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1890 Biographical and Historical Memoirs of Story County, Iowa

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damaged the town of Grinnell, on Saturday evening, June 17, 1882, and which is for that reason commonly called the Grinnell cyclone, performed its first feats of destruction in Story County. Its worst work in this county was on the high prairie between Skunk River and Indian Creek, in the south part of Grant Township. Its approach was observed in two terrific columns of cloud and dust from the west and southwest, both of which crossed Skunk River within a distance of 100 rods, near the southwest corner of the township. Passing eastwardly, the two parts united near B. F. Everett's place, The family was not at home. The buildings were razed to the foundations ; the live stock was destroyed, and here, as elsewhere, trees were torn from the earth, or twisted as though they had been but twigs, stripped of their leaves, and even of the bark, and everything carried off even with the surface. In its track it took up the plowed soil, and in some cases a foot or more of the solid earth. It played most fantastic tricks, such as carrying off great bowlders and iron machinery, and leaving, perhaps, a sack of feathers undisturbed. Moving east at a rate of some forty miles an hour, it struck the house of H. E. Mathews, moved it thirty feet west, tore off part of the roof, carried away beds and furniture, and did not break a single pane of glass. The children had previously, for amusement, formed a small cave. The family skurried into that and escaped injury.

In its zigzag movements it took in its track the places of Ira Baker, Tooker, B. F. Chapman, E. G. Pierce, George Hemstock, L. D. Thompson, Benton Carrington and M. N. Whitney. A child of Mr. Thompson was torn from its mother's arms and dashed to death. Mrs. Thompson and another child were badly hurt. Hemstock, his wife, child, and a man named Ryan were all badly hurt at his place. Everywhere the wreck of property was complete. In a few instances domestic animals were lifted, carried some distance, and set down with little injury, but in its fury the rule was to break and kill. At nearly all these places houses, barns, cribs, fences, everything was destroyed. From Whitney's the storm crossed West Indian Creek, tearing timber to shreds and demolishing the " wilderness " school-house. Two miles east it took the Halley school-house ; it swept off the places of Silas Alderman and James Henry, in Nevada Township, presented its compliments to C. V. Norris, after crossing East Indian, and then skipped to Jasper County. Here it touched occasionally, sometimes separating, again uniting, and then poured all its vials of wrath on the goodly and godly city of Grinnell and her famous college. From thence it crossed the Mississippi River south of Burlington, badly shaking up Malcom, Brooklyn and points in Keokuk and Henry Counties, marking its path of a few hundred feet, or several miles, as the case might be, with death and destruction. It traversed 185 miles in five hours.

As compared with the great cyclone, all other and previous storms were tame. It sometimes happened in the early days of the settlement, however, that after weeks of delightful weather in the fall, winter would set in on a sharp turn. Such a storm occurred December 1, 1856. It lasted five days. Snow fell in quantity, and the wind blew so that one could not travel against it in safety for even a few rods. Those who happened to be caught away from home could do nothing but wait till the storm ceased. Such an event was a matter of much discomfort, anxiety, and not a little danger. On this occasion there was some loss of life on the trackless prairies north and west. In a boundless expanse of snow, no visible sky, no landmark, no token of direction except the shifting

Page 130 of 460

© 2012 Mark Christian
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