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Grundy County

Cyclone of 1880

"What at first was called a ' gust,' the same
Hath now a storm's, anon, a tempest's name."

Saturday, April 24, 1880, will be a day somewhat memorable in the history of Grundy county. It was a day of sunshine and storm, of gladness, of fear and trembling. The storm king had risen in his wrath and swept the earth with vengeful hand and a giant's strength. The gnarled and rugged oak of centuries bowed before his majesty, the lightning shed its baleful ray and lighted up his pathway, and the thunder rolled in unison, making hearts leap with terror.

The morning had been clear and bright, but along about ten o'clock the wind began to rise and its moaning voice gave token of an approaching storm. The dark clouds began to gather in the southwestern sky, and as they arose they grew dark, and black, and more dense. All at once the wind died away, the air was stifling in its closeness, the lightning grew more vivid and appalling in its intensity and brilliancy, the deep tone of the distant thunder came nearer and nearer, seeming to shake the very earth in its onward way.

Then again arose that moaning sound—the storm king was coming, and death and destruction marked his pathway. The clouds suddenly became agitated, than began to assume a rotary motion and a funnel shape, and the awe-stricken citizens saw that ominous cloud move swiftly forward, gathering within its folds, by its whirling motion, all things in its destructive path. It was mid-day, but the darkness began to gather, the gloom to deepen, and the people of Trenton stood spell-bound. The city was directly in the course of the cyclone and nothing but a merciful providence saved a large portion of the town from instant destruction.

The faces of the people assumed a ghastly whiteness, and they stood in a stupor as the whirling clouds came rapidly toward the doomed city. They saw no way of escape. Thus standing awe-stricken, the people gazed at the wonderful sight as though fascinated. They could not turn their gaze away, and they seemed powerless to move. All at once the circular mass careened and broke, that part nearest the earth rising as if being drawn to the larger and blacker clouds above, and passed over the northeast corner of the city, deluging it with a heavy fall of rain. The city escaped, but the clouds again united, taking a northeasterly course, and destruction marked its pathway wherever in its ricocheting motion it touched the earth.

It first struck the farm of John B. Gass, who lived about four miles, northeast of town, and he became the first victim of its terrible power. His orchard was nearly destroyed, the trees, being either torn up by the roots or twisted off, went flying through the air. Two of his children and a farm hand were caught and wounded by flying missiles before they could reach a place of safety. The outbuildings were blown away and his residence lifted from its foundation and turned partly around, but fortunately without being broken. It was a narrow escape for the family. His brother, Lycurgus, had his house partially unroofed and met with some other damage, but nothing very serious.

The storm-cloud again arose and was heard of at other places. It struck near Edinburg, destroying orchards and fences, carrying away farm implements and wagons, nobody knew where, making a pathway bare of every semblance of living things, No lives were lost, but the escapes were sometimes marvelous.

There was a feeling of relief, and a prayer of thankfulness went up from all hearts when the storm swept by and the bright noonday sun appeared, and was welcomed with joy. Some damage was done at Jamesport, Daviess county, just over the county line. Quite a number of buildings were blown down, the fair grounds seriously damaged, and one man severely wounded. This closes the record of the only cyclone which ever visited Grundy county. Other wind-storms have come and gone, have done some damage, but the storm of April 24, 1880, will be known as the only original cyclone ever seen and felt in this section of country, and there is a unanimous hope that it may be the last.
Source:  The History of Grundy County, Missouri: Birdsall & Dean, publ. 1881; Submitted to Genealogy Trails and Transcribed by Andrea Stawski Pack  

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