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Obituary of Walter O., Jennie (Martin) & Infant Son Wert P. John

Decatur County Journal
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
June 29, 1905


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Monday morning Jacob Martin received a telegram conveying the sad intelligence that his daughter, MRS. JENNIE JOHN, husband, WALTER, and little son, eight months of age had been killed in a cyclone at their home several miles south of Plankinton, South Dakota. No other particulars were obtainable except an associated press dispatch which stated that the storm occurred last Saturday evening during which five lives were lost and much property destroyed. MR. and MRS. MARTIN and their daughters, MRS. CARRIE BRUNER and MRS. CORA SELL, left on Monday afternoon passenger to attend the funeral. After departure, a letter to MR. and MRS. MARTIN arrived, which contained the following additional particulars:

Plankinton, S.D., June 25, 1905.

I am sorry to have to write sad news to you. A doctor took the telegram to send to you from Plankinton, but I write for fear it may not be delivered as it should be. A cyclone struck WALTER's residence about 11 o'clock lastnight, wrecking house, barn and everything. JENNIE is supposed to have been killed instantly. The baby died in WALTER's arms. WALTER was pinned down by the timbers so that he could not escape. He died Sunday morning about 11 o'clock. They were in their night clothes just ready to enter the cellar when the cyclone carried the house away. If they had entered the cellar, they would have been killed as it is full of rocks from the foundation.

The bodies have been embalmed and the undertaker said he would keep them until Wednesday afternoon.

Please telegraph promptly so we will know whether you are coming. Of course we look for some of you. The funeral will be held Wednesday afternoon at 3 o'clock. Ever your friend.

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MR. and MRS. JOHN moved to South Dakota three years ago last spring and had prospered in that country. He had a claim but was living on a rented place at the time of his death, MR. JOHNS and MISS JENNIE MARTIN were married August 30, 1900. He was about 26 years of age and his wife was born August 14, 1881. She was the youngest of a family of five girls, her sisters being MRS. WILL BRUNER, MRS. CORA SELL, MRS. LOUIS ELWELL, all of Leon and vicinity, and MRS. CHAS. BEASLEY, of Davis City.

WALTER JOHNS was the son of MR. and MRS. ED JOHNS who formerly owned a farm several miles south of Decatur. He lived about six miles from WALTER's and the latter's nearest neighbor was MR. BRUNER, who lived about a mile away.

The sympathy of the entire community is extended to the bereaved relatives.

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Decatur County Journal
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
July 6, 1905


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A severe wind storm struck this city about ten o'clock Saturday night and while it did some little damage about town, none were prepared to meet news of death and destruction which came in from the country early Sunday morning.

The loss of property was great, but the real sad news received was the death of WALTER JOHN, WIFE and ONE-YEAR-OLD BABY. The JOHN family resided on the old C.B. Clark farm about four miles southeast of this city. Nothing was known of the terrible condition at their home until [the] next morning when neighbors missed the house and at once made haste to render assistance. Mr. Ishum and John Martin were the first to arrive and were horrified to find the body of MRS. JOHN lying in the yard, cold in death. A further search revealed MR. JOHN in a stooping position out upon the prairie under the floor of the house and in his now almost lifeless arms, he grasped the dead baby. He was relieved from his perilous position, removed to a neighbor's and a physician summoned but the strain of the long night, exposed in the rain had been too much for human endurance and death came to relieve his sufferings at about eleven o'clock the same morning. The clock thrown from the wrecked home was found with the hands pointing to 10:50, the time the wind is supposed to have struck -- what that poor man suffered from that time until help came at seven o'clock the next morning can be better imagined than expressed, knowing as he did that his wife must certainly have been crushed to death and clasping the dear little one to his breast, felt its life ebb away. MR. JOHN was rational when found and told of his experience during the long night, said when released that he was about ready to give up, told about the baby dying and was not surprised to know his wife was dead. Said he had opened the cellar door with the baby in his arms and had started to descend when the storm struck. MRS. JOHN'S body was found about fifty feet south of the house while the floor under which MR. JOHN'S body was held was carried north. The sad news was carried to MR. JOHN'S parents on the Reece Jones place in Dudley and to his sisters. MRS. WILLIAM and MRS. PERRY BRUNER, north and west of town, and a message sent to MRS. JOHN'S relatives in Iowa.

The JOHN family have resided in this vicinity for about three years and were highly spoken of by their neighbors, all of whom have tendered willing hands to assist in any manner. Dr. G.W. White reports all three deaths caused from exposure.

Funeral services will be held tomorrow afternoon at the Dudley M.E. Church.

The storm that struck the JOHN'S home was evidently a twister, scattering the buildings and contents to the four winds -- nothing of furniture or building being left of much value, wheels were twisted and torn from the wagon, a sickle bar to the mower broken in three pieces and feathers picked from the chickens.

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Plankinton. South Dakota

The funeral was held in the Dudley M.E. Church, in the neighborhood on Wednesday, June 28th, at 3 o'clock p.m. A large crowd was in attendance and 130 teams followed the remains to the cemetery.

MR. and MRS. MARTIN, accompanied by MRS. CORA SELL, returned to their homes on Saturday. MRS. BRUNER remained to visit for a week or two. MR. MARTIN reports heavy rains have fallen in that section of the country and that crops have suffered serious damage in consequence.

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Decatur County Journal
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
July 13, 1905

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WALTER O. JOHN was born in northern Iowa, June 25, 1905, aged twenty-five years and three days. JENNIE M. MARTIN was born in Decatur County, Iowa, August 14, 1882, and died June 25, 1905, aged twenty-three years and ten months. WERT P. JOHN was born in Aurora County, S.D., Sept. 9, 1904, and died June 25, 1905, aged nine months and thirteen days.

WALTER O. JOHN, when a small boy, went with his parents to Decatur County, Iowa, where he grew to manhood. He was married to JENNIE MARTIN August 30, 1900. To this union, two children were born, a boy and a girl, little ESTHER died February 6, 1902. She was buried in the Palestine Cemetery, in Decatur County. WALTER and JENNNIE came to South Dakota three years ago with WALTER's father and mother. Here they lived until the night of June 24, at about 10 o'clock, when a cyclone struck their home, killing father and mother, and their little boy. At the time of the awful accident, they lived 4 1/2 miles south of Plannkinton.

After having gone to bed, JENNNIE became uneasy and got up and went to the window to look at the storm. Seeing it coming, she said: "Walter, we had better go to the cellar." WALTER arose, and taking the baby in his arms, they went down stairs and just as he was opening the door leading to the cellar, the storm struck the house and tore it to pieces. With the baby in his arms, WALTER fell about 75 feet north of the house. Here he was pinned to the ground by a portion of the house floor in a crouched position, which position he kept until about 8 o'clock the next morning, when Mr. Decker, a neighbor arrived. Startled at the sight of the wrecked home he called and WALTER answered. Mr. Decker propped up the floor and finally moved it with the aid of neighbors who soon arrived. WALTER called for a drink of water. Then he told them this story: "The last thing I remember while in the house was when I started to open the cellar door. How long I remained unconscious I don't know. I remember when the baby died in my arms, it was some time in the after part of the night." Then he said "where is Jennie?" They told him she was dead and he replied, "I want to die with her." Some of the bystanders were crying and he said "Don't cry for I can't."

JENNIE was found lying a short distance south of the house with one arm twisted under her. Her body was cold. All three were taken to the house of the brother-in-law, PERRY BRUNER. WALTER died at 11 o'clock
the same day.

Rev. Mason, Pastor of the M.E. Church, conducted the services at the house, June 28th at 2:30 p.m. A procession of about 75 teams left for Dudley M.E. Church where prayer was offered by the M.E. Pastor at Plankinton, after which, at the request of the relatives, the writer preached the funeral sermon from John, tenth chapter and tenth verse.

We laid them away in the cemetery half a mile from the church, side by side, with the baby on the mother's arm, to await the resurrection morn.

Weep not for us. We are at rest.

The relatives cannot express their heartfelt thanks for the kindness of friends, both in Iowa and Dakota.

Time is winging us away
To our eternal home;
Life is but a winter's day,
A journey to the tomb.

Youth and vigor soon will flee,
Blooming beauty lose its charms;
All that's mortal soon will be
Enclosed in death's cold arms.

Time is winging us away
To our eternal home;
Life is but a winter's day,
A journey to the tomb.

But the Christian shall enjoy
Health and beauty soon above;
Where no worldly griefs annoy
Secure in Jesus' love.


Copied by Nancee(McMurtrey)Seifert , August 20, 2001