Camanche, IA Tornado, Jun 1860

Tornado Destruction Preparing Coffins Comanche IOWA Tornado 1860 memorial.JPG

We learn from the Chicago Tribune that the first heard of this tornado was in the heart of Linn county, Iowa, near Cedar Rapids, and its latest ravages heard from being near Lee Center, Lee county, Illinois. The entire distance thus traversed is upwards of 100 miles. From Linn county to Camanche, the loss of life and destruction of property was very great. In the town of Dewitt, Clinton county, Iowa, 16 or 18 persons were killed, but the city proper escaped. In one family of fifteen persons, two only escaped alive. Some of the wounded were carried from fifty to one rods from where the house stood that they were in.

At Mechanicsville, it demolished everything in its course, killing sixteen persons. Near Onion Grove fifteen persons were killed. Passing south of Dewitt it killed twenty-seven persons, sixteen on the farm of THOMAS HATFIELD. It then passed south of Romassa, destroying the house of DAVID NILLARD, and killing him and a portion of his family. It then struck Camanche, on the river; fifty-five persons were killed in Iowa.

At Camanche the most appalling force of the tornado was displayed. It is a town of about fifteen hundred inhabitants, situated about fifteen feet above the river, on a level plain, and is compactly built. As the tornado came upon them it resembled an inverted hay cock, its broad point sweeping the earth. As it came, a peculiar moaning sound struck the ear, and was heard at considerable distance from the track of the storm. Human tongue or pen cannot describe the scene of terror which ensued.

All was over in less than three minutes. Not a single business building remains standing in the town, and scarcely a house is left in a habitable condition. Up to 7 A. M. yesterday, thirty-eight dead bodies had been recovered from the ruins. The greater portion of the people killed, were in brick houses. Many sought shelter in the cellars of wooden buildings, and in every such instance, though the buildings were demolished, the persons were saved. Besides the thirty-eight bodies found, ten persons are missing at Camanche, and one hundred and twenty-five wounded.

A large lumber raft from the Chippewa river, manned by a crew of 24 men and having two women on board, being opposite Camanche, was completely scattered. Twenty-one men and the women were lost.

The town of Albany, Ill., two miles north of Camanche, was struck by the full force of the tornado, destroying every building in the town - five lives were lost, thirty-five seriously wounded.

The storm traversed seventy miles in Illinois, scattering death and destruction in its course. We have no room at this time for the particulars, which are awful and heart rending in the highest degree. Not only is the destruction of life great, but hundreds are wounded, and have lost all their property. The call for assistance has been made upon Chicago, to aid the unfortunate victims of this fearful disaster. Let it not be upon that city alone, but let all the towns of the west do as they would be done by in such a case.

Janesville Daily Gazette Wisconsin 1860-06-05