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County History

Major Storm Hits Allegany County, July, 1920

The article is from the Wellsville Daily Reporter, July 24, 1920. Photographs are from various sources. Researched, compiled, and transcribed by Stephen Sweet.

Allegany County Swept by Terrific Hurricane, Cloud Burst and Lightning

A Night of Terror Leaves Death and Destruction in Its Wake--Surrounding Towns Suffer Great Damage--Morning Dawns Upon Scenes of Devastation Covering a Wide Range of Territory--Some Homes Are Saddened by the Loss of Loved Ones, Stricken by Death Through the Fury of the Elements.

 

Main Street, Andover, N.Y.

The violent windstorm, approaching a cyclone in many sections, and accompanied by the most continuous thunder and lightning of any storm this year, swept over a portion of Allegany county and covering a territory thirty to forty miles wide north and south, uprooting trees, wrecking buildings and practically sweeping down every bit of standing grain and hay. It was the most disastrous storm in many years, and for hours the heavy rain accompanied by hail swept through this section. The first storm broke shortly before 10 o'clock and lasted perhaps an hour, The second storm came shortly after midnight and for hours it rained torrents. All small streams went over their banks long before morning and the highways that are not washed out are strewn with demolished trees.

Several lives are reported lost, many people being caught, by falling timbers, or trees, while a large number of buildings were struck by lightning and burned. How great the damage is will not be known for several days, as every telephone wire is down, with the exception of the lines leading to Bolivar. The Allegany Telephone, Company had a large crew of men at work at daylight, and as fast as possible temporary connections are being made.

 McAndrews Farm on Baker Road, Town of Ward

The most of the damage seems to have been north of Wellsville, in the villages of Scio, Belmont, Friendship, Fillmore, Alfred, Andover and other nearby places. South of Wellsville there was little damage from the wind, but the storm was terrific and most every standing crop was leveled to the ground, while hundreds of acres of potatoes were washed out. The Genesee river rose rapidly and in many places it spread over the lowlands within a few hours after the storm. Reports from everywhere are the same as to damage to crops, especially to oats and hay, and cornfields are flattened down as if run over by a roller. When the storm first broke many people wisely took to the cellar, and waited until the worst was over, while in some houses the buildings were so badly racked that they were unable to open the doors leading to the cellar. Many who were caught out in the storm had narrow escapes. The Mattison bus leaving Wellsville for Belmont at 10 o'clock and filled with passengers caught the brunt of the storm between Riverside and Scio, and was held up by a shortage of gasoline. Had the bus been running on time it would have reached Scio village directly in the path of the storm and the delay seems to have been a most fortunate one for the passengers.

Scio in the Path

Portions of Scio village appeared to be in the direct path of the violent storm, which came from the southwest. On the J. D. Potter farm, near cottage bridge, the immense big barn was torn in two and the upper half and roof scattered over the road and along the river bank. The large horse barn across the road and the shed adjoining were unroofed, while a large hay barn back on the hill was badly damaged. Some thirty tons of hay in the big cow barn is thoroughly soaked through and will probably be ruined. Mr. Potter's loss will be over $10,000, but he is thankful that his house escaped and that no lives were lost.

Photo submitted by Diane Converso, former Wellsville Town Historian; From Stewart Studio, Wellsville; Unknown Location.

In the main part of Scio the brick front was blown off the Coyle store 
and the roof damaged; while other 
buildings lost chimneys, porches and portions of roof.

At the west end of Scio village the homes of Marle Fuller, W. J. Flint and O. P. Clark were all struck by lightning just a few minutes before the heavy windstorm broke. On the Flint farm, in addition to the house being partially wrecked, the cow barn was unroofed and the horse barn badly damaged. There are only three trees left standing in the Flint orchard and yard, the wind making a complete clean-up.

On the Marle Fuller place the house is completely shattered, the top of the roof being torn off, every window light broken, while two small buildings on the place have not yet been found. The barns and other outbuildings were all badly wrecked. Across the street, from the Fuller place lived Percy Clark, and the barn is unroofed and badly twisted, while the house is wrecked by lightning and wind, and nearly every tree is blown down. The damage to these three properties alone will run into thousands of dollars.

Across the river on the back road leading to Belmont there is similar damage for a distance of half a mile. The cow barn of C. B. Youngs was unroofed, as were other buildings along this road down as far as the Cline place, while hundreds of trees on the side hill and along the road were broken off or uprooted.

Reports of similar damage up the Vandermark come in, but nothing definite can be learned, as all wires are down. It was reported that the large barn of Elmer Black on the Vandermark was unroofed and that his house was also badly damaged. While other large buildings on the Plum Bottom road were in the path of the violent storm.

At Tucker's Corners, half way between Belmont and Belvidere, the wind demolished two of the pine groves and many orchard and shade trees, near the Hanchett farm, while a barn further west on the Milton Evingham place, was unroofed and partly demolished.

Little Child Killed

It is reported that the young child of Lewis Bentley, living on the Plum Bottom road, north of Belmont, was killed in the storm, but no definite details could be secured today.

Storm at Andover

Looking East from Church Street in Andover at Masonic Temple

Andover. July 24. —-A most terrific electric storm passed over this town about midnight last night, accompanied by wind and hail, and when it passed it left our whole village a mass of wreckage, entailing a loss of many thousand dollars. Trees were uprooted and blown down, roofs torn off, store fronts torn out and gardens laid fiat.

The storm came from the south and covered quite an extent of territory. Farm houses and barns in this vicinity were completely wiped out, besides laying all crops flat on the ground.

While the whole town suffered serious loss, Main street business places and residences were the hardest hit. Among the greatest losses were F. C. Vars. Jewelry, entire building wrecked; G. H. Beebe, store front wrecked and part of roof gone; Mrs, Mabel Williams, store front blown in, C. E. Brown residence, part of roof gone; J. D. Cheeseman, roof damaged, also stock; Brundage Drug Co., front wrecked; American House, part of roof off; News Printing House, windows broken and roof damaged. Several other residences were badly damaged by roofs blowing off and windows broken.

One of the losses that will be hard to repair is that of the Village Park, where most of the beautiful grove was laid in waste. The building of the Clay Cutlery Co., just being re-roofed and repaired, is again roofless, the big chimney blowing over and smashing the roof in.

Report from Friendship

Reports from Friendship show a large part of that village has been storm swept. The Shawmut station was completely demolished, while the Erie station and the Drake Hardware plant were unroofed. Generally through the town there was wreck and ruin, many buildings being partially unroofed, chimneys torn down, while hundreds of shade trees are strew along the road. The Wellsville Casket factory was damaged considerably, but not enough to interfere with the continuation of work.

The village of Fillmore 30 miles north of Wellsville, is said to be severely storm swept, with hundreds of trees down and buildings unroofed or wrecked by the storm. No details are obtainable at this hour.

Pingrey Hill Nearly Barnless

Report from Pingrey Hill, a well settled farming community northwest of Andover says only one barn is standing, all the others being wrecked by the wind. 

It is an open question whether there was ever a worse storm here than the one which visited Wellsville and vicinity last night.

Early in the evening there were occasional flashes of lightning and distant rumblings of thunder, accompanied by a few spatters of rain, but about 9 o'clock' the symptoms increased until there was no break between the flashes, but it was more like one continuous display, while the distant thunder continued to rumble without let-up, which in itself was ominous.

This continued to increase in intensity [until] soon after 10 o'clock the storm broke in all its fury, and Wellsville ran to cover, though in one or two cases the force of it stalled automobiles in the middle of Main street, while the rain descended in torrents, and before windows and shutters could be closed, many a carpet, was soaked.

The trees rocked to and fro until it seemed impossible for them to withstand the onslaught another moment, and many did succumb.

Usually this sort of a hurricane is soon over with. It has its say so, and quits, but not so with this one. It seemed to increase in fury as the hours sped by, and at one or two o'clock this morning the storm was still raging, and there was very little sleep for our people after that hour, for the occasional crashes in the yards and neighborhoods made them wonder just what conditions the daylight would reveal.

And well they might wonder, for when morning came, although, the storm had done its worst, and the sun shone brightly, it revealed a badly-littered town. Every street bore testimony to the violence of the tornado. Not a residence in town but was surrounded by the litter from broken branches and scattered leaves to full-sized trees a foot or two in diameter. It would be impossible to enumerate the long list of sufferers, but in many instances large shade trees were blown directly across the street, some of them tearing up the turf and sidewalk with the roots, and many of the trees carrying the telephone and electric light wires with them.

If there was a leak in the roof of any building it showed up last night, for if the first hour or two of driving rain did not find it. the [third] and fourth hours did, and many a cellar was a pond, that is bone dry ordinarily.

An abundance of hail was mixed with the rain, but the stones were not large enough to break many windows.

Severe at Elm Valley.

The storm seems to have been particularly severe at Elm Valley, especially the lightning, where it was accompanied by loss of life.

Carl Will Killed.

Carl Will, of Elm Valley, was caught by a beam when their house collapsed and killed, while the other members of the family were thrown into the cellar.

George McAndrew was struck and injured, while his barn and house were torn to pieces. Archie Baker's, barn, which stood some distance from his house, and was 60 x 90 feet, square, was picked up and smashed.

Andrew Braunschweiger, of Hanover Hill, lost a cow and calf by lightning.

The Belmont bus left Wellsville about 10 o'clock, but became stalled this side of Scio, and had to be towed into Walton's.

Scio Suffers

Scio suffered greatly not only in the loss of trees and the tearing up of roadways, but in damage to buildings. Among the latter is the large barn of J. D. Potter & Co., the roof of which was torn off, and the [--] front of the Coyle Hardware Store blown off, and the roof of Farwell's Barber Shop damaged so that the contents of the shop were soaked and the chimney blown off the Methodist church.

Friendship Hard Hit

Word comes from Friendship that the town got its full share of the doings, and all the other towns down
the line were also roughly handled.

Andover Badly Damaged.

Andover suffered greatly with all the rest, though between there and Hornell no serious damage is reported, but later reports may reveal additional disaster in that direction.

Just how far the storm reached cannot be ascertained, as the wires are all down, but it is feared that it is in no wise local.

From present indications it would seem that, roughly as Wellsville was handled, she seems to have escaped better than her neighbors have done, for which she is to be congratulated and should be duly thankful.

Gusts

Madison Street is always open for engagements at a time of high water by reason of the stream that crosses at its head and overflows upon the slightest provocation, Last night's rain left its mark in no uncertain manner, for the dirt and gravel are pretty well cleaned off, leaving the gutters a mass of stones, and the road not much better.

Every rake in town is in use today, and every team in town is busy hauling away the rubbish, in order to get the homes in presentable shape for Sunday.

Gardens were fearfully mauled, and flattened. Some of them may stand up again, but much of the corn, potatoes, beans and peas is down for good.

Dyke's Creek was over its banks in many places and the river raised from very low to very high in a remarkably short time, though it lacks several feet of being a record breaker.

A large tree was blown down, on the lawn at the Jones Memorial Hospital, though fortunately the beautiful grove of beeches were not injured.

Commissioner Hull was on the job early this morning with all the city teams, clearing away the fallen trees where they obstructed the street, so that traffic was soon resumed.

Island Park was largely a lake and no picnics were in evidence, unless they, were in gondolas.

Joe Gonter reports that he accompanied a party of friends to Andover last evening, but that they got stalled and had to remain there until morning. He reports that Andover was very roughly handled by the storm.

Immense damage was done to growing farm crops. A large quantity of hay was ruined and much growing grain was laid flat and covered with mud, while oat fields were badly lodged, and growing corn flattened so there is a question if much of it will be fit for anything but fodder. In many cases, entire fields of potatoes were washed out of the ground, and most farmers can report serious damage to the crop.

Trapping Brook suffered with the rest, and was hard hit by the storm. The O'Brien farm was right in line, and the roof was blown off the barn, while many trees were blown over, and hundreds of dollars damage was done to growing crops.

North Hill got its full share. Henry Weinhauer's barn was struck by lightning, and the ridge split open, though no fire resulted, while a big plank was picked up and smashed through the roof of his house. Henry Stadlick, his neighbor, suffered the loss of a nice lot of standing timber, and the growing crops of both of them suffered much.

T. F. Fisher of North Main street lost three good trees and a torrent of water ran into the house through a hole in the roof.

Elmer Black who lives on the Vandermark, suffered a broken leg and an injured back, when his house collapsed, and Robert Cornell is credited with the loss of his house and barn which were blown down.

So the reports come in, and though some may be slightly exaggerated, yet the fact undoubtedly remains that last night's hurricane was a record-breaker, and those who escaped serious damage were fortunate indeed.

Trains have run late all day, but they are making the best of it.

 

 

 

 

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