Articles, News Items, Stories of Tornado’s in Ellis County, Kansas

I’ve included all the information in full, so that those who read this will realize how destructive they were. Of course in reading you will find that it covers more than just the Saline River Valley area.


Plainville Times, May 24, 1917, Plainville, Rooks County, Kansas


Sweeps Narrow Territory From Cochran Ranch On Saline Northeast Through East Edge of Woodston

One of the most extensive tornadoes ever visiting this section crossed the Saline, at the Cochran ranch Sunday evening (May 20, 1917). All the main ranch buildings at the Swenson ranch were destroyed. The destruction of buildings, sheds and barns was about as complete as could have been made.

Not enough was left of the house where Joe Lee lived to tell where the house stood. The furniture was scattered for two miles as far as where Bob Johnson lives two miles north. The family lost all their belongings and clothing except what meager apparel they had on. Fortunately they had left the house and taken refuge in a cement chicken house nearby built in a washed out place in the creek bank. The bank protected them from the fury of the wind.

At the main ranch stone house where O. M. Loveland lives the roof and top story were blown off even with the first story walls. The Loveland family fortunately were gone but three men employed at the ranch took refuge in the cellar and escaped injury.

The large barn about 250 feet long was a total wreck. The fine 40 x 100 ft. two story addition to it recently built was included in the destruction. It was built to accommodate cattle below and have above. All the sheds and outstanding buildings were destroyed. As book-keeper Lintner expressed it, they had left the land the deed called for. Two windmills were cut off at the ground. The monster steel reinforced 20 x 56 cement silo stands in lonely vigil untouched. The storm in its whirling could find no place to get a hold. It is said cement silos are seldom phased by cyclones.

Three horses and a cow were found after the storm was over with broken legs.

The new bungalow and house on the ranch one mile west where Sam Groves lives were untouched.

Harold Campbell a young lad 12 or 14 years old, brother of Mrs. Roscoe Loveland, who was visiting at the ranch had started home horse back across the path of the storm about twenty minutes before it occurred. There was a great deal of worrying over his fate by those interested until next morning when telephone communication was restored it was found he had made it back safe to the ranch and was with the others. The Lee family went to Henry Kleinschmidts who is caring for them until they can again get a house.

The storm passed the Cochran ranch on the Saline nine miles south of Plainville about six p.m. Intervening places with such regularity of time that it was evidently all one storm. Its rising and lowering frequently gave it the appearance of different storms.

At the John Coleman place it picked up a 1 x 12 and drove it endways through a steer killing same.

The barn on the Brison place where Ed Hageman lives was destroyed. At the L. L. Huber place the most damage in that vicinity was done. The house, barn and out buildings were destroyed except a small granary. His farm machinery was demolished.

Fortunately he had $1100 insurance but this will not begin to repair the damage.

The cyclone rose and continued north from the Huber place to the end of the trees near Ora Benedick’s house. Here it arose from the ground and passed him over. It lit again in the Hrabe district.

It is about four miles east of town to where the storm region lies.

The telephone company had sixteen of their large poles broken down beginning there and running east.

Mr. and Mrs. Huber and five children had taken refuge in the cellar when the storm arrived. Part of the house was blown away and the other leaned away over. The cellar wall caved in on them. One of the little boys had his leg hurt. The house is so badly twisted it will have to be completely rebuilt.

From town there appeared to be three storms. The cyclone on the Saline was plainly visable and many were out watching it. Another appeared to form east of town. The third, north of town.

In Geo. Watkin’s vicinity four inches of rain accompanied the storm. Over two inches of hail fell. It was piled against the fences eighteen inches high. So much hail fell that it dammed the lister rows and prevented the corn from washing out.

Parties coming up from the Saline say that hail fell as large as goose eggs.

At the Norris grove where Evangelist Whiston, wife and invalid nephew, Frank Fisher, have been camped, the water arose on both sides of the temporary house where they resided and threatened to carry it away. Hail went through the light roof and Mrs. Whiston started to assist Mr. Fischer to the nearest house over a quarter of a mile away, wading in water nearly knee deep and watching fearful, lest the cyclone would strike them. Mr. Whiston had autoed to Palco that morning to fill his regular appointment and was unconscious of the storm, until he reached Zurich on his return home after evening services. West of Palco only enough rain fell to properly lay the dust. At Plainville an inch fell.

Ben McCarroll’s garage was moved off its foundation and the foundation of his silo cracked. Mr. McCarrolls fences and J.E. Garvins were badly blown down.

Will Smiths stable and most of his buildings were destroyed.

At the Cochran ranch big trees which it would take almost two to reach around were blown down.

The storm formed in the canyon a few hundred rods from the ranch buildings destroyed. After wrecking things there it jumped clear over the Ed Madden ranch and lit again in the Ben McCarroll neighborhood. It was about an eighth of a mile wide. No rain accompanied at the ranch. But the next day they got a soaker. Azel Cochran who had been in Plainville passed the path of the storm a little while before it occurred and was at the bungalow about a mile west. He has remained there since helping to get things straightened out. A large gang of men is at work and are rapidly getting the debris cleared up.

Ora Dougherty had everything demolished. Not even a piece of furniture was left except the head of a sewing machine. Mr. and Mrs. Dougherty escaped by being in a cave. It is said they saved nothing but a very few clothes, a ham of meat and their marriage certificate.

At the L. B. Smith place all the buildings were demolished except the house. They attempted to get chains on their auto to escape but failed and lay in a nearby draw while lumber and sticks were being driven in the ground about them.

Heavy hail is reported towards Woodston.

The cyclone struck the northeast edge of Woodston and tore up barns and out buildings but no residences, though tearing up shingles badly. Several cars were blown from the side track and demolished. Part of the main line track was blown out so the Missouri pacific train had to use the side track in getting through town. Morrow Stahley had all of his outbuildings destroyed and house roof injured. The Mattie Foss house was moved from foundation. Otto Bourbon barn was destroyed. Three windmills were destroyed.


Hi Keas says from his place two storms were plainly visable. He thinks the one that struck the Huber place was different from the one at Ora Dougherty’s. Three inches of rain fell at this place and it hailed for nearly an hour. Just thirty-two years ago the 16th a tornado swept over past his place and Twin Mound ending at a bluff on the Solomon. One lady, Mrs. Grimes lost her life.




IN MAY 31, 1917 ISSUE



Storm Played Many Strange Pranks and Many Unaccountable Happenings


Loss at the Cochran ranch was estimated at $10,000. Mr. Cochran has always been strong on fire insurance but not on windstorm so there was only a few hundred dollars of insurance against wind.

The furniture at the Loveland and Lee homes was a complete loss. An eight foot galvanized watering tank was picked up, crushed, a side board of a wagon was split in two, and then one of the pieces was thrust through the flattened tank, tank and board were carried one half mile and one end of the board was forced into the trunk of a cottonwood tree and the tank was left dangling on the board. The kitchen was lifted into the air and not one trace of it has ever been found, but a large tea kettle that was near the barn placed in the center of the ground where the kitchen had stood. On one of the chiffarobes had set a small aquarium full of water with a gold fish in it. The aquarium was gently placed on the floor of the room, then the stone wall of the house was piled over it. Then these capricious giants took the cook stove. It has never been found. The furniture was rolled up, twisted and crushed and pitched into the yard. In the stock corral were twenty-five head of mules and horses, the fence was blown away, the stock ran out – nothing hurt- but a large windmill tower was picked up, whirled into the air, twisted, mashed, thrown into the corral, and a farm wagon was pitched in, to keep the tower company. A new hundred foot stock shed was wrecked, but an old shed was only stripped of its ridge boards; while the great stone barn standing nearby was demolished leaving it a pile of jabbed stones.

The forest that was located just west of the barn seemed to have angered the storm, for some of the trees had been wrenched from the ground, others twisted and broken, while some had been stripped of their branches. All of this forest wreckage had been left in the little creek running nearby. In order to show contempt for things hundreds of feet of barbed wire were torn from nearby fences, rolled into a large ball and left at the south end of ruined stone barn.

There were five boys in the cellar of the house, not one hurt, and the incubator that was in the basement was not disturbed. It would be easy to mention many other things this storm did to the ranch, but in order to appreciate it make a visit to the scene of disaster, and then you will be able to learn what organized wind on a wild spree can do.


The tornado passed the Cochran ranch at about six o’clock, the Huber place east of Plainville at about six-thirty, and Woodston about 7 p.m. The Argas says:

Last Sunday evening about seven o’clock Woodston was struck by a small cyclone which passed through the eastern part of town and caused considerable destruction of property, but fortunately no one was hurt which would appear almost a miracle to anyone going over the ground the next morning. The storm struck first at Will Morrisey’s tearing down buildings and scattering them in all directions. The wheel was torn from his windmill and carried north about a quarter of a mile and left in a cornfield.

At Mrs. Mattie Foss’ place the house was torn off the foundation, turned partly around and at the southeast corner driven quite a ways into the ground, leaving it partly lopped over. Every window in the house was broken, the chimney torn down and part of the roof taken off. Mrs. Foss and the children were in the house at the time though fortunately not hurt, but had to get out through the windows as every door was wedged fast. The barn was torn down but her cow which was in it received no serious injury. At the Borgan place the house was badly wrecked and partly unroofed, the barn town down, wagons and other implements scattered to the winds. Grandpa LaRues home was also greatly damaged, the deck of Jas. Reeves house was carried away and the chimney smashed down on the floor. The storm picked up one of his horses and carried it about one-half mile and put it down without injury, except a broken tail and a very drabeled appearance. The bunk house at the stock yards was carried south across the siding and laid down on the side lengthwise of the main track. The John Haynes house was taken from its foundation, turned partly round and one corner driven into the ground. The grandstand at the ball park was blown several rods south and landed in a very badly wrecked condition. One shed at the lumber yard was entirely demolished and the other badly damaged. Those receiving smaller damages to windmills, sheds, barns, roofs, outhouses, etc, were: A. Still, Lista Peacock, Mrs. Brown, Tom Henshaw, Went Downing, Jack Michner, and Mrs. Cochell. In forty-five years of western Kansas life this is the closest call we ever received from a cyclone and we are not extending any invitations to come again.

Storm notes from the Record:

The old Yoxall school house on the Medicine collapsed under the pressure of the wind.

W. W. Murphy’s barn in Ash Rock township was wrecked, likewise Jones’ silo.

Some fifty trees at Fred Jones’ place south of Woodston were uprooted. A cement silo was blown over.

The deck roof of Mr. Reeves’ house at Woodston was crushed down on the floor. His horse was blown over 300 yards away.

Frank Murphy’s outbuildings were destroyed. The wind played many pranks. A house had all the shingles torn off, but a porch that ran around three sides of the building was not disturbed.   A barn and horse in it were moved about 50 feet.






A great many thought there was several different tornados in the storm of May 20th. There were evidently two different storms or sometimes three, two miles apart as the storm cloud moved over the country. Yet the time was so regular the storm struck at intervening points between the Cochran ranch and Woodston in the hour it took to travel the distance that it must have been but one. B. F. McCarroll explains the phenomena as follows:

As the storm passed over his place it had the appearance of an immense hollow cone with lover circumference about two miles wide. As it passed over him he ran to the top of the hill and saw it pass on north after it had rolled up his fence. At times he could see as many as three funnels drop down from the cloud at one time. Later saw it unite into one. When it divided into several parts did not do much damage. But when it was united in one the effect was terrible. When the storm cam up Mr. McCarroll and family fled up the canyon hoping to escape it. Instead they ran right into it. They got down in a washed out place in the canyon and the storm passed over them with out hurt. A 16 x 24 shed was moved off the foundation and the base of his cement silo cracked. When he visited the Cochran ranch didn’t think they had much of one at his place after all.





Monday, May 20th, has been considered cyclone anniversary day at Codell. Two years ago a cyclone passed just east of town one mile on the 20th of May and one year ago three miles west, but so far, at 8:00 p.m., no cyclone but thundering and looks like we are going to get a rain.

Note by Editor of Plainville Times:

The above unusual item was written Monday before the tornado and mailed to Times office by W. A. Barry, our correspondent about two hours before the storm struck Codell.

***The following article covered the whole front page of the Plainville Times, May 23, 1918***


The most extensive tornado in the history of this section of the state passed through Monday night about ten o’clock. A heavy two inch rain preceded the wind.

Travelers say they first encountered the work of the tornado southwest of WaKeeney. It traveled northeast, doing great damage in Ellis. Thence on to the Saline where it struck about the main Cochran ranch. Then it followed down the Saline River past Ira Kollman’s place where it seemed to turn north and came into Codell from the south. Then it devastated a strip of territory about seven or eight miles wide on to the Kill Creek country in Osborne county passing to the east of Alton. It did not seem to traverse Smith county as the telephone company was able to get a message from Plainville to Salina next morning via Phillipsburg and Beloit. All wire south and east were out.

All doctors were called out from Plainville to Codell and vicinity Monday night to assist the injured. As soon as Plainville central learned of the tragedy, it kept busy during the night arousing people who had autos and getting men to fill them to go to the work of assistance and rescue.

The storm lasted about forty minutes so that it was unsafe to venture out on account of flying timbers.

Tongue cannot tell or pen describe the fearfulness of the tragedy. About eleven people were killed and hundreds wounded. Thousands of stock were killed and crippled. Poultry is lying dead everywhere and little left in path of storm.

The property damaged in Trego, Ellis, Rooks and Osborne counties will mount into million.

At Ellis, over $125,000 damage was done. At Codell about $50,000. At the Deane ranch $17,000.

The wires of the United Telephone Co. were wrecked from about three miles east of Plainville to about five miles east of Codell, showing something of extent of storm.

As one party says seems like every place hit last year lost this.

Mrs. Walter Adams and Baby Killed

Mr. and Mrs. Walter Adams and little baby were pinned beneath the stone wall of their home near Old Motor townsite. The baby was evidently killed instantly as Walter did not hear it make a sound. His wife who was pinned beneath the rocks kept tugging at his sleeve for a time but he was pinned down in the debris and could do nothing to assist her. She died before help came. Alice Romine who was staying with them fell under a table which protected her and she escaped with slight bruises.

Walter Adams was seriously injured and is not expected to live.

Frank Jones’ Baby Killed and Three Children Seriously Injured

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Jones near the Shiloh Church was totally destroyed. The baby was found laying dead in an alfalfa field some distance from the house. The family dog which had been itself injured was found keeping watch of it. Mrs. Jones was injured and condition serious. Two of the children are very seriously injured and other three hurt. All were brought to Plainville Tuesday together with Mr. and Mrs. L. R. Newlin who were injured. All are being cared for at the home of Mrs. Overholser in the southeast part of town. Alva Cross who was working at the Jones place was also severely injured. He was taken to his home at Stockton. The Jones baby was buried Tuesday in the Shiloh Cemetery. Three of the Jones children worst injured were taken Wednesday to the Hays hospital.

Mr. Jones had taken one of his oldest daughters to Concordia hospital Saturday on account of her having an eye injured by a wire. Upon receiving word of storm, Mr. Jones left Concordia by auto at 11:15 a.m., arriving home at 2:15 p.m. He was almost frantic with grief.

Shiloh Church Destroyed

The Shiloh church was destroyed. Nearly all the tombstones in the cemetery blown down. North from cemetery the osage fence for half mile was uprooted. Osage one foot through were pulled up and roots eight feet long lay bare.

At Andreson place everything is gone except house and that badly damaged. All buildings on C. T. Husted place wrecked. At Andreson’s place where George Glendenning lived not a thing is left.

Babies Seperated from Mothers

The home of Mr. and Mrs. Newlin living on the Frank Demetz place destroyed and both injured. With their little girl who was uninjured they made their way to the home of John Hoskins, one-half mile south. Could not find their baby. Mr. Hoskins went to the place and finally found the little one underneath some boards, uninjured, restoring it to its parents.

All of Mr. Hoskin’s buildings were destroyed except his residence. The injured members of the Jones and Newlin families were taken to his home until transfer to Plainville.

It is said that Mrs. Glendenings baby was blown from her arms. With difficulty she was restrained from going in search. After the storm it was found all right.

Granary Carried Half Mile

At Joe Westhusen place straight east of Plainville the first damage outside to telephone wires is seen on road from Plainville to Codell. Part of his old barn was destroyed. A steel granary which set across the road south of his house lies crumpled up in Elmer Bices pasture about one-half mile southwest of where it formerly stood.

Will Westhusen had all buildings wrecked.

W. R. Powell says there seemed to be two storms at Codell. One from the southwest and one from the northwest. The latter doing the damage.

Codell’s Fine School Building Wrecked. No Insurance.

The fine public school building erected several years ago is a total wreck. Loss on the building is about $5,000. Furniture, $3,000. The district had a fire policy but no windstorm so the loss s almost total. Some furniture can be saved.

M. E. Church and Parsonage

The M. E. Church and parsonage adjoining are wrecked. Loss about $4, 600. No insurance. Rev. Hall and wife had just left the evening before for western Kansas or they would likely have been killed.

The Stackhouse home just north of the parsonage was demolished. The family was in the cellar under the building when the walls fell but were not injured as they had a place built for protection. Loss including barn, about $4,000. No insurance.

Hardly a vestige of the Mrs. Printz residence nearby was left. She was out to one of her farms at the time. A torn up piano lay near where the house had stood.

The Pentecostal church was gone with nothing but floor laying nearby and organ thereon visable. This is the old Quaker church which used to stand north of Codell.

Wm. Splitter sheds where he had goods stored were all tore up and his main store building badly wrecked. His loss was about $2,500. No insurance.

Walt Murphy Injured

Walt Murphy, telephone manager, had his arm badly broken while trying to hold the office door from being blown in. The whole side of the office was blown out. He was taken to Hays hospital Tuesday.

The house where Grandma Wickham recently moved to was destroyed. She was in the cave and escaped injury.

W. A. Barry figures his loss on house about $75, barn $100, store porch $50. He carried insurance.

Mr. and Mrs. Fred Hensey who were just married last week had their house badly damaged and clothing all destroyed. The house which belongs to Albert Bucheister was damaged several hundred dollars. The W. S. Baldwin house adjoining was damaged about $150.

Few Carry Windstorm Insurance in This Section of State

After offering to assist adjust windstorm insurance claims and finding practically non except for bank windows and a few minor claims, Col. Sweet remarked: “It is the same here as at Stockton 95 per cent of the people who insure their buildings against fire do not against windstorms.”

The Gilpin store, hardware, Doak store, Baptist church and former John McReynolds residences were comparatively uninjured.

Hotel No More

The hotel just south of depot is a complete wreck.

How Mrs. Haynes and three small children escaped at Codell hotel is a mystery. A traveling salesman, J. Glassman had a room at the hotel, escaped with an arm badly sprained. He did not know how.

J. W. Jones reports about $150 loss.

J. A. Lesher had about $1,000 damage. No insurance. His out buildings were all destroyed and house badly damaged.

Eugene Bice had outbuildings destroyed. John Coleman suffered great damage.

Virge Richmond lost everything but house. The Harrison house is part standing.

John Overholser’s place was torn all to pieces. He lost last year too.

Tuesday night some rain fell and today more rain is falling, making it bad for people living in the devastated territory as there are few houses but have roofs injured.

Wilber Overholser had nearly $1,000 damage to barn and buildings.

Wm. Wells lost all outbuildings.

Frank Hoaglands barn was destroyed. Al Bice lost north end of his barn.

At the John Hoskins place a pig was cut square in two.

Jos. Hrabe, Sr. had about $150 damage to buildings. He had insurance.

Albert Hrabe lost quite a bit. Joe Hrabe, Jr. had about $1,000. Damage to barn and out buildings.

Art Bessey is reported seriously injured.

Tom Casey was badly injured. Art Besseys building were all torn up.

C. E. Glendenning had house destroyed.

George McCords barn was torn to pieces, house damaged.

At M. C. Bessey place the barn and all out buildings were destroyed. The barn was a new one having been recently built to take the place of that destroyed by fire.

At Guy Hocket place recently bought by S. Carley everything was destroyed. No one was living there.

At Will Conger place a steel granary, garage, etc. were blown down.

At the Reed ranch, big trees were uprooted and sheds torn down.

Ed. Sites lost all buildings but house. P. Jorgenson’s loss was heavy.

A man was found dead in the wreck of his home near Alton, uninjured and likely dying of heart failure.

In Natoma a big barn blew down but 100 sheep in it were uninjured. The big Geo. Preuter barn three miles north of Natoma was destroyed. Six miles northeast of Natoma Attorney Tillman and Rev. Barnard of Osborne were holding a Red Cross meeting in a school house. it and occupants were moved about seventy feet.

Five Members of Geist Family Killed

Four miles southwest of the main Cochran ranch house at the home of Adam Geist, his father and mother and three children were killed. His brother and wife were injured. Mr. Geist passed through the storm at the Deane ranch where he was working.

At the Cochran ranch the property destruction was greater than last year. Three pure bred cows, two horses, were killed.

Deane Ranch Devastated

The fine residence at the Deane ranch, silo, barns, sheds, etc., were totally wrecked.

Henry Klienschmidt lost everything. Lew Gosser his barn, sheds. Machinery and house damaged. At the old Ordway place where D. L. Carmicheal lives, seven mile due south of Plainville much damage was done.

Hugh Carmichael lost all buildings except house. Lost cow, hog and 500 little chickens.

Ben McCarroll had garage moved. At the old Mina Watkins place where C. H. Carmicheal lives, much damage was done.

James Kennedy all outbuildings.

This is the third cyclone visiting Codell vicinity the past three years. All happening on May 20th, and within a few hours of each other. Two years ago one passed on east edge of town. Last year to the west. Monday people were joking and saying: “Well this is Codell’s day for storm.”

Twister Hit Edge of Plainville

A twister struck the edge of Plainville Monday night. Whether it was an off shoot of the one that passed over Codell or another which passed over town and did not strike until it reached the Tomas Mellotte place on the southeast edge of town is not known. In execution it was as bad as any of them. About $3,000 damage was done to the residence. Nearly a thousand dollars more to out buildings, trees, etc. The barn was totally demolished. Windmill wrecked and furniture damaged. The telephone was hurled across the room by some force and narrowly missed striking Mr. Mellotte who had just risen from his chair. It made an ugly dent on the wall just back of where he had sat a moment previous. Mr. Mellotte carried insurance, but Forman Giggey who lives in the house did not and heavy loss. Things which was in a chest in the barn before the storm was found after it was over in the middle of a room in the residence.

Nine Storm Patients in Hays Hospital

Nine patients are now in Hays hospital as result of storm. Two members of Geist family and one man from WaKeeney are included.

Albert Maline had outbuildings destroyed.

Tom McNeeley lost nearly everything.

Art Henn had his barn badly damaged. Also residence. Had both injured. The wind sucked an oil stove out from one room through another and out a large window.




Plainville Times, May 30, 1918

More Tornado News Items


Codell Account of Tornado


W. A. Barry


Well, here we are yet alive and glad of it of course, but busier than a cranberry merchant. However, we must loose some sleep in order to give a small detail of the cyclone which swept through Codell and vicinity Monday night, May 20, 1918, between 10 and 11 o’clock. From early evening storm was threatening and about eight o’clock began to rain and in a short time hail began to fall; both continued until about 10:15. The wind suddenly ceased and in two minutes the cyclone was doing business and for about 20 minutes many thousand dollars worth of property was destroyed. The hotel, M.E. Church and parsonage, the large cement block residence and large frame barn of A. Stackhouse, Mrs. Printz residence, school building, Pentecostal Church, Mrs. Emma Hockett’s barn, B. L. McReynolds tenant house, E. A. Darlands barn, F. W. Splitters barn and W. A. Barry’s barn were totally destroyed, while a great many other buildings were badly injured and scarcely a building in town that was not damaged.

W. S. Murphy, the harness maker, who also has the Telephone office in charge had his right arm broken in two places and badly injured, otherwise was taken to the hospital at hays and is yet in serious condition. One transient man Mr. Glassman had his arm badly bruised in making his escape and first hit the ground about 300 yards away.

The storm came from the southwest. The Gilpin and Beal ranch barn and new house not occupied yet 13 miles southwest of Codell were totally destroyed. On west from there on the Saline river great destruction to property and Mrs. Mary Hoagland’s barn, 5 miles southwest of Codell was blown down, also Geo. McCord’s barn totally swept away and house damaged.

Following the track of the storm as it leaves Codell to the northeast. J. A. Lesher’s house was badly damaged and stable and all out buildings swept away. Next was the far property occupied by Walter Adams. The house was unroofed and stone walls tumbled down, frame barn blown to pieces. Mrs. Adams and 3 year old child killed and Walter badly crippled but is recovering.

W. J. Overholser’s barn on farm where he lives and other out buildings blown to pieces. Also house, barn and out buildings on his north farm occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Workman was destroyed. The Chas. Gucallman property occupied by Earl Snapp and sister was badly wrecked.

The Shiloh Church was destroyed and fence around the cemetery and a number of tombstones torn down. Frank Jones property including house, barn and all out buildings were absolutely taken clean. Mr. Jones had taken one of his children to Concordia to have an eye removed, caused by a wire fracture, leaving Mrs. Jones at home with several small children. After the storm abated they were found in critical condition and one child found in the alfalfa field dead.

J. L. Hoskins barn was blown to pieces and house damaged. This is far as we personally traced the storm path, but of just as great losses each way as we had. So far as I can learn the greater part of the property was without insurance protection. W. A. Barry, agent for the Farmers Alliance Insurance Company of McPherson, Kansas, has 14 losses in his territory. Adjuster Fierce came in Friday of Last week and remained until Monday evening settling claims to the amount of $4,566.31. The Farmers Alliance was the first Insurance Company to get an adjuster on the field.

Outside Help Was Appreciated

Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, Codell was visited by a great number of people from all surrounding towns and country to see the situation and last but not least on Monday of this week even early in the morning automobiles from Plainville, Stockton and Natoma came pouring into town loaded down with good people with tools of every description necessary to clear up the debris caused by the cyclone and by noon over 250 men were running hither and thither clearing up streets and alleys, working practically at wrecked structures, clearing foundations and all such needed work. They also went each way from town some distance in the country on the same mission. I am sure I speak the sentiment of every citizen of Codell and vicinity, when I say that printers ink can not begin to tell, neither can tongue speak in praise and appreciation enough of this kind favor from our neighbor towns and country, our heartfelt thanks and good wishes reaches out to every one who so faithfully labored this day. While we do not hope for an opportunity to repay this kindness, but should a similar disaster fall upon our neighbors, we will do our best to repay.

Codell Items

About all damaged roofs and chimneys have been repaired.

H. O. Darland and family will move into T. W. Lambs house.

Stackhouse moved into Mrs. Asa Lynch’s house in the north part of town.

W.S. Murphy who had his arm broken in two places and in hospital at Hays seems to be slowly improving.

R. W. Mendenhall has leased Chas. Darland’s farm just west of town and will move in as soon as vacated by Chas.

Rev. Hall, pastor of the M.E. Church has moved into the Davenport property in the northwest part of town.

N. R. Zeigler moved his family into E. A. Darland’s house in the northwest part of town since his farm house was wrecked by the cyclone.

Mrs. Haynes and children have been making their home with the Rev. Miller and T. W. Lamb families since the hotel was blown to pieces.

Ed. Bates and family of near Downs, came over Wednesday of last week to see the cyclone wreck and call upon W. A. Barry and family.

Mrs. Reppert, who was visiting her daughter, Mrs. Will Reynolds and family at the time of our cyclone, cut her visit short and came home at once.

Charley Rolfe is the first to begin rebuilding cyclone wreck. He had engaged Mr. McMicheal as chief carpenter and is rebuilding his barn that was unroofed in the recent storm.

I have not learned what the M. E. Church contemplate doing, whether they intend rebuilding the church and parsonage or not, but presume they will. For the present they have made arrangements and are holding services in the opera house.

Walter Adams and sister Mrs. Geo. Glendenning who were seriously injured in the cyclone have been taken to the home of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. L. Adams, east of town to be cared for. Both are getting along as well as can be expected.







A Night of Terror

Written by Clara McIntosh Balls; submitted by Mrs Fred V Balls to the Ellis County Historical Society to be included in the Volume 1 of “At Home In Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992, Page 76


It was the 20th day of May 1918, a usual spring day, some breeze, low feathery clouds floating overhead. We lived on my father-in-law’s farm, E.E. Balls, about 14 miles northwest of Hays. We lived on a ridge, we had a five room house, four frame and a stone room on the south.

The storm started around 8 o’clock. I left my son Fred, 3 mo. Old with my son George 8 and my son James 7, while I went to do the milking. My husband George had gone over to my brothers about 2 miles away, he came home soon after the storm struck. By the time I got back from milking it started to rain and the wind blew hard from the southeast.

Our windmill was close to the house, and the guide-wire was broke and the wheel was sure spinning. I was afraid it would fall and crash through the roof.

I put my baby to bed, and the boys were playing around. George and I were sitting at the table reading. Just before 9 o’clock, George got up and went to the south door and stood there. I got up and went to the door, and all I could see was a heavy black cloud hanging over Hays and continual streaks of lightening. I said they’re sure having a bad storm over Hays.

We came back and sat down to read. George said he remembered the wind dropping all at once. It had been raining hard and blowing all the time. All at once the big glass window in the east side of the stone room crashed in. Not a word was spoken. I ran as fast as I could and grabbed my baby out of bed and ran to the kitchen.

By that time the east door was starting to come in. My husband was braced against it. I hurried and turned off my oil sotve and stepped back in the doorway to the north room. All at once the stone room walls caved in and all the windows went out. Our lamp went out and we were in the dark.

By this time the bedrooms on the east were gone. We were left in the two rooms originally built. It seemed like the heavens above were crashing in on us. We got inside the north room and stood in the northeast corner. I held the baby, the older boys held onto me and my husband put his arms around us and held us all together. When the house started to leave the foundation I screamed, “O my God.”

I will always believe he was with us. It carried us up in the air for almost a quarter of a mile. All this time the house was falling apart. The roof went off and the sides and the northwest corner hit the ground. We were standing in the northeast corner. It threw us up in the air and went over us and turned upside down.

We fell to the ground, we were stunned for a few minutes, then I realized I was lying on my back on the ground. I had ahold of my son James and ahold of my son George. Then I realized I had lost my baby. I screamed, my baby is gone. George had fallen beyond us and the baby beyond him, he began feeling around and found him and said, “I think he is dead.” He pulled him over and laid over him to protect him from the storm. It was raining hard and some hail, it was pitch dark.

Later the wind slowed down, so I could sit up. When it lightninged George seen a rag rug and got the baby to me and I wrapped him in this cold wet rug. I felt him move, and I said, “He is still alive.”

Most of our clothes were torn off us and my slippers were gone. A few pieces of furniture was crushed side of us, and the brick chimney fell in big chunks around us, and barb wire all around us.

My husband crawled around to try and find out where we were at. He found an old road that went through the pasture. He said we will follow it till we can tell where we are at. We came to our pasture gate and we knew where we were at. During this time the wind struck us again and we laid in the deep ditches till it passed over.

When we got to the corner of the field, the Geist family lived close to the corner. When it lightninged we seen their house and everything was gone, so we started through the pasture about a half mile to Bill Harmon’s. It was some ordeal walking with no shoes, slipping and sliding, carrying a baby in the dark only when it lightninged.

We got there. They had a new house, it was torn off the foundation and some windows blown out. We stayed there till help came.

We ahd a beautiful saddle horse, it picked the horse up and carried it 3 miles and dropped it dead in a ditch. Some photos were found 6 miles down the Saline River, and some of the children’s clothes were found miles away.

We lost everything we had except our old Ford, it was in the shed and a 5 gal. Can of oil standing side of it. Everything on the place was gone but the car and oil can wasn’t touched..


Another Destructive Tornado


Picture of the Cyril Schmeidler Home that was destroyed by a twister on May 29, 1959, in Ellis County, KS





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