Cyclone In Lyle

Article Type: 
Publication Date: 
Wednesday, June 16, 1897
Publication Date Is Approx: 


One of the Worst Twisters Ever
Known in Mower County.

A little before 7 o'clock last Thursday evening a genuine cyclone passed across the township of Lyle, moving from the west to the east, producing wide-spread devastation and ruin. It did not seem to travel with hurricane rapidity, traveling ten miles in about twelve minutes, but the funnel shaped cloud, black as night, had the rotary whirl of the genuine cyclone, as it bounded along across the prairies, roaring terribly like a cataract and twisting, lifting and crushing everything in its course. It is said to have originated in Freeborn county, near Lake Mills, and dividing in two sections, moved to the northeast and east, the one branch going toward Alden, the other toward Lyle. The one going northeast did some damage near Alden and in the southern part of Waseca county. The one going east toward Lyle kept above the earth until it crossed the county, line, when it descended, wiping out in a few minutes many prosperous homes and injuring over a score of people. In this county, it followed the road one mile north of the state line, running east and west, directly across Lyle township and did not touch anything to speak of eighty rods either north or south of this road until reached the village. The first house it struck was the farm residence of Mrs. Vic Fonda, which house was turned around and wrecked, and a new barn were blown to pieces. Mrs. Fonda was injured in the face, while the rest of the family was unhurt. Next it struck Julius C. Owen's farm residence. The family took to the cellar. Mr. Owen was just on the last cellar stair when the house was lifted away, and he found himself out on the grass when he recovered his consciousness. No one here was hurt seriously. Mrs. Owen's lip was cut. Here the house, good barns, and everything except one granary was totally destroyed and scattered over the prairie. Not a bit of furniture or anything was saved. Their hired man, Andrew Anderson, was out in the storm and was hurt a little.

Moving east along the roadway, the cyclone struck A. Howard's residence on Woodbury creek. The kitchen leant of the home was torn away and his fine barns, new hog house and other buildings were totally wrecked. His son, Charles Howard, was out near the barns and finding that he could not reach the house lay down behind a rock in the valley and grasped it and was saved. The bridge across Woodbury creek was half of it lifted out bodily. Here stood the Woodbury school house, which is a total wreck, parts of the building, furniture, pupils' books being scattered promiscuously through the fine oak grove to the southeast. Jessie Andrew of Austin was teacher in this district. The large oak and other beautiful trees in this grove were twisted off like willow limbs. At the four corners east, near the Cedar river bridge, was the home of Carl Severson, it being a good house. This was totally demolished, with contents, as well as all out buildings, some of the farm machinery, wagons and furniture. Pieces of heavy timbers were found a quarter of a mile away, and for over half a mile the fields were strewn with broken furniture and trees and lumber. The ruins of this residence lie partly to the southwest, showing clearly the rotary motion of the storm cloud. Mr. Severson was injured about the head and skull and also internally. The family were in the cellar and escaped. This house was owned by Chris Johnson of Mona, Iowa. Barnum's, just north, escaped injury, as did also Beach and St. John, just south. The trees on all sides of the bridge across the Cedar are broken and twisted but the bridge was uninjured except the loosening of the railing on the south.

Crossing the Cedar river, easterly, the house and barn of William Stipes on the north side of the road were totally wrecked. Mrs. Stipes is badly hurt and not expected to live. Mr. Stipes was hurt some bad about the head. The new house of Mrs. Emma Berg, widow, and daughter of Joe Wybourney, in the same grove, was totally destroyed. The family were in the old house and escaped.

Ole Rudning lost his barn and machine shed, and some of the machinery was damaged. He estimates the damage to his twelve acre strip of timber, which was broken up beyond recognition, at $1,000.

On the south side John Johnson's house was swept away. The family, being in the cellar, escaped.

Joe Wybourney's house, barn, and everything but the granary were entirely swept away. The family escaped by taking refuge in the cellar. One horse was carried half a mile and landed without injury.

Next east was Henry C. Hanson's place. He (with his wife and child) was in the barn at the time milking. He was killed outright, his lifeless remains being found forty rods away from the barn and Mrs. Hanson and little child were injured. Nothing but an indiscriminate mass of broken lumber, furniture, clothing and his other possessions scattered over the prairie remains of his house, barns and other buildings. In the house was a pocket book, said to contain $190 in blils. The pocket book was found with the money stripped out of it except one $10 bill which lay beside it.

At Minnereka four corners, two miles west of Lyle village, stood the large school house, which was demolished.

The house and farm buildings of Christian Peterson, on the old Shellbach place in the same grove, were demolished. Mr. Peterson is aged, and is hurt so badly that he will probably die. His two sons, Peter and Mads, were badly hurt.

All the out-buildings and fine grove of Arne Larson, on the old Potter place, are ruined and the house is stripped of shingles.

Going towards Lyle village, the outbuildings and wind-mills of August and John Weber, north of the road, were destroyed.

Willis Bryan's house, sheds, barn, a new self-binder, furniture, fine lot of shade trees and orchard, in fact everything (on the old Gaukel farm) were swept away. No one was seriously hurt, as the family were in the cellar, though Mr. Bryan's head was cut somewhat by falling stone. Hearing the storm, he rushed them into the southwest corner of the cellar and stood over them with his hands and head against the wall to protect them from any danger. When the whirlwind struck his house, it was lifted into the air and the foundation stone came in upon him. His head was badly cut and his foot was pinned to the cellar bottom by it.

Half a mile due west of Lyle village G. Lenth had an old barn, used for a storehouse for machinery, etc., blown down. The north side of his cattle shed was torn off. He and his were all in the basement of the large barn at the time. The immense structure was lifted six inches from the foundation and then set back again, but not without damaging the upper part of the barn quite a little. The wind-mill was twisted so that it will not run. Great holes were dug into the ground over his farm.

This makes nine farm houses destroyed, two others injured, and over a score of barns, granaries and other out-buildings demolished in the country west of Lyle village, with one person killed, four badly hurt and six less seriously injured.


The storm struck the north part of Lyle village with terrific fury. The darkness which suddenly fell over the town was something terrible. The clouds looked black and wicked. Most of the people who had cellars sought refuge in them and were saved. The storm came on gradually and all might have been prepared had everyone really thought it was to be so severe. The most damage was in North Lyle. Several box cars lay overturned and damaged. Gruenberg' glass front was ruined. Lewis Oleson's brick store was damaged on the east. Hedemark's shoe store was moved off the foundation. Chris Christian's new residence, which was nearly enclosed, now lies a ruined mass, with part of the foundation pounded up into small bits. All these were on Grove street. Chimneys were blown off a number of buildings. B. D. Hedemark and his son, Ole Hedemark, both received damage to their new residences. Thov. Oleson, Dr. Frasier, Peter Hansen and Fred Fischer lost barns. The houses of Dr. Frasier and Mr. Fischer were damaged. Dr. Frasier lost a great many large window lights; two hundred chickens were killed, and a cow seriously hurt.

Peter Hansen was building right north of Dr. Fraiser. He had put up his barn and had moved his family into it. His house was about to be built. His foundation to it is ruined in places. Mr. Hansen was entertaining friends at the time the storm broke. All were seriously injured. In the ruins were noticed, the next morning, the organ, stoves and large furniture almost unrecognizable, yet a pail full of eggs stood unharmed; also fruit in glass jars. The fruit looked as tempting and fresh as ever. A bunch of deeds and legal documents was found on a board all untied, but still together. Bed springs were found hanging on fence posts. Boards and rails from the railroad flat cars were driven into the ground in the fields.

Fred Fisher's home is quite a wreck. The porches are twisted and broken, the house moved from the foundation a few inches. A timber was driven through the upstairs west window, then into the wall and straight up through the roof. The bedstead was made into kindling wood. A piece of it was found in the kitchen. In getting there it had to turn two corners and it is a wonder in some minds how it ever reached its destination. In the room upstairs opposite, two windows were blown out and the mattresses from two beds which were in the room were sent out and found in the field. The walls are one picture of driven mud and water. The people were all in the cellar and no one hurt.

Henry Peterson's house is a total wreck. Charles Larson was the tenant. Mr. Larson was injured badly and Mrs. Larson's spine and face were hurt. Their baby was picked up in the field with its cheeks cut open.

Sherman's lumber from his yard was scattered over a wide area. The city hall was moved.

The wheel to the city water tank has taken its last spin, which must have been a rapid one, for it is out of sight.

The rain which came with the wind and followed it was a "beater." When the wind didn't drive people blind the rain almost accomplished it.

The town was without a doctor at the time, the physicians being all out in the country. Trains brought relief after a few hours. Physicians from St. Ansgar, Mitchell and Osage arrived and eased the suffering. Wires were down, so for a time no aid could be gotten from Austin.

Among the injured are:
Mr. Peter Hanson.
Mrs. Peter Hanson.
Robert Hanson.
Hanson child.
Charley Larson.
Mrs. Larson and baby.
Mrs. C. R. Hughson.
Mr. and Mrs. Brooks of Clarinda, Iowa.
Mrs. Dr. Frasier.

Robert Hanson was seriously hurt in the forehead. Mrs. Brooks, a daughter of Mrs. C. R. Hughson, had her spine hurt. Mrs. Frasier's hand was smashed. Mr. and Mrs. Peter Hanson and little girl were also seriously injured.

None were killed in town.

It was very providential that the village escaped as easily as it did. Had the storm gone twenty rods further south it would have swept the entire town away.

The storm continued further east, but nothing except a few wrecked barns and out-buildings are reported. The barn of Mrs. Hannah Nelson, widow, was destroyed. The barns of Chris Meyers and Carl Stute were badly wrecked. Frank Ullwelling's barn was blown away. Rev. L. M. Eggen and others lost their wind-mills.

The following is a list of the total of injured:
Killed- Henry C. Hanson.
Badly hurt- Mrs. William Stipes, Christian Peterson, Peter Petereson, Mads Peterson, Robert Hanson, Carl Severson, Mrs. Charles Larson- 7.

Less severely wounded- Mrs. Vic Funda, William Stipes, Mrs. Henry C. Hanson and child, Willis Bryan, Peter Hanson, Mrs. Peter Hanson, Hanson girl, Mrs. C. R. Hughson, W. R. Brooks, of Clarion, Iowa, Mrs. W. R. Brooks, Charles Larson, baby of Charles Larson, Mrs. W. A. Frasier, Mrs. Fred Fisher-15.

The sight on the prairie along the track of the storm is indescribable. Many of the fields on each side of the road are covered with debris of every conceivable description. In some places the fallen trees had to be chopped out of the main road to allow travel. Size and weight made no difference in the destruction, groves and buildings, machinery, houses, vehicles, lumber, timber, furniture, clothing and some dead animals lying promiscuously scattered around. The community devastated is for the most part a prosperous farming locality and many of the losers will be able to rebuild, but several must be aided to get through.

It is wonderful that no more were killed and hurt. Those who fled to the west corners of their cellars all escaped serious injury. We hope that we may never again have to chronicle the details of such a calamity in this locality.

There was a heavy rain storm which preceded the cyclone, accompanied by thunder and lightning and some hail.

It is estimated that five thousand people visited the ruins last Sunday. All day long there was a perfect procession of teams moving both ways along the road from Lyle village west to the county line.

We were informed by one who was in the cellar under a house which was blown away that the passing cloud was so black and dark and there was such a whirlwind of dust accompanying it that there was no perceptible contrast in light for a short time after the cellar was so suddenly uncovered.

The Lyle Tribune came out promptly on Friday morning with full list of damage to property and to persons.

Across the road from A. Howard's residence great trees three feet in diameter were twisted off close to the ground.