Franklin, IN Tornado Destruction and Loss of Life, Oct 1866



Correspondence of the Indianapolis Herald.
Franklin, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 1866.

The little excitement attending out election this evening, gave way to a larger one, consequent upon the unexpected visit of a tornado to our city.

Our inspector had just announced the closing of the polls in fifteen minutes, when the attention of the writer of this, who was at the time standing in the Court-house hall, was attracted by a peculiar roaring noise, which he, for the moment, imagined to be caused by a team of running horses. Passing from the hall to the yard, a fearful scene presented itself. In the west, a spiral column, composed of shingles, planks, sticks, brush, &c., proclaimed the approach of the tornado. This column rose to the height of two hundred feet or more, and as the flying debris marked the spiral currents, and the whole moved on with frightful speed, bearing every obstacle down with irresistible force, the view was awful, yet grand.

The tornado entered the city at its west boundary. Here a strip of scattered woodland had been crossed, and the track of the current was marked by the fallen timber. At the entrance of the town the current was about fifty yards in width, and here it struck a small frame barn owned by G. D. VAWTER, Esq., which it completely wrecked and carried away. The sills were found seventy-five yards distant. In the immediate vicinity it swept away two other stables and MR. YOUNG'S wood-house. The current was moving, at this time, about fifteen degrees north of east, and its centre was on the alley, which occasioned the demolition of the stables, while the dwelling-houses on either side escaped. At the next tier of lots greater damage was done. A small hewed log-house was unroofed, owned by MR. CORBY, and immediately east, JOHN WEBB'S house was laid in ruins. This was a small frame structure, the south end of which, being more immediately in the line of the current, was completely torn out. The inmates were on the north side, and though none were hurt, yet one can but wonder at the miraculous escape they made.

At this point the current seems to have swooped to the north, some forty feet or more, where it raised the roof of a small brick house owned by HENRY GOODMAN. From thence there was an open space of one hundred yards or more, through which coursed a small run. On the eastern bank stood a brick house, the residence of JOHN HIGH. The was a one-story building, containing four main rooms, beside a kitchen and out-house. In the dwelling was MRS. HIGH, an old lady lying on a sick bed, and MRS. GIBSON, her sister. The storm here stemed to rage in its greatest fury. Bricks and mortar crumbled like dust before it. The roof was carried away; the wall fell inward; the ceiling and all came tumbling down. MRS. HIGH was covered with bricks, while a portion of the joists rested upon her bed. MRS. GIBSON, who was on the floor, was found in a sitting position in the debris to her shoulders. Both were severely, and, as was supposed, fatally injured. Not a chair, or cupboard, or other article of furniture that we saw, but was broken in pieces, save the clock an the mantel, which continued to tell minutes as though the devastating storm had never been.

From this point the storm swept on a distance of some fifty yards or more, when it struck the corner of a new two-story frame, which it threw off the foundation, and shoved one end around. A new board fence was pushed down, the posts of which were actually laid level with the earth. Two stables and a wood-house were raised here, when the storm passed over another reach of some 100 yards, without doing damage to any building, save a shop and an old log stable. But at this place the saddest tragedy of all was enacted. Some four or five little boys were at play on the commons, and took refuge from the storm in an old stable. One of these, a bright little fellow, only four years old, a son of MR. JOHN FORGEAY SIEGEL, was killed by the wreck.

The tornado had now swept through West Franklin, and was about to enter Franklin proper. The objective point was similar to the place of entry originally. Two stables placed upon the rear of lots were flattened, and a large and commodious barn, belonging to GEORGE KING, was left a mass of ruins, together with all the sheds and outbuildings.

MRS. CUMMING'S dwelling, a two-story frame, standing close at hand, was unroofed, when the storm crossed Main street, being at this place a little over a square's distance from the Court house, and less than that from the main part of town. Three buildings standing on the east side of this street all received injury. Doors and windows were broken, besides the roof of one (E. R. MOORE'S) being forced to one side. In the rear of these buildings a new stable was laid over, together with other damage to outbuildings. One square east, MRS. ALEXANDER'S frame house was unroofed, and two or three stables demolished. Another square, and DR. GILL'S house was unshingled, and a little further on the extensive stabling known as "BAGG'S Stables" were left a "crash of matter." Just east, and across Railroad street, was the Jeffersonville Depot, which, receiving the full force of the storm, lies a heap of bricks and mortar.

The current kept on to the east from here, but it was growing late when we arrived thus far in our course, we did not follow its line any further. We learn that some three or four houses were injured more or lestt as it left the town, and that MR. JOHN BOWLES' residence, half a mile east, was visited and badly damaged.

Had the sotm plowed through the businss part of our city, the damage might have been almost incalculable to its prosperity.

The casualties are remarkably few. In addition to those mentioned above, MRS. CARMINE had an arm broken, and MR. JOSEPH COVERT, who found a safe retreat by laying flat on the earth, had his face cut by a flying missile. We saw a little boy, name unknown, lad from a heap of rubbish, but was evidently more scared than hurt.

As one of the incidents, a lady pointed out a hole in the side of her house which looked as though it had been made by a cannon-shot. A scantling, supposed to have been carried from KING'S barn, two squares distant, had plunged through, end foremost, and after boring through the floor, buried itself in the earth.

Another incident might be mentioned the fact that the depot agents, and all persons there at the time, fled from the building into the open space in front in time to escape the tumbling walls.

The New York Times New York 1866-10-21