Winnebago County, Illinois
GREAT FLOOD IN ROCK RIVER And its Tributaries
The almost unprecedented rains of the past week, in this section, culminated on Thursday night. The rain fell in torrents, hour after hour, from 5 o'clock P.M. till near midnight, raising the River to a higher point than it has ever been known before, with the exception of the memorable time a year ago last spring when the ice went out. We then saw a mark made at the highest point the water reached, and the water rose on Thursday night to within thirteen inches of the former mark. During that night the water in the River could not have risen less than five feet, and in Kent's Creek, in consequence of the water being dammed up at the Railroad Culvert and setting back, it must have risen some fifteen feet, reaching a higher point by six or eight feet than was ever before known. We are assured by a person who was at the Culvert in the night that the water above it was at least ten feet higher than below, being above the top of the arch and the water pouring down like a tunnel. Had the culvert or embankment at this point have given away the water would have swept down before it. A number of Irish families living on what is familiarly known as the fate Isle of Patmos, just below the culvert, would have been in that event beyond the hope of rescue; as it was, they were badly frightened and cried lustily for help. Of course a large amount of damage has been done along the streams--buildings and fences carried off, stock lost, etc., which it is impossible as yet to ascertain. The following summary embraces what has thus far come to our knowledge: Kent's Creek, as we have already stated, was raised to an unprecedented height by the set back from the railroad culvert. The State Street Bridge and Cedar Street Bridge were both taken off, the former lodging a few rods below, but the latter broken up and carried downstream. It is thought by those living in that vicinity, that the Bridge lodged against the culvert before breaking up, and caused a sudden rise of the water, which at one time rose several feet in as many minutes. On the East bank of the Creek some dozen or more Irish families were driven out, their shanties being flooded to the depth of several feet--Pigs, chickens, &c., were left to their fate and floated down stream. Dr. Richtig's fence was partially carried off, trees washed out, and he also came very near losing his horses. The Doctor was absent at the time, and a neighbor succeeded with difficulty in swimming the horses out. The water rose into the second story of the barn. His loss will be perhaps a hundred dollars. Fences all along the bank were swept away, and on the Fair ground we are informed fish were found plentifully as the water receded. On the west side of the Creek the water rose in several houses on Elm street, and from the one next tot he Creek the family were with difficulty got out of the windows when the water was up to the arms of those who assisted--The second house was unoccupied. The third was occupied by Mr. Hazard, but fortunately his family were absent on a visit. He carried most of his furniture to the upper story. On Cedar street a house occupied by Oliver Goodhue had three feet of water on the floor, but his family were get out. The small bridges near Mrs. Holland's residence were taken from their foundations, but are lodged close by. Along the River the banks in low places were overflown, and the Race was full to overflowing. The water poured over the end in a heavy body and forced its way into the Creek beyond. All the works along power on both sides of the River were stopped with the exception of Clark & Utter's machine shop. Their wheel sets up higher than the others, and was not seriously affected. The lower story of the large Reaper Factory was under water to the depth of several feet, but fortunately the previous night the planers had been raised up and were not injured. A large number of the flaskes, however, in the Foundry floated out and were carried off. On the flat south of the Depot a large number of pieces of Reapers had been laid out to dry, and a gang of men were engaged nearly all night in conveying them to a place of safety. We understand they succeeded in saving most of them, but Mesrs, Talcott, Emerson & Co. estimate their total loss at about a thousand dollars. The steamer Rockford was coming up the River when the storm commenced, and lay to over night about four miles below the city--She had hard work to make headway against the current, but finally arrived here and for the first time run a short distance up Kent's Creek for anchorage. Her officers reported seeing a large amount of rails, timber, and dead stock, &c., floating down.
A small story and a half house floated down the River early in the morning--where from is unknown. About 8 o'clock we saw a cow float down and go over the dam. [--Rockford Weekly Register-Gazette (Rockford, IL) June 6, 1858] READ MORE NEWS STORIES ON THIS FLOOD
STORM IN BURRITT
Oats Nearly All Cut So Damage Is Slight to Crops
North Burritt, July 20--A severe storm of wind and rain struck this town on Tuesday afternoon, doing considerable damage to crops. The oats nearly all cut in this vicinity. [Daily Register Gazette, 07-20-1898]
Standing Grain Badly Beaten but Very Little Rainfall
Shirland, July 20--A very severe wind storm visited this section Tuesday between 4 and 5 p.m. Many sought the cellar as a place of safety. Standing grain was badly twisted, corn broken, fences and trees were broken but very little rain fell until about 7 p.m., where there came a terrible driving rain, which did some damage.[Daily Register Gazette, 07-20-1898]
THE STORM AT ROSCOE
To the Editor of the Gazette:
A terrible storm passed over the northeastern portion of the town, early this morning. Fences are prostrated in every direction. A whirlwind started near the house occupied by G.H. Muchmore, and, passing through the orchard, prostrated a dozen or more trees, and after taking the roof from the stable, took a southeasterly course directly towards the residence of R.W. Graves, Esq., where it made rough work, pickcing up an empty corn crib, and after carrying it several rods, left it torn completely in pieces: took about a quarter of the roof of a 40x60 barn, and left it in the road some ten rods from the barn, blew in several windows and a door of his dwelling, took down the lightning rod and stuck it up in the garden, tore shingles from the roof, twisted apple trees in the garden, completely peeling them, and rooting them entirely out of the ground; but the greatest power displayed was in taking the roof from an 18x32 granary and carrying it high over the roof of the house, leaving part of it in kindling wood in the hog pasture some twenty rods from the house, and the remainder was carried to the edge of the woods, nearly eighty rods distant, where pieces of the rafters and roof boards were driven into the ground with such force that it took two men to withdraw them: from there it took its course through the woods, and at present writing I have not ascertained the amount of damage done in that direction. The loss of Mr. Graves will amount to nearly $200, as the roofs blown off have not a whole stick left, being torn into kindling wood.
Yours, Roscoe, June 8, 1874 [Rockford Weekly Gazette, June 11, 1874]
TORNADO AT PECATONICA!
OVER A SCORE OF BUILDINGS OVERTHROWN, UNROOFED AND OTHERWISE INJURED!!! FREIGHT CARS THROWN FROM THE TRACK!! BREWERY BLOWN TO ATOMS!!!
To the Editor of the Gazette:
Pecatonica, June 8th, 1874
A terrible storm, which might be termed a tornado, passed through Pecatonica this morning at an early house. Last evening was pleasant, though quite warm, with a clear sky, and scarcely a breath of air was stirring. During the night, however, a black cloud arose in the West, and the constant rumbling of distant thunder and incessant flashed of lightning, gave warning that a tempest of more than ordinary size and strength was approaching; but, unlike the storms of last week, it came up very slowly, seeming to battle with space in the far Southwest until nearly morning, striking our town about half past four. Thr storm in general was terrific, and considerable damage was done throughout the town and vicinity, but the region of the most destruction was confined to a path but a few feet in width, extending from nearly Southwest to Northeast, proceeding as it did in a Northeasterly direction. The house of Mr. J.L. Shaw was the first to yield to the blow. It was hoisted from its under-pinning and moved bodily a distance of ten feet. A wind at the back was totally demolished. A large cupboard containing dishes and cooking utensils, was carried a long way from the house and landed in the street, a complete wreck! Daniel Reed's house was unroofed, its occupants deluged with water, and its contents partially carried away. A portion of the roof, some sixteen feet long and two feet wide, was hurled through the side of Mrs. Terany's house some ten rods away. The house of Mrs. Piccard, an old lady, was moved from its walls and left standing upright. A fright car near the depot was overturned and carried some distance from the track, its trucks being torn away and jammed into another car. The telegraph line was broken down, probably by flying debris, and one of the water tanks belonging to the Railroad Company was stripped of a portion of its roof. The track of this destructive blast passed through the West side of the lumber yard, carry with it a sufficient quantity of lumber, lath and shingles to pave the street from there to the river. Much damage was done to buildings otherwise uninjured, by flying timbers and boards. A large warehouse was deprived of half its roof, while the other half remained apparently without anything to support it. Nearly all the front of the wooden block owned by Mrs. Partridge, was taken away and trown into the street. A brewery owned and occupied by Mr. W. Bevridge and family is a perfect wreck, being literally picked to pieces, and much of it stewn on the opposite side of the river from where the building stood. On Main street, above Third, little damage was done, save a few awnings being blown down, and some windows broken. To-day everything is excitement, and great crowds are flocking to view the different ruins, and remark upon the curious freaks of this terrible element. We notice one lot containing six large apple trees and three poplars; and every one of them was taken up by roots and borne away. These poplar poplar trees, were sixteen inches in diameter, and the holes left were of sufficient size to bury an ox. A tub of water was standing last evening by the side of a house--this morning the hoops found unmoved, but the staves, bottom and water had vanished. As far as we have learned no lives have been lost and no one injured, though there were some very narrow escapes. Had it been in the day-time when people were moving about, probably it would not have been as well. Much damage is done to the growing crops and fences, while a large number of wind-mills are said to have been destroyed. [Rockford Weekly Gazette, June 11, 1874]
Havoc and Ruin Ride in Its Wake
MOST TERRIFIC RAIN STORM On Rockford’s Record--Kent’s and Keith’s Creeks
Converted Into Lakes--Houses Flooded--Women Rescued in Boats--Horses Drowned--Tracks Washed Out--Almost Every Bridge On Kent and Keith’s Creek Washed Away--The Details of the Damage--A Spectacle of Desolation and Debris--But Rockford Is Doing Business at the Old Stand Just the Same
The storm of last night was beyond all doubt the most terrific and destructive in its results that has ever visited this city. Early in the evening the indications pointed to a hard storm, but we have had so many of them here recently that people paid little attention to it, more than to remark to each other that there was going to be quite a shower. Shortly after 8 o’clock the storm struck the city suddenly and with
The rain came down in its giant fury, without a moment’s warning. The lightning flashed in terrific grandeur, lighting up the heavens with one continuous, unending flame of blinding brightness, while the thunders rolled and muttered with an incessant cannonade, with rapidly intervening sharp peals that made windows rattle and shook buildings to their very foundations.
THE WORST EVER KNOWN
We have all seen storms, and there have been many severe ones in Rockford this season, each succeeding one seeming to be more severe than that preceding it, but those who witnessed that of last night and that included every living person whose terror had not driven them to the seclusion of the cellar or some other hiding place, realized by the deluge of descending rain, the vivid lightning and the deafening thunder that the city was in the throes of the most severe storm its people ever witnessed, and it was not until this morning, when daylight revealed the havoc wrought, that even those who were out in the work of rescue or saving property could form any adequate estimate of the terrible results of the raging storm.
IT CAME WITHOUT WARNING
It came so suddenly that it took many completely by surprise. The sudden swelling of Kent and Keith Creek valleys brought the seething flood down upon the unsuspecting inhabitants in a way that must have reminded them of the Johnstown disaster a year ago. Before they realized the magnitude of the storm the raging flood was down upon them. Their homes were in the swirl and rush of
A TORRENT OF MAD WATER
And rendered not only untenable, but in imminent danger of being carried down with the swelling, impetuously-rushing flood. It seemed as though there had been a cloud burst, not a simple rain storm, so suddenly were their homes deluged and inundated. It was
A NIGHT OF TERROR
To those living on the low grounds and in the valleys, and many were the remarkable and narrow escapes from death. Shrill cries of distress called brave men to heroic effort. Men shouted for aid in all directions, and women screamed in terror and called in piteous tones that they and their little ones night be saved. Their cries nerved the rescuers to deeds of bravery that will perhaps never be placed to their credit, though many of them are as deserving of medals as ever man was
THE WORK OF BRAVE MEN
The seething floods, which the banks of the river were powerless to restrain, soon filled the valleys carrying everything before it. Both these creeks drain an immense amount of territory, and the result was that within an hour from the beginning of the storm, houses on the low ground were almost lost sight of or had floated away, and the spectacle was presented between the vivid flashed of lightning of brave men who had formed themselves into rescuing parties, of boats darting hither and thither in the raging current, coming and going with the rescuers and the rescued, and in some instanced of terrified and helpless women being led from their homes in water that reached almost to their necks. In the presence of such scenes as these the floods, that poured down the streets of the city, the floating sidewalks and the new pavement that bobbed up and down in the water like so many big corks, were matters too insignificant to pay any attention to. It is certainly a marvel that amid the terrible dangers of the night and
THE HAIR-BREADTH ESCAPES
There is not the loss of one human life to report today. Still alarms were constantly sent in to the police and fire headquarters and the men responded with alacrity to the call of duty, in the blinding storm. There were two alarms of fire, the last coming in at 12:45. It proved to be in Graham’s dye house at the water power and was caused by spontaneous combustion and was extinguished without serious damage. The first alarm was from the house of Rufus Burritt, on Grant Avenue, which had been
STRUCK BY LIGHTNING
The family were sated in the parlor when the crash came. Suddenly a blinding stream of fire seemed to be running around the room, and then came a deafening report that shook the house to its foundation. Mr. Burritt was partially stunned. When he recovered he found his little son in the middle of the room, where he had been felled by the stroke of lightning. Fortunately the lad was not badly injured. The family were all badly shaken up, but none of them injured. The house was considerably damaged.
THE RESCUING PARTIES
Mayor Sherratt and Chief Lakin, with a force of men, hastened to the work of rescue as soon as they became aware of the imminent danger, and they found enough to keep them busy. They loaded a boat into a wagon and started for the scene of desolation on Cedar Street. The sight that met them was terrible. Men and women were crying and wringing their hands, and their homes were being desolated and their property destroyed by the ruthless flood.
Chief Lakin’s party and those under the direction of the mayor were kept busy. Continual calls for assistance kept them running hither and thither. As the night wore along and the news of the disastrous work of the storm spread, the rescuing parties were reinforced by those who came out form their homes eager to lend a helping hand in the hour of need.
A THRILLING EXPERIENCE
George E. Hall, the barber at the Chick House, had an experience that he will never want to repeat. He was a passenger in the caboose of the wrecked train on the C.M. & St. P. When a crash came the engineer and fireman climbed over the tops of the freight cars and reached a place of safety. Hall was not so fortunate. He was swept away by the current, which rushed around and under the train. He succeeded in catching hold of the post of a barbed wire fence near the track and to this clung for life, shouting and imploring aid in heart-rending tones for nearly two hours before rescued. Two men stated for town to get a boat, bidding him take courage ad hang on. This he did, all the time, crying for help at the top of his voice. The boat was secured, but the force of the current made it impossible to reach him even then. Finally a rope was secured and attached to the bow of the boat, and in a short time Hall was drawn into the boat more dead than alive. He was taken to the house of Mr. Cavanaugh, 1017 Kilburn Avenue, and Dr. C. Helm was summoned. It is not likely that any serious consequences will follow his terrible exposure. His position was a most perilous one, and his cries for help, mingled with the shrill squeals of the hogs on the wrecked trains, the rushing of the waters and the rolling thunders, were simply indescribable, and will never forgotten by those who were there
THE SPECTACLE THIS MORNING
All over the city presents such a scene of desolation and ruin as can not be imagined much less described in vividness and detail. Streams of people in carriages, on foot, women with dragging skirts and elevated umbrellas, men in rubber boots, drays and delivery wagons, hacks and every sort of vehicle, poured out from every portion of the city in the rain ad the excited crowds everywhere stood agap and dumb stricken viewing the ruin. The wreck on the Milwaukee road presents the worst appearance. Up by Blaidell’s quarry, a freight engine, two freight cars and two cars of hogs laid over in the ditch a mass of indescribable ruins. There were 120 hogs in the cars and twenty-five were smothered or drowned. The survivors keep up such a constant squealing of terror, a most weird and distressing sound issuing out form the chaos. The track at this point was raised on a firm and solid embankment of earth, gravel, and sand but the seething waters tore the substantial mass as if it had been feathers, undermining the track so that the rails and ties sank right down with the train as if an earthquake had ripped through. From that point for nearly a half a mile the track, rails, ties, and all has been
LIFTED UP BODILY
And carried from thirty to fifty feet cast. In some place the track was carried clean over the tops of the fence and deposited on the side of the hill without touching the fence, which is still standing. The train which was wrecked was the freight from the north which was due in this city at 10:10. It was an hour late. It was run by Conductor Wood, Engineer Dulan and Fireman Wilson. One of the crew was found on the scene dazed at the spectacle. He said: “We had a good train of some twenty-five cars. Down by the lime kiln all but a half dozen broke loose and seven tumbled over in the ditch. We ran on slowly to try and make Rockford to give the alarm, when we felt the ground tremble beneath us. The engineer shouted, ‘She’s going over’ and we all climbed to the top of the tank and held on for dear life. Then she trembled, gave a shiver and over went. I tell you it was a scary fix. But we all clung to the top of the cars and cautiously crept back to the rear where by wading we could get on solid ground. Hall, the Chick House barber who was a passenger, got swept away from us and brought up against a barb wire fence, as you have probably heard. When we got into a boat and found him he was unconscious and we thought he was dead, but soon came to all right.” The rails under the cars are twisted and bent into a circle, the water coming with such terrific force that it bent and played with the heavy rails just like straws.
The only thing left of the new School Street bridge is the abutments on either side of the creek. People stood either bank and shouted their commiserations, but there was no crossing, the bridge has disappeared as completely as if it had sunk into the bowels of the earth beneath the raging current.
Standing on the brow of the hill overlooking the fair grounds the scene of destruction is most wonderful. The entire lower part of the ground was a lake, filled with floating debris. The smaller buildings were all washed away, the fence for nearly a quarter of a mile was taken out as clean as a whistle. The sheep pens were lifted from their foundation and carried a hundred feet. The Milwaukee bridge near the tannery was gone.
Coming on down to Mulberry Street and the mass of wreckage increases. The waters had receded almost as quickly as they rose and the scene was one of destruction and chaos, certainly unparalleled in Rockford. The outside world will never know the horrors of the Johnstown flood, but Rockford gained last night a slight idea of what raging water can do when it has full swing unchecked. The Lumber and Fuel Company’s sheds were in ruins and the coal office had been swept clean away. Leonard’s lumber yard had not escaped and quantities of valuable lumber had floated off in the persist less flood. The Mulberry Street bridge was nothing but a hole, the stone abutments alone standing. All about this part of the city the flood did great damage. It raised inside of an hour as high as the porches of houses on Kilburn Avenue, and the houses stand on a side hill at that. Here was where
THE RELIEF CORPS
were in constant demand and the work of the police, firemen and volunteers can never be recorded with the fullness of the honor which they deserve. Boats were loaded on the patrol wagon at the river and rushed up to the scene. They were quickly manned and soon all who were still remaining in their homes, terror-stricken and heart-broken at the desolation about them, were conveyed to a place of safety. This work was all done in the midst of torrents of rain, in the darkness of the moonless midnight, by the uncertain light of flickering lanterns and the frequent flashes of lightning that blinded the eyes and increased the darkness after each flash. All the tenants in the houses near the Mulberry Street bridge had to leave their homes. The waters came up into the lower floors, and when the floods receded it left banks of clotted mud all over the walls and ceiling and articles of furniture and household goods.
A pitiful sight the home of Mr. Cowalts presents, on the corner of Mulberry and Kilburn Avenue. The family occupy the basement for a dining and sitting room. The floods burst open the doors and rushed in with fury, bringing a great mass of mud and debris. Everything in the lower part of the house was ruined, and the place looks as if a
A CART LOAD OF MUD
Had been shoveled in there bodily. J.W. Johnson, who lives next door on Kilburn Avenue says: “The water raised fifteen feet in an hour, for I times it. My cellar was all afloat and the water was a few inches of the first floor. We had the tacks all out of the carpet and furniture in shape to move to the upper story, if it was necessary.” The water extended a distance of perhaps 300 or more feet from the ordinary bed of the creek.
The State Street, Elm Street and Cedar Street bridges are all washed out.
From the viaduct one could gain a little idea of what the water had wrought in the railroad yards. The C. & I. turn-table had been washed out and the Milwaukee track carried off from the piles. A great mass of debris, lumber, roods of sheds, railroad stuff, etc., lies piled up against the viaduct thirty or forty feet high. The only bridge that remains uninjured on Kent’s Creek from the city limits to the river is the stone culvert of the Northwestern road. Through that narrow opening this whole sea of foaming water, with its great burden of wreckage, poured down upon the tracks of the C.& I., the St. Paul and the Illinois Central roads.
The viaduct as thronged with visitors inspecting the scene all day. The Illinois Central tracks were washed out badly east of the viaduct. A big freight, No. 10, was made up and ready to go west, stood on the track. The torrent in an instant swept the earth from under it, letting the engine and several cars down almost into the creek. The engine was the one on which Bob Lake is fireman. It stands on the edge and about to topple over, but is held by stout ropes. Tinker’s private bridge is washed out and his suspension bridge is gone. The earth work and filling in from of the Illinois Central depot has been undermined so that the outer track hangs merely by the ties, while the earth under the inner track is partially swept away so that no train could run over it. The Central’s bridge on the water power at the mouth of Kent’s Creek was carried out and deposited in the river with an island of debris. The total loss to the Illinois Central may run up to $100, 000, while the Milwaukee will lose fully as much.
On Morgan Street where the street grade has been raised near the approaches of the new bridge, Mrs. Brearton’s two houses are surrounded by water, which stands three feet deep, and is right on a level with the front door. “It’s pretty bad, indeed it is, for poor people,” said Mrs. Brearton to the reporter. Mrs. Brearton was right.
The Rockford Construction Company suffered a loss of perhaps $500 by the carrying away of their temporary pile bridge at Morgan Street and a portion of the derricks.
At the Illinois Central depot it was learned that, save a small landslide and a couple of minor washouts, there was no particular damage away from Rockford.
The cedar paving from the C. & I. depot to State Street has been damaged considerable, the water running under and raising up the block. Quite a large strip of it will have to be laid over again.
ON THE EAST SIDE
The destruction on the East Side along Keith Creek does not present a scene of such general havoc as is to be witnessed along the valley of Kent Creek, but the ruin is far from inconsiderable.
There is not a bridge on Keith Creek that is not damaged to some extent, except it be Ninth Street bridge, which is low and firmly spiked down, so that the rushing waters, instead of carrying it away poured over it.
WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE
The glucose street bridge was rendered impassable, and is being held in place by being blocked up. The road leading to it was washed out for a distance of fifty yards. The Kishwaukee Street bridge is lying at the bottom of the river and about fifty feet of the embankment was washed away. The side track at the shoe factory was undermined and two cars are careened over on their side. The Tenth Street bridge was swept from its moorings and lies under the C. & N. railway bridge. An examination of the other bridges over Keith Creek discovers the fact that while those still standing are more or less damaged the loss to the city will not be as great as was at first supposed.
A RUINED CUPOLA
At about half past nine last night lightning struck the residence of M.L. Bruner, 400 Gregory, completely shattering it. The electric bolt entered the top of the cupola and after tearing things up generally, went out again at the side without going into the main portion of the building. It then went down the waterspout, leaving a large hole where it entered the earth. Mr. Bruner was lighting a lamp in the kitchen at the time. The light was extinguished and he was severely shocked, but uninjured. None of the members of the family were hurt, but all were terrified by the deafening crash that accompanied the lightning’s stroke. The damage to the cupola will probably amount to $75.
AMONG THE FACTORIES
Nearly all the East Side factories suffered to some extent. The Forest City furniture factory experienced the greatest loss of any. They are not running and can not tell when they will get to running again. The water in the machine room and finishing room was four feet deep and in the engine room reached a depth of six feet. The belt was under water and destroyed. The loss so far as known is about $2,000, but may greatly exceed this when the mud is cleaned form the machinery and an investigation made. Their lumber is safe except one pile, which floated off and stuck on the Seventh Street bridge.
TURNED IT CLEAR AROUND
Wheat’s photograph gallery at the south end of Seventh Street bridge, was lifted from its foundation, turned clear around and set across the road, but the building itself was damaged very little.
The shoe factory suffered some, but just to what extent is not yet known.
Mayor Sheratt thinks the damage will not be as great as was at first feared. A review of the damage to the bridges results in the following: Auburn Street, a cheap $150 bridge, is all gone. School Street bridge has disappeared, and Mulberry can’t be found, though the abutments are all standing. Elm Street bridge has been torn all to pieces and lies near Blakeman & Dobson’s. State Street bridge has been carried two blocks, but it is in pretty good condition and can be put back at probably a cost of $1,000. Cedar Street bridge is in fragments at the bottom of the creek and both abutments are gone.
One the East Side the bridges are in a much better condition, Kishwaukee Street bridge is the worst; that is all gone, abutments and all. All the other bridges are either only partially gone or are inexpensive bridges. An off-hand estimate of what it will cost to replace them has been made, but, of course, it is all indefinite and may be considerably more. It will give an idea of the damage, and is as follows:
Eighth Avenue $500.00
Eighth Street $500.00
Sixth Street $200.00
Tenth Street $157.00
Fifth Street $50.00
Railroad Avenue $50.00
Seventh Street $100.00
Seminary Street $100.00
NOTES FROM THE FLOOD
Ed. Brown was there.
It must have been a cloud burst
Read the mayor’s proclamation and act on it
Trains on the Northwestern are all right
The Illinois Central trains are running regularly
The Fifth Street bridge is fixed up all right already
Blakeman & Dobson are probably the largest losers of lumber
The patrol wagon was a valuable aid last night. It paid for itself
You can cross Kent’s Creek by Clark’s ferry till the bridge is repaired
The only bridge left standing was the one they condemned on Ninth Street
Wm Reitsch lost all his lumber near the Burial Case Company’s building
Trees were blown down and branches torn off everywhere throughout the city
All the hogs but twenty-five, which had been drowned, were rescued this morning
The Northwestern culvert is the only bridge connecting the two sides of Kent’s Creek
An unfortunate loss in an artistic way was Tinkers’ time-honored suspension bridge
Chas. F. Briggs is minus a large wood pile. It was left on Kilburn Avenue by the flood.
Capt. Clark will run a ferry boat across Kent’s creek night and day until the bridge is up.
If the tariff reform speakers brought this on the people will howl for protection more than ever
If the things keeps up Rockford people will begin to think Schweinfurth is right, and we are doomed
Twenty-five dead hogs is bad enough. Heaven be thanked that it was no human beings.
The viaduct was lined with people by sunrise this morning, but there were only a few out last night
Philippi is getting out a blue book and probably didn’t want anyone lost. Anyway he did heroic work
Jo Peers and family live high at the hotel now. His house was flooded and the dining table is floating
The rumor that a woman and child were lost in the raging waters of Kent’s Creek last night was unfounded
It was a miniature Johnstown flood, but a genuine Johnstown terror to some of the horror-stricken families.
W.H. Hall almost lost his house, the foundation on one side, with considerable earth, was washed away.
There’s $200 worth of damage in Farnsworth’s bakery. The midnight batch was soaked into batter.
The large sheep and hog pen on the fair grounds was moved to the middle of Mulberry Street without being wrecked.
South Main Street paving was almost like a raft. Blocks raised up, and the work will have to be gone over again
The enterprising amateur photographers were out at daybreak with their Kodaks, and pictures of the wreck will soon be everywhere.
Rev. S.L. Conde thinks heaven may have meant it for retribution. The flood damage takes just about what the city got from saloons.
Contractor Cook had all the framing timber for Stewart’s new store carried away. It is the best Georgia pine and is a heavy loss.
One man asked a woman during the excitement and confusion what she did to keep her sidewalk down. She said she sat down on it.
As near as can be learned no dwelling house was carried away, though there were outhouses and shed, small offices and summer kitchens in the swim
Chief Lakin and Mayor Sheratt were in the form of the rescuing party, and the mayor did not pull off his boots till everybody was safe. That’s why he ought to be chairman of the county central committee. He’s a man you can bank on
G.A. Safford lost $150 worth of lumber
Last night’s mail from Chicago arrived here this afternoon
Hess & Hopkins lost fifty barrels of oil at their tannery last night
Rockford has had big storms, but never storms that tore things up as this one did
Mrs. C.H. Riching’s place was one big pond. Her horses were barely saved from drowning
There are four washouts on the Northwestern between Pecatonica and Winnebago and a train stalled there
No lives lost. There is much to be thankful for. Let’s smile, look pleasant, and fix things up as well as we can
Dunn’s tenement houses are in pretty bad shape. The floors are giving way in some way owing to the soaking
The paving contractors have to stand the damage. The city is not in until the job has all been done and accepted
West of here there are washouts on both the Northwestern and the Illinois Central and trains can not get through to Freeport
It is thought that both the Illinois Central and the St. Paul will have their roads repaired and trains running by Monday night.
Telephone wires were down on the ground all over. It was dangerous to drive on the streets. About 50 instruments were burned out
It is almost impossible to estimate the loss, but conservative judges think that $ 250,000 will pay all the damage to railroads, city and private persons
Weyland’s furniture and carpets, Peach and Mulberry Street, were soaked and ruined. He was so excited he threw and fine carpet and an $8 rug out into the rain
B.F. Gotwolts and wife were rescued from their home, corner of Mulberry Street and Kilburn Avenue, just as the water was coming in. They live in the basement
Miss Belle Hunter was carried out of her house on Peach Street by two men, wading nearly up to their waists, and though a good suffragist she didn’t mind it a bit
All trains are running all right between Chicago and Rockford on every road. The Northwestern bridge at Cherry Valley is a little shaky and trains run over it slowly
The Illinois Central will have to put solid masonry under their track at the depot, and spend perhaps $10,000 in repairs there. Their wrecked water power bridge cost $10,000
The five dead horses are lying exposed where they were washed by the raging torrent, and have been inspected with considerable interest by crowds of curious visitors this afternoon
Mr. Philippi was the first person to awaken the resident of Short Kilburn Avenue, and he did noble work in carrying the frightened women and children from their flooded homes
Women were carried and led from their homes in their sleeping attire. Some of them waded in water up to their chin, and several small babies were carried out by firemen and other brave men
Women were led out o Dunn’s tenement houses on Mulberry Street, walking in water nearly up to their necks, frightened, weeping, wringing heir hands Two were crying for their babies
All the residents on Short Kilburn Avenue, north of Mulberry Street, had the tacks out, ready at any moment to lift the carpet. All the cellars were filled and the sidewalks and fences torn up
If Mayor Sherratt had not induced the Northwestern road to spend $9,000 fixing up the culverts and crossings at the East End the damage in that section would have been something enormous
A man who had bought a ticket north on the St. Paul road went out to the viaduct and looked at the wreck this morning, and then he went back to the depot and wanted to know if the train would go
north on time
The heaviest private losers are the Rockford Lumber and Fuel Company. They had five horses downed, office and scales swept away, lumber carried off and shed wrecked. They figure their loss at between $3,000 and $4,000
Thirty years ago this week Rockford caught a frightful flood. Some old inhabitants say the water was so high that steamboats ran up to South Main Street near the Illinois Central depot, to take on goods. It rained then seven days steadily
Talcott’s horses were all saved. David Pendergast, one of the best men in Rockford, says Mr. Talcott got the horses out of the barn at 11 o’clock. They got away from him and were found around the
streets this morning.
About 2 o’clock this afternoon a lad named Shattuck, who was exploring the flood in Keith’s creek, near Seventh Street, came near losing his life. He got into deep water and went down once, when a man succeeded in rescuing him
The barn of Mrs. Lundberg, on Eighth Avenue, was lifted from its foundation, carried about thirty feet and landed up against the house. Had it not been for a large tree standing against the house both it and the barn would have been carried away
When John Lyblein, on Eighth Avenue, heard how hard it was raining he thought he would go out to the barn and see about his horse. When he stepped out of the house he was surprised to find himself in water up to his waist. But he rescued his horse all right
Christian Union Church was stuck by lightning during the sociable last night. A bolt ran down the chandelier in the hall and then out the window. It scorched the wall and Janitor Brooks who was standing very close by, thought his time had come
Phil L. Philippi was the last man to cross the State Street bridge over Kent Creek last night. He saw the office of the Lumber and Fuel Company float away and started for the east side of the creek. When he got half way over the bridge began to move, and Phil says he didn’t lose much time in crossing.
At 10 o’clock last evening the water in Kent’s Creek was still within its banks. At 11 o’clock the water was flowing over the fair grounds, and at 12:00 the cellars on Short Kilburn Ave. were filled. When the flood began to subside it fell faster than it rose, going down ten inches in as many minutes. [--Rockford Register, Saturday, June 14, 1890]
STORIES OF THE FLOOD
SCENES AND INCIDENTS THE MOISTURE MADE
Occurrences That Brought With Them Both Pathos and Bathos-Additional Details of the Havoc the Deluge Wrought--Public and Private Losses--What the Railroads and the City are Doing--With Many Other Items of Interest
The complete account in the REGISTER of the frightful deluge of Friday night, covering five columns and all the flooded territory, gave the public a pretty accurate idea of the magnitude of the storm and the havoc wrought. Although hundreds of extra papers were printed in anticipation of a desire on the part of the public to get all the obtainable facts in relation to the disasters of the night, the supply proved altogether inadequate to the demand, and many who were eager to get papers were unable to do so. That people should carry around with them a feverish interest in relation to the results of the flood is not to be wondered at, for it was something that may not be repeated in the next fifty years, and it is hoped for never.
Complete and full as the account of the REGISTER was, there is much interest that has not been told--many scenes and occurrences, amusing and pathetic, that will doubtless absorb the interest of the general reader as completely as any other news that can be given. These have been collected and collated and are herewith subjoined as
STORIES OF THE FLOOD
A section of a sheep pen was washed from its moorings at the fair ground and floated down the creek until it finally lodged upon the bank. Before it started an old hen who didn’t want to get her feet wet had perched herself on top of ht pen, and when it stopped going she was still there, calmly surveying the havoc of the night.
The Rockford Lumber and Fuel Company lost one fine horse for which they had been offered $250. The other three drowned horses were poorer stock. Fortunately Tom Rever has removed three valuable horses to the East Side barn and put the poorer ones at the West Side. This saved the firm $500 at least. A carload of coke and one of charcoal floated down stream, the substance being so light.
David Dawson’s dog was in one of the rooms when the flood came. The door was shut and the dog couldn’t get out, but it was not closed so tight that the water could not get in. It is not known what the dog thought about the matter as the moisture poured in, because this is an extremely modest dog and don’t go around torturing people with legends about what it has done and can do. But this much is known: When the water began to cover the floor the dog jumped upon a chair and there it comfortably floated until the flood subsided. As the water went down the back of the chair caught on one of the gas fixtures in the room, and when discovered both dog and chair were hanging high and dry upon the wall.
One man whose house was flooded till he thought it was going to be submerged, and who may be called Smith for the reason that is not his name, did what may seem to some people a most unaccountable thing. When he saw the danger he promptly took off his coat and went to work and saved his wife, letting every else go. He may have don this because he thought his wife was worth saving, or he may have done it inadvertently under the excitement of the moment, or he may thought it was his mother-in-law. Anyway, when it was all over he found his cow and drowned, and deep grief began to gnaw at his vitals. He sputtered around for a while and then walked off with this touching remark: “Confound the luck! If I hadn’t bothered with my wife I might have saved the cow.”
Link Garrett did live away down as low as he could get on West State Street in one of Dunn’s houses. But he don’t live there any more. He moved out today. He was only recently married and had retired before the flood came. Mrs. Garrett had left the table in the dining room set for morning. When the house filled with water it floated around in an indefinite way, and when the waters got through and went on down the table was left standing in a corner of the room and the dishes remained undisturbed. The house was full of mud, but it was not that which made Mr. Garrett’s heart ache so much as the fact the when he went out doors he found hanging on the knob of the door a baby cab that had been swept down from some of the houses above. This was even more suggestive of futurity than the devastating flood, and he and made up his mind to drop it then and there.
E.C. Dunn sinks about $5,000 in the black, rich loam which Kent Creek lifted up and laid down in its valley to aid in beautifying the surroundings another year, though it seriously mars the harmony of things this year. He will abandon the lower portion of his brick on Kilburn Avenue, except for such uses as a cellar may be honestly and consistently put to, and build a three-story addition on the rear, and make flats of it. Thus he will have a row of flats upon the flats that will excel “McNally’s row of flats,” which, it will be remembered, made a paradise for cats. Dunn’s flats are no paradise for anything at present. In fact, when you look at the walls where the fretful waters carried the rich, fruitful loam in prodigal deposits, the mind, instead of seeing anything that looks like the general conception of paradise, naturally reverts to the sultry antipodean locality not down on the map in the United States.
When the freight train was wrecked on the St. Paul road there was one of the brakemen who concluded that he had been called for and would have to obey the summons. The raging waters roared and rushed around and under the cars and every boulevard of escape was with McGinty. But with that instinct which prompts men, also women, to cling to life to the last, be climbed from the caboose to the top of a freight car, and seating himself upon a brake-wheel, calming waited for the rolling moisture to come up and make itself at home with him. Suddenly he thought of something. The night previous he had gone home with an awfully nice, sweet girl. She would think of him and grieve for him when he lying in the cold, clammy embrace of a mermaiden at the bottom of Kent Creek, and his glassy eyes could no longer look into hers with responsive tenderness. He whipped out a note book and began making his will, leaving everything he had to the girl he left behind him. He didn’t have so very much to leave, but it took him a long time to thing of the kind words he wanted, and by the time he had the will finished the flood had gone down and he walked over to a place of safety.
Mrs. Richings’ old cow had a great head. She swan under the sidewalk and holding her nose above water bellowed until help came. The sidewalk had to be chopped up and while they were working to rescue her she never made a sound.
Photographer Wheat took eight first-class pictures of the flood and wreck all along the line. The worst features of the disaster and ruin appear very realistic and will be valuable as mementos to send to friends or to keep for future generations.
David Dawson, with characteristic stubbornness, refused to leave his house because of the flood: “Ye may a’ gang awa’ if ye be feared,” he said, “But I’ll no budge mesel’,” And he didn’t. He stayed there along. When the water reached almost to the ceiling of the first story he was in a room alone , ready to take to the roof if it still insisted on following him. “Weel,” he said to a neighbor hen the flood had subsided, “I thank ye for speerin’, but I stayed, d’ye mind, an’ I’m a’ reicht.”
Probably the narrowest escape from drowning was experienced by Seth Davis’ family. He lives down in the railroad yards, right on the flats between the Illinois Central and Milwaukee tracks. After the water had reached nearly to his waist he started for a boat. It took him an hour and a half to get the boat and return. By that time the water was over his head. He found his wife sitting on a chair on the piano holding the two younger children in her arms, while the older child held the lamp above the water. The piano undoubtedly save all their lives.
Dr. Swift did not preach about the flood.
Ald. Derwent loses fully $2,000 worth of lumber.
The St. Paul has four construction rains at work.
The C. & N.W. will have the washout at Pecatonica repaired by tonight.
Mrs. C.H. Richings’ beautiful flower and vegetable garden is one area of the mud.
Schweinfurth says he did it and Conde says it was the Lord. Now which is right or are they both.
The water mains were stopped leading over Kent Creek from the flood till this morning, but are now all right.
There were fifty-six hogs drowned. They will be made into soap. It’s a bad flood that don’t benefit somebody.
Barbar Hall, he of the wreck sensation, will be well enough to open his shop in the Chick House tomorrow morning.
John T. LaForge lost about $200 worth of roll paper which he had stored in his cellar besides considerable property.
Of course you made up a family party and went and looked at the ruins yesterday. If you didn’t everybody else did.
Major Flynn was in hard luck at the flood. In others words he was in Wisconsin, and couldn’t join in immortal saving corps.
Harry Graham saved six horses at the cotton mill by prompt and efficient work. The water washed out the entire side of the barn.
Yesterday would have been a good day to take a census. We could ring in hundreds of Italian laborers at the railroad ruins.
The streets were deserted for the wreck yesterday. Thousands viewed it from all quarters. There was not a rig to be got in any livery.
It was interesting to see the soaked carpets, mattresses and plush furniture strewn around in the sun to dry, all green with the flood.
A special train of three well-filled coaches was run from Rochelle yesterday for the accommodation of those anxious to see the ruins of the flood.
The loss was over-estimated everywhere in the rush. The total loss of the railroad, city and private property will easily be covered by less than $100,000.
Over the creek people had better be a little more careful about fires. It would be mighty hard work to get a stream of water in the present aspect of affairs.
The post office boys don’t like floods. They were throwing mail all day Sunday, handling two days’ delayed mail, a prefect avalanche form everywhere.
The old gray horse belonging to Lawler & Keeler had more sense than the rest. He managed to keep his head above water and allowed Frank Bean to rescue him.
Manager Gibbony and his crew worked hard all day yesterday repairing the damaged telephone lines, and expect to have everything in running order again by tonight.
Tomorrow’s SEMI-WEEKLY REGISTER will contain the entire account of the flood and can be secured at the REGISTER’S counting rooms by those who could not get dailies.
Rev. S.L. Conde preached on the flood and found it was warning to Rockford’s immorality, Sabbath desecrations, gambling, drunkenness, licentiousness and all the rest of it.
The Illinois Central got their first train through from the west at 11:10 yesterday morning. Byron Hewitt was among the Rockfordites aboard and he was amazed at the extent of damage done.
An outside would think Rockford was a modern Sodom from the lesson of warning some ministers drew from the flood, instead of being, as it is, one of the most moral and Christian cities in the
Dean Peabody thinks it was a remarkable coincidence that the regular church lesson was “God’s Providence,” and he touched in his sermon upon the goodness of the Almighty in allowing no lives to
Mrs. Dora Morrisey, in the loss of her house, loses everything. She just stepped out doors and it sailed away. Very few persons need charity, but Mrs. Morrisey has not anything.
"Keep Out of the House," were the signs that were stuck up in front of the flooded houses on Kilburn Avenue. It was necessary to keep the curious crowd from jamming in and interfering with any kind of privacy
North, the drayman, barely saved his four horses, and had to carry out his family in his arms. He lives on Short Elm Street and the water came into his parlor and up to the keys of the piano. Everything is ruined with mud and dirt
Dunn’s tenants are all moving out. They know when they have got enough. He says he will suit against the city or railroad for $5,000 damages, because embankments and piles, he claims, caused the back water to run into his buildings.
The Rockford Construction Company figure their loss at about $1,200. The derrick floated down the river and was found four miles away. A caisson, which was already to sing, was wrecked. Avery’s big pile-driver was found to be all right.
Mr. Richard Hamlyn had about as thrilling an experience as any one. She was awakened from her sleep and taken out in a boat in her night-clothing with her babe in her arms. Both her and her husband’s clothing were all ruined by the water.
Mrs. Morrisey’s little house near the St. Paul yards was the only dwelling washed away. It stood south of Elm Street between the creek and the track, but there don’t seem to be anyone who knows where it stands now, if it stands at all.
People who yesterday visited the place where the freight train was wrecked speak with much feeling of the odor which ascended from the dead hogs. The smell, they all contend, is as pungent and penetrating as any reasonable person could demand
There was no gas light over Kent Creek, and candles and kerosene lamps were in great demand. A force of men were working all day yesterday and today repairing the gas mains and it is to have light over there tonight, though it may take a day longer.
Fully a mile of the C.M.& St.P. track is torn up. The company is the heaviest of all losers. A force of 150 men have been constantly at work since the flood repairing the damage, and it is expected now that by Wednesday night they will be able to get trains through.
Although the REGISTER published nearly a thousand extras Saturday night with its account of the flood, all were sold before the evening was over and there were a great many disappointed at not obtaining papers. Those who desire the full account can obtain it in the semi-weekly which will be issued tomorrow morning
The Chicago Post, Chicago’s newest paper had the bulge on all the others with over a column account of the flood Saturday night. The Post is showing the sort of enterprise that winds. The account was telegraphed from the matter in the Rockford dailies, a large portion of it being from the DAILY REGISTER’S account verbatim
All day long yesterday crowds of people flocked to the scene of the wreck, and from early morning until night closed in the banks along the river and every other place where people could walk or climb were covered with surging humanity. The viaduct was hardly passable most of the time and the foot bridge at State Street was far too small for the requirements of the day
It would be hard to guess how many people crossed the recrossed the narrow, temporary foot bridge over Kent’s Creek at State Street yesterday. There was no time from morning till night when it was not crowded. It would also be hard to guess what possessed those fellows who would every now and then stop and sit on the railing of the narrow bridge, to the infinite disgust of the crowded pedestrians.
D.J. Hawn, of Oregon, is in the city. He says at about 10 o’clock Saturday forenoon on the Lawler & Keeler’s road carts that had been washed away Friday had reached Oregon. It stuck under a bridge and stopped a while and then got loose and floated on until it was finally caught and dragged ashore. He crossed his heart and stated further that about the same time three dead horses floated through, but he don’t know where they came from or who they belonged to. [Rockford Daily Register, 06-16-1890]
The Barn of Frank Seaverns at Latham is Destroyed, with Four Horses, Four Cows, and all its Contents
Frank Seaverns had a streak of hard luck early Sunday morning. During the big storm his large barn at Latham was struck by lightning and entirely consumed by the fire which resulted. Four horses and four cows also perished in the flames, and the harness, hay and grain went up with the rest. The whole loss will aggregate about $1,500, which is partially covered insurance. The barn had only been built about two years and was one of the best in Owen township [Daily Gazette, 06-23-1890]
TORNADO SWEEPS ROCKFORD WITH RESISTLESS FORCE
Wind and Rain Combine With Hail and Lightning to Make a Scene of Terror--Rolling Clouds Seen to Threaten Total Destruction--Strikes Fear in Every Heart
GREAT DAMAGE DONE PROPERTY IN ALL PARTS OF THE CITY
Electric Light and Telephone Wires Torn Down, Telegraph and Street Railway Service Crippled--Windows Blown In and Chimneys Destroyed--Shade Trees Uprooted
The storm which struck Rockford and the surrounding territory late yesterday afternoon was the worst of the summer and probably more destructive than any which has visited the city for many years. The extreme heat of the day bore heavy promise of a storm, and toward evening clouds rolling up in the west gave warning that the elements had gathered their fury and were about to cut loose and play havoc with the works of man. A few flashed of blinding lightning, a scurrying of dust in the wind that proceeded the rain and then the downfall of a sheet of water ushered in the storm. The Wind freshened and blew like a tornado, driving the rain before it like a torrent, while the heavens were rent with terrific flashes of lightning and the thunder rolled with deafening noise. Everything movable in the streets and yards was caught up and carried on the high wind and the rain covered everything in a solid sheet, the sewers being entirely inadequate to the task set them of carrying the water away. The streets were rivers in a moment and from curb to curb hardly a piece of dry ground could be seen.
Damage Was Widespread
During the height of the storm the hail commenced to fall, but fortunately was not heavy or immense damage would have been done. As it was, windows were blown in all over town, plate glass and small panes suffering alike, limbs were torn from trees and chimneys wrecked. In some places large trees were uprooted and thrown across the streets, blocking the cars and cutting the electric light and telephone wires. The Rockford Edison company shut off the power from its lines for several hours, and the users of lights and power were in the dark and unable to move their machinery until the breaks had been repaired several hours afterward.
Awnings were torn down and billboards were blown away from their supports and thrown into the streets or back into the lots they faced. Bicycle racks, swinging signs, sidewalk show-cases and dry goods boxes were carried in some instances for many yards and distributed all over the streets in the downtown districts and buggies were overturned in many places. The lumber yards and furniture factories suffered severely, poles of lumber being torn down and the material distributed all over the neighborhoods.
The large plate-glass window in the Dowey Laundry in East State Street was blown in , and one of the men holding it in placed was severely cut by the fragments. The brick front of Lonergan’s livery stable in North Main Street was blown over, and several wagonloads of brick and mortar deposited on the sidewalk, completely blocking it.
Some Narrow Escapes
Burr Bros. had been engaged in replacing the large plate of glass broken in a former storm and just as the glass had been placed in its position and before it could be secured, the wind came, threatening to tear it away and break the large piece. A dozen workmen and clerks were hurried to the rescue and succeeded in holding it until the storm was over.
Several river parties were caught in the rain and had narrow escapes from harm. The picnic of the Winnebago Street church aid society was on the river, returning home when the wind arose, and succeeded in reaching the lee of a grove, were the wind had little effect on them. No one was injured and the return to the city after the rain was made in comfort.
Country Districts Suffer
Passengers arriving on evening trains tell of the storm in the surrounding country and all agree that it was severe in all points near Rockford. At Elgin havoc was wrought by the wind and at Dixon houses were unroofed and trees uprooted. The scope of the disturbance was large and probable not a town in Northern Illinois escaped more or less damage. Reports of the damage done in the county roundabout were meager, but such as came in showed much more harm done to corn and farm property. Windmills and stacks were block over and buildings uprooted in all parts of the county. Wires were al down so that surrounding towns could not be reached to secure information. The Edison company was forced to shut down for the first time in sixteen years on account of the entanglement of the wires in all parts of the city. The linemen were sent out at once and the larger part of the circuits established in a short time. The lines were broken by poles being tipped over, trees being thrown across the wires and the wires crossed. It was the work of more than three hours for a large force of men to bring any sort of order out of the chaos that reigned. The storm lasted about ten minutes, but during that time it placed the electric light system hors de combat. Not a light was burning in the city until 8 o'clock, the merchants meanwhile resorting to candles and kerosene lamps. The electric light company hardly knew where to turn for relief as it appeared that every wire was down. Manager Beal at once started out thirty linemen and after several hours hard work had part of the system in working order.
Star Was Handicapped
The Star office was dark until 8 0’clock and the power for the type-setting machines and presses was lacking up to that hour. The office force worked by the light of tallow candles until the current was turned on. The Edison people repaired the circuit on which the Star is placed among the earliest as the need there was greater than at any other point. The delay handicapped the paper somewhat in getting the type set, but was largely made up in the remainder of the night. The street railway company was badly crippled in all parts of the city and the lines into North Town were practically useless for two hours. Great trees were blown down across the streets and the limbs of others were blown across the wires. Poles were broken off and wires torn down and it was necessary to send out the repair wagon and saw the trees sway from the wire and tracks and braced up the poles. Before stopping for the night the company had succeeded in opening up all the routes and had cars running regularly although many trips had been missed and meeting points were not made with regularity.
Drift of the Storm
The Brown building lost nearly a dozen windows by the wind and hail.
A ventilator on the roof of the jail was tipped off the top of the chimney onto the roof.
Two large trees in the yard of the Court Street church were uprooted and turned on their sides.
The chimney on the residence of Fay Lewis was blown over and destroyed down to the roof.
The streets were littered with the limbs of trees and all sorts of debris carried along by the wind.
The windmill at the West Side creamery was blown down, the tower being badly broken by the fall.
The chimney at the Rockford Pain Works was blown over, damaging building to the extent of $150.
Thousands of the beautiful shade trees about the city were destroyed and it will take years to replace them.
The streets were bull of flotsam and jetsam and front lawns and back yards had the appearance of a lumber camp.
The tent over the confectionary stand at the east end of the bridge was blown over and the stock badly damage by the rain.
A giant tree in the front of the residence of E.A. Clark in North Church street was blown against the porch, effectually imprisoning the inmates.
A large window was broken in the store of M.R. Harbaugh in South Main street, and considerable damage was done the stock by rain.
Lighting struck the house of Mrs. Thomas Mancix in South Fourth Street, and after tearing the chimney to pieces, damage the house and kitchen
A pathetic feature of the storm was the merciless slaughter of the birds blown from their nests and either drowned or dashed to death. Some lawns were fairly filled with their little bodies.
The large wooden ornament on the top of the First Baptist church steeple was blown over and hangs at a dangerous angle. The weathervane on the belfry of the Court Street church was also bent over by the wind.
An electric wire crossed with the lines of the Milwaukee road in the yards and it was necessary to cut off all the lines coming into the switchboard, as it was ignited several times, and a serious fire was feared.
Hardly a lawn in the city escaped the storm’s fury, great trees being everywhere broken by the wind as if they were mere twigs. The huge limbs stretched across every street, making it almost impossible for pedestrians to pass.
At the high school the wind tore a piece of the rood off about twenty feet square, carried away two skylights, tore off the galvanized iron peak of the roof and broke a number of windows. Some of the inside blinds were torn off after the windows were blown in and the pieces carried across the rooms.
The telephone lines were badly broken and tangled. The linemen worked clearing up the muddle as long as there was light, and will be at work this morning as soon as they can see. The use of so many cables protected many thousands feet of lines and saved the system from complete wreck. The falling branches of trees and broken poles made up the principal part of the damage.
The livery barn in North Madison street felt the fury of the storm. A skylight was blown in and the upper front blown out of the structure into the street.
The warship on the iron mast above the churn factory of John McDermaid has defied many storms, but it was placed hors de combat yesterday. It looks now as if it were seasick.
The wind broke off one of the iron stays of the awning in front of Cole & Sons place. Vera Cole grasped it and clung to it all through the storm and saved the glass from being broken. He was well soaked but saved the window. A window in the rear of the building was blown out. Elmer Gustafson and two companions were on the river in the Neptune when the storm came up. Before they could land the launch was capsized and it was a case of swim out O’Grady. One of the boys refused to give up the ship and stood on the stack with the water reaching just to his chin. All reached the shore without much difficulty, being excellent swimmers. One on the windows wreck in the Brown building was in the office of J.B. Whitehead, and the wind didn’t do a thing inside. His desk was covered with papers, memoranda, and like materials and the stuff was blown all over the interior of the building. Mr. Whitehead was much disgusted when he sized up the rain. The Postal Telegraph company was cut off from all communication with Chicago, and the Star was compelled to make arrangements with the Western Union to receive the Associated Press report over the lines, which escaped harm. The wires in other directions were down and the Postal had a force of linemen ready to start out at daybreak to repair the damage near town. [The Morning Star, Friday, August 11, 1899]
FIRE ON WATER POWER
Gas Stove Plane is Struck By Lightning
DAMAGE ESTIMATED AT $1,000
Loss is Due Chiefly to Water and Smoke--Will Resume Work Monday--Three Men Injured During the Storm
Of the fires started by lighting during the storm yesterday the most serious was at the plant of the Eclipse Gas Stove company on the water power. The lighting ignited a tank of japan and for a few minutes the situation was alarming. The wind had put the wires in such shape that an alarm could not be turned in and a workman ran all the way to the nearest station to being out the firemen. The department was on handing promptly and soon had several streams on the building. The fire was quickly extinguished, but the building was completely flooded. The loss by fire will not amount to much, but the smoke and water did considerable damage. Just what it will amount to Mr. Roper said could not be estimated last night. His thought that it would not figure up more than $1,000. The plant is covered by $15,000 insurance, placed as follows by the Camlin agency.
Manufacturers of Van Wert - $2,500
Michigan Millers - 1,000
Manufacturers & Merchants of Rockford - 2,500
American Central - 2,500
Saginaw Valley - 1,500
Pennsylvania - 2,500
Niagra - 2,500
The employees went to work quick and put in several hours after the department left last night clearing up the wreck wrought by the water. Mr. Roper says the plant will be in operation in the morning.
Three Men are Injured
Three men were injured during the storm yesterday afternoon, one cut by flying glass and two shocked by lightning. C.H. Krahn, employed at the Dewey laundry in East State street, was the unluckiest of the trio. He and another employee of the company named Johnson were bracing against the large plate glass window in front the of laundry to save it from being blown in. Suddenly there was a crash and the glass shivered, the pieces flying upon the two men. Krahn fared much harder than Johnson. The ligament of the second finger on his left hand was severed and his head cut in several places. Medical aid was secured as quickly as possible, Dr. Lichty caring for him. The doctor found the injury to the man’s hand to be the severer, it not being necessary to take any stitches in the wounds in his head. Johnson sustained a slight cut on the wrist. The men who felt the force of the lightning bolt were Ed and Will Johnson, brothers employed at the Eclipse Gas Stove works. The rain came in at a window and Ed Johnson picked up a piece of sheet iron and held it up to keep out the water. He had hardly got to the window when lightning came down the chimney and ripped away a gas jet near which he had been working. Had he not gone to the window he doubtless would have been killed outright. As it was the shock threw him across the room and left him unconscious. He was carried out and did not revive for several minutes. Will Johnson also felt the force of the electric current but in much smaller degree [The Morning Star, Friday, August 11, 1899]
The Rockton Fire of 1907
FIRE RAZES ROCKTON STORES
BUSINESS BLOCK AT ROCKTON IS SCENE OF DAMP RUINS THIS MORNING--ROCKFORD AND BELOIT FIRE DEPARTMENTS ARE HURRIED TO RESCUE. BUT ONE STORE ESCAPES. LOSS IMPOSSIBLE TO ACCURATELY ESTIMATE, BUT IS EASILY $50,000
Rockton, Nov. 1--By daylight this morning the terrible fire which raged since 11 o'clock last night had subsided, and Rockton's business section was left a mass of damp ruins. The crowds who had watched the flames destroying their property and that of those near to them, disbursed and went to their home for much needed rest. It as the most pitiful dawn that ever broke upon the village.
At 11 o'clock last night flames were discovered in the Baker & Thompson general store. The alarm was given and the volunteers were aroused. It was immediately seen that the fire was too great to be combated by the men and facilities at hand and Rockford and Beloit were appealed to for aid.
Before help could arrive the flames were savagely licking up the three story brick structures like so much tinder. The skies were brilliantly lighted and people from miles off started for Rockton prepared to help if possible. Often a brick wall would crash down into the seething flames and a cloud of thick dust and sparks would rise with the fire and smoke . The E.L. Van Ness store alone is left.
Rockton residents saw all their stores but one gradually enter the zone of the flames. The saw the New England House, the old stone landmarks there for years, totter at last to become a remembrance. The Masonic hall; newly fitted up and the city's pride, is a heap of wet black ruins. The loss to the city is one which cannot be estimated in dollars and cents, it is one which effects almost every family and which has struck with a cruel blow the whole community.
The estimated loss to the merchants is as follows:
New England House $3,000; Masonic Block $6,500; Baker & Thompson gen. store $5,000; C.E. Phelps hardware $11,000; W.R. Axe, billiard hall $2,500; J.B. Crosby, law office $250; William Graves, barber $800;Hopkins, meat market $2,500; Curry, gen. store $5,000; Total $46,550
The estimates, made so soon after the fire, are naturally hasty and faulty. The losers cannot realize the amount of the loss on such short notice, but the above figures are the result of careful study on the grounds and are as near correct as are obtainable. The high insurance rates for Rockton are responsible for the fact that on many of the stores there is almost no insurance. The Rockton Hardware Company carried $3,000 on the stock in the Royal. The Thompson store was insured for 2,500 building and stock. He loss is about evenly divided between stock and buildings. The structures were three stories brick ones, with the exception of the New England House which was built of stone.
The Rockford Help
Rockford--It was 6 minutes past 12 o'clock when the hose company from No. 1 and the steamer from No. 2 were loaded on a flat car at the Milwaukee years. The trip to Rockton as times by Robt. Fergusen was made in a little over 18 minutes. Ii was a hair raising ride. The Rockford engine had a little trouble in getting to water as the first place tried was too low and muddy. After the connection was made the No. 2 engine was worked for three hours and performed valuable service. The following men from the local department answered the call for aid to the neighboring city: Engineer R. Ferguson, Oscar Risberg, Frank Coonrad, No. 2:. Chief Thomas, Capt. Creagan, Charles Rockwood, John Ryan, No. 1. The boys returned this morning at 9 o'clock, went to the stations and started work cleaning the wagons. After the work was finished they turned in the a deserved sleep.
Origin of Fire Unknown
The blaze was discovered at 11 o'clock by G.M. Stevenson, the liveryman. It is not known what started the blaze but it is thought it originated in the rear of the Baker & Thompson general store. A number of families lost all their possessions. Their homes were above the stores. Cole Buchanan, a diphtheria patient, was moved to the home of Mrs. Harry Kincaid, a sister. His household goods were all lost. Ed. Taylor, over the Baker & Thompson store. D.C. Chase and James Smith saved nothing.
The sparks from the fire flew high in the air and came down blocks away. Four houses were thus set on fire but the flames were put out without great damage. Those living across the street and nearby packed their belongings and made ready to vacate their houses. The windows in many places on the opposite side of the street were cracked.
The Beloit department, the first to arrive, was powerless because they had not engine. The Rockford engine was greatly handicapped because they had trouble in getting water as the suction drop was so great. A part of the New England House, used as a residence, is saved. The building is owned by Fred M. Coons. The other buildings which were destroyed were owned by W.P.(?)William Smith, C.E. Phelps, Herold Hyatt, and J.M. Wait. The Hopkins meat market is running in another location. The other merchants are already talking of rebuilding and will probably hold a meeting soon to discuss the question. Additional losses reported today are that of the Winnebago County Telephone Company which lost $100. The phones are all ready for use except in the burned buildings. The electric power is rendered useless. Last night no light could be had in the city. It is promised that there will be light tonight. The loss occasioned by the fire is estimated by Rockton people at $100,000, and not $50,000, the more conservative estimate. [Rockford Republic, 11-01-1907]
ROCKTON LOSS TOTALS $40,000
FIRE REMOVED PRACTICALLY ALL GENERAL BUSINESS
INSURANCE ABOUT HALF
Talk of Providing Protection Was Renewed on Streets Yesterday. Many of the Losers Will Soon
The city has been the home of sight seers today and from early morning until late this evening the main street was filled with those who came from the country nearby and also the villages to see what damage had been done by the fire. Daylight saw the first of the visitors coming, and they were here before the members of the Rockford and Beloit fire departments had ceased the work of pouring water on the ruins and ending the possibility of a continuation of the conflagration. Those who had remained about the streets until the fire had burned itself out came down town early, and they with several officers of the village met Chiefs Thomas and Goss of the Rockford and Beloit departments and expressed to them the thanks of the people, and declared further action would be taken by the board at its meeting Tuesday. It was also arranged that the fire fighters be well cared for and a sumptuous breakfast was served by Mrs. Stiles, who gladly took up the burden of preparing the meal. Aside from the firefighters the crew of the Milwaukee train which conveyed the Rockford department made the trip over land. The departments worked until about 7 o'clock. Today there has been a renewal of the talk of providing fire protection to the property here. This is the third time the village has suffered a big fire loss, and now there is a concerted action among the people calling on the members of the board to do something. It is declared a main might be laid which would fully protect the business district, and that a series of wells could be provided in the thickly settled residence district, and this would be a preventative of such conflagrations as have visited the city before. Those who saw the fire last night in its first stages say that a small supply of water applied fifteen minutes after the blaze was first discovered would have put it out. A review of the destroyed district today and an estimate of the losses show the total will reach close to $40,000 on building and stocks. To offset this there will probably be $10,000 of insurance, though all the property owners would not give definite statements of their insurance.
The revised list of losses with the insurance as far as could be obtained follows:
C.E. Phelps, loss of $8,500. Insurance $4,500 divided between Northwestern Mutual of Milwaukee, Mechanic's Mutual, Milwaukee and German of New York.
Mrs. L.W. Smith, store building, loss of $3,000. Insurance $1,000 in Westchester New York city. Loss on residence $200 covered by policy in American of Newark, N.J.
F. W. Rockwell, building $2,500. Insurance not announced.
L.B. Hopkins, meat market, $8,00. Insurance $500 in Phoenix, Brooklyn.
Masonic lodge society loss on building, paraphernalia and furnishings $4,259. Partially insured but policies destroyed.
David Chase, ice cream parlor, loss $500 on household $300.
George Curry, general merchandise stock, $4,000. Insurance $2,500 in companies not announced.
Cole Buchanan, furniture $200. Uninsured.
Thompson & Baker building $1,500: stock $3,500. Insured $3,500 in several companies, names not given.
Edward Taylor household furniture. $300.
New England house, owned by Fred Coons, damaged $500.
Rockton Hardware company, building, $2,000: stock $5,000. Insured $3,000.
W.R. Ax, building $2,000.
Attorney Crosby, law books, $200.
Chase billiard hall, and confectionary $1,200. No insurance.
While the loss will be great it is declared there will be none of the losers who will fail to rebuild, and the business houses which are now out of business will be resumed again as soon as is possible. The street will soon be rebuilt and a string of solid brick structures will take the place of the stone ones destroyed.
For some time it will make extra business for the store at Rockford and Beloit for the Van Ness place is the only one now running and no store building near by could be leased for the purpose of putting in a stock. [--Rockford Morning Star, Nov 02, 1907]
BLOCK OF STORES BURN
ROCKFORD AND BELOIT FIREMEN AID IN FIGHT WITH FLAMES. LOS OVER $40,000; IS WELL INSURED
Halloween night of 1907 will never be forgotten by residents of Rockton in the north end of Winnebago county. All of ninety percent of the business of that burg was swept away by fire last night. Nine stores with their contents went up in smoke and the historic old New England house was reduced to ruins. Firemen from Beloit and Rockford rushed to the aid of the stricken village and succeeded in saving the residence portion and a fraction of the business section from destruction. The total loss will foot up closet to $50,000 with a fair proportion of the property destroyed insured, possible $15,000.
Discovery of the Blaze
The fire was discovered about 11 o'clock by G. M. Stevenson. The latter conducts a livery stable across the street from the New England house. He lock up the stable and started for the house which is on the same lot when he noticed a bright light in the rear of Masonic Temple. He thought at first it was a Hallowe'en bon fire but a moment late say his error and hurried to the scene of the conflagration yelling “fire” at the top of his voice. Abouth the same time the whistle at the paper mill located just south of the business section, sounded a notification to the citizens that a fire was raging. Some one besides Mr. Stevenson had evidently sighted the blaze and had given the alarm to the mill. The fire originated apparently either in the rear apartments of the Masonic Temple of the Thompson & Baker grocery. The blaze was first noticed in the stairway which leads into both buildings.
Was No Fire Protection
Telephone messages to Beloit and Rockford brought aid to the burning village. Beloit responded first with a force of men and some apparatus but as they had no engine could do little more than the Rockton department. The Rockford relief force reached Rockton about 12:30 o'clock on a special train of flat cars over the St. Paul road and to the efficient work of the Rockford firemen is due to the prevention of the wiping out of the entire town. The Rockford firemen brought along an engine and a lead of hose was throw into the (?) a few years to the rear of the burning business blocks. (…unreadable portion…)
Fire Traveled Fast
(…paragraph unreadable…) D.T. Chase, billiard and pool room, W.R. Axe, owner. James Crosby, law office, W.R. Axe, owner. W.V. Graves, barber shop, W.R. Ave, owner. New England house, Fred M. Coons, owner. The structure occupied by Curry, Thompson and Baker and the Masonic societies was a three story brick and stone structure. It was erected a number of years ago and was still the principal business block in Rockton. The ground floor of the Masonic Temple had been used as a restaurant until lately but was vacant at the time of the fire. The Rockton Hardware company occupied a two-story frame structure as did Crosby, Graves and Chase. Attorney Crosby rescued his library books but the contents of the stores were a total loss as a general proposition. Attorney Crosby rescued his library books but the contents of the stores were a total loss as a general proposition.
Diphtheria Patient Routed Out
In the residence apartments over the Curry store on the corner Cole Robinson was in quarantine for diphtheria. It soon became evident that he would burn to death if left in quarantine and he was conveyed to the home of his sister, Mrs. Harry Kincaid. This home was placed in quarantine today. Edward Taylor occupied apartments over the Thompson & Baker store and lost every article of household furniture and clothing to his name. D.T. Chase resided over the Rockton Hardware company's store and James Smith, colored, resided over the billiard rooms. The last three succeeded in saving most of their belongings.
Hotel a Historic One
The New England house, a portion of which was saved from the flames was one of the first buildings ercted in Winnebago county still standing. It was built in 1845 by the Merrill brothers, according to aged W.F. Packard, a spectator at the ruins this morning, and Mr. Packard ought to know because he assisted in the work of erecting the hotel as well as the big brick and stone business structure of three stories and four stores which went down before the onslaught of the blaze of Thursday night. The New England house was used as a hotel for twenty years or more and was a famous hostelry in its day but the past quarter century or more it has been used for residence purposes only. It was occupied by three families at the times of the fire the tenants being Peter Kincaid, Daniel West, and John Turner. All three families had time to hustle their furniture out and store it out of harm's way before the fire (…?) physician and it is not thought that he was seriously harmed.Despite the fierceness of the blaze, the darkness of the night, the general excitement and the frantic efforts to aid in the saving of stock from the flames no other accidents were reported beyond the slight injury of Bethel experienced
Rocktonites Dazed Today
When morning broke in Rockton today the inhabitants of the thriving little village were in a partial daze. It all happened so suddenly the extent of the calamity could hardly be realized. No one had more than a general idea of the total loss sustained but it is known that the hardware men carried a stock each in the neighborhood of $5,000, the general store of Mr. Curry was well stocked with high grade goods and the other stores suffering loss were up-to-date in appointments. The understanding is that the bulk of the fire loss is covered by insurance despite the fact that the rate for Rockton is very high on account of its lack of fire protection through general impression is that it will be some time before any effort is made to rebuild the burned structures. “The buildings were not owned by parties who have made records as builders” was the way one old timer there put it this morning and gloom seemed to prevail over the burg, gloom deepened by drizzling rain which marked the advent of daylight and continued throughout the day.
Little Left of Storedom
The drug store, kitty-corners from the burned structure and the post office building a block east are the only two stone store buildings left in Rockton in the business district. Across the street from the drug store which is conducted by W.W. Favor, formerly of Rockford is the Veness general store. The latter was burned out about three years ago, Across the street from the burned block is a row of frame structures, mostly one story high, the most pretentious of which is the Herald office. The telephone office is located over the post office and the operator, Mrs. Stiles, was kept "busy now" every moment today. Six telephones were burned during the fire and several poles consumed but the service was kept in excellent shape notwithstanding by the efficient operator.
Humor at the Fire
A number of Rockfordites who watched the fire department make ready for the hurry-up run to Rockton accompanied he delegation of fire fighters aboard the flat cars and their experiences were numerous and varied. Between the hats lost during the trip, the "snooze" enjoyed the "Dot" Sperry while the others were feeding on balogna and other delicacies dealt out by the grateful Rocktonites, the Rockfordites have been kept bury telling their tales of woe and otherwise today. Residents of Rockton speak in terms of highest praise of the efficient work of the Rockford firemen. [--Daily Register-Gazette, 11-01-1907]
AFTERMATH OF ROCKTON FIRE
LOSS ALL OF $40,000--INSURANCE ABOUT HALF THAT AMOUNT MAY REBUILT
Insurance adjusters were busy at Rockton Friday afternoon following the big conflagration of the night before and according to information they furnish the fire loss with insurance was about as follows: C.E. Phelps' building--Loss $8,500; insurance: Northwest, $4,000: Milwaukee Mech., $4,000; German, N.Y., $4,000; Mrs. L.W. Smith's store--Loss, $3,000; insurance: Westchester, $1,000; American, N.J., $200.; L.B. Hopkins store--Loss $800; insurance: Phoenix, $500; Thompson & Baker's store--Loss, $5,000; insurance: Royal, $2,500: German, Peoria, $1,000.; Rockton Hardware Company--Loss, $7,000; insurance: Royal, $3,000.
Owners of the burned structures are said to be planning to rebuild despite rumors to the contrary and anew row of brick business blocks may supplant the stone structures wiped out by fire. With only the Veness store as a source of supply for groceries and general merchandise much of the trade in the general line will go to Beloit and Rockford until business houses are provided for merchants who desire to re-engage in business in Rockton. [--Daily Register Gazette, 11-02-1907]
SCENE AT FIRE WAS PITIFUL
Bride and Groom Lost All Their Possessions in New Home-Woman Exposed to Diphtheria Walks Among Crowd and is Arrested. People in Hallowe'en Costume Labored to Save Goods-Sparks Flew All About City
The story of the Rockton fire as told by a Rockford woman who was present when the alarm was given and who worked among the rescuers is told as follows: When the fire broke out it was so small that a stream from a garden hose would have extinguished it. The men in the village carried buckets of water to throw on the blaze, which was consuming a shed in the rear of the Baker & Thompson store. The flames were above the men's heads and the work was useless. Slowly, at first, and then with a sweep the flames took possession of all the frame sheds in the rear of the block. With these gone and the rear doors of the buildings burned away the draft was terrific. No one ever saw such flames in Rockton. They burst from every window and door and were soon rising high from the roofs. The sparks flew way up in the air and came down in all parts of the village.
The men rushed into the burning stores to save the stock and climbed the stairs to the apartments where many were rescued in the nick of time. A bride and groom who had but recently furnished their home, lost everything, clothing and all. A months wages was burned and the groom's watch was destroyed. A man with diphtheria was moved into the home of a sister and shortly afterwards his wife, who had been exposed and was thought to be coming down with the disease, walked into a crowd of spectators. She was taken into custody as she could not in any other way be kept from the fire and crowd. The men piled the groceries and stock from the stores in the street. Later the sparks set fire to piles and they had to be moved further off. The women joined in this work. As the crowd watched the block burn the feeling of helplessness became stronger. There was nothing to be done. When at last the streams were thrown by the Rockford department a great cheer went up. He homes would now be out of danger. Often a cry would go up that someone's house was on fire and that person and a number of friends would rush home to protect their property. Small blazes broke out on eleven houses. The crowd, many from Halloween parties presented a queer sight. There were women with their hair down in braids and with short skirts who had been to a children's party, who worked hard in saving the property by moving it away from the fire. Men had wet blankets on the roofs of their houses and the Van Ness store was saved by the men who guarded the roof against the sparks." The one thought that seemed to impress all was the utter lack of fire protection owned by the village. The block was all brick and was built at the same time and is the same design as the Caswell drug store on West State Street. [--Rockford Republic, 11-02-1907]
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