Seward, NE Tornado, May 1913
Seward, Nebr., May 14.-- A tornado which took a toll of 10 lives, injured more than 30 or more persons, and destroyed more than one-third of the town, occurred shortly before 6 o'clock this evening. Twenty-two residences, including several of the best, were destroyed, but the business portion of the place did not greatly suffer. The known dead are:
The Dead at Seward
Mrs. DAVID HOOVER
Mrs. WILLIAM HEFFINGER
Mrs. CHRIS WESTERMAN and baby.
Mrs. B. L. WASSERMAN
J. SCHULTZ, Burlington section foreman
Six-year-old daughter of Schultz
Mrs. R. IMLAY
The tornado struck the western, or residence, portion of Seward, and swept everything in its path. Those killed were mostly caught in the wreckage of their homes.
The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 15 May 1913
DEAD AND INJURED IN STORM.
Dead at Seward.
SAMUEL C. CRIM, fifty years old.
MRS. G.W. EDMONDS, seventy.
MRS. WILLIAM HASSINGER, sixty-five.
MRS. DAVID HOOVER, sixty-five.
MRS. DAVID IMLAY, seventy.
GUSTAV SCHULTS, thirty-five.
ERNA SCHULTZ, dis [his] daughter, four.
MRS. C.W. WASSERMAN.
Injured at Seward.
VICTOR WASSERMAN, 60, scalp wound, arms broken.
MRS. GUSTAV SCHULTZ, severe bruises.
ELEANOR SCHULTZ, two years old, arm broken, severe burns.
FRITZ STEINBECK, left eye badly injured several broken bones.
MRS. FRITZ STEINBECK, slight bruises.
WILLIAM HASSINGER, severe shock.
MRS. E. C. HOLLAND, arm broken.
_____ FIGARD, child, bruised.
JOHN FIKE, arm and ribs broken.
MRS. JOHN FIKE, ribs broken, internal injuries.
MRS. C. S. LANGWORTHY, slight injuries.
MR. AND MRS. HENRY FIGARD, both bruised by flying timbers.
MRS. LIBBY HAYNES, niece of Mrs. David Imlay, slight internal injuries.
MRS. AUGUST LUDWIG, cuts about the head and shoulders.
J. R. TAYLOR (c), cuts about head and badly bruised leg.
DAUGHTER of J. R. Taylor.
CHARLES FRIEDRICH, bad body bruises
SMALL SON of Charles Friedrich
BRAVELY FACE TASK OF RECONSTRUCTION
Seward Citizens to Build Anew Without Asking for Outside Help.
Death Toll of the Storm Confined to Liimts [sic] of City, Although the Tornado Swept Across Great Expanse of Coutntry.
SEWARD, Neb., May 15.-- Although Seward met with what the ordinary small city would consider an appalling disaster when a tornado killed eight citizens, wounded a score more and destroyed thousands of dollars worth of property, it is not saddened nor crushed. Already the official have asserted their independence and although some of them believe it will take $350,000 to restore the loss, the city will not ask for outside aid.
Eight deaths occurred and on the doors of some of the places of business there hand significant bits of crepe. In the two morgues are stretched the eight bodies, the more ghastly because of the white sheets thrown loosely over them. At the north end of the little city homes have been ruined and the savings of years have been wiped out in the almost instantaneous disaster, but sadness is not the predominating feeling in Seward.
There is a sympathy for the afflicted, evidenced by the ready manner in which the fortunate have contributed their homes, clothing and money to aid the unfortunate. But business bustled on, visitors to the city have poured in on every train and the streets are almost festive in appearance. The trains which have entered the city since Wednesday evening have been packed to the rear guards and the crowds of photographing sightseers pour through the afflicted district.
But even in that district there is little of sadness. Those who had homes have already begun work of reconstruction. In this they have been aided by friends. Special police have kept the casual sightseer from the persons working around the ruins of the former homes and there is only an occasional hit of the real forlorn feeling which the few have.
While one city official says that it will take $250,000 to reconstruct the destroyed property, the amount is thought to be much too high by most others. The property was not of the highest class, and the houses are only valued at from $1,000 to $2,000 each. however, there have been several valuable farm properties swept away and the damage in the entire district may raise to about $75,000....
At the fairgrounds all buildings were swept from the earth and distributed as fire wood on adjacent lots. The association valued its buildings at $7,500 and it has hopes of reconstructing all at once. From the fairgrounds the whirling cloud proceeded in a northeasterly direction, trimming the extreme northern edge of the city as with a knife. The swath was only about half a block wide, but the power of the tornado was such that the wreckage has been scattered over every portion of its path. After reaching the northeastern edge of the city the cloud proceeded almost directly east, concluding its performances in the immediate vicinity of the city by destroying the barn and silo of F. B. Tipton. ...
Just In Nick of Time. Fred Meinke, a butcher's helper, was puttering about the ruins of his little home in the northern end of the city during the forenoon. He showed the place in the basement where he and his wife and their two small daughters had escaped injury from the storm. In all except one small niche which seemed scarcely large enough to accommodate one person, the basement was filled with stone, brick and wood.
"I had just come home," says Meinke "and I noticed the peculiar cloud. I went strainght [straight] through the house from the back door saw the bricks and things flying around in the air. I called my wife and each of us took a little girl under our arms and slid or fell down into the cellar. We had not been there a minute before the house above us began to creak and sway and the next minute it was gone and we were left standing in a cellar with the rain beating down on us.
"O! I've got lots of friends," said Meinke with a grin when asked as to how he managed to find shelter, for the inght [night]. he is already preparing to rebuild the modest house which was torn down. He is more fortunate in some others in that his house was left most intact. It was simply moved off the foundation, and only small damage was done the timber in it. It will have to be torn down before it can be rebuilt.
Professor Streeter of the German Lutheran college, which was barely touched by a breathe of the departing storm, told of a peculiar incident at his residence. A big scantling was driven through the wall in such fashion that it pierced a picture of the Christ.
Mr. and Mrs. Mart Castle were caught by the storm without having had time to find refuge. They threw themselves flat on the ground and were saved although heavy timbers rained around them. Mrs. Castle says that the sound of the storm was as that of a heavy elecirc [electric] motor. Another witness described the sound as a continuous roll of thunder.
Estimates of property damage have gradually crept up on the receipt of reports from the country. Several farms west of the city were stripped of their buildings. There have been no reports of death from this territory, however. Buildings were razed on the farms of Levi Fair, W. R. Hughes, J. F. Hafer, Charles Hafer and E. F. Hafer.
On the farm of F. B. Tipton, west of Seward, a barn and a large silo were destroyed.
The home of Henry Meinke was pushed from the foundation and hung over the high basement wall like a huge tilted box. Menke with his wife and four children were huddled in one corner of the basement when the storme rode over. ...
A barn which has prevented the opening of Fifth street was moved by the wind leaving the way clear. A skirt worn by Mrs. C. L. Wasseman who was killed, was found in a door yard almost a mile away.
Mr. and Mrs. Mart Castle could do no more than lie down on the lawn when the cloud appeared. They were not disturbed although the timbers rained around them and were driven into the ground. ...
The home of E. C. Holland was one of the best houses to be wrecked. ...
At the approach of threatening clouds many people hurried to their caves and none of these lost their lives. Samuel Crim and David Imlay had cyclone cellars but they did not attempt to hide in them. Mr. Crim and Mrs. Imlay were killed and others of their families were injured.
The eight doctors worked most of the night aiding the injured. The Morrow hospital was full and at private residences some of the patients were cared for. Some of the dead bodies were fearfully mutilated. Four corpses were helped in one establishment and four in another. The help of two Lincoln undertakers was called for. ...
Most of the eight persons who were killed were badly mutilated. Every bone in the body of Mrs. G. W. Edmonds was broken by the flying timbers. Mrs. David Hoover's body was found in a pile of debris that had lodged against a fence. The remains were almost unrecognizable. The body of Gustav Schultz suffered the worst mutilation, the face being pounded to a pulp.
Mrs. Schultz saw two members of her family killed and saw her two younger children badly burned and bruised. She had been baking when the storm came up and the stove was destroyed with the rest of her furniture. Flames were scattered about the room and a small fire was started. This was extinguished by the rain which accompanied the wind. Mr. Schultz had started to enter the yard when he was caught by the tornado and crushed to the ground. When Mrs. Schultz realized what had happened she found two of her children in her arms while the boy sat on t he ground near his dead father. Friends from the city were quick in coming to the rescue and the party was soon cared for. The two bodies were sent to the morgue.
Search Made Difficult. The heavy rain caused some trouble among the searchers who started out immediately after the tornado had passed. Men and women waded ankle deep in mud searching for their friends and trying to save some of the property which had been exposed. Added to this was the difficulty of making a way through the fallen trees and the meshes of fence and telephone wires which had strewn the streets.
Many Narrow Escapes. Â Several narrow escapes from death and injury were reported during the morning. L. E. Ost, Burlington station agent, and John Martz, city electrician, were caught on the edge of the storm and each grabbed a tree. That to which Ost clung was broken off, but the lives of both were saved.
Leonard Holsteins sought safety in the basement of their country home. The house, barns and outhouses were completely destroyed and the family had to come into Seward to spend the night. Mr. and Mrs. Henry Figard and children were in the basement of their brick house when the storm struck. The house toppled in on them and searchers dug for over a half hour before the family had been rescued. Only slight injuries were received by the two children.
Samuel Crim, one of the dead, was planting corn during the afternoon, but was stopped by the rain. As he drove into the yard of his home the tornado struck and he was killed. His whip was in his hand when he was picked up by the searchers.
E. C. Holland was reported early in the yard ran to the house, calling his wife. Receiving no answer he rushed to the cellar. Mrs. Holland was in the attic and although the roof was partially blown off and portions of the house collapsed, she escaped with a broken arm.
Almost Every Bone Broken. Â Almost every bone in the body of Mrs. G. W. Edmonds was broken. Her husband died suddenly a week ago.
The body of Mrs. David Hoover was not found for some time. It was finally located at the bottom of a mass of debris which had lodged against a fence almost a block from her home. Many of her bones had been broken.
Mrs. Hassinger's arms and legs were broken and one side of her face was almost cut off.
One of the most pathetic cases was that of the Schultz family. Two of the five members of this family are dead and the other three are badly injured.
Mr. Schultz's body was the most horribly mutilated of the victims, his head and ace had been pounded into an unrecognizable mass. People from the more fortunate sections of the city soon discovered the family and while two bodies were being carried to the morgue Mrs. Schultz and her two living children were taken tot he hospital. ...
All through the night lanters [lanterns] could be seen bobbing up and down throughout the afflicted district. Telephone line men worked all night stretching wires which had been snapped. The worst damage was said to have been done in Seward where falling trees helped bring the wires down. Only a few poles were blown down.
Sheriff [John] Gillan worked all night looking after everything that he could find to do. Mayor [J. M.] Calder also spent a sleepless night. The night trains brought an influx of visitors and the officers thought some of them rather undesirable. However, the district was well patrolled by volunteer firemen and it was not thought that looting could be carried on very profitably.
Some of the firemen kept a sentry beat while others were content to roll up in a blanket on the lee side of some house and keep a watchout from that point. Almost every wrecked home was marked by a lantern or two.
One of the freaks of the storm was reported on the west side. A barn had been blown away and destroyed, leaving two cows still haltered to the stanchions. One cow has suffered the loss of a horn. The other had lost one horn and the shell from the other.
With But Little Warning. The first real intimation of the character of the storm came when it rushed out of the timber lying along the Blue river, and picking up the David Imlay residence tore it into pieces.
Approximately one-fifth of the town which has a population of 2,100, was in the path of the storm. Twenty houses were totally destroyed besides numerous barns and outbuildings...
Had the storm broke an hour later the death toll undoubtedly would have been much greater than it was because only the women and children, in most cases, were in their homes...
Many men probably owe their lives to the fact that they were at a ball game in a different section of the city when the storm broke. The game lasted twelve innings and every fan stayed until the last moment.
Frank Tipton prevented a Burlington passenger train being wrecked by flagging it in the outskirts. Much wreckage had been thrown on the tracks by the winds ahead of the train around [illegible] Tipton saw the debris just in time to prevent the train from crashing into it.
Lincoln Daily News, Lincoln, NE 15 May 1913
Extending over a period from this date to May 14th, 1913, there were but a few minor disturbances by unusual winds. The tornado of the date just mentioned placed a dark blot upon the pages of the countyâ€™s history, always to be read with deep sorrow and sadness. The storm came from the south-west, entering the county three or four miles north of its southwest corner and passing north-east through the entire county, destroying farm residences, barns and everything in its path. It struck the west portion of the city of Seward, passing through it, leaving death and desolation in its wake, the dead numbering eight residents of the little city, as follows: Mrs. Edward Edmonds, aged 63 years; Mrs. Wm. Hassinger, aged 73 years; Gustav Schulz, 32 years, and daughter Elma, 3 years and 10 months; Samuel Crim, 43 years; Mrs. David Imlay, 63 years; Mrs. C. L. Wasserman, 34 years; and Mrs. David Hoover, 58 years. This sad occurrence fell heavily upon the sympathetic spirit of the city of Seward, its citizens being almost prostrated with grief for many days, in which the entire county joined their sympathies. There were no fatalities out side the city of Seward, due to the course of the storm which passed through the fields on an angle thus avoiding contact to a great extent with dwelling houses. Again people residing in the country districts had an opportunity to see the approaching storm and secure a place of safety.
The property loss in the county from this storm is believed to be conservatively estimated at $100,000.
The relief fund raised for the benefit of the Seward sufferers amounted to all but $1,473.30 of this fund was contributed by Seward county citizens, outside contributions not being solicited, but accepted when sent. The relief committee appointed to disburse the relief fund consisted of Hon. Wm. H. Smith, Wm. Rosborough and W.Q. Dickinson.
General History of Seward County, Nebraska, c1916, pages 29-30