Sioux County, Iowa

Newspaper Articles

The Great Tornado - 1898


Sioux County Herald, May 4, 1898

GREAT TORNADO—April 30, 1898
A terrific cyclone visited Sioux county shortly before 5 o’clock last Saturday afternoon.  In the death and destruction it wrought it did not compare with the awful storm of three years ago, but it extended over a large territory and destroyed a great amount of property.  Its path was narrower than that of the other tornado and to this fact and to the course it took, as well as the fact that people are better prepared and take more precautions against storms than formerly, is due the fortunate circumstance that there were no fatalities in this county.  Across the line in O’Brien county near Hospers two children were killed.

There appeared to be two, perhaps more, distinct cyclones.  The most destructive one started near Maurice.  About 4:30 a hard rain, accompanied by wind and hail, visited the town. A few minutes later two clouds, one going east and the other west, were observed about four miles southwest of the town. The clouds met and the whirling storm which followed took a northeasterly course.  The first serious damage was done at Van Der Vliet’s, where the house was destroyed.  F. Van Der Broek’s house, just west of the Sioux City & Northern station, was demolished.  The station itself came next and was completely destroyed.  W. E. Wakefield, the agent, and his wife had taken refuge in the cave and were uninjured.  The occupants of the Van Der Vliet and Van Der Broek houses had escaped by going to the cellars.  Probably  the most valuable piece of property destroyed was the St. Paul & Kansas City elevator.  It contained about fifteen hundred bushels of wheat and the same quantity of oats and corn.  The elevator company also had three cars loaded with wheat on the tracks and these were overturned and the grain spilled.  There were two thousand bushels in the cars.  The Sioux City & Northern elevator, leased by A. D. Thompson & Co., was wrecked and the house of J. Nicolay suffered a familiar fate.  Peter Van Peursem’s house was badly wrenched and shaken and that of C. Van Gorkum was demolished.  Mr. Van Gorkum’s father was quite badly hurt by the falling wreckage.  The farm house of H. Duven, a short distance north of town, together with barn, sheds and other buildings on the Veldboom farm were demolished.  All these families except that of Mrs. Veldboom, which was away on a visit, had sought refuge in the cellar and escaped without serious injuries, although some of them were badly bruised.  The storm then went almost north, leveling John Luden’s grove and blowing down outbuildings on C. Cupido’s and on G. Van Steenwyk’s places.  The house owned by L. Pietenpol and occupied by H. W. Huitink, five miles northwest of Orange City, was destroyed and three horses were killed.  A part of the house was carried against W. Huisman’s home and considerable damage was done to the smaller buildings of the latter. The next damage was done at the farms of W. Van Der Schaaf and B. Van Der Zwaag, seven miles northeast of the city.  At both places barns and granaries were wrecked.  At G. J. Rensink’s, close by, all the buildings—house, barn, granary, etc.—were destroyed.

The cyclone then continued its course toward the northeast, but did little serious damage for a number of miles.  Sheds, fences and small buildings were blown down, however, and the buildings on the farms rented by G. Kanis and J. Timmerman were wrecked.  The families sought safety in the cellars and narrowly escaped injury.  At B. O’Kane’s the house and other buildings were destroyed.  Across the road lived a family named Bronk, the members of which were in the house when the storm struck.  Some of them were carried considerable distances and sustained severe injuries.  At the Alex Pierson’s the barn was torn down and horse killed, which the house was turned around, and at Henry Nirk’s the barn was destroyed.  W. G. Evans, a mile west of Sheldon, had his house wrecked and his barn turned over.  The storm seemed to have spent its destructive force and the damage it did afterwards was not so serious. It continued in a northeasterly direction.

About the same time that the cyclone originated near Maurice, another was observed to start about six miles southwest of Carnes.  It wrought its first damage at Lancaster and then traveled toward Carnes, destroying a number of barns, shed, etc., on the way.  The worst damage was at J. C. Smith’s, two miles from town, where all the buildings were demolished.  J. Reinder’s house was partially wrecked and the other buildings were blown away.  Barns, sheds and outbuildings on the farms of P. Odenbrett and P. Van Den Berge were destroyed.  In Carnes, the lumber and coal sheds of F. M. Slagle & Co. were blown down. This storm did its last damage in the vicinity of the farms of J. Thelen and J. Reinders, nearly a mile north of Carnes, where barns and other buildings were destroyed, although at H. Vollink’s and other places there was more or less injury.  It seemed to rise then and it was probably this same storm which worked destruction many miles north in the vicinity of Hospers.

Whether the Carnes tornado and the one whose work of Hospers were identical or not cannot be said, but it seems quite probable from the general direction they traveled and from the time at which they were observed. The storm did its first severe damage in O’Brien county at George Benbow’s, although barns and sheds had been injured to some extent to the southwest by a hard straight wind. At Benbow’s the barn, pig pens and fences were leveled and the house was uninjured to some extent.  Large trees were uprooted and broken down. The storm’s track was quite narrow here and one hundred yards on either side from the center there were no indications of the destruction it wrought.  A large new barn on the Ankrum farm was torn to pieces, although it did not stand in the path of the storm and buildings on either side of it were not touched.  The home of Jerry Griggs, who had died only two days before from the effects of an accident, came next.  The family had just returned from the funeral when the cyclone burst upon them. They all happened to be in a small addition at the rear of the house and their escape from death was almost miraculous. The only part of the residence left standing is the small addition in which the six people were gathered.  The destruction of the rest was as complete as could be imagined, not a stick nor a timber being left and the fragments being scattered for miles.  A five dollar bill was picked up several miles away and the deed to the farm was found at a distance of nearly six miles.  The buildings of W. H. Knepper and Wm. Snyders were badly damaged and the house of John Leemkuil came next.  Here occurred the only fatalities of the tornado, so far as we can learn.  The family consisted of the husband and wife and two boys, one about three and the other less than two years old. Mr. Leemkuil took a child in each arm and tried to enter the cellar on the outside of the house. He was blown away, however, by the force of the storm and the house was tumbled on top of him. When found by neighbors, who soon arrived, he was pinned against a haystack by the debris of the house with the little boys, both of whom were dead, clasped in his arms. He was terribly bruised and his shoulder blade was broken. His injuries were dangerous, but not fatal. His wife, who left the house at the same time in an effort to reach the cellar, was fortunately blown in another direction and while seriously bruised, escaped serious injuries.

The cyclone continued its course toward the northeast, passing near Archer and demolishing many buildings on the way.

In addition to the destruction we have particularized an immense amount of damage was done all along the track of the storm. At Maurice the glass fronts in a number of the business houses were blown in, while many barns and small buildings were wrecked.  Some of the houses were also badly wrenched and the strength of the wind shown in other ways.  Maurice had a narrow escape. The Review extra says that everyone felt thankful that it was no worse and there was abundant cause for the feeling, for had the storm passed a quarter of a mile further east, the town would have been destroyed and many lives lost.

In following the tornado’s track toward Sheldon we have given only the homes where the destruction was the worst. In addition to them scores of barns, hog pens, sheds, granaries and outbuildings of all kinds were demolished, while the wrecked chimneys and flattened fences were even more numerous.  The storm was comparatively narrow, varying from one hundred to four hundred or five hundred yards in width, and its range of destruction was consequently vastly less than was the of the cyclone of May, 1895. Its force and destructiveness appeared to be no less terrible.

A. Van Steenwyk, who lived a short distance east of the path of the Maurice tornado, saw four of the whirling cloud masses in the sky. Others saws two or three at the same time and there seemed to be no doubt that there were several tornadoes in the air which did not come near enough to the earth to do much damage in this vicinity.  This part of the county appeared to have been the battleground of windstorms on Saturday.

As usual many freaks were reported. In the baggage room of the depot at Maurice were a trunk and a lot of firewood.  The depot was utterly demolished and the lumber and contents scattered for miles and a boxcar was carried a block away, but the trunk and wood were left undisturbed on the floor, which had not been blown away. The Review extra mentions several strange incidents.  At J. Nicolay’s a horse was killed and not two feet from the horse set a hen with her brood of chickens, which were unharmed.

Two horses belonging to the St. Paul and Kansas City Grain Co. were carried for a half mile and gently dropped to the ground.

A center table in P. Van Peursem’s dwelling was taken from the floor and hurled through a window and landed about twenty rods from the house.

Pieces of iron were driven through trees.

Mr. Van Wyk saw the Van Der Schaaf barn carried into the air and it remained intact until it was deposited on the ground with great violence, when it collapsed.  At B. Van Der Zwaag’s five horses were in the barn which was destroyed.  They were found tied to the rack on the other side of the grove and were undoubtedly carried clear over the trees.

Many beautiful groves were ruined, the trees being twisted and broken and laid flat.

All along the track of the tornado were found dead horses, cattle and hogs. The destruction of these animals appears to have been very large.


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