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Posted By: Sharon R Becker (email)
Date: 11/18/2014 at 13:52:58

The Globe Gazette
Mason City, Cerro Gordo County, Iowa
Monday, June 01, 1953
Mason City Centennial Edition, Section 3


[Section 3, Page 15] Mason City has had storms and floods over the past century, but few that exceeded in violence that of June 1, 1878. A three and a half inch rain fell in two hours and wind and flood damage was suffered in all parts of the county. Near Rockwell a freight train tumbled into a creek because a bridge had been washed out.

"Willow Creek spread out like the Father of Waters," said The Cerro Gordo Republican, describing the event. "Much damage was done by washouts. Whitman's blacksmith shop slipped from its foundations and glided down stream gracefully with tools, materials and all.

"At Parker's mill the water had cut around and carried away the embankment, thus forming a chute of great depth through the ground west of the mill (now Rock Glen). Through this chasm went a stream, whirling the blacksmith shop and contents against a tree, where the force of the torrent crushed it like an egg shell and stranded it. Hammers, anvils and chisels were packed up in the vicinity and some fully a half mile away."

Cut Off Escape
"The rise of the water was so sudden that it cut off all escape from the mill. Thus Mr. Parker and Bumgarden had to remain in the mill till early the next day, while the angry waters beat around the mill. But its walls proudly resisted the assaults of the flood and came out without damage. But the dam and embankment were badly used up. Inside the mill some loss was sustained among the stock of flour and grain on the first floor.

"But no doubt the most severe loss was that of W. O. Barnard at his lime kiln. The flood swept around his office and undermined it until it fell, a mass of stone. The Watson bridge, west of town, came riding down majestically as a queen and lodged near Parker's mill. The corner of his lime kiln was caved in."

Tornado Strikes
In the southwest part of the county the storm struck in the form of a tornado, demolishing farm homes, according to the Republican. The bridge and dam at Rockford went out. At the Thomas Featherspiel home the storm destroyed the building, threw the 4 year old daughter 30 rods into a wheat field, causing her death, while other members of the family suffered bruises and other severe injuries.

This is the Republican's description of the train wreck brought about by the storm:

"The northbound freight train on the Central of Iowa, near Rockwell, came thundering along after dark and when the light from the headlight showed the engineer the yawning gulf below, he reversed his engine and he and his fireman jumped in time to save their lives, but the engine, tender and seven cars went crashing into the chasm and buried themselves in the dark deep stream."

Transcription by Sharon R. Becker, November of 2014


Cerro Gordo Documents maintained by Sharon R. Becker.
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