Cyclone Sweeps Carroll County

September 25, 1913

Sunday Storm Works Appalling Damage in Rich Farming Section


Many Buildings Swept Away And Farmers Are Left Penniless….Graphic Story of the Havoc Wrought….Force of the Storm Unbelievable

Carroll County Cyclone Losses

The following individual losses from Sunday’s cyclone have been carefully estimated:

Samuel Hess – $8,000 to $10,000

Charles Wolbert – 5,000

John Gilroy – 2,000

Edmond Jayson – 500

James Shipley – 2,000

Henry C. Cook – 2,000

Harry Strenker – 6,000

Morley Fawer – 1,500

Frank Keefer – 3,000

Joseph Bablin – 500

A. C. Dorsey – 1,000

Budd Dorsey – 1,000

Other Minor Damage (estimated) – 5,000

The storm that blew a hole through Carroll county on Sunday afternoon, and that jumped the State boundary into Pennsylvania, was a strange visitor to these parts. No such monster ever before went cavorting over these fertile hills and valleys, or disturbed the serenity of those who have lived here in a sense of perfect security from such visitations all these years. The cyclone was not only strangely out of its path but strangely out of its season. It is rare that storms of such cyclonic violence appear anywhere at this season of the year, and it is seldom that one of these frightful monsters works greater destruction in so short a space of time as did this visitor of Sunday.

People in Sykesville who listened to the rumble of thunder off to the westward about 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon had no conception of the havoc that was being wrought in the rich, agricultural section that almost borders on this village. It was only when rumors of the disaster sifted into towns late in the evening and people began to drive out to the stricken neighborhood and bring back accurate returns that the full extent of the damage began to be realized. Even at the hour of this writing the damage cannot be accurately measured.

When a reporter for the Herald drove over the line of the storm this week he found a sorry state of affairs. Many persons whose farms were in the path of the cyclone have suffered losses from which they will not speedily recover — in fact, some of them have lost everything but their land. They have gone to work resolutely however, to repair these losses as best as they can and to erect the homes and new farm buildings.

Those farmers whose homes escaped a visitation from the storm have been clubbing together all the week giving the labor of the … (we could not read this section and will return to it later.)

When the Herald man visited the scene of the storm on Monday and viewed the destruction that came so swiftly, it seemed incredible that no human lives were lost. This fortunate circumstance was due to the fact that some of the families were visiting their neighbors when the storm struck and that the dwellings withstood the force of the cyclone better than the barns and out-buildings.

Came from the South

The storm came from the south and with peculiar curves and twists and boundings swept almost due North. It seemed to strike the earth with fearful energy in some places and after desolating the spot would rebound and pass over homes and buildings that lay directly in its path without so much as shaking the Fall apples from the trees.

Then it would swoop down again and repeat its work of destruction. It swept the ground in great circles and roared like a hurricane at sea. The noise of the storm was heard for miles and while there is no accurate record of its velocity, it is believed that the wind blew at times at the rate of one hundred miles an hour.

The havoc wrought in Carroll County was the work of but two or three minutes. The damage done at various points shows an energy that is unbelievable.

Where the Swirl Began

The first real damage in Carroll County was near Woodbine, where it struck the farm of Samuel Hess. Before this, it had passed over sections of Frederick county with disastrous consequences. At the Hess farm its work of destruction was complete. The house said every farm building and shed were leveled to the ground and the contents scattered for miles. The members of the family were in the house when the storm struck and their experience was terrifying.

When they realized that the house was going, they rushed for the cellar and saved their lives in this way, for the house was crushed like an egg shell and the great barn filled with the season’s crops was lifted up and tumbled upon it.

Mrs. Hess was quite badly injured by falling timber. The contents of the house were blown away. Great trees and timbers went hurtling through the air. Trees that were torn up by the roots from a strip of woods nearby, were dropped about in adjoining fields, the fields were stripped clean of fence rails and hundreds of these were carried long distances.

A wire fence was torn loose and rolled across a field of corn, leaving much of the corn stripped free of the husks. A set of bed springs from the Hess home were found a quarter mile from the house. A large quantity of baled hay was stored in the barn and this was scattered about, farm implements were picked up and dropped in adjoining fields, and some of the trees that lay about in the fields were stripped clean of the bark.

Mr. Hess’ loss is from eight to ten thousand dollars. Of all the storm victims he appears to be the only one who carried insurance against such storms. He has about sixteen hundred dollars, but his loss is a very severe one.

Storm Was a Bounder

A few hundred yards to the West of the Hess place is a fine farm with barns and out-buildings. None of these were harmed. The storm here was not more than 200 yards wide. Directly North in the path of the storm are several farms but a short distance from the Hess place. The storm jumped over these and then plunged to the earth again.

It struck the farm of John Wolbert on the road to Barrett’s and left it a heap of ruins. The family were at dinner when they first got a glimpse of the storm. The air was filled with whirling trees, fence rails, furniture and lumber. In less than two minutes the storm had picked up the farm buildings with the exception of the house and whisked them away.

These included a fine new barn, wagon and carriage houses and all necessary out-buildings. In working their destruction, the storm gave evidence of its energy. Of the wagon sheds there was not enough left with which to kindle a fire. They completely disappeared, leaving their foundations broom clean.

A new carriage in the carriage house was also blown away and has not been located. A milk wagon went along to keep it company. A heavy farm wagon was blown into a field and farm implements were scattered about. The fine new barn and all the crops housed therin was swept away with the rest. One side of the roof was carried across the highway, over the top of the house and deposited in the garden. This indicated the rotary motion of the storm, as the roof was some distance to the South of the point where the barn stood, while the storm was moving North.

A Thrilling Experience

The members of the family had an experience they’re not likely to soon forget. The house, which was large and substantial, being but four years old, was twisted partially around and looked as if it had been riddled with grape-shot. With the exception of one small bedroom every room was left a complete wreck with the windows blown away, the plaster stripped from the walls and the partitions cracked and twisted.

The single bedroom left untouched afforded a place for the family to sleep, but the house will have to come down. Pieces of furniture were whisked into the field, one hundred chickens were blown away, the hogs were either killed or badly injured and the scene after the storm was one of desolation.

Mr. Wolbert was left practically penniless. He had no storm insurance and had gone in debt for his barn and other accessories. His year’s work disappeared in a jiffy and he and his good wife were nearly prostrated at their loss. A goodly number of sympathetic neighbors joined in clearing away the wreck and have started a relief fund for the stricken family.

The Herald appealed to the people of Sykesville and elsewhere for subscriptions to aid in the movement. The situation of the family is indeed pitiful. The loss is upwards of five thousand dollars.

Found Home Swept Away

The next play adjoining Wolbert’s was owned by John Gilroy and occupied by a family named Jayson. A number of great trees between the two were swept away like xxx, completely blocking the highway and then the buildings on the Gilroy farm disappeared in a twinkling. Up to Monday night they had not been located and there was xxxxxx the place where they stood except a xxx of lime that been left in a shed. The family were absent at the tie and returned home in the evening unaware of the disaster that had overtaken them to find that the house, barn, and all buildings had completely disappeared. Pieces of furniture and buildings were found later a mile away. The Gilroy loss was about one thousand dollars.

The storm next cut off a corner of a piece of woods, tearing out great trees by the roots and blowing some of them into a cleared field. The highway was completely blocked by debris and travelers were forced to make a long detour over soft fields to get around it.

James Shipley’s Loss

The storm next struck the farm of James Shipley. Here it worked havoc in the amount of two thousand dollars. Mr. Shipley and John Gilroy were in the house at the time. The other members of the Shipley family were away. When they heard the terrifying roar of the storm, Shipley and Gilroy started to leave the house, then concluded that their only safety lay within. The air was filled with trees and lumber and some of the swirling debris and wreckage looked to be a mile high. The outbuildings on the place were practically demolished, but the house withstood the shock, though badly damaged. A fine orchard was cleared of every tree and many of these were blown into the highway.

From this point the storm dipped into a valley and swept away the out-buildings of Henry C. Cook, near Berretts. The dwelling was untouched, but the stable sheds, corn house, wagon sheds and grainery were scattered over Northern Carroll County. Mr. Cook’s loss is about two thousand dollars with no insurance. He is an aged man and feels his misfortune keely.

Wreck at the Streaker Farm

The fine farm of Harry Streaker, on the Sykesville road, near Berretts, recieved the brunt of the tornado and the wreckage left was appalling. A fine barn, 76 x 40 feet , filled with produce, was smashed into kindling wood and the hay and grain and bits of the building were carried long distances.

All other buildings, with the exception of the house, were blown away and wagons and farming implements were buried under tons of wreckage. The house was damaged, and although 150 feet from the barn, the center of the storm passed it by. The rear porch was piled full of stove wood, which had been stored somewhere about the place. The storm left a streak of wreckage about 100 yards wide as far as the eye could see.

On the opposite side of the highway and directly in line with the storm, stood a large hay barracks, completely filled with hay. The building was whisked up into the air and the hay left practically untouched. the timbers went on toward the Pennsylvania line. At any rate they had disappeared from the neighborhood. A heavy lumber wagon was lodged in a tree.

Many people visited the Streaker place during the week to view the wreck. Mr. Streaker’s loss is fully five thousand dollars, and leaves him a poor man. A large force of men and teams aided him in clearing the wreck and saving what was possible of the crops.

Collapse of the Fower Mill

After wrecking the Streaker place the storm swerved to the East a trifle, cut a swath through a strip of woodland, leveled corn fields, and then dipped into the valley where the old grist and planing mill of Morley Fower stood. The storm jumped over the house, doing little damage, and smashed the mill into kindling. Much of the machinery in the mill was new and it was filled with grists for neighboring farmers and with lumber.

A small building nearby was left untouched, but the curtains of a carriage inside were blown away. Another building was lifted off a horse and carried away and the horse was left uninjured on the floor. The roar of the storm was so great that the noise of the falling mill was not heard across the highway. There was a cloudburst near this point, and the branch nearby was raised about six feet, overflowing the highway and meadow. Mr. Fower estimates the loss at about fifteen hundred dollars to the mill.

From this point the storm swept on toward Morgan. It struck the farm of Frank Keefer a short distance from the mill and made a complete wreck of a large barn and all out-buildings. The house, 100 feet away, was not damaged. Part of the barn was carried over an adjoining cemetery and left in a field.

Mr. Keefer’s loss is a heavy one, probably three thousand dollars, with no insurance. All of his stock escaped, but his farming utensils and wagons were broken up. A barrow was picked up and carried a long distance. A portion of the roof of the Lutheran church, opposite the Keefer place, was blown off and some of the windows broken, but the concrete building stood like a rock.

In the neighborhood of the Keefer farm trees and wires were blown down in every direction. After passing the Keefer place the storm damage was not so extensive, though the cyclone performed many freakish stunts.

Some Freakish Stunts

On the farm of Joseph (…more to come…)

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