Camanche, IA Tornado, Jun 1860

Tornado Destruction Preparing Coffins Comanche IOWA Tornado 1860 memorial.JPG

Terrible Tornado and Loss of Life.

A most destructive tornado passed over portions of Illinois and Iowa, on Sunday evening last, about the same hour that the storm of rain and hail visited this portion of the country. This storm moved in an easterly direction, and the first we have yet heard of its effects was near the Mississippi river at the town of Camanche, Iowa, which is situated on the Iowa and Nebraska railroad, about five miles from Clinton, and at Albany, Ill., which is about three miles from Camanche, and about eight miles from Fulton, Ill. It caused more destruction of life at these points, than any of the tornadoes of this season, which is already so noted for them.

The telegraph account of this tornado says that it came upon these towns as a whirlwind, at 7:30 P. M., and lasted but two and a half minutes. The destruction of property is unparalleled. Not three houses are left standing uninjured in Albany, and at least fifty persons are wounded, some seriously. The escapes, of course, are miraculous.

In Camanche, on the other side of the river, thirty-two dead bodies have been found in the ruins, and more that cannot be got at. The citizens of both places are left without shelter, while their household furniture is destroyed. Citizens of Fulton, Lyons and Clinton repaired to the spot early Sunday morning, and were doing all in their power to relieve the sufferers.

The whirlwind continued through the country passing the towns of Lyndon and Mount Pleasant, which are situated about five miles south of Morrison, Whiteside county, Ill. In these towns the killed were, MRS. RICHMOND, MR. AND MRS. DORR, GEO. ROWORTH, one boy drowned and one child of MR. BARNUM. The wounded as far as heard from are THOS. DIGBY, BENJ. SETH (LETH?) and wife, MR. RICHMOND and HIRAM MANN, seriously, JABEZ SETH (LOTH?) and family, and MR. DAVIS' sister, slightly.

Loses as far as known as present: MR. RICHMOND'S house entirely destroyed, and considerable stock killed; GEO. DIGBY, JR., house and barn entirely destroyed; JOHN HOWARD, house much damaged; BENJ. LETH, house destroyed; GILES GREEN, house destroyed; THOS. SMITH, house destroyed and stock killed; JOHN McDONALD, house destroyed; JABEZ LOTH, house destroyed.

Duration of the tornado at this point not over ten minutes. It was accompanied by thunder, lightning and hail, and swept everything in its course. No account of it after it crossed Rock river below Sterling, Ill.

The Chicago Journal notices the effect of a tornado, which may be a continuation of the above, upon the country along the Chicago and Milwaukee railroad, near Waukegan, which passed over a belt of country, from east to west, about seven miles wide, -- a region between those pleasant suburban villages, Highland Park and Winnetka, the latter sixteen miles, and the former twenty miles from Chicago. Prostrate trees lay beside and across the track, and the beautiful groves, so far as the eye could see, were stripped of their leafy crown - fairly twisted off, many of them, mid-way of the trunks. One dwelling house near Glencoe was entirely demolished. The beautiful park of forest trees on the premises of LUCIEN GURNEY, Esq., of Glencoe, is entirely ruined.

We learn from the Chicago Tribune that the first heard of this tornado was in the heart of Linn county, Iowa, near Cedar Rapids, and its latest ravages heard from being near Lee Center, Lee county, Illinois. The entire distance thus traversed is upwards of 100 miles. From Linn county to Camanche, the loss of life and destruction of property was very great. In the town of Dewitt, Clinton county, Iowa, 16 or 18 persons were killed, but the city proper escaped. In one family of fifteen persons, two only escaped alive. Some of the wounded were carried from fifty to one rods from where the house stood that they were in.

At Mechanicsville, it demolished everything in its course, killing sixteen persons. Near Onion Grove fifteen persons were killed. Passing south of Dewitt it killed twenty-seven persons, sixteen on the farm of THOMAS HATFIELD. It then passed south of Romassa, destroying the house of DAVID NILLARD, and killing him and a portion of his family. It then struck Camanche, on the river; fifty-five persons were killed in Iowa.

At Camanche the most appalling force of the tornado was displayed. It is a town of about fifteen hundred inhabitants, situated about fifteen feet above the river, on a level plain, and is compactly built. As the tornado came upon them it resembled an inverted hay cock, its broad point sweeping the earth. As it came, a peculiar moaning sound struck the ear, and was heard at considerable distance from the track of the storm. Human tongue or pen cannot describe the scene of terror which ensued.

All was over in less than three minutes. Not a single business building remains standing in the town, and scarcely a house is left in a habitable condition. Up to 7 A. M. yesterday, thirty-eight dead bodies had been recovered from the ruins. The greater portion of the people killed, were in brick houses. Many sought shelter in the cellars of wooden buildings, and in every such instance, though the buildings were demolished, the persons were saved. Besides the thirty-eight bodies found, ten persons are missing at Camanche, and one hundred and twenty-five wounded.

A large lumber raft from the Chippewa river, manned by a crew of 24 men and having two women on board, being opposite Camanche, was completely scattered. Twenty-one men and the women were lost.

The town of Albany, Ill., two miles north of Camanche, was struck by the full force of the tornado, destroying every building in the town - five lives were lost, thirty-five seriously wounded.

The storm traversed seventy miles in Illinois, scattering death and destruction in its course. We have no room at this time for the particulars, which are awful and heart rending in the highest degree. Not only is the destruction of life great, but hundreds are wounded, and have lost all their property. The call for assistance has been made upon Chicago, to aid the unfortunate victims of this fearful disaster. Let it not be upon that city alone, but let all the towns of the west do as they would be done by in such a case.

Janesville Daily Gazette Wisconsin 1860-06-05