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The Beanville (Shongo) Cyclone

From clippings taken from Olean Times Herald newspaper, September 3, 1990.

Transcribed by Ron Taylor, 2018-Current Alma Town Historian.

Beanville Shongo Cyclone

(Above Photo) SHONGO, FORMERLY Beanville, is seen here in 1910, 26 years after the big storm. In the distance are some farm buildings. To the right, there used to be a little lake, where Chief Shongo and his family settled when they moved to Beanville. His wife is buried nearby. After the great storm and the village being named Shongo, the people quickly rebuilt the community. The photo was given by Norman Ives by his uncle, the late Clarence Hunt, son of Flora Gardner Hunt and grandson of Ellis Gardner, who was killed in the great storm. The photographer is unknown. (Photo Courtesy of Norman Ives.)

The Beanville (Shongo) Cyclone

By Norman Ives

On Sept. 28, 1884, Beanville residents suffered a cyclone that has lived through the years as the greatest horror of this area.

One of these terrible cyclones that often sweep over parts of the West and Mid-west, destroying everything in its path, hit the village of Beanville, situated about eight miles south of Wellsville, that Sunday evening. More than 20 buildings were leveled.

The force of the cyclone was so terrific that it twisted and broke large beams and sent them through the air. Boards and timbers from the demolished structures were later found more than a half-mile away. The storm lasted just a few minutes, but it seemed like hours, my grandmother said.

Willis Gardner and Mrs. Edward Pratt were killed instantly. Thirteen others were wounded, some severely. John Elliott, son of Dr. A. A. Elliott, died from his injuries a few days later.

Horses, cattle, and poultry were taken up by the fierce winds, hurled violently to the ground, and killed. Huge trees were uprooted; the general scene of destruction marked the path of the whirlwind.

AT ABOUT 6 p.m., those who chanced to look to the southwest observed a mass of clouds of ink-like blackness, much the shape of a large balloon. As it came nearer, the huge cloud resembled a big funnel with the point on the ground. It was traveling with great rapidity.

 Suddenly with a huge, roaring sound, the destroyer cloud burst upon the village. Darkness enveloped the town. The wind was deafening, punctuated by the crashes of buildings. Those who lived through the experience said it seemed to take an age for the storm to pass.

The path of the storm was about 15 rods wide, but where it began and ended its work was not known. Some said the cyclone was born near Mt. Alton, PA, a few miles south of Braford. To the north and east the storm touched down at Wellsburg, a short distance from Elmira.

At the former place, six buildings were destroyed but no lives were lost. At Wellsburg, houses and barns were unroofed and orchards were blown down, but again, no one was injured or killed.

The cyclone apparently struck Beanville at the height of its fury and power. It rushed over the hill, west of the village, uprooting stately hemlocks and plowing a furrow as it went. The storm struck the old carding mill nearly opposite Gee’s hotel and moved it off its foundation, badly damaging the building. It also hit the gristmill owned by E. J. Farnum of Wellsville and the tavern owned by Dan Bess. The Gee hotel barn was moved 10 feet, and the roof was crushed.

MEN, WOMEN, and children panic-stricken. Screams rose above the sound of the storm. When the wind at last subsided, those who escaped looked in amazement on the path of destruction, death, and ruin. Amid the wreckage lay their dead and wounded neighbors, their clothing torn to shreds. Broken boards, furniture , and household goods shattered and piled in confusion and havoc.

Twenty-nine buildings were destroyed. Property loss was estimated at $15,000.

Among the injured were Mr. and Mrs. Edgar Peet; Dr. A.A. Elliott with his wife and three children, Anna Lancaster, Auston Kemp, Duane Kemp and his wife; Edward Pratt, the husband of the woman killed; and Edward Brundage with his wife and two children.

(Norman L. Ives [1923-2007], Alma town historian, got a first-hand account of the incident from his grandmother, Flora Gardner Hunt, who was 16 when the storm hit.)

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