(Researched & Transcribed by Mary Rhodes)
Wellsville Reporter --Monday, September 29, 1884
Shongo Swept and Nearly Annihilated.
Two Persons Killed and Many Injured
The Work of Fierce Winds at Other Points
The little village of Shongo, lying in the valley of the Genesee River eight miles south of Wellsville, was swept last evening by a cyclone which left it almost a complete ruin. Nearly thirty buildings, some of them prominent and substantial ones, were torn to splinters and scattered about promiscuously. Several other buildings were badly injured. So far as we have been able to learn up to 1 pm to-day, two persons only are dead, and not less than twenty others more or less seriously injured. One horse was killed, while pigs, poultry, cattle and other animals fell here and there victims to the fierce and fitful whirlwind.
The cyclone current came from the west of southwest, and evidently passed on nearly due east, as it was doubtless the same which about 8 o’clock struck the village of Wellsburg, a few miles below Elmira. Its track was narrow, and it duration only for a moment or two, but there was a terrible and destructive force wrapped up in it. After ploughing a narrow area of wreck among the forest trees over the hill to the southwest of the doomed village, the current settled down and, crossing the valley at a wild speed, struck the quiet hamlet of Shongo, more than two-thirds of which is a ruin to-day.
To locate the track of the storm’s material destruction let us explain thus: As one would have driven into Shongo going south, or up the river, on his way to Genesee Forks last week, he would have come first to the main village center where were gathered Gee’s hotel, Beach’s store, the old Bess hotel opposite and grouped promiscuously with the old carding mill, E. J. Farnum’s new grist mill and other buildings, Then, turning squarely to the east he would have followed River street a distance of forty rods, perhaps, where another turn is made to the south. Between these two right angle turns, and on River Street, were many residences, the post office, the school house, blacksmith and wagon shops, with other buildings, forming a thickly settled village group. River Street is a total wreck to-day, not one building upon it having escaped practical if not absolute destruction.
The first damage done was visited upon the old carding mill nearly opposite Gee’s hotel, which was moved from its foundation and badly wrecked. The grist mill stood the shock, but is reported as badly racked and strained inside, enough so to break the lines of wooden tubes. Then the old Bess tavern stand caught it, losing its roof and having the rear portions badly smashed.
Crossing the street, the cyclone took Gee’s large hotel barn along about twelve or fifteen feet and crushed in the roof. The old Gee Hotel, however, stood like a hero, though it parted with its porch roof in front and some of the time honored doors and windows yielded with a crash. The scene of River Street fairly beggars description. The buildings are in fragments and the fragments in debris piles. The fury of the storm spared nothing.
At the dwelling house of William Gardner only himself and daughter were present at the time of peril. Gardner was instantly killed, and the daughter miraculously escaped.
At the home of Mr. Edward Pratt, himself, wife and daughter were present. Mrs. Pratt was killed outright, and the husband and daughter seriously injured.
Dr. A. A. Elliott suffered the total loss of his home, office and barn, and his horse was killed. Dr. and Mrs. Elliott were both hurt and their three children, Lena, and John and an infant child, very severely injured.
John Williams, his wife and two children miraculously escaped, as did also the family of Edward Brundage, whose house was whirled across the street as though it had been a mere shadow.
So fierce was the wind current that in the beautiful village cemetery only two tombstones were left standing, all the rest being thrown to the ground and some even carried out of the cemetery and across the street.
The track of the cyclone was forty to fifty rods wide. For a half mile to the north east from Shongo, the fields are literally strewn with the wreck, while feather beds and articles of apparel are lodged in the tree tops. The destructive track is not discernible for more than half a mile, though report says some articles were picked up nearly eight miles distant.
The storm struck at just 6:20, and lasted but a couple of minutes. Two were killed. Twenty wounded. Twenty six buildings entirely destroyed, and six others damaged.
Two of the houses destroyed were the property of Hon. E. J. Farnum of this city. Fortunately they were just at this time without tenants. The buildings are a total loss.
A whole3 drove of Wellsville physicians – Drs, Nye, Macken, Coller and Whitney – left promptly last evening for the scene of disaster and rendered every service possible.
Following is a list of those killed and injured, as well as of buildings wholly or partially destroyed:
Mrs. Edward Pratt
SOME OF THE INJURED:
Mr and Mrs. Edgar Peet
Dr. A. A. Elliott, wife and three children
Austin Kemp\Duane Kemp and wife
Edward Pratt, husband of the lady killed
Edward Brundage, wife and two children
Mrs. Asa Quinby, of North Bingham, Pa.
HOUSES AND OTHER BUILDINGS DESTROYED OR DAMAGED
Dan Bess, store and dwelling unroofed.
Henyan Bros., store unroofed and front crushed in.
H. S. Brundage, house swept away
G. W. Brundage house swept away
Edward Brundage house and barn demolished
Leonard Higgins, house barn and blacksmith shop all swept.
Willis Gardner, house and barn swept
Anna Lancaster house swept away
J. Williams house swept away
Dr. A. A. Elliott, house, barn and office all swept clean.
Edgar Peet, house swept away
Homer Drock, house swept away
Austin Kemp, house and barn demolished
Geo. Frazer, blacksmith shop demolished.
Shongo school house demolished.
J. Gee’s store unroofed and other wise damaged.
Gee’s hotel barn and hotel both considerably damaged.
E. J. Farnum grist mill damaged.
There were also other buildings more or less injured.
CONDITIONS OF THE WOUNDED ON MONDAY AT NOON
Miss Anna Lancaster, internally injured. Considered dangerous.
Three children of A.A. Elliott, severe contusions and scalp wounds, but not estimated dangerous.
Mrs. Asa Quimby, of North Bingham, Pa., who was ill at Dr. Elliott’s very badly bruised, but will recover.
Edgar Peet, seriously bruised about body and head. Dangerous
Mrs. Peet, main injury to head and stomach. Not dangerous.
Austin Kemp, contusions about head but not dangerous.
Duane Kemp, hurt in back. His wife cut badly in face and about head. He is regarded as in a critical condition.
AT OTHER POINTS
The same cyclone struck the village of Alton, Pa., on the summit south of Bradford about 5:20 pm, demolishing six houses and the unfinished M. E. Church at that point. No lives lost.
The next heard of it positively after leaving Shongo was Wellsburg, below Elmira, where houses and other buildings were unroofed about 8 pm, orchards torn up and great destruction of property involved. Fortunately at this point also no lives were lost.
Between 6 and 7 pm a high wind swept Wellsville and vicinity. At the old Bush and Howard tannery across the river a portion of the old leech house was utterly whirled into fragments and the new leech house considerably injured. Here and there shade trees were laid low and the lumber piles on the Brooklyn side were badly ruffled. A large tree fell upon and smashed the boiler house of Millers mill on Dyke’s Creek, while on Dyke street proper the barn of E.E. Hubbard was completely wrecked, his two horses wonderfully escaping. Trees and other buildings were also blown over.
Beyond Andover, our Wellsville zephyr sweep over the summit in vigorous form, uprooting large trees and doing damage to fruit trees and fences.
At Scio a heavy storm prevailed in the early evening. A blacksmith shop in the west part of the village was unroofed and trees and fences promiscuously scattered.
Between Genesee and Bolivar word comes of a violent storm of wind and rain last evening, doing considerable damage to orchards and small buildings, and at one point a freight car was lifted from the track and whirled about.
Verily it was an evening of wide and terrible disaster, and one whose horrors and suffering will not soon be forgotten.
THE VERY LATEST
Just as we go to press (4 pm) the sad word is received that Dr. Eliott’s son is dying.
September 30, 1884 The Reporter
Very Latest News from the Front
The Injured Ones
Our reported left the fateful and fatal scene of Sunday’s whirlwind at Shongo soon after 12 o’clock to-day. Just previously to the Dr. Nye had made an examination of the injured woman, Miss Anna Lancaster, and pronounced her in a dying condition. Doubtless she will have passed away before daylight is ended to-day.
The condition of the other wounded ones remains substantially unchanged. Dr. Elliott’s little son Johnnie, who yesterday afternoon was erroneously reported to be dying, is very seriously hurt about the head, having received a severe concussion. His case is a critical one, but it is hoped he may pull through. All the others are doing fairly and hopefully well.
The fearful wreck is being rapidly cleared up, and presents a far different scene from that of yesterday. River street is cleared of debris sufficient to allow teams to pass freely, and boards, planks and timbers are being piled here and there. Yet there is still enough evidence of the fearful crash to make one shudder, and to wonder how any one got out of it alive.
The work of repairing the injured roofs of the Gee hotel and other buildings about the corner is going rapidly forward.
A good many visitors are constantly coming and going, and the disaster is the one theme alone discussed.
It is estimate that the necessary grist mill repairs will require several days. The great building was moved about three inches upon its foundation and severely shaken, so much so that at first, the wheels refused to revolve when the water was turned on. But the fine mill is saved, as is also the saw mill, and that is great good luck for Shongo.
WHAT IS A CYLCONE?
When Scotty Briggs hears the inquiry of the young minister, just for the theological mill where they grind out young ministers, as to whether he is desired to “assist at the obsequies” of the departed Buck Fanshaw, he is much struck with the word and seizes it eagerly, “obsequies is good, that’s what we want,” So the whole reportorial newspaper force seems mildly mashed on the word “cyclone”. Why they should prefer it to “tornado”, which has done faithful and accurate descriptive duty for so many years it is hard to tell, unless they think it means the same thing and sound a little more grand.
To any member of the U.S. Weather Bureau and Signal Office, or to any scientific man, they do not mean the same thing, and according to their differentiating definition these storms such as that as Shongo and at the West, should still be called tornadoes, while the word cyclone should be reserved for those immense revolving storms whose diameter is hundreds of miles.
In popular use words are often used indiscriminatingly, but if one cares to be accurate it would be well to call a fierce storm wind blowing steadily in one direction a “gale” if fitful and with stronger gusts at times, a “hurricane,” a whirling, destructive wind, advancing in a path usually North east, a “tornado” or “whirlwind,” causing on the water “waterspouts,” and on land “dust storms,” or “sand storms.” The word “cyclone” would then denote just what the meteorologist use it to denote. A large, wide reaching circular storm with winds blowing toward a “storm center,” or “area of low barometer.”
But the people make the language and “cyclone” may have been captured from the scientists for good and all, and they may have to look up another name for their big storms. Who knows?