CYCLONE of 1860

Dixon Evening Telegraph 19 November 1948

At Lee Center, when Inlet had removed there, Mr. Bodine clerked in the Hitchcock store for two years while Luke Hitchcock was postmaster of Lee Center; and during that time he received the mail from stages going in each direction; that from Chicago was due at 10:30 p. in., and that from Dixon was due at 10 p. m., when on time. When, however the loads were muddy and the going bad, the mails came along at any time of night and sometimes not until noon following. He told me also that the fare from Dixon to Chicago was five dollars and fom inlet and Lee Center, $4.50.

Corn at market then was worth trade in at 10 cents: wheat in Chicago was worth 35 and 40 cents; cattle on the hoof, two to two and one-half cents; dressed pork, two and one-half cents.

From Dixon Lee Center was the first stop, then at Inlet, the stage still stopped to change horses; Melugins Grove was the next stop, where at John Gilmores the horses were changed Then at Paw Paw, the next stop was made, it being the desire of the Frink & Walker people to make no more than 12 miles at a time. Trips were made every day but Sunday.

At Lee Center the old Daniel Frost tavern stood for many years. I also learned from Mr. Bodine that groceries were bought pretty generally at Peru; but that Chicago was the best wheat and livestock market.

A day and a half, or a day and half the night, were consumed generally in making the stage trip to Chicago.

Mrs. James M. Shaw, daughter of Russell Linn, of Lee Center, gave me my best account of the old days I was able to get in all of my Inlet work. The old red and yellow stage coaches, droning along, appeared to her vision as distinctly as when they used to travelpast the home of her father, on the old Chicago roadl. They were of the old Concord type, rounding up the front and rear, and given their easy swinging motion because they rested on leather springs layered together in 14 layers.

Mrs. Shaw went through the fearful tornado o cyclone of 1860. She and Mrs. E.M. Grose, who lived in Dixon, and Ira M. Lewis, also of Dixon, all of whom passed through the storm, have given me the information from which I am able to give the first connected story of that devastating storm.

The storm struck Lee county at about the center of the west line of Harmon township. It passed directly through Harmon and Marion townships, almost in a straight easterly direction, and aside from little destruction of fencing, did nothingdestructive in either town. It continued its easterly course into Amboy township, but almost immediately it veered to the northeast and, passing to the north of the city of Amboy, it did the first real damage when it reached the farm of Michael Morse on the northeast quarter of section 9 in Amboy township. Here the buildings were demolished. Mr. Morse was badly hurt and his wife, Trial, and their daughter, Emma, were killed.

Continuing northeasterly, it reached the farm of Isaac Gage. In passing it shook the Linn house in which Mrs. Shaw was sitting, like a cradle, and the vibrations of that awful evening come back to her in all their awful realism, whenever the day returns to her memory.

Every building on the Gage place on the northeast quarter of section 1 in Amboy township was destroyed, and Ethelbert, a young son, was killed. Another son was injured so badly that he died soon afterwards. Another son, Luke, also was injured so seriously that he was an invalid for many years. A daughter, Helen by name, also was disabled for a long time.

Mrs. Grose in describing the scene told me she felt sure the curation of the cyclone was not more than a minute and a short one, too.

At the same instant almost, the wind struck a tenant house just across the road from the Gage place, on the premises of Judge Lorenzo Wood, lifted it from the ground and never again did anbody ever hear of that house. Not a single board or splinter of all the debris was ever found or recognized. The homestead in which Judge Wood lived was wrecked a little but not much. The tenants in the tenant building were spilled out, but not injured to speak of. The ceiling above in the Wood house was pushed down and it pinned down Judge Wood, who was lying on the bed, so that he could scarcely move, yet he was not scratched. The Peter LaForge house was hit next. His kitchen was cut off neatly from the main part of the house, but the damage was very slight indeed.

The Horace Preston place was visited next. Mrs. Grose was a daughter of Mr. PReston and she went through experiences in this storm which come to few people, and she earnestly prayed that it never would occur to any member of her family. Upstairs, Mr. Preston said to his wife, "Go down into the cellar." Mrs. Preston picked up the little three year old boy and started downstairs and Mr. Preston picked up the little eight year old daughter Ella (later Mrs. Grose), and the four year old daughter, one under each arm and started for the cellar; but before he had advanced six feet the roof went off and he and the children, still in his arms, were sent sailing over the topf of trees, and he landed on his feet in the garden, about 350 feet away. Mrs. Preston held on to the boy, Horace, Jr., and was killed in her arms. A splinter was sent into the side of Mrs. Preston which troubled him fearfully and ultimately took him off in death. In the cellar of the Preston house there were eggs, pans of milk, and other articles, but not one single thing was disturbed by even so little as a hair's breadth. The cloths of the girls were torn in shreds.

While visiting Mrs. Grose on Nov. 21, 1913, she brought me the family Bible which was sent over the field a great distance and later recovered. This book sustained scarcely any damage, but another smaller book entitled, "The School and the Schoolmaster," by Alonzo Potter, published by Harper & Bros. in 1844 was so covered with mud that its contents were nearly obliterated and to this day the mud sticks just as closely as it did the hour it was recovered. A church was blown five miles. In the Preston house stood a stove, its top was taken off as smoothly as though removed by a cold chisel and sent half a mile away. A crock too was sent along for company and it was not cracked. A iron kettle which Mrs. Grose owned was thrown into the well and into it was hurled a flat iron, yet the kettle was not scratched.

Between the Preston house and barn stood a strawhog house. WHen the storm had passed it was discovered that not one straw seemed to have been disturbed. The cattle and horses were driven away, but the horses all returned and the cattle were found subsequently and brought back home.

One incredible incident occurred on the Preston place which has been vouched for by many who saw it. A corn stalk was driven clear through one of the boards of the wagon bed. Chickens were plucked of their feathers and the next morning the poor things were running wildly about the place until relieved of their suffering by shooting.

At the Daniel Frost place, next in its path little damage was done. At the Martin Wright place the tornado did some very freakish antics. Every bit of the house was demolished with the exception of one part of the wall. On a couch again the wall Mrs. Wright, an invalid, had beenlying. While her sister sustained fearful bruises, including a broken jaw, Mrs. Wirght was not disturbed.


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