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  At the close of the season I did not make the usual trip south but went directly home.  My second by was born October 3rd of this year and I was anxious to get home and look after my wife and child.  My wife was at her parent’s home with David Hanks and family on his farm. The two families occupying the same house, and which my wife and I were there, as we were during this winter of 1859 and 60, there were three families together but the house was large and roomy as I had built a large room as an addition, as before stated, so we were all comfortably situated in spite of the fact there were a lot of us.  Dave Hanks had a large family and a number of father Bennett’s were still at home but we were not of the quarrelsome kind and the forbearance was always manifested by both old and young and we really enjoyed being together.  In fact those were felt to be happy times and are still referred to by the children now living as the happiest time of their lives.  Theo older ones who are still left, indulge in reminisces of those good old times, as we are all agreed in considering them.

  In the spring of 1860 began up river work on the Alhambra which was put into the St. Louis and galena trade.  I was coming up the river on her at the time of the tornado that destroyed the town of Albany and Camanche.  At Albany my hometown, there were five deaths and quite a number more or less injured and crippled.  The buildings were mostly in ruins and the wonder is there was not a greater loss of life.

  We left Rock Island very early on the morning of June 1st and reached Albany some time before forenoon.  Before getting down river we began to meet a lot of debris on the river and knowing that there had been a severe storm we began to suspect that something unusual had happened.  There were tops of trees and broken limbs lath shingles and bits of houses floating down the river.  When we came in sight of the two towns it was very evident where the wreckage came from.  My wife and child were in a house not more than one hundred feet from the river and mud and water wee blown in their faces enough to strangle them, but they were unhurt and the house was not wrecked for which we were all properly thankful.  This tornado and inside devastation became widely known and was fully illustrated in Harper’s Weekly, one of the few illustrated journals of the times and accounts of it were written up for the daily press of the civilized world.  Sufficient matter was written concerning the many strange manifestations in connection with it to have filled volumes.  At that time but little was known, comparatively, concerning these peculiar storms and there was intense interest shown, but since then our knowledge had increased most wonderfully and the laws governing their formation are being much better understood and as they become more numerous we accept them without much comment as part of our every day life.

  Note:_ Mr. M. W. Hanks says regarding this tornado:” While it is of no particular interest will say that at this time I was eight months old and we lived in the country at the home of David hanks.  As my mother was expecting father up from St. Louis that day we went to town (Albany) and at the time of the storm were at the home of C. Slocomb, located on what was then the main street along the river front.  The house was a large one story frame built on the slope of the hill running back from the river.  My mother has told me that the storm came up between six and seven in the evening and that all the people in the house went into the cellar, the windows of which were open.  When the storm struck, y mother was holding me with my face over her shoulder and as the wind blew the dirt and rain in thru the windows we were all covered with mud and I was almost smothered as my face was completely plastered with it.  The house was not wrecked but the windows were all blown in.”

  From a copy of the Albany Review of June 4, 1915 we get the following data on the big storm.

  It was supposed to have started near Ft. Dodge, Iowa, reached Camanche and Albany abut 6:30 p. m. on Sunday, June 3, 1860 and continued to Ottawa County, Mich, a distance of 450 miles carrying death and destruction the entire distance.  The account mentioned as being in Harpers Weekly was in the issue of that paper June 13, 1860.  Twenty two lives were lost at Camanche and eight at Albany two hundred and twenty eight buildings were destroyed and one hundred and nineteen injured at Camanche.  Seventy-nine people were injured in Albany.  Seventy-eight buildings were demolished or injured in Albany.  All the freak features of the later day cyclones were present but we will mention only a couple of instances.  A log raft was passing Camanche past as the storm struck the place in white or grey hors was blown from the Iowa shore, high in the air. Out over the raft and dropped into the river.  When the storm subsided the raft was found to have been thrown against the Iowa shore with a large portion of it resting on top of the bank.  The logs had to be cut loose, rolled into the river and rerafted.  The peculiarity of this was the fact that the raft was carried in the opposite direction from the course of the storm, caused probably by the back rush of the water which had first been drawn from the Iowa shore by the suction of the storm. 

  R. Rambo, a raftsman on a log raft tied up near Camanche and just out of the path of the most severe part of the storm, declared that he saw the bottom of the river two thirds of the way across it.

  No estimate as to the total loss of life in the path of the storm was made. It was very great considering the number of people then in the section thru which it passed and the towns of Camanche and Albany never recovered from the disaster. F. A. B.

   About July 1st the Alhambra was sent to the ways by the under writers for repairs and I was transferred to the City Belle in the same—

 One day we were passing a point between Clarksville and Louisiana, we came upon the steamer War Eagle which was also running in the St. Louis trade, lying at the bank with the forward end of her cabin resting on the shore.  She had run in to tie up during a storm, which proved to be like a tornado in character with the result as stated.  Captain White, her chief officer, was in the pilot house at the time and told me that he seemed to be lifted up and went flying as though the whole boat had suddenly taken wings and launched herself into the air.  They were not much injured and the cabin was moved bodily backed into the hull.  The pilot house was not materially damaged, aside from the breaking of glass.


Collected and Transcribed by

Georgeann McClure


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