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Front page of the Tri-State Alliance Pioneer, Ohio, Friday May 28, 1894 as reprinted in the Leader Enterprise, Thursday, April 15, 1965.
CYCLONE SWEPT! - Williams County Visited By A Devastating Cyclone - Four Persons Killed and a Number Injured - Kunkle the Scene of Terrible Desolation - Houses Laid in Ruins, Barns Leveled and the Debris Strewn to the Winds - Dense Forests Mown Down as if by Magic - Thousands of People Daily on the Scene Witnessing the Wonderful Sight - Our Reporter Visits the Spot and Gives an Interesting Description of the Storm Swept Region.
Astronomers tell us that the sun has passed through terrible convulsions during the past week and that the disasters of wind and water are but the results of these fiery throes culminating upon the earth. Be that as it may, a few more such visitations would almost obliterate Williams County. The intense, sickening heat of Thursday, May 17th, 1894, seemed to impress many with the dread of a terrible something! About 5 P.M. the clouds seemed to be centering west and in dense blackness with ominous streaks of light moved easterly.
The first indications of a cyclone were manifest on the farm of John Lantz where the funnel-shaped cloud dipped down and struck the ground, plowing an immense furrow through the cornfield and then on through the heavy timber, tearing and rending trees and bushes like a giant playing with straws.The huge destoyer scattered fences and orchards till it reached the house on the Old Hazen farm which it carried off as completely as if it were but a mere speck on the surface of the earth. The tenants of the house were fortunately away from home, else there would have been greater damage done than was. On it came plowing its way through huge timbers, leaving a wide stretch of desolation and ruin in its path, until it reached Basswood Corners, four miles south of town, where it done some lively work. It first struck Geo. Mercer's house, lifted it from its foundation and hurled it into pieces, the ruins scattering over the site of the house, and the road. Furniture was torn into atoms and the scene was a hard looking one. It unroofed Sam'l. Barclay's house, leveled his large bank barn to the ground, burying three horses in the midst of the debris. One was instantly killed, but the other two were got out alive and almost unhurt. Mr. Barclay's property is completely gone and it is hard for the old couple as they were yet in debt on their place. The sympathy of the people should take an active form in their case and endeavor to help them out of their present difficulties. Mrs. Mercer, upon hearing the terrible roar of falling timbers, ran out the east door of their house and with her little child in her arms, threw herself flat on the ground. The debris flew thick and fast around them but the child was unharmed and the mother but slightly injured. The residence of Wm. Mowry was left standing and that is all. Doors and windows and the greater portion of the roof is gone, while immense splinters are sent through the siding and plastering, penetrating the inside walls. His bank barn is levelled to the basement and nothing but ruin prevails in that vicinity.
Samuel Andre's house narrowly escaped the great destruction, standing but a few rods this side of the storm. His farm however got a small share of it taking off the roof and the siding in places and generally demolishing it. Another one of the provident escapes was that of seven head of horses which stood in the barn not one of which was hurt. It was a close call, however.
Straight onward still in a north easterly direction it went, now raising a little and again assailling the ground with terrible strength, until, upon reaching Kunkle, storm-swept and desolate, ringing with the moans of the dying victims, the intense excitement and the crowds gathered on the fatal ground, the scene is a difficult one to describe. All the houses, fences, trees and obstructions of all kinds in the path of the storm were carried away and nothing is left to mark the spot where they stood, but the direst desolation.The building in which Daniel Barrett, his wife, and their granddaughters, Martha and Myrta Daso, is so completely demolished that not even a portion of the foundation is left. The first found remnants of the house were at least 100 rods from where it stood. Here began scattering timbers and further on can be seen larger portions of the building and about 40 yards from where it stood lies the roof, almost intact, together with portions of the frame work.
Mrs. Barrett, who was horribly mangled, was carried by the cyclone over a quarter of a mile and dropped in the S. cemetery. Her dismembered limbs were found about 100 yards further on. There was very little left of the woman's body that resembled the form of a human being. Her breast and abdomen were rent in two, and her entrails, heart, and lungs were scattered broadcast through three forty-five acre fields. The search for remains continued nearly an hour before flesh half her weight was found. Daniel Barrett was carried about 40 rods from where the cyclone struck him. His hand was torn off at the wrist and scattered to the wind, one leg was beaten into pulp, and he suffered internal injuries. He was still breathing however, when found but died soon afterward without regaining consciousness.
Martha and Myrta Daso, who were in another part of the house, were found near where the house seemed to have gone to pieces. Martha, the eldest, aged 14, was injured only about the head, which was crushed in on the left side, showing a great hole from which the brain oozed mingled with blood. She is still living however with the slightest chance of recovery.
The younger sister, Myrta, age ten, lay almost in the arms of her sister with almost every bone in her body broken, and ground into flesh. Nothing could be done to relieve her suffering and little one died about ten o'clock the same evening.Geo. Oxenger, a hired man of the Barrett's who was in the field plowing saw the storm coming and made for the barn. He succeeded in getting his horses in the barn, and had started for the house when the cyclone struck him, and witnesses say that he was lifted from the ground and whirled into the air at least a hundred feet, together with timbers, fences, trees and other debris scooped up by the wonderful, irresistable current of death and disaster. Oxenger's lifeless body was found about 100 rods from where it was lifted into the air. The body was in a horrible condition, bones protruding from the flesh, and from indications he must have come into contact with many of the flying beams and trees.
Jas. Whitla, another farm hand of the Barrett's, had a most miraculous escape. He was in a field working with Oxenger, and with him started for the barn, when his team became unmanageable and broke away from him. They were afterward caught and were but slightly injured. When the team ran away he started for the house but had just reached a rail fence near a gate when the storm struck the barn and he fell upon his face grasping the fence with one hand and with the other the gate. The gate was demolished to the very bottom rail and the gate carried hundred of rods, but the prostrate man lay unmoved. A huge apple tree was torn up by the roots and a brick cellar laid flat to the ground within fifteen feet of him, yet he came out with a bruised face and a few scratches. In an interview with our reporter he gave the following experience with the raging elements. He said: "Oxenger and I were plowing in a field about a quarter of a mile from the barn when we saw the storm coming. It looked like a huge funnel, its irregularly formed upper half revolving rapidly, while the lower half swept the earth dealing death and destruction from its mighty arm, leaving a wide path of desolation in its wake, and transforming what was but a moment before a prosperous little group of farm buildings into a scene of devastation and sorrow. It seemed to be so unreliable in its course that we did not know which way to go to escape it. Finally we decided to seek shelter in the barn. Oxenger got to the barn but my team broke away from me and left me free. By this time the storm was so near that it was like the roaring of Niagara and the heat was sickeningly intense. When I saw the barn go up I knew my only salvation would be in throwing myself flat on the ground. I threw myself in a hole and grasped the lower part of the fence. The fence was torn from me but I dug my fingers deep in the earth and knew no more for a time. The barn, cow shed, and horses must have passed over me, and when I arose my face was plastered with mud. The last I remember was dim recollection or realization of seeing the house swept from its foundation and thrown into atoms over the place."
Just across the road from the Barrett residence stood a log and frame structure occupied by Charles Moore and wife, a young couple but a short time married. The forepart of the structure remains standing, every log in its place, but the roof has departed for an unknown land, and the back part of the frame is gone to the foundation. Not a piece of crockery, a carpet, a bed-quilt, or any other article of bedding or clothing which was in the house was left, but a few could be found decorating the forest a half mile or so further in the course of the storm.As destiny would have it, it was in the back part of the house where the young man and his wife took refuge, and while the last they can remember they were together holding the door shut, they were picked up far apart, she having been thrown in a little swamp several rods from the house and he in a pile of debris in another direction. A new barn is completely gone, the heavy timbers thrown for acres around, and a light shed close by is scarcely touched. Moore had tied his team to a post near the barn and the horses were swept along like straws before the death dealing storm. From one horse the strong new harness was stripped off as neatly as if it had been cut, while parts of it was strewn over the entire field. One horse was buried under a mass of beams from an adjoining corn crib and killed outright, while the other laid about ten rods further on, so badly injured that it was killed to end its sufferings. Oxenger's team, which was put in Barrett's barn escaped with scarcely a scratch. A hog pen containing seven shoats stood in a lane several rods to the north of Barrett's barn. They help add to the list of the dead, and all that can be found of pen or pigs is one dead porker which lay stretched directly over the site of the barn. The ground on either side of the storm was covered with featherless fowls, grain, etc., and close to Moore's barn laid a disemboweled cow. A calf was lifted up and carried across the woods, a distance of nearly a mile and dropped, rather dumpy but still alive and likely to be.
Farther on in the course of the storm at the point where the funnel-shaped cloud rose from the ground, the debris seems to be as thick as further back, hence it is presumed that much of the stuff went up in the clouds. Everything for miles back has vanished as if by magic.
Samuel Hollenbaugh and his wife who were in their house about two miles further north escaped death by seeking refuge in their cellar. One half of their house was left standing almost untouched. Miss Jennie Greek who was teaching in that district and boarding there was in the portion left standing and sustained slight injuries. Further west, Mr. and Mrs. Oliver Coy? stood in their back door and saw all their barns, other buildings and windmill carried up into the air. A house containing some pet rabbits, rabbits within six feet of where they stood went with the rest, while hardly a breeze touched them. Two or more of the farm houses, a saw mill, and a number of barns are reported carried away, but no other persons are hurt. The path of the storm can be easily followed its entire course by the roofless barns, decapitated windmills and fallen forests.
The whirling cloud seemed to go very slowly in its forward course and gave many people a good chance to get out of its way who would otherwise have been killed. It is estimated that it took at least 15 minutes to go its last mile, the mile which dealt death in its most terrible form, filling the air with flying debris, in which were fragments of human flesh, horses, cattle, furniture, trees, farming implements, etc. All propelled by a most wonderful, irresistible current of ruin and disaster. The course it took seemed to be somewhat zig-zag, and rolled from left to right, as well as upward on its onward course. It visited the cemetery south of Moore's house, leaving there the mangled remains of Mrs. Barrett, and making sad havoc with the grave stones. People for miles on either side of the storm could hear its roar and climbed on house-tops and other places of eminence to witness the moving avalanche which carried everything before it. To add to the scene of desolation, the rain fell in torrents. Where at noon stood finely growing fields of wheat now stood fields of water. All wheat and like vegetation is mown close as if by a scythe.The dead victims of the terrible phenomenon were all buried last Saturday, May 19th, while the wounded are gaining. The Daso girl has regained consciousness and may recover, while Mr. and Mrs. Moore are both doing well. A good deal of sympathy is manifest among the people for the sufferers, and what is better they are offering substantial aid in the shape of "cyclone fund" meetings all over the county.
Thousands have witnessed the scene of disaster since last Thursday, and whispers of wonder and awe at the scene are heard on all sides. It is, indeed, a miracle that many more were not victims of this awful messenger of death and destruction. Williams County never wishes another such an experience.
Help for the sufferers, a numbers of families in this, the worst disaster that ever visited Northern Ohio, have been stripped of everything. Homes, furniture, bedding, clothing, eatables, etc., and believing there are many who feel it would be the spirit of human kindness to help these distressed ones we have concluded to open up a Bureau of Relief for the cyclone sufferers and all sums of money sent to the Tri-State Alliance will be placed in the hands of a relief committee and the names of the donors with amount given will be published in the next week's Alliance. Now if you have any real sympathy for these suffering ones respond as the heart wills.
Kunkle, Ohio Tornado May 18, 1894
THE OHIO CYCLONE Further Details of the Terrible Cyclone in Ohio. KUNKLE, O., May 19. --- Four persons were killed and two others fatally injured in a great cyclone which passed through the farming district a short distance from here yesterday afternoon. The dead are DANIEL BARRETT and wife, MARTHA DASHO and GEORGE OXINGER, CHARLES COLE and wife will both die.
For a distance of six miles a strip a quarter of a mile wide is laid in waste. Houses, fence lands trees are all destroyed. There is not even a trace left of the BARRETT house. The body of MRS. BARRETT was carried almost half a mile, being terribly managled.
At Alliance the storm was the worst experienced in years. The wind blew over sixty miles an hour. Much minor damage is reported. At Cleveland, thousands of windows were broken by hail and many runaways were caused. The damage amounts to several thousand dollars.
The revised count of dead and injured by the Kunkle tornado shows four dead and three fatally injured. The fatally injured are: MARTHA DAZE, skull fractured; CHARLES MOORE, aged 25 both hips dislocated, several ribs broken and internally injured; MRS. ELLA MOORE, his wife, serious bodily injuries.
These are all expected to die. Besides these casualties, MRS. ELLA EVANS, who lives a mile east of the track of the tornado, is missing. She started from Kunkle for home an hour before the tornado struck and has not yet been heard of.
One of the most gruesome incidents was the finding of a gory human heart lying in the cemetery between two overturned tombstones. It belonged to MRS. BARRETT, whose body was torn to pieces and distributed over three 40 acre fields.
The tornado passed through only the southern edge of the village, levelling everything south of the tracks of the Detroit division of the Wabash, which passes through the place. Much small damage was done to houses in the main part of the village, however. Had the storm gone 200 yards further north it would have utterly wiped out Kunkle and killed the greater portion of the people.