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Pomeroy, Iowa Tornado

July 6, 1893

FONDA, Iowa, July 7--One of the most dreadful calamities in the history of the state visited this section last evening in the shape of a devastating cyclone.  Owing to the demoralized conditions of telegraph wires it is impossible as yet to get all the details.  As far as can be learned the cyclone started southwest of there at about seven o'clock last evening.  It swept almost due east leveling everything in its path for a width of a thousand yards, killing and maiming the inhabitants in the tons and thickly populated farming districts.  The loss of life is known to be very great, though actual details are far from full.  The loss of property is beyond estimation.

As far as heard from, the calamity took its most frightful form at the village of Pomeroy, a town of about 900 population.  Reports received to the effect that the entire town, except thirty houses, was swept from the face of the earth.  A hundred people were killed and two hundred or more injured, many of whom will die.

As soon as the news of the disaster was learned, special trains with physicians and nurses were sent from here and Fort Dodge, and every able-bodied man in the vicinity lent a helping hand to the wounded and dying.   The wounded were found lying about the streets beseeching help.  It was several hours before the condition of affairs was fully known here.  The town was in total darkness, the streets were filled with wrecks of homes and business houses.  The scenes were appalling as the men, with lanterns, went about among the debris.  In some instances entire families were wiped out, the mangled remains being found in the ruins of their homes.  The work of rescue was slow ad the trainloads of helpers made little headway.

The south half of the town was completely razed to the ground.  A church just outside the track of the storm, was turned into a hospital.  Here the surgeons worked by the aid of lanterns and lamps.  Those with broken bones were stretched upon the pews, while those less severely injured were compelled to line on the floor and await their turns. The dead were laid out upon the ground in a vacant lot at the edge of the devastated district.

Through the aisles between bodies the survivors passed, looking for ones.

At the approach of the storm, which took on a greenish tint, followed by darkness and what appeared to be a column of smoke, many sought shelter in cellars.  Others mounted horses to flee from the path of the destruction.  The relief party worked under the direction of Vice President Harrihan of the Illinois Central railroad who, with a party of officers narrowly escaped the cyclone, reaching here only a few minutes after it had passed.  The tornado passed west and south of this place, demolishing buildings and groves, and killing and injuring many persons.

The following are known to be dead:  John Detiller, Mrs. Amos H. Garton and child; the entire family of Sam Hearson, D. E. Miller and two members of his family; Ed. Sargent and his entire family.  The injured are Mrs. John Detwiler, two children of Mrs. Jarton, C. E. Sherley and wife; two children of Sam Hearson; several members of the family of A. W. Eno.

The Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI 7 Jul 1893


Pomeroy, Iowa, July 8-The dead here now number forty-four.  It is one of the saddest scenes ever witnessed, and even the strongest are compelled to turn away from some of the sights at City hall hospital where the worst of the 108 injured are. Every dwelling left standing well be termed a hospital as all have been opened to the sufferers and contain from two to eight each.  Charles Rusen, a bright child of four years, died at midnight.

Governor Boles is still on the ground doing all in his power for the comfort of the wounded.  Physicians and nurses are needed badly.  Only ten doctors are here today and calls cannot be promptly answered.  The neighboring towns and cities are providing nurses liberally but more are needed.  Of the injured from twelve to twenty will die.

Reports are being hourly received from rural districts.  It seems the storm started a mile west of Cherokee and followed closely the Illinois Central railroad cutting a swath from a quarter to a half mile wide completely demolishing everything in its path for a distance of sixty miles.  Near Fonda Mrs. E. S. Gordon and two others were killed. Near Newell, John Detwiler was killed and his wife fatally injured.  In Wright county, eight miles west of Belmont, John Leuben and daughter were killed.  The total number of deaths from the storm as far as heard from numbers is sixty-three.

The work of burying the dead at Pomeroy has commenced.  Seventeen were interred late yesterday and twenty more will be buried today.  A number of bodies will be shipped away.  The scenes are so heart rendering as relatives from a distance come to gaze upon the features of their dead.  Two hundred and eight residences were swept completely from the face of the earth.  Not a board was left.  Hardly a residence remains untouched and the business portion is so badly wrecked it can be said with truth that Pomeroy is no more. 

The dead carcasses of horses, cattle and hogs are being taken from the ruins today and buried.  Company G of the state militia, of Fort Dodge, assisted by companies from Storm Lake and Perry, are on the guard night and day.  It seems as though many fatalities resulted from going into cellars as from staying above ground.  The seven churches of the town are all demolished and no services will be held tomorrow.  All is sadness and gloom.  The total damage done in the state by the cyclone is estimated at $800,000.

The Daily Northwestern, Oshkosh, WI 8 Jul 1893


Pomeroy is Only a Pile of Ruins


The Most Destructive Cyclone of Recent Years.


More Than Forty People Killed and a Hundred Badly Wounded

A Lovely Calhoun County town Torn Up Completely

Notes of the Storm

The awful work of the Pomeroy cyclone of last Thursday evening continues to be the principal topic of conversation and newspaper comment through out Iowa and the continent. And well it may be for a more terrible example of the wonderful power of warring elements is seldom witnessed.

Where stood, shortly before 7 o'clock in the evening of July 6, a hundred or more pleasant, comfortable, and some even luxurious, homes, a few minutes later was a wilderness of broken timbers and debris, with wounded, bleeding, dying and dead humanity upon every hand. No pen could ever picture the awful terror of that night. Strong men were pinned to the earth and forced to hear the shrieks and groans of the wounded and dying while unable to lend a helping hand. Fathers and mothers, husbands, brothers and sisters searched in vain amid the darkness and ruins for their loved ones, and children wept for their parents lying cold in death. Searching parties were organized as speedily as possible, but no lights were at hand and but comparatively little could be done toward securing the wounded until the welcome dawn appeared. Then the scene which met the eyes of the uninjured, must have made the strongest feel sick at heart. But willing hands soon conveyed the wounded and dead to some of the few buildings which remained standing in the town, and people poured in from the surrounding country and neighboring towns to render much needed assistance. Before noon Friday an organization had been effected and relief work was proceeding with considerable system. It was discovered that no less than thirty-eight people had been killed outright and more than a hundred injured, some of whom have since died and increased the death list of fifty-three at last accounts.

Character of the Storm.  From the narratives of many who saw the storm cloud it appears that it was tornado of the compound sort-that is, it varied from the true balloon tornado in that it had four stems or funnels, instead of only one. At some places along the track of the storm it seems that one or more of these funnels simply touched the tops of the trees, while another, perhaps, would sweep the ground.

The first damage was done in the vicinity of Cherokee, and from there the storm seemed to pass a short distance south of the Illinois Central railroad track until it reached Pomeroy, where it spent its force and performed its greatest work of destruction. As is known by most of our readers, Pomeroy was situated almost entirely south of the railroad track, the business houses being nearest the track and the residence part of town being still farther south.

The main part of the storm struck the town almost in the center, north and south, and coming as it was from a north-westerly direction and then veering slightly northward after striking the town, it covered the residence portion of the town as completely as though it had been guided with that intent. A number of the business houses were also demolished, and nearly all more or less damaged, but the buildings along the railroad street, and some adjoining them on the south, were left standing. In the main track of the storm, which covers fifteen residence blocks, everything is broken up fine-hardly enough left of a piece of furniture or anything else to tell what it belonged to, and not enough lumber could be taken from the ruins to build a yard fence. The extent of the loss in dollars and cents is variously estimated at from $150,000 to $300,000. ...

The List of the Dead

and baby
and two children
aged 18
and baby
and baby
and baby
age 17
boy and girl
and baby

The Wounded

Mrs. Kate A. Kealy, injury to eye
John Anderson,
arm broken; serious
Mrs. John Anderson,
injury to head and arm
Miss Kate Davy,
puncture of throat and bruises
Harry Wegreve,
skull fractured
Edward Sitesby,
extensive flesh wounds of thigh; leg may have to be amputated.
Samuel W. Thomas,
fractured rib, scalp wound and probably internal injuries
Lizzie Thomas,
injury to foot and leg and scalp wound
Mrs. Frank Preng,
injury to shoulder and scalp wound
Mrs. Samuel Maxwell,
back arm and head bruised
Miss Ortman,
injury to face.
Aurelia Kukiantz,
fractured rib and injury to head and leg
John Kukiantz,
injury to head and spine
Charles Randall,
fractured jaw
Mrs. John Randall,
fractured skull and injury to leg
Delia Black,
aged 10, skull and right arm injured
Mrs. S. L. Black,
injury to chest
Charles Black,
aged 6, fracture of right arm
Joe De Mars,
24, fracture of ribs and wound in back
Julia Westercholt,
35, fracture of cocyx
Charles Dahlgren,
7, extensive contusion of head, also punctured wound in side
Roy Kiefer,
18, injury to left hip
Thomas Black,
3, scalp wound
Oscar Dahlgren,
2, would in head
Willie Dahlgren,
3, burn of hand and shoulder
J. E. Black,
23, contusion of face and limbs
C. W. Gilbert,
34, contusion of back
Henry Geick,
62, fracture of forearm and laceration of shoulder and leg
Eddie Nelson,
7, would of head
Willie Nelson,
3, punctured neck and body
Mike Quinlan,
24, scalp wound and injury to kidneys
Aiden Saltzman,
scalp wound
Mrs. Aiden Saltzman,
back and arm injured
J. F. Wilkins,
injury to back
Mrs. A. Forche,
contusion of shoulder
Ella Forche,
scalp wound
Katie Forche,
internal injury
Arthur Forche,
arm broken
Frank Forche,
thigh broken
Mary Knudson,
injury to scalp and thigh
Mrs. J. A. Davy,
fracture of skull
Wm. Maxwell,
injury to scalp
Edith Maxwell,
injury to scalp
Joseph Brownell,
ribs fractured
F. J. Brownell,
badly bruised
Mrs. Ed. Rankin,
Emma Spies,
back and head cut
George Stewart,
left arm broken, head bruised
Thomas Harmon,
left arm broken
Emma Harmon,
leg wounded
Lloyd Harmon,
Geo. Randall,
Edwin Fecht,
Earl Fecht,
Fannie Fecht,
Viola Fecht,
Florence Fecht,
Ed. Doyle,
head and leg bruised
Mrs. James Miller,
legs bruised
Mrs. Geo. Stewart,
head, back and left leg bruised
Ray Stewart
(baby) head bruised
John Dalin,
ankle fractured
Nettie Frost,
wound in back
Charles Barnhart,
injury to scalp
Ray Barnhart,
cut in arm
N. Fecht,
fractured shoulder blade
Mrs. Fecht,
badly bruised
Arthur George,
bruised head and left arm
Dora George,
knees cut and other bruises
Gertie Lundgren,
injury to face
James Miller,
fracture of ribs
Mary Miller,
internal injuries
Mrs. Jacob Paps,
scalp wound
August Meyer,
internal injury
Cora Meyer,
scalp wound
Nancy Rushton,
fracture of thigh
Gust Linder,
head injured
Anfred Linder,
hip dislocated
Alma Linder,
injury to head
Elvira Linder,
contusion of face
Gottfred Linder,
injury to head
Mrs. Gus Linder,
foot and hip hurt
Minnie Starkling,
injury to arm
Anton Lundbland,
injury to scalp
Mrs. Lundbland,
injury to face
Anna Lundbland,
injury to head
Auretta Lundbland
James Pruden,
injury to leg
H. J. Elms,
scalp wound
Mrs. Al. Lundgren,
injury to head
George Guy,
head and hands bruised
James Mellor,
fractured ribs and hands.
Mary Soderstrom,
left arm broken
Louida Olson,
arm broken
Mrs. Anna Blomberg,
head and foot hurt
Eveline Blomberg,
left side and eye injured
Dina Blomberg,
scalp wound
Gilbert Fitzgerald,
C. R. George,
badly bruised
O. Childum,
leg cut and bruised
N. Brownell,
leg and head bruised
Ed Doyle,
head bruised, right leg cut and badly bruised
Emma O. Hartman,
injury to eye
Maud Moore,
head injured
Mrs. R. C. Brownell,
leg bruised

Notes of the Storm.  One man know to have been at his home when the storm struck was found, dead, in the second story of a building two blocks away. He had been blown that distance and in at the window of the house where found.

A babe was found alive and well on a pile of sharp-edged rocks. It had hardly a scratch, but its parents had been killed.

In one place among the ruins a plank is seen that was blown clear through a house. The hole is as square as though it had been chiseled out by a skillful mechanic.

The Drommer family of three sought refuge in a cellar 8x10. A horse was blown in upon them, but they escaped without scratch.

In one cave three families were saved. The cave was quite small and it was greatly crowded. A house was blown upon the cave, but all escaped.

In a cellar 8x8 and only four feet deep eight full grown persons sought refuge and were saved without even the slightest injury.

A young man by the name of Louis Metsen was driving a buggy about three miles west of town on the evening of the storm. He was picked up and hurled about eighty rods, lodging in a barbed wire fence. One of the horses was killed. Metsen is terribly bruised and cut up, but he will recover.

Among the ruins a wounded man was found with his legs pinned together by a splinter passing through both of his calves. Apparently he was about to run when the splinter struck him. He may recover.

Chickens in the path of the storm were totally devoid of feathers after the storm had passed. Many chickens and turkeys were blown out into the country for nearly a mile.

The rumors of dead bodies being found several days after the storm are wholly without foundations. Every place in the ruins where a body could have been buried or pinned down was diligently searched on Friday and all the missing were duly accounted for. One body was found that could not be identified.

A billiard hall served as the improvised morgue, and two pool tables, together with two long tables made of rough planks held the dead while they were being prepared for burial. The bodies on the tables at one time, each enveloped in a mullin cloth and with great pieces of ice between them, almost represented the seven ages of man.

There was a tiny baby, perhaps eight months old, a boy in knickerbockers, a girl a few years older, a youth, a young man just past his maturity, a middle-aged woman and an old man. The baby did not have a mark on it and looked as clean as if it had just come from the bath. The others were battered and torn and bleeding. The water from the melting ice mingles with the blood on the floor, where it stood several inches deep.

There are three temporary hospitals in the stricken city - one in the Good Templars lodge room, another in the Odd Fellows' hall, and a third in the hotel back of the Pomeroy State Bank. These are filled with cots and beds, and here the wounded are carefully attended by physicians and volunteer nurses.

There were five Lake City doctors and a hundred or more other of our citizens at the scene of the disaster within three or four hours after the news was received here by telegraph. All had to drive across the country, a distance of twenty-three miles, and the roads were bad and the day very hot.

One man is said to have lost $10,000.00 in money that he had drawn from the bank only a few days before. The story is that he found the pocket book but it had not money in it.

Lake City Graphic, Lake City, IA, 13 Jul 1893


On July 6, 1893, Pomeroy was struck by a tornado that measured F5 on the Fujita scale. With a damage path 500 yards wide and 55 miles long, the tornado destroyed about 80% of the homes in Pomeroy. The tornado killed 71 people and injured 200. Calhoun County, Iowa


Story of the Storm from the Calhoun Co. IAGenWeb site


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