TORNADO - 1875 (Sowers) - Fountain County INGenWeb Project

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TORNADO - 1875 (Sowers)

Source: Winston-Salem, NC People’s Press 19 Aug 1875 Thu p 2

“A Whirlwind in Indiana Which Bounced Like an India Rubber Ball.” – From the Attica Ledger.

Mr. Loeb and Ike Solomon were at the hotel in Harveysburg when the storm came up, which was just before supper.  In the town there was little more than a heavy ran but it was noticed that north of the place there was something of a more serious nature. The air was thick with flying debris and the heavens were dark as night, betokening a storm of more than usual severity. Yesterday morning, on their way home, Loeb and Solomon came through that region and describe the scene as terrible beyond description. Houses were sept from the foundations and literally torn into shreds, scattering the pieces for miles along the path of the storm.  Huge trees were twisted off or torn up by the roots and carried to great distances. Fences and crops were sept to utter oblivion.  Wheat shocks were blown into the air and the grain as completely threshed out as if run through a machine. The scene is one of utter desolation and the loss will be very great. But the most terrible feature of the storm was the loss of human life.  No less than four persons were killed. We have no means of ascertaining the amount of damage done. Our informant says the path of the storm was 160 yards wide and seemed to extend for miles. The Crawfordsville Journal has the most detailed statement yet presented as follows: “The storm of Tuesday evening which passed high above us, visited some sections south and west of us with great destruction, passing over the northern part of Vermillion County and southern part of Fountain in the shape of a ferocious tornado. It seems to have come from the northwest, first striking Perrysville, and extending its great force on the farm of Mr. Marshall about one and a half miles north of Harveysburg, Fountain County.  It had traveled in about an easterly direction and seemed to strike the ground with such force that it rebounded like a rubber ball, skipping a farm or two and then striking again with great violence.  It cut an average swath of about a quarter of a mile in width, which, however, narrowed down at the most destructive point on Marshall’s farm about 40 rods.  In its destruction of life and property probably no tornado has ever visited the country with such calamitous results. In the first part of its course it took down the residence of a man named Mack and unroofed barns.

Of the families in the path of the destroyer, SE Sowers in Fountain is the most unfortunate.  They had just come from the burial of a child that day and of that family of five persons but one survives, a little boy with both his arms broken.  Mrs. Sowers, a niece who was temporarily stopping with the family and another person were killed instantly.  Mr. Sowers, Sr died Wednesday night and his married son was reported dead Thursday morning. The house is a mass of rains which is the case of about everything on the place. As far as known, the only other case attended with loss of life was that of Mr. sample. As before stated, the tornado’s fury was at its maximum of the farm of Mr. Charles Marshall.  Mr. Marshall heard it coming and immediately proceeded to put his family in the cellar. All were in but himself and little boy when the wind blew the door shut and he was unable to open it. They then started for the smokehouse, hoping to get in the cellar but the building was blown over on them and lodged on a meat barrel which saved them from being crushed. They were all unhurt. Everything in the shape of grain, timber & c was literally swept from the farm.  Mr. Marshall says that he had 2,500 bushels of wheat of which he does not think there are now 25 left.  The wind carried the shaves up in the air until it was almost black with them, whirling them around in large circles as if they were issuing from a large funnel.  The woods are filled with the wheat. All his fine timber was destroyed.  A large boulder, the lowest estimate of its weight being 1,800 was moved several feet.  One house was blown to pieces and the floor found over a mile away. A very valuable orchard, one or two in that section of country was completely twisted to pieces. A very large amount of clothing and bedding was blown into the woods and torn into shreds. One man was lucky enough it his misfortune to find an old shoe out by his stable in which he had deposited $90.  He also had some silver pieces which were blown around but he succeeded in find them all but one piece.  The Crawfordsville Review gives additional particulars: “In this vicinity we hear that there were 19 persons wounded and several house were blown down by the storm.  One man had just finished setting up a threshing machine and before anything could be done it was struck by the hurricane and not a vestige of the machine was left to mark the place where it had stood.  It is rumored that one man was blown entirely away and has not since been heard from.  One man had just unhitched his horse from his buggy and the buggy was taken up, capsized and carried away as if it had been a mere straw in the wind.”

Note: About the same article was in the 11 Aug 1875 Wed p 1 Ft. Wayne Weekly Sentinel but with this information added
No less than four persons were killed. The following is a partial list of the killed and injured.  Jefferson Sowers, badly injured – not expected to live; wife and dau-in-law killed; Wm. Newman, injured; Aaron Johnson’s daughter, killed; Jacob Sample’s sister killed and mother injured.  Charles Marshall’s new house, built last year was torn to pieces and laid flat with the earth. His wife and three children took refuge in the cellar, while he and the remaining child staid (sic) in the house.  All miraculously escaped without bodily harm… in the first part of its course it took down the residence of a man named Mack and unroofed barns belonging to Solomon Jones, William Chenoweth and Jacob Bitzer. The last named also suffered the loss of the roof of his dwelling as did also Abe Bessinger. Of the families in the path of the destroyer, SE Sowers in Fountain County is the most unfortunate. They had just come from a burial of a child that day and of that household of five persons but one survives, a little boy with both his arms broken.  Mrs. Sowers, a niece who was temporarily stopping with the family and another person were killed instantly.  Mr. Sowers, Sr died Wednesday night and his married son was reported dead Thursday morning. The house is a mass of ruins which is the case of about everything on the place.  

buried in Centennial Cem from the tornado July 27, 1875
Johnny no stone - cem. record
Ann         """"
James """"""""""
Mary A.
Emily no stone cem record
James (prob one in poor farm? )
no stone cem. record

1870 MIll Cr #159 Fountain Co IN
Jefferson 54
Mary 55
James M 24
Melinda A 21
Emma 9 mo

Source: Crawfordsville Star, Aug 3, 1875 -

The Harveysburg Tornado -- The terrible tornado which passed over Mill-Creek Twp, Fountain Co, last Tuesday, July 27, 2 12/ miles northeast of Harveysburg, was one of the most destructive of its size that ever visited our state.  Even at this late writing it has been very difficult for us to obtain any reliable information from the scene of the disaster.  From Mr. JB Vaugh, of Wesley, who took the pains to visit the devasted section we gain the following facts. The storm first made its appearance at Snoddy's Mills and traveled in a southerly direction, in its course blowing down the dwelling house of James Sowers, killing the father, mother, wife and child of said Sowers and a young lady by the name of Johnson who was temporarily stopping with them and so injuring Sowers and his two surviving children that he and one of the children have since died.  The other child is terribly crushed and it is hardly thought that it can live Old Mr. Sowers and his wife were horribly mangled, he by a house sill and she by flying sticks, twigs, etc.  The storm continued on from the Wabash to the center of Ripley Twp, in this county, destroying immense amounts of valuable timber in its course.  A house of a neighbor of the unfortunate Sowers, about 1 mi. NW, owned by a Mr. Marshall, was blown to a thousand pieces, but Mr. Marshall seeing the approach of the hurricane took his family into a cellar underneath his smoke house and thus they all escaped personal injury.  A Mrs. Kersey lost her orchard and enjoyed the unlooked for pleasure of having the house moved two or three inches on its foundation.  Mr. Vaugh went over the route of the storm Sat. last and reports perfect devastation. he says one of the foundation stores of the Sowers house, weighing not less than a thousand pounds was actually moved a little over 18 feet from its bed and one of the large oak sills of the house in dimension 11 x 11 inches and 24 feet in length was carried to the distance of 225 yards.  It was described by another person, an eye witness as a sight terribly grand, sublime, yet fearful beyond all he had ever seen.  The cloud was funnel shaped and looked to be about 300 yards high by a quarter of a mile in circumference; the clouds whirling, seething, circling, boiling and foaming, now flying off the rapidity of lightning and returning to take their places in the wild malestrom of winds, but to go through the same performance again while the lightning kept the whole mass brilliantly illuminated. The bottom of this whirlwind where it touched the ground was white, while all the rest was black. When the house of Sowers was struck, it was lifted bodily up high as the tree tops, then bursting into a thousand pieces was thrown in every direction.
The People's Friend Sept 29 1893 -- James A. Sowers, only survivor of the family of James Sowers, Sr., left last Monday morning for Ames, Iowa, where he will visit relatives and friends for several weeks to come.  A grandfather, Jefferson Sowers, father, mother and three children were killed outright or died within a few days from the effects of that ever memorable cyclone of July 27th 1875, which was so destructive to life and property in Mill Creek township.  After a lingering sickness caused by wounds received at the time of the cyclone, he recovered his former good health, but was left somewhat deficient mentally, which, he has, to a great extent, outgrown. He was reared to manhood by Osborn Gillum, a great uncle, who took great
pains in schooling and teaching him to be self supporting in after life.  He leaves here with the respect of all who knew him, for he is quiet, peaceful
and we don't recollect ever hearing him use bad language.  May his stay in Iowa be as peaceful to him as it was here.
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Source: Common Pleas Court Oct 11, 1875 - in the matter of Guardianship of Alexander Sowers
Comes now Phineas V. Hockett and makes application in open court for letters of Guardianship on the person and estate of Alexander Sowers, minor heir of James M. Sowers late of Fountain County, Indiana deceased and files his statement under oath of the probable value of said minor's estate (insert) and also files his bond in the sum of $1,000 with Jacob Ewbank as surety (insert) which bond is approved by the Court and the said Phineas V. Hockett having been sworn to the faithful discharge of his duties as such Guardian it is ordered by the court that letters of guardianship be issued to him by the Clerk of this court which is now done
Order Book 2 p 58
Aug 24 1875 - Sowers, Jefferson - Adm Osborn Guillum Order Bk Q 37 Complete Rec D1 46
Aug 24, 1875 Sowers, James M. same
Amount paid to PV Hockett Guardian of Alexander Simon only heir of deceased was $147.08
Note: Those killed were:
James M. Sowers died 28th of injuries; his wife, Emily Indiana Sample died that day; Emily their daughter may be the one mentioned as they had gone for her funeral that day – if not it was Johnny their son – his parents were also killed – Jefferson Sowers born in 1813 in Rowan Co NC son of John George and Elizabeth (Hedrick Sowers) and his wife, Mary Ann Pickett (she was dragged and killed during the tornado – born 11 March 1814 died the 27th
The child mentioned who had the two broken arms was James Alexander Sowers who died at the County Poor Farm in 1902.

Source: Covington Republican Nov 21 1902 - Death Ends All.   Jim Sowers was taken to the county farm Wednesday, suffering with consumption.  He has made his home for the past few months with John Fisher's family at Harveysburg, where he
was always welcome, but he finally decided he would be a burden to his friends no longer, and asked to be admitted to the county house. His sad condition recalls to the minds of many old residents the life destroying cyclone that passed just south of the present town of Yeddo, on the evening of July 25 1875.   James M. Sowers and wife, three children, his mother and father, Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson Sowers and a cousin occupied a frame house about 3/4 of a mile from where Yeddo now stands.  Of the evening in question and immediately upon the return of the family from the sad duty of burying one of Jas. M. Sowers small children, the deadly tornado struck their little home and James jr., the subject of this sketch, then a child of two or three years, was the only member of the entire household that survived, the others being killed almost instantly, and he had both arms broken, his scalp terribly torn and his skull fractured, which necessitated the insertion of a silver plate in his head and which he has worn for a number of years.   Mrs. M. E. Thompson, widow of a soldier killed in the civil war, and who lived a short distance from the Sowers home, was also instantly killed in the same storm. Jim has always been weak physically and his mind clouded at times, but he is
honest, industrious, has no bad habits and well thought of by everyone.  It seems inhuman that the poor fellow, whose short but sad life has been one continual routine of pain, sorrow and misery, should be allowed to spend his last few days on earth among strangers and a county charge-.

Source: Kingman Star __ November 1902
Mr. Sowers became much worse after his removal to the county farm and died Friday evening.  Interment was made Saturday afternoon in the Farm burying ground.

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