Marshall County Illinois Disasters

The 1857 Flood The 1869 Hail Storm

The 1857 Flood of the Illinois River

Taken From "The Courier" Newspaper, Henry, IL
R.H. Ruggles and P.S. Perley Editors:

Friday, February 13, 1857


It is now just a week since we have had any mail-matter from any direction. No trains have arrived since last Friday. We have not had a single exchange to gladden our eyes, or exercise our scissors upon, and consequently the Courier this week will be found rather meagre of news. Our readers, of course, under the circumstances, will consider that no apology is necessary, so we offer none.


The heavy rains of last week have been more general and widely extended than we were at first lead to suppose. From all directions we hear of immense damage to the railroads, destruction of bridges, and loss of property of various kinds.

The river commenced rising suddenly on last Friday, and continued to swell until Tuesday morning, at which time it had entirely flooded the bottom from bluff to bluff and attained a greater height than has been known, we are told, since the spring of 1849. But today (Wednesday) the waters appear to be at a stand, or are subsiding a little, and it is the general belief that the highest mark has been reached, and that the waters will soon recede to the natural channel of the river.

The water came up so fast on Sunday night, as to threaten the safety of the grain stored in the lower story of some of the ware-houses, and a large number of hands and teams were kept at work all night in removing it. We believe no considerable amount was lost.

Accounts from the country state that nearly all the bridges have been swept away by the swelling of the smaller streams. It is said that two of the three bridges over Crow Creek are washed away. The Railroad Bridge over Snatchwine Creek, just below Lacon, is destroyed, and we are told that the large bridge over the Bureau, near Bureau Junction, is entirely gone.

A large portion of the heavy embankment, near Snatchwine Station, has been destroyed, and we are told that in many places between Chillicothe and the Junction large portions of the track have been washed away. No trains from any direction have arrived since Friday.


A report reached here yesterday that the Railroad Bridge at Joliet had been carried away, and that the train coming west on last Friday night had run off the track, killing the fireman, engineer, and conductor. We are in hopes this report may prove untrue, and are anxiously awaiting further intelligence.

Of course, we have had no mails from any direction since Friday, and such information as we have received is very vague and uncertain.


Passengers who arrived from La Salle on foot Wednesday evening bring sad news of loss of life and great destruction of boats between La Salle and this place. It is said that the steamer Aliquippa which was frozen in with several barges near Hennepin, was, together with all her boats, entirely demolished by the ice.

Several canal boats were driven under a heavy gorge and broken up, and a man, his wife and child, who were on board, were lost. It is supposed, that besides the Alliquippa, no less than twenty-five canal boats have been destroyed between Peru and this place.

There are many alarming rumors floating about this morning, of destruction of life and property, of which we have no definite particulars.


We learn that trains were running on the Rock Island Road from Chicago as far west as Bureau Junction; on yesterday (Wednesday). The trains from Peoria had succeeded in getting yesterday as far north as Lacon, and is expected to reach this place today (Thursday). A large force of hands are employed in repairing the damages on both roads, and we have hopes of being able to receive our regular mails again in a few days.


This anxiously looked for event took place much sooner than was generally expected. Some time during the night, last Friday, the ice in a solid body, commenced moving down from the mouth of Sandy Creek, just above the city. The steam Fayaway, that had been frozen in early in the season with several canal boats and barges at the foot of Market street, narrowly escaped being sunk, and as soon as the first floating field of ice had passed by, commenced getting up steam with a view of getting the boat and barges under the point of land just above the steam-mill.

Up to noon on Saturday the ice above the mouth of Sandy Creek had not moved, and the Fayaway had succeeded in getting all her barges and boats except three under the shelter of the timber, in a place of safety, and had just commenced dropping down to tow up the last three remaining canal boats lying at the foot of School street, when it was discovered that the ice above had broken loose, and was coming down in a solid body.

The steam quickly put back under the point, just in time to avoid the danger, and a large crowd of persons assembled on the bank to see the crash. - the ice, impelled by a strong current moved down rapidly in an unbroken mass, and when opposite the mouth of the Creek the current forced it towards the western shore. The first objects that came in its way were the three canal boats, which were almost instantly lifted out of the water, and driven high u on the bank, the ice in the meantime crowding heavily against them, stove in their sides, causing two of them to sink and fill in a very few moments. The shore was soon lined with the heavy ice along the banks on either side, when the main body, becoming obstructed at the head of the island two miles below the city, formed a heavy gorge, and stopped.

At the time of this present writing (Wednesday,) the gorge has not yet broken below, and as but little ice has come down since Saturday, it is supposed that there are also heavy gorges above. The two barges that were sunk were loaded with lumber, which is saved. The boats, though seriously damaged, can, it is thought, be raised and repaired.

We have not yet heard to what extent the ice had done injury in other places, except that two or three of the large stone ware-houses at Peru had been partly knocked down. We have heard nothing from Peoria yet.


J.P. Boice, Esq., who has been in attendance at Springfield during the session, arrived home Wednesday, by way of Peoria. He started from Springfield last Friday, and was nearly a week getting here.

From Mr. B. we learn that nothing of much importance has been done by the legislature. The River Improvement Bill has passed one house, and may possibly pass the other. There is a strong St. Louis and Chicago influence in favor of the measure, but strange to say, there is a strong opposition to it from the representatives of the counties bordering on the lower portion of the River.

He further states that it is highly probable that the amended free school law will be adopted, as reported in our last issue. The legislature will probably adjourn on Tuesday next.


A private dispatch received from St. Louis on yesterday, announces that the ice has given way at that place. In consequence of the heavy floating ice, it was impossible for the ferry boats to cross. - Ib.


We clip the following items from a stray No. of the Peoria Republican of last Tuesday that happened to fall into our hands.

The river is higher than it has been for eight years, the flats opposite the city being covered with water to the depth of four and five feet. Messrs. Grier & McClure and W.C. Boilvin & Co., were compelled to remove their pork and grain out the basement stories of their warehouses to prevent it being damaged by the water. It is reported that the river is so high at LaSalle that the ice bumps the bottom ties of the bridge as it passes beneath, which is either an awful big lie or a very high stage of water, most probably the former.

SAD ACCIDENT: We understand that two persons connected with the Peoria & Oquawaka Railroad were drowned in the Kickapoo creek, near Hale’s mill, by the giving away of a culvert. Their names were H. Neding and H. Navin.

The obstructions on the Eastern Railroad have been removed and the trains will run as usual, the Chicago and St. Louis Express leaving at 2 p.m. and arriving at 7:55 p.m.

The Hail Storm of 1869

Taken From the Henry News Republican
May 13, 1869

The Recent Storm

The hail storm that visited this section on Tuesday afternoon of last week, was not overestimated in the hastily made up report in the last Republican. Never has so fierce a hail storm been experienced here, attended with hail of such large size and a copious quanity of rain, or done such an amount of damage to windows, roofs, orchards, vegetation and in some instances with animals. The rain that accompanied the hail fell in a volume almost startling and during the continuance of the storm the water rushed down the streets and byways like a mighty river.

In level portions of the city the water was several inches deep, and was forced along with a considerable current. Not less, it is thought, than from 12,000 to 15,000 panes of glass were broken in the city and vicinity, and one single firm alone have disposed of over 5000 panes since the storm, to say nothing of the large sales of half dozen or more stores which deal in that important commodity.

A considerable portion of the hail was as large as black walnuts, coming with a force to literally spot with dents the sides of houses, splintering shingled roofs, in some instances splitting every shingle on the building exposed and causing leaks and other damage. Many of the orchards in this vicinity are deprived of their promised fruit and foliage; others faring still worse, the bark being stripped from the trees, the limbs broken and cut off, and the trees badly damaged or ruined. The tender fruit and small bearing bushes, grape vines, strawberries, and gardens have all either been destroyed or more or less damaged.

Another feature of this torm was, that the cloud divided before it reached Henry, a portion of it, more destructive and fierce, passing over the west part of Whitefiled and over Saratoga townships. Along the bluff west of town, and a couple of miles beyond, the storm was very light, and many of the farmers did not leave their work in the field, while at either side of this territory the storm was terific and terrible in efffect upon property and vegetation.

The storm in Whitefield spent its fury in leveling fences for long distance, orchards dismantled and destroyed, houses badly battered, and the growning crops literally beat into the ground and cut up. W. N. Stout, Mr. Bidwell, W. Van Ostrand, and a host of others are great sufferers. Major Olmsted place in Saratoga was “all hail” during the storm, and his large heard of 100 pigs or more met serious loss, 15 being “stoned to death,” and a good many more had their legs broken or were otherwise disabled. Eighty were caught and saved in his barn. Wm. Fosdick had a four acre lot in hops, which was damaged by the spoliation of the vines. We might continue to enumerate cases of damage but it is needless. From such another visitation we pray to be delivered.

The Violent Wind and Rain Storm of 1877

Taken From the Henry Republican
July 5, 1877

Last Friday's Storm

Another violent wind and rain storm visited this section on Friday night of last week, and besides a deluge of water, a good deal of damage done by the wind. The barn of Smith P. Hill in Whitefield suffered from the loss of about one-fourth of the roof, and the shed attached to it, containing a hay loft, some 30 feet in extent, was all blown to pieces, and the boards of which it was composed, all scattered over the premises, and his orchard damaged by the blowing down of some 30 apple trees. The barn on Mr. Shurbert's (Lawton Green) place was blown from its foundation and badly racked by its sudden removal.

William Haley's stable was struck by lightning. A wire had been stretched across the stable to hang seed corn on, and to this the lightning descended, ran across it and down a post, where Mr. Haley's work horses were standing, both of which were severly stunned and injured. They discharged blood and water from their mouths the next day, and acted as if partially paralyzed. The animals however have indicated symptoms of improvement since and the probability is they will recover entirely.

William Chamber's orchard suffered terribly from this storm, a large number of his choice fruit trees being torn up by the roots, others broken off or blown down, and branches badly mangled. Many other places in the vicinity have suffered in various ways, but we have not farther particulars.

In the storm of Monday week, Mr. Rudolph King's large barn, in Saratoga township, was moved a foot on its foundation; and her hog house and windmill badly damaged. One of the large trees of Mr. Harvey Bell's residence, in the same town blew over on to the house. Deacon Dunlap's shop in Whitefield was torn to pieces, roof torn from his stable, and his orchard badly dealt with. Peter Kline lost the chimneys from his house, and sustained other injury to his place. George Harris built a new foundation to his barn, and now has it righted up again, the Pechin brothers doing the work.

Six Bridges Washed Out by Heavy Rains

June 20, 1878

Six bridges in Whitefield were either washed away or rendered useless by the late rains. One over Sugar Grove creek near John Kapraun's was rendered unsafe and a new one has been put in. The others are located as follows: At Lyman Hunt's, at Ed. Payne's, at Mr. Holcombs, between Richard Tremain's and John Gregory's, and one near David Coan's place. Piling is being used for all the bridges, and the sleepers spiked on them. This renders the bridges less liable to be damaged, and being spiked on the piling the timbers cannot get away. It will take several weeks to repair the damage done.