing eight 12 by 6 panes. These windows were blown down into the yard in a pile and out of the entire lot only four panes were broken. This incident may be said to illustrate, though it does not explain, how many persons went through the storm without being seriously injured.

Jacob Paap and wife were not apprehensive of anything serious in the way of the storm, although it became suddenly so dark that Mr. Paap started to light the lamp, but before he had accomplished this the house and family were scattered to the winds. Mr. Paap was found four rods east of where the house had stood, holding to a telephone pole, with three bad cuts on his head, his left arm dislocated, and a stick driven into his left hip which was not taken out until several weeks afterwards. His wife had a mashed ankle and has been carried a half block from the house, while the baby was found a full block away, uninjured, save that her body, from which all the clothes had been torn, was covered with mud and dirt. This little one was one of the last taken in alive that awful night. She was cared for by Mrs. Rankin, landlady of the Richards house, and seemed to suffer no special inconvenience from the terrible exposure.

William Fitzgerald and wife, an elderly couple, living at the corner of Harrison and Seneca streets, had a small cave with a shingled roof, which they went into before the storm came. They were sitting on a pile of coal in the center of the place, when Jacob Paap's house, from across the street, west, was carried that way, tearing off the roof of the cave and digging a trench about three feet in depth where it struck the ground six or eight rods farther on. Both of the old people were struck by timbers, Mrs. Fitzgerald having an arm broken, and Mr. Fitzgerald a shoulder broken and a stick run under his arm and coming out behind the shoulder blade. The old gentleman was almost blind, and his experiences in the storm increased his infirmity.

Wm. McName's house, on Oswego Street, was among those completely wrecked. Mr. McName, his wife and two children were in the house when the storm struck. They were carried some two hundred and fifty feet away. McName had a gash cut in his head, and all were bruised more or less, but none fatally or very seriously hurt. But, Mr. McName's mother and stepfather, the Arnolds, who lived next door to him, were killed. He found his mother's lifeless body lying amid the ruins within five minutes after he had seen her alive and well and had been conversing with her. Mr. and Mrs. Arnold were found nearly a block east of where their home had stood. In going about to assist those who needed help immediately after the storm, Mr. McName found Mrs. Blomberg with a stick piercing her foot, pinning her to the ground; both eyes were badly hurt, and three fingers crushed.

At the residence of A.G. Blomberg, on the night of the storm, were Mrs. Blomberg and three children, Mrs. Blomberg's sister, Miss Mary Soderstrom, and their cousin, Miss Linda Oleson. They were where the storm did its worst work of destruction, but all escaped with their lives. Miss Soderstrom was left lying in the street with a broken arm. Near her was a little girl, three years old, with her scalp torn back four inches and the bone crushed in the open place. Mrs. Blomberg, Miss Oleson and the two other children were found two blocks away. Miss Oleson had a broken arm, and the little girl was found with a scantling cruelly pressing her head into the moist earth, and the skin torn back from one of her cheeks. She was taken up for dead, but good care finally restored her, after four days of unconsciousness.

The baby was found in a furrow full of running water, but besides a few scratches her only injury was occasioned by her having bitten off the end of her tongue. Mr. Blomberg was at his store on First and Oswego streets during the storm. He and his lady clerk were standing at the west front when they heard the north front crash in, and at about the same instant the west front went out, and they were carried two hundred feet down and across the street, where both succeeded in grasping a firm hold upon a pump which stood in their way. They escaped with no injuries.

In the Very Jaws of Death

At the home of banker, J.H. Lowrey, at the southwest corner of Oswego and Third streets, Mr. Lowrey's parents, Mr. And Mrs. G.C. Lowrey, his little girl and their domestic, had a very narrow escape. They had been in the cellar but returning upstairs, all had passed into the sitting-room, except Mr. Lowrey, who was standing in the hall when the storm struck. The second story of the house was cup off clean, portions of the lower walls were taken out, and the second floor came down over the heads of the occupants of the sitting-room, but they were saved from being crushed beneath its weight by a chair and couch intervening and upholding the heavy timbers until they could be rescued from their unpleasant situation. Mr. G.C. Lowrey was left free and unhurt, in the hall and none of those in the house was seriously injured. Ruins from three different directions were found in one grand pile on the Lowrey premises. Mr. L's barn, from the south side of his lot, was lodged against the house so that one of the horses stood with his head through the kitchen window. Then the ruins of the Gus Peterson house, from the next block west, had been deposited amid the broken parts of the wrecked barn, and over all was piled the ruins of M.F. Mullan's house, from across the street north. Mr. Lowrey's driving horses were both killed, his double carriage was wrecked, and the single carriage no trace could be found. J.H. Lowrey was at the home of Mrs. Wells, at the corner of Third and Cayuga streets during the storm. There considerable damage was done but the buildings were not completely wrecked. Mrs. Wells' house was moved a little, the windows came crashing in, and with great difficultly, Mr. Lowrey succeeded in closing and bolting the front door, just in time, it was thought, to avert still more serious disaster. After the storm had subsided, Mr. Lowrey hastened to his own home and was grateful to find that his people were all alive. After liberating them from the ruined house he engaged with the others who were left able-bodied in the work of relieving the distressed so far as was possible, not stopping for sleep for a period of forty-eight hours. Mr. Lowrey's bank was made headquarters for relief work for some time, and permanent treasurer of the relief fund. As indicating something of what a busy place this bank was, it is noted that the outer door of the building, which had been removed by the storm, was not replaced until six weeks afterward. The place having been open both day and night during that period, the front door was hardly realized. It is said that the handling of the relief fund alone made as much business as many small banks transact altogether in a whole year.