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Oconto County WIGenWeb Project
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Flash From The Past - 1877
contributed by Gloria Olson

A Tornado 

Passes over Oconto County.



Terrible Destruction to Farm Property

6 Killed and 32 Wounded

Swift Destruction

   "Twas not a trackless wind, but one which left behind it a broad and well marked track of destruction, of ruin, of death, of misery, such a track of fearful and impartial ruin as - with one single exception tthat of Oct., 1871 (Great Peshtigo Fire) — was never before made by the events within the borders of the State of Wisconsin. At between four and five o'clock the afternoon of Saturday the 7th inst. the Sky became overcast with black and threatening clouds, flash after flash of blinding lightening chased each other through the murky air, peal after peal of deafening thunder shook the firmest buildings to their very foundations, and reverberated with terrifying distinctness, with two short intervals, the rain decended in torrents for about one hour,when it ceased and immediately the clouds to on a peculiar and indescribable appearance which all who beheld it instinctively knew portended danger and destruction. The clouds in the northern heavens were moving westward with fearful velocity, and in the northern heavens they were moving westward  with frearful velocity, and in the southern heavens they were moving eastward with equal speed. At a point ten miles west of Oconto, and near the big ill just east of Stiles,, the two swift currents of air met, and after a few moments opposing of their fearful forces they united in a swift round dance of desolation and destruction.  The result of the union of those opposing forcesi was visible from many miles, taking; tlie form of an invertedl funnel with the papearance of leqaden colored mist, which apparently remained stationary for a munute or two, as if deliberating in its choice of victims. Its track was quickly chosen,  moving south east it crossed the Oconti  riverr near the residence of Mr. Peter Plain it dismantled the barns on the farm Thos. Duffy. Now fully off on its careen of vandalism it seemed to fairly laugh at such obstructions as human hands had built in its way. The largest trees in course were broken like pipe stems, or uprooted and hurled to incredible distances, striking 6the wing to the residence of the Rev. O.B. Clark it demonstrated to the Rev. gentleman "how frail are all things here below,"
next in its track it hurled from its foundations the new residence of Mr. Milton Weaver; further on the 

barn of Peter Rosoncrantz, the barn and black-smith shop and cattle sheds of John Harting and one barn of John Traverse were demolished yet a little farther and it struck the residence and barn of Charles Ritter, seriously perhaps fatally injuring Mr. Ritter, and utterly destroying his buildings, next came the residence of Squire J. A. Glynn, which was struck on the south-west corner, demolishing the kitchen, and badly bruising Mr. Glynn by falling brick, here one of Mr. Glynn's sons, a half grown lad was lifted to the height of twenty-five feet in air, and carried a distance of forty five feet rods and depositied in a Rye field, he was found badly frightened, but unhurt and entirely destitute of clothing. Across the ravine it struck and damaged the residence , and destroyed the barn of the Widow Davis, At this point, seemingly tired of buffeting with barns and houses, the Tornado quit the clearings and entered the unbroken forest to test it's strength with mightly trees which had stood up unbroken before the storm of centuries with a rushing, roaring defiant soune it grappled with the giant trees, and hurled then like play-things from its path, on throught the woods it mowed a swathe, clean as any which reaper ever cut in a harvest field, until it arrived at the village of Lower or East Pensaukee, when as if maddened by the resistence offered by the three or four miles of timber through which it came, it darted with redoubled fury on the doomed village and commenced in earnest the fearful work of destruction at which it had before been out playing.

   The first obstacles which here presented to its fury were the School House, a commodious and strong structure,  the large and heavy residence of Peter McGovern, and the tine residence of Joseph Blackbird the two first on the south, and the last on the north side of  the  Pensaukee   River. The large School House was  hurled to atomss as though it had been a card house. McGovens house was unroofed, the  west side blown out and  what remained was lifted from its foundation,, turned completely round and let down in the road some  6 rodss away,   Mr.   Blackbird's  house was completely annihilated, even the foundation and sills havenot yet been found, the bridge across the Pensaukee at this point was totally destroyed.  The  village ofj Pensaukee proper was situated about 80 rods (1 rod is just over 6 feet)  east, or towards the Bay shore,  from the bridge and buildings just spoken of, and consisted.of the finest hotel in  Northern Wisconsin, one large Gang Saw Mill, Plaining  Mill, Flouring  Mill.   Machine shop, one large general  store,— just filled with new stock of goods - one very large boarding Ihouse,. two   large,  and several smal barns, .Rail Road Depot buildings,  and about 25-dwelling houses, all of which were partially or totally destroyed; the proportion of partially destroyed being to the whole number as one is to ten.   There was in stack and on scows in the place some 300,000 feet of  manufactured   lumber,   bellonging to F. B. Gardener and A. Eldred of: which not 13,000 feet will ever be available. The goods in the store were the property of Mr. A. Baptist, and are nearly a total loss.    The steam tug John Spry, one of the best on northern waters, was razed to her main deck,  her  machinery, being badly damaged, even the paddles were blown from the 

wheels, one scow capable of holding 125 thousand feet of lumber was capsized, also a large barge lies bottom up in the river. The Smoke Stacks of the mills and steamers can not be found, and probably are at the bottom of Green Bay. A 4,000 lb safe which stood in the store was carried fifteen or twenty feet, the heavy Rail Road bridge was moved eight inches out of position. The badly shattered depot building was set astride the track.
   The furniture from the Gardner House - or in the portion of it left standing - was winrowed on the east side of the rooms and smashed into kindling wood. A large Organ was in the parlor, of which no trace can be found. Cattle were taken into the air and carried a distance of 45 rods and thown down lifeless. A plow was driven into the ground to the very beam, and made to turn a perfect furrow of that depth for a distance of 15 rods.

   Strong wagons and carts were broken into fragments with the same apparent ease with which the fragile buggies beside then were broken.

   Heavy logging sleighs were torn in pieces and scattered in every direction.

    Pieces of boards and timber were driven through the sides of the steamers, and through the wall of the brick hotel as easily as shot from a Colombaid could have been.
   In fact, without warning, and in 1 1/2 minutes time, the once busy and pleasant village of Pensaukee was whirled out of existance, and its site literallu covered with the broken remains of its once comfortave homes, and many  families who five nimutes before were in comfortable circumstances, found themselves wihout where with to cover their nackedness, or satisfy their hunger.

   Shortly after the Tornado had completed its terrible work the southern bound express arrived at the Pensaukee crossing; being unable to cross, the conductor at once backed the train to Oconto and there took on all the Physicians that could be found in the city, medical, and other stores with many citizens who volunteered their assistance and their means. And many willing hearts and ready hands spent Saturday night in minisitering to the wounded, and caring for the dead.

   Ever since the calamity a constant influx of visitors have been arriving at the scene, all bringing sympathy, and many bringing more substantial aid to the sufferers.
   It is estimated that up to date of this writing (Wednesday morning) from five to seven thousand persons have visited the scene of the ruin.
   From the best data at hand we estimate the causualties to be as follows;

Louis Zanta, age 35 years; Lizzie Zanta, aged 6 months; Albert Blackbird aged 7 years; Mrs. E. Chesly aged 28 years; Ger. Farley aged 2 years; H. Baumgartner aged 9 years.

Chas. Ritter, J A Glynn, M Weaver, Geo. Hybblamb, Jos Reynolds, Mary Dinzie, Jos. Laville, G Halsey, W H Varley, Mary Varley, Frank Varley, Henry Last, John Dinzie, Wm Baptist Jr., Albert Guskey, Minnie Guskey, Wm Baptist Sr., Martin Dale, Mrs. Coleman, Willie Powers, Phebie Blackbird. Killed 6, wounded 32.
   Our information as to loss of buildings is somewhat conflicting, but the number must be about 50. The loss in stock  was considerable, and in fences and growing crops the aggregate loss is very great, and will fall with almost crushing weight on some of the sufferers.
   It was a sad calamity, one of the heaviest that has fallen on this community, and we sincerely hope it may never be our lot to record another like it.
   Since writing the above we learn that the buildings of John Lucas at Little River were entirely demonished.
   The family were not hurt, though stripped of all their possessions but simply the farn on which they reside.
Sun Stroke
Monday last Wm. Krager at work in the harbor loading vessels, was sun struck. He was brought to the store and medical aid summond. At last account he was doing well.
Card of Thanks
Jas A Glynn of the town of Oconto wishes to return his sincere thanks to the friends and neighbors who assisted him in rebuilding frnces recently swept away by the tornado, and other material aid so cheerfully rendered.
Relic of Pensaukee
   Our enterprising photographer G W Wilcox has taken some very fine views of Pensaukee as it appeared immediately after the Tornado. Call at the Codery and procure the best and only souvenir of this distressing event.
County Real Estate.
   We have compiled the following statement of the numer of acres of land in the different towns upon whoch the county now holds deed. These lands embrace some of the best farming lands in Oconto County and can be obtained for a mere nominal price. A bif inducement is offered to those wishing to become actual settlers.
Town of Oconto         14,440 acres
        "    Pensukee        5,440  "
        "    Marinette      12,720  "
        "    Gillett            12, 440 "
        "    Peshtigo           4,400  "
        "    Stiles                7,400  "
        "    Little Suamico 3,480  "
   Dr. H Allen for many years a resident of our city, removed with his family Thurdsay last to Milwaukee where he intends to make his future home. The Dr. is a skillful Physician and Surgeon, and during his stay with us he has build upo a immense practive. We with his hosts of friends wish him all the success he merits in his new field of labor, and hope that our loss may be his gain.