Towanda, KS Tornado, Mar 1892

Towanda, Kas., Has But One Building Left - Five Killed Outright.

Wichita, Kans., April 2. -- A tornado, attended by the greatest number of fatalities ever credited to as single storm in the west swept over southwestern Kansas Thursday night, leaving in its wake death and destruction. It almost annihilated the villages of Augusta and Towanda, leaving so little standing in the latter that it is a marvel how as soul escaped. But one building was left intact in Towanda, a place of 300 souls. Five people were killed outright, namely: Dr. J. D. Godfrey, H. Cupp, J. B. Bailey, John Blake, George Blake.  Ten others are fatally injured and a half hundred more or less seriously maimed.

Davenport Daily Leader, Davenport, IA 3 Apr 1892

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At Towanda, the baby of James Blake was one of the victims. It met death in a terrible manner. Its body was not found until Friday noon and the searchers were horrified to see that it was without a head. It had been decapitated . . . In the temporary morgue the head and body were laid together and a narrow ribbon tied about the baby's throat would have concealed the wound. The parents of the infant were both among the very seriously wounded.

Aspen Weekly Times, Aspen CO, 9 Apr 1892

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C. L. Hertcole, who was injured by the storm which devastated Towanda on Thursday night .... [has] been added to the list of those killed.

Aspen Weekly Times, Aspen CO, 9 Apr 1892

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Charles Anderson, living near Towanda, heard a roaring and went to the door to see what it was. As he opened the door the storm struck the house and carried it away, leaving him standing in his night clothes just where the house had been. It took the house from under his feet, and he says he never felt a breath of wind until after the tornado had passed and the force of the gale was felt again.

A threshing machine was standing by the side of the barn and the wind tore it to pieces. The boiler of the steam engine was taken clear over the barn and dropped on the roof of the house of Jim Donahue, crushing it in and killing a child aged six and breaking Mrs. Donahue's arm. The barn was untouched.

The people of Towanda had little time to note the various awful things which were happening, but one incident will be remembered as long as they live. The family of James Gibson were standing in their door watching the storm when they saw something come rolling down the street toward them. It looked like a log, but bent and twisted in such as to excite their curiosity, and as it was stopped in a gutter near their house they went out to make an investigation after the storm had passed. It was the body of a young woman who had been stripped of every stitch of clothing except one stocking, and it was only by this stocking that they were enabled to identify her. It was that of Miss Belle Merritt, who was considered the most beautiful young lady in this part of the country. She was so disfigured that no semblance of her former self remained. She was alive when found but died within a few hours without recovering consciousness.
The family of George Jackson sought shelter in a cyclone cellar when the storm came up, but a big tree was thrown on the cellar and crushed through, breaking the arm of Mrs. Jackson.

The stripping of chickens of their feathers is reported from several localities, and similar stories are told of the marvelous action of the tornado.

The Atlanta Constitution, Atlanta, GA 1 May 1892

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Towanda Tornado.  On the night of March 31, 1892, a tornado touched Towanda and nineteen of the places in Kansas with a fury that suggested a cyclone, and at each place left behind dead or wounded.

When the tragic news was received in El Dorado, on April 1, many believed the report to be an April Fool's joke. The Wichita Eagle said: "The greatest calamity reported is from Towanda, eighteen miles east of Wichita, on the St. Louis and San Francisco railroad. Towanda's population yesterday numbered 300 souls. The village is in ruins. Only one house is undamaged. The dead are Dr. John D. Godfrey, physician; Herschel Cupp, 21-year-oldson of Daniel Cupp, one of the earliest settlers of Kansas; John Bailey, 21; six-year-old child of John Blake, merchant. Those fatally hurt -- Miss Annie Robbins 35, postmistress; Mrs. John Kerr; Earl Kerr, 11; Fern Maxwell, 8; C. L. Wescate, 80. The seriously hurt are: Willie Maxwell, Miss Lucy Poorbaugh, hip broken; Effie Kerr, Elmore Hall, Mrs. Cory, Mrs. Walter Mooney, William Mitchell, Mrs. George Cornelius, Mrs. William Mitchell, M. H. Hibbs, Walter Mooney and Myrtle Mooney.

Butler County's Eighty Years, 1855-1935, pages 106-107 Read it online at ancestry.com. 

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Towanda tornado 1892

• 1892-Mar-31 “The tornado that hit Towanda, Kansas and vicinity. My husband (Lewis Lee Slusser) and his family were living two miles northeast of Towanda and were all blown away out in the pasture. The house, barn, and all the building were gone. It was lucky no one was killed. But my Lewis was just four years old. His right side of his head was shaved, just like a piece of glass cut or something sharp. He laid four days, they didn’t think he would live and his brother who was eight. Something struck him in the back and their father broke his ankle. Their clothes were all blown off them. The rain hadn’t got there yet. They were all blown pretty close together. They could call to each other. They found a board and Grandpa (Richard Henry Slusser) used that as a crutch. They seen a light in the distance. It was a neighbor, they made for it as it was lightning and thundering I the south and west. Grandpa got up on their porch and knocked. The neighbor, Mr. Garner came and opened it and said, ‘come in, come in’. Grandpa said, ‘well, if you will throw us something to put around us’. So they, of course, did. Mr. Garner was reading the newspaper and Mrs. Garner was knitting. He said ‘we heard it storming, but didn’t know it was that bad’. Grandpa says, ‘come out here and look. Your roof is gone’. They had a two-story rock house.
Pretty soon the rain got there and they found out, plaster begun coming down and they all were like drowned rats.
I have a picture of the house before it was blown away and a picture of where the depot of the M.P.sat. Just nothing but parts of lumber. Grandma (Mary Belle Mathers Slusser) said she found some of her pictures that were blowed away, but not all of them. A hand dug well with the rope and bucket to draw the water up for stock in the pasture had all blowed away and Grandma had her two year old daughter in her arms and she would have fallen in the well if it hadn’t lightening and she could see it was in front of her.
Another thing, Grandma set an old hen in a nail keg just north of the foundation of the house. Grandpa had staked two stakes against the keg to keep it from rolling. When the storm struck and took the house and all the buildings, the old hen set quietly by, as if nothing ever happened. She went ahead and hatched all her chicks.’ Written by Dorothy Josephine Uhler Hollister Slusser, as told to her by her husband Lewis Lee Slusser.