Seneca County, Ohio Tornado "The Burlington Storm", May 1825

On the 18th of May, 1825, and after quite a number of new-comers had settled in Seneca, there occurred one of the most violent tornadoes of which history gives any account. It has usually been called the "Burlington storm," because its greatest severity was experienced in that township. It commenced between one and two o'clock in the afternoon in Delaware county, upon the upper waters of the Scioto, and in the very heart of the state. It seemed for a time to sweep the surface of the earth with indeseribable [sic] fury. It then apparently rose in the air, rushing along above the tops of the highest trees. Soon it descended with increased violence, and tore its destructive way through Licking, Knox and Coshocton counties. Its general course was a little north of east.

The force and violence of the wind, which accompanied this tempest, have probably never been equalled [sic] in a northern latitude. Gigantic forests were instantly uprooted, and enormous trees were hurled Like feathers through the air. Some were carried several miles. There was no strength of trunk or root which for a single instant could withstand the assault. Cows, oxen, and horses were lifted bodily from the ground and carried to the distance of one or two hundred rods. There was a creek, flooded with recent rains, over which the tornado passed. The gale so emptied it of its flood that in a few minutes there was only a small, trickling stream to be seen in its bed.

There had been so much rain that the roads were very muddy, and the fields were like sponges saturated with water. The tornado seemed to dispel every particle of moisture, and both roads and fields were left dry and almost dusty. The track of the tornado through Licking county was about two-thirds of a mile in breadth, gradually increasing as the blast advanced. The air was so filled with trees, buildings, and every kind of debris, whirled as high of the clouds, that the spectacles resembled immense birds pressing along in hurried flight.

The very ground trembled beneath the gigantic tread of this terrific storm. Many persons who were at a distance of more than a mile from the track of the tornado, testified that they distinctly felt the earth to vibrate beneath their feet. Those who experienced the fury of the tempest state that the roar of the wind, the darkened sky, the trembling of the earth, the crash of falling timbers, and the air filled with trees, fragments of houses and cattle, presented a spectacle awful in the extreme.
The cloud from which this terrific power seemed to emerge, was black as midnight. It was thought by some careful observers that it rushed along at the rate of about a mile a minute. It sometimes seemed to sink low to the ground, and again to rise some distance above the surface. Tremendous as was the velocity of the storm, sweeping in one continuous course, it is remarkable that no one could tell from the fallen timber in which direction the wind had blown, for the trees were spread in every way.

There were well authenticated incidents which seem almost incredible. An iron chain about four feet long, and of the size of a common plow chain, was lifted from the ground and hurled through the air with almost the velocity of a shot from a gun, for the distance of half a mile, and was there lodged in the topmost branches of a maple tree. A large ox was carried eighty rods and was then so buried beneath a mass of fallen trees that it required several hours' chopping to extricate the animal, which, strange to say, was not materially injured. From the same field with the ox, a cow was carried forty rods and was lodged in the thick branch of a tree. The tree was blown down, and the cow was killed. An ox cart was carried through the air forty rods, and was then dashed to the ground with such violence as to break the axle and to entirely demolish one of the wheels.

Colonel Wright had a house strongly built of heavy logs. His son was standing in the doorway when the gale struck him, and hurled him across the room with such violence as to kill him instantly. The house was torn to pieces. A coat, which was hanging up in the same house, was found six months afterward in Coshocton county, more than forty miles from the demolished building. It was taken back to Colonel Wright's, and was clearly identified. Many light articles such as shingles, books and pieces of furniture were carried twenty and thirty miles. A little girl, Sarah Robb, twelve years of age was taken from her father's house, lifted several feet from the earth, and carried more than an eighth of a mile, when she was gently deposited upon the ground, unharmed as the gale left her. Fortunately, the tornado passed over a wilderness region very sparcely settled, and but three lives were lost.

History of Seneca County : from the close of the Revolutionary War to July, 1880 : embracing many personal sketches of pioneers, anecdotes, and faithful descriptions of events pertaining to the organization of the county and its progress; Springfield, Ohio: Transcript Print. Co., 1880, Pages 643-645