Camden, NJ Tornado, Jul 1860




One of the most terrible tornadoes that have visited this part of the country for years, occurred yesterday afternoon, about quarter-past three o'clock, near Camden, New Jersey, completely destroying the large chemical works of Messrs. Potts and Klett, killing three men and injuring several others.
The building is situated on Cooper's creek, on the Haddonfield road, about one mile north of Camden, had just been completed, and was pronounced by experienced architects to be perfectly safe. It was two hundred feet long, thirty-six feet wide, and two stories high. It was built of brick, the walls being twenty two inches thick, had pilasters both outside and inside to add additional strength and was covered with slate, and had a little gallery running around its roof – in fact, everything had been done to render it one of the most durable, as well as one of the most complete establishments in the country.
At the time the tornado occurred, Messrs. Potts and Klett, and the book keeper, Mr. Dumont, were seated in the office – a small room partitioned off in the northern part of the building – and eight laborers were occupied in other parts of it, clearing out the rubbish preparatory to introducing the machinery.
It appears that those who were inside the building at the time were first startled by the heavy clap of thunder, which was accompanied by lightning and a hail storm. The shock was so severe that it appeared to shake the building to its centre, and simultaneous with the shock the entire building, with the exception of the northern end, was moved from its foundation, and turned almost completely around from southeast to northwest.
The laborers, through fear of being buried in the ruins, jumped out of the windows, and as they did so portions of the heavy walls fell upon them. The three men who were instantly killed were ANTHONY SCHWAB, a German, aged 24 years, who leaves a wife and child residing in Camden; AUGUSTE BRONTE, also a married man with a family of six or seven children; and JAMES DEROY.
Messrs. Potts and Klett retained their seats in their office, and although conscious of the danger surrounding them, deemed it more prudent to do so than to run the risk of being crushed by the falling walls. The tornado lasted but a few minutes, and uprooted several large trees and a number of small buildings in that neighborhood. The noise produced was heard a great distance from the scene of the disaster.
Some gentlemen who were driving along the Haddonfield road, about a mile from the chemical works, stated that when they first heard the clap of thunder they noticed something like a pillar of fire revolving in the sky, and almost simultaneously were startled by the falling of the walls of the building. The proprietors of the works summoned four physicians as soon as they could, and everything was done that could be done to relieve the sufferers. The bodies of the unfortunate men who lost their lives, were removed to their late residences, and Coroner Roberts will hold an inquest this morning. We learn that the loss sustained by Messrs. Potts and Klett will not exceed $4,000.

Philadelphia Press Pennsylvania 1860-07-27