Burwell, NE Tornado, Sept 1905
Sept. 15, 1905, was an unforgetable [sic] day! A terrible little twister swept down upon the northern section of town destroying some buildings and damaging many others. A. L. Moon recently recalled his experience. He said that he was writing a letter in the post office when the tornado struck, leaving much of the town in ruins and taking off the top of the barn where his pony was being feed. “I was glad to see somebody riding away on the pony when I got out of the post office,” he said. Several people were injured and Mrs. A. E. McKinney was killed. As the first county superintendent of schools and the first teacher in Burwell, she had been very influential in improving the educational system.
Garfield County roundup : a history of the people, for the people, by the people of Garfield County, Nebraska, pages 62
TORNADO OF 1905
Hit Burwell hard — kills Mrs. A. E. McKinney — destruction rides wind. Twenty-five buildings wrecked, several people hurt.
Friday, Sept. 15, 1905, will be remembered for years by the present inhabitants of Burwell as the day of the great tornado.
Weather conditions that day were peculiar. The day dawned clear and bright, but within an hour or two a dense fog inveloped the earth. This lifted and the sun shone brightly for a short period of time. Then fog again decended and obscured the landscape. The afternoon was hot and close, clouds black and threatening festooned the horizon to the North.
About six o’clock the death dealing funnel shaped cloud appeared to the northwest of town and in a few moments death and destruction was dealt out.
But few of the people of the town saw the awful creature of the elements. Those who did took hasty refuge in storm cellars. Others did not know that anything more serious than a rain storm had occurred until the alarm was given.
The tornado seemed to form in The Forks—confluence of the Calamus and Loup, just northwest of town a couple of miles. Its first work was on the farm of M. J. Scott, close to where the funnel formed, where several grain stacks were promiscuously distributed over the country. A cornfield near Scott’s was demolished, then the residence of Mr. Costello was razed. The family had gone to the cellar and escaped injury.
C. W. Hennich’s stable and out buildings were next destroyed. Frank Hennich was in the stable when the storm struck it and attempted to get into the house when a flying timber struck him down crushing his ribs and injuring him internally. He gritily crawled to a clump of bushes and waited for the passage of the storm. His mother and sister were frantically trying to get to his aid and were tossed about by the wind but happily escaped injury.
The storm passed east from this point, demolishing stables, cribs and out buildings at Kirby McGrew’s place, destroying part of the Bartholomew house, occupied by Leslie Baker, swung a little south, overturned John Dinnel’s dwelling and razed Mike Saba’s store about two blocks away. A fine two story dwelling was totally destroyed, smashed I guess would express it, about as well as any detailed description. Mr. Hanna, his wife, their son, and Mrs. Hanna’s mother were in the house at the time and how they escaped unharmed is nothing less than a miracle. The building was picked up bodily, carried a. few feet and literally crushed into kindling wood. The four people were right in the midst of the wreck and escaped without a scratch.
The Haas home north of Hanna’s occupied by Ed McGuire escaped destruction but the barn, outbuildings, trees, etc. were swept away. Martin McGuire lost a horse, wagon, harness, etc.
J H. Schuyler’s fine home a little south and east of Hanna’s, was perforated by flying timbers, racked and wrecked. Clothing which hung in a closet in the house was whisked out of the window and disappeared. The house was almost a total wreck. His stable was entirely blown away.
Wm. Kester’s house, just east of the Schuyler’s was partially unroofed. His stable and cribs were carried away. The debris from these buildings was carried east.
The home of E. B. McKinney, east and a little north of Kester’s was the scene of the greatest calamity. Both Mr. and Mrs. McKinney were in the house when the storm struck it. The house was reduced to kindling wood. Mrs. McKinney was killed almost instantly. Mr. McKinney was carried up into the air but escaped with slight injuries.
Mrs. George Dinnel’s home south of McKinney’s was swept out of existence. Mrs. Dinnel and son Clifford were carried up into the whirling mass of clouds and debris then thrown to earth close together. Mrs. Dinnel sustained bruises and cuts about her head and body and was hurt internally. Clifford had his arm badly lacerated and broken.
George Bell’s livery barn was unroofed. Wagons and buggies were carried away twisted and broken into all conceivable shapes. One new wagon belonging to Frank Schuyler was found down the road east with the wheels gone and the spindles twisted off.
The roof of Bell’s residence just across the street from the barn had a large chunk taken out of the center. The damage looking like it had resulted from something being blown through it.
McGrew’s old store building occupied by J. H. Schuyler as a pump house was demolished. The Star store partially used as a dwelling by Wm. Jeffries was razed. The family narrowly escaped death.
North of McKinney’s the wreckage of houses lay westward. Here Mrs. Scribner’s home was made into matchwood. The house occupied by Mr. Wheeler and family shared the same fate. Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler and three children were in the house at the time but escaped serious injury.
Fred Woodworth’s house (the Hoyt property) a concrete house, was unroofed and wrecked. The windmill, outbuildings, trees, fences, etc. entirely destroyed.
H. C. Woodworth’s barn was destroyed and team taken on an aerial trip; The horses were found near W. L. McMullen’s home nearly a half mile southeast unscratched.
Mrs. Aken’s dwelling was blown to smithereens, as was also that of Mrs. Leeper’s. Mrs. Leeper was badly hurt.
I. W. McGrew’s fine home was almost a wreck although not torn up badly. Timbers were driven through it. It was carried off the foundation and generally wrecked. McGrew’s barn was totally destroyed—buggies, harnesses, outbuildings, etc. went with the general wreck to the southeast.
D. E. Sawdey’s place next east of McGrew’s was a scene of desolation. All of his outbuildings, windmill, dray wagon, harnesses, etc. were totally wiped out. His barn was destroyed, the horses blown over the house into the field south and escaped unhurt. The dwelling house was picked up elevated a short distance into the air and jammed onto the ground just off the foundation.
R. L. Miller who lives just east of Sawdey’s says the storm passed him on its first trip through, but after cleaning up R. B. Miller’s place (the Carson farm joining town on the east) it swung back and completely wrecked his home. The two story part of his dwelling was lifted up and deposited wrong side up in the yard. The family had seen the storm coming and had taken refuge in the cave. Every bit of furniture in the house was broken to bits except a large mirror.
R. B. Miller’s place was hard hit and Mrs. Miller and the children had a very narrow escape. It seemed incredible that they could have escaped injury in the mixup that occured in the house. Barns, cribs, granaries, fences and everything on the place except the dwelling was totally swept away. Some of the wreckage was tarried south and part north. The dwelling was taken up, spun around and jammed into the earth and foundation. Furniture, plaster, debris from the storm, the lady and children were mixed up indiscriminately, but the folks escaped unhurt. One horse and several head of hogs were killed on this place.
The storm passed southeast sweeping away grain stacks, wrecking cornfields—in places shucking the corn, digging potatoes, crossing the Loup between H. T. John’s and Ed Brown’s places, entering the hills where it wiped out Wayne Waldron’s farm house, barns, etc. carrying off his team. No farther trace of the tornado can be found.
Will Post’s new barn in the Harrison Addition was snatched out from among the dwellings and entirely carried away. The only other damage done was the upsetting of Mr. Bilderback’s house which was under construction.
A relief committee composed of L. B. Fenner, John Brockus, Guy Laverty, A. Mitchell and Fred J. Grunkemeyer was appointed by a mass meeting of the citizens of Burwell Saturday afternoon to solicit funds and look after the unfortunate victims of the tornado.
The corner of the Burwell State Bank was wrecked.
Windmills, cribs, etc. at Cram’s stockyards were demolished
The front of Janes & Son’s Store was blown in, as was a part of John’s and Mitchell’s.
One of the City’s windmills went through the window of Baker’s Barber Shop.
Nearly everyone in town lost a chimney or two.
The front of Murphy’s Saloon went out.
Arlo McGrew hung to a fence post between the barn and the house until the storm had spent its fury. The ground around him was covered with timbers, but he escaped injury.
Charlie Rupal lost a valuable cow in the mixup.
One would bet money to marbles, that a rabbit couldn’t have escaped from where the Hanna family did, without injury.
Mr. Costello’s house was insured for $600.
The only cyclone insurance carried by any of the losers was $300 by Mrs. Scribner, $,400 by J. H. Schuyler and $750 by Mr. Carson.
Mike Saba, John Dinnel and J. H. Schuyler and Rev. E. Maleng, who were in Saba’s store when it went up, had miraculous escapes. Mike found himself hung to a telephone pole near the Star store. Jerry flew out and grabbed a pole, John went out and up, landed and was knocked down by timbers several times. The preacher remained in the building until help arrived. All escaped without serious injuries.
A potted plant stood between McKinney’s house and the gate, a distance of not over five feet from the house. It was uninjured. Mrs. Ed McGuire’s canary was hanging in a cage on the porch and was carried away. The cage was found about a half mile away, but no canary. Sunday morning the canary returned to the house and was installed in a new cage. A part of a wooden hoop from a barrel was driven through a tree in I. W. McGrew’s yard. Half of M. McGuire’s potato patch was dug by the tornado.
Footnote: This account of the tornado was copied from a clipping in Maud Goodenow’s scrap book. It was clipped from an “Extra” Tribune published immediately after the storm.
Garfield County roundup : a history of the people, for the people, by the people of Garfield County, Nebraska. Article by Jessie Ilgenfritz, Pages 220-223