Linn County, IA Tornado, Jun 1860

The Tornado of June 3, 1860

The "Great Tornado" which desolated a wide area of territory throughout Eastern Iowa and Northern Illinois, in June, 1860, having its origin far to the westward, passed through Linn County. In the section visited by the destructive elements, the occurrence marks an epoch from which local events are dated. The appalling phenomenon serves to fix in the minds of even the most careless thinkers or observers the time at which transactions of general interest took their place in the history of the county. "Before the tornado," and "after the tornado," are recognized expressions of speech.

Well may those who beheld the darkening heavens and witnessed the outpourings of the powers of the air pray that they may never be called upon to view such another spectacle. The immensity of strength, the rapidity of movement, the irresistibility of progress, as compared with the pygmy might of mankind, awakened at once in the minds of all beholders sentiments more profound than fear; awe took possession of mankind and held him spell-bound in the presence of a force which neither man's intelligence nor man's knowledge of science has yet succeeded in conquering and transforming into a faithful slave. The marvels which have been performed within the last half century produce a credulous belief that no natural force exists which will not, sooner or later, own allegiance to man's dominion; that those occurrences which now are termed, through partial ignorance of their source and scope, natural phenomena, must abdicate in favor of man, and obey his bidding as implicitly as steam or electricity does to-day. The suggestion of so vast an extension of human power as to include the regulation of the meteorological forces may meet with smiles from the skeptical; but undoubtedly the historian who shall take up the thread of the record of Linn a century after we have laid it down, will recite the tragic story of the Great Tornado with a sense of mingled pity and contempt at the feebleness of those who lived in the years before the invention of the meteorologograph.

No matter what great changes the future has in store for this people, the facts of the disaster of June 3, 1860, will ever remain among the darkest records of the Northwest.

The origin of the tempest or the point where the whirlwind came in contact with the earth, in this county, was about six miles west of Marion. A Sunday evening's quiet reigned, as though nature had chosen to heighten the effect of the terrific display by breaking, with Olympic grandeur, a silence almost absolute. The storm appeared in the form of water-spouts, several of which were seen at the same time by persons outside the range of the tornado.