CYCLONE DAY 1918
Celesta Adams Glendening , 1976
To my children, Grandchildren and Great Grand- children. I’m writing this story for my grand children and great grand children. Many times I have told it or parts of it. Now I am writing it. I will be eighty-two, March 11, 1976 and I think it is time I was putting it in writing, I will not always be here to tell it. Within the story I will refer to George, my husband, as Grandpa, to help keep things straight.
May the 20th, 1918 dawned bright and clear, but it was cold for this time of year. This was Cyclone Day, so called because on the same date in the two previous years, 1916 and 1917, a tornado (or cyclone we called it then) had swept through our community, and I am sure there was not a family in Codell and for miles around that had not remembered and wondered if it would live up to its name on this day. Well, it did, in less than twelve hours another cyclone had struck and left death and destruction in its path, by far the worst cyclone of the three.
We, Grandpa and I and our two little boys, Worden would soon be three and Max, one and a half years, lived on a farm seven miles north-east of Codell, known as the Yowell place, but it was owned by Dr. Wilbur E. Andreson of Plainville, Kansas, and is still a part of the Andreson estate. Bruce farms it now.
On this fateful day Grandpa and Evart, my brother who was helping with the farm work at this time, had left early in the morning to go to the field three and one-half miles south of where we lived and on another Andreson farm that Grandpa had rented, to list corn. Many farmers were listing corn at this time. Due to its being so cold they had worn extra clothing, to keep warm, winter coats and heavy underwear. Herb Darland told me years later he had worn his overcoat all day. We had always heard a hot dry sultry day was a storm breeder. Not a day like this.
Grandpa and Evart had taken their dinner with them, I guess we would call it lunch now. They farmed with horses then, three or four horses on each lister. It was too far to drive horses back and forth, took too much time, besides, the horses needed the noon hour to rest and eat their dinner.
Well, I had the day to do as I wished and of course, as always there was plenty to do. But I remember I repapered on the wall of the living room. I had the extra paper and had been wanting to do it. I also washed the windows and put up fresh curtains. I know I must have felt good to have a clean room with freshly washed windows and curtains, but I did not get to enjoy it long. I also baked bread that day. And that was a real treat. Of course, I always baked all our bread, but today was different. I baked it from all white flour. You see, this was during World War I and much of our food was rationed. Flour was one of them. When we bought a pound of flour, we were required to buy a pound of some other grain, corn and cereal meal, oats and other flours made from other grains. So we always put other grains with our flour to use it, we certainly couldn’t afford to throw it out. So just once in a while, I would make a batch of bread from the white flour and it was always a treat. I still remember those six, (or maybe it was just four_ loaves of bread cooling on the cabinet and the big pan of rolls we ate for supper.
By the way, Grandpa received his summons to report to the examining board for duty in the army, but because he was a farmer, he was excused. He also had a wife and children and I think that made a difference too.
It had warmed up some through the day, so along toward evening I took the boys and went out in the pasture after the cows, so they would be in when Grandpa came in from the field, and that was quite a job. Max being only a year and a half, I had to carry him, and Worden was not very big, besides I was pregnant. Wanda was born in September, after the cyclone in May. I must have walked a mile and I know that part of the time I was carrying both boys.
I think it was about the time I got home that I noticed a small cloud gathering in the southwest. The wind had changed too, Grandpa and Evart came home soon and milked the cows. And we ate supper. I’m sure we enjoyed the rolls I baked, but we did not get to eat any of the loaves. By now the clouds had darkened and were billowing up higher, by nightfall there was definitely a storm brewing.
I don’t know why we didn’t go to the cave. We sat around watching the clouds grow darker and larger, talked about it being Cyclone Day or Night. It started to rain and the wind blew harder and harder. The cave was east of the house just a few steps from our door, but it wasn’t until it began to hail that we thought of going to the cave. Then Grandpa opened the door a bit, but the wind was so strong and it was hailing so hard, he said we could not make it. I think it was about ten o’clock. The boys were in bed asleep; we rushed in and picked them up. I wrapped Max in a quilt when I picked him up. I guess it was just mother instinct, protecting my baby. We went back to the kitchen and just stood there together.
There was a terrible noise beside the rain, hail, lightning and thunder. I’m sure we knew the roar we heard was a cyclone for sure.
I must have prayed, don’t we all when we get to the place where we can’t help ourselves, then we ask God to take care of us. Thunder roared, lightning flashed, rain and hail beat against the windows with such force I knew they would break.
I don’t even like to recall all this, it frightens me still and it’s impossible to describe it. I just can’t. Then I saw the lightning between the ceiling and the wall, and I knew the house was tearing to pieces. We smelled wet plaster, heard nails pulling out of the wood and heard wood breaking.
Just before this I had heard dishes breaking in a small room off the kitchen. I knew it was my new dishes I had just bought that were on a shelf in that room.
The house had an upstairs in it, and they told us afterward that the floor of the house was completely covered with debris, all except the small area where we stood. Many things that had been upstairs were there. But now the house was gone all except the floor, and we had stood up all the time. The rain still was coming down in sheets and the wind was blowing so hard we could scarcely stand.
We had four inches of rain that night. Besides being blown away, we almost drowned. Max was still wrapped in the quilt and I was still holding him tight, when all of a sudden he was gone. I have never figured out how this could happen but it did. He was just torn out of my arms. There I stood my arms empty! I don’t remember too much about this; Grandpa says I went berserk and tore his shirt completely off of him, as he tried to hold me and, of course, he was holding Worden, and I tried to get away to go find my baby. Grandpa says he finally just pushed me down on the floor, and in a flash of lightning, we saw Max sitting up just a few feet off the floor. Grandpa had him in an instant and gave him to me. I guess unless you’ve experienced such a thing, you could never know my feeling as I held him close. Perhaps a mother could come nearest to understanding.
Years later after Max became old enough to hear the story, he used to tell the children at school some pretty wild tales about his flying around up in the sky with a quilt wrapped around him. As it turned out, Max was the only one who was not injured in some way. He didn’t have a scratch on him.
I don’t know how long the storm lasted, but it seemed hours. Perhaps it was only minutes. When the storm had subsided enough that we were able to see when lightning flashed, we realized there was nothing to see. The house, barn, chicken house, sheds and granaries were all gone. The only thing left standing was the mailbox, which was at the road about fifty yards from the house.
Now we were some distance from where the house had stood, down in a draw that ran north of the house. From the mailbox we decided where the cave was, and we decided to try to get to it. I think Grandpa and Evart dragged me most of the way. It was still raining and the wind was still blowing hard. When we reached the cave, we had to get down and crawl up to it. The wind was still so strong it kept blowing us back, but it seemed good to get into the cave even if it was dark.
The first thing we did was try to see if any of us were hurt badly. Worden had been crying all the time. Grandpa had put him down inside his overalls, and that had warmed him some. We found out later his arm was broken so it was no wonder he cried. Max never made a noise, and I was sure he was seriously injured, I rubbed my hands all over him, but he seemed to be all right. Of course he had been wrapped in the quilt and had not been exposed to all of it. But we were uneasy about him, when suddenly he sat up and said, “Doggie”. That’s a little story in its self.
Grandpa had found a little kitten in the field that day and the boys had played with it all evening until they went to bed. Max had called it, “Doggie” all evening. That relieved us some, and Max was soon asleep again.
We waited a while for the wind to die down a bit, and then Evart went for help to Claud Hustads, they lived almost a mile west of us where Lester Pruters live now.
We had all been hurt some. Grandpa didn’t have any shoes on and his feet were cut in several places. He did not wear his shoes for quite a while. Evart had a few scratches and cuts on his arms but nothing serious. I felt something warm running down my leg and decided it was blood from a bad cut on my leg below the knee. I still have a bad scar and came nearly loosing my leg. I hadn’t known it was cut until then.
When Evart came back from Hustads, Claud and his daughter, Ethel was with him. They brought coats and blankets for us. By now I could not stand on my leg so Grandpa and Claud carried me. Evart had Worden and Ethel carried Max. Evart told me afterward that Ethel kept telling him all the way she was sure the baby was dead. He hadn’t moved. But he was warm now and just went to sleep.
The Hustads took care of us the best they could gave us dry clothing, dressed our wounds and put us to bed.
Their house had been damaged quite a bit. Most of the windows were out. Their car was up side down out in the road, but they were all ok.
We were not there long until Grandpa’s father and another man that had brought him up in his car came up to see about us and took us down to their house in Codell. There were very few cars in Codell at this time, and I’ve forgotten who the man was. It was then we learned that Walter’s (my brother) wife, Ethel and son, Lawrence, just three years old, had been killed. They lived in a stone house just over the hill north from Lawrence and June’s house is now. Walter, Ethel, Lawrence and Ethel’s sister, Alice Romine Richmond were with them. Ethel talked to Walter after the storm; just asked him if he was all right. Rocks had just covered them all. Alice had crawled under a table. They had a storm cave too. Such a terrible tragedy in our family. They are buried in Shiloh Cemetery.
Elmer and Alma Bice lived north of Codell where Orin McCues’ lived. Now the house is Bud’s here in Codell. The house was not damaged, but their garage was blown away leaving the car, (a new one) untouched. Elmer said he felt like it was left there for a purpose, so he went down to Walter’s and stunned by what he saw, he knew he had to get help. He talked to Walter, then went back to the car and it wouldn’t start so he ran all the way to Codell. He went to Charley Rolfe’s, they lived across the road from Lee Smith’s shop. But he was in such a shock and he had run so hard, he was unable to utter a word. It was quite some time before he could tell them about Walters. Several people went over there. My Dad and Ralph (Grandpa’s brother) were already there. They soon had them all out. Alice wasn’t hurt much, but Ethel and Lawrence were dead. Walter was pinned down by rocks and boards and had a bolt jammed in his back. It was a long time before he was well.
The Frank Jones family, they lived close to the Shiloh Cemetery, were all hurt, none seriously except the baby, he was killed. Their house was completely destroyed, as was the Newlin house. Hilda Newlin was buried under the wreckage of the house, but she was taken out unharmed. The Presbyterian Church by the Shiloh Cemetery was destroyed.
Many buildings in Codell were destroyed and most of them never rebuilt. Many scars still remain, parts of foundations, grim reminders to those who still remember.
Two churches were destroyed, the Methodist and the Pentecostal. The Methodist Church stood across the road north from Jim Russell’s shop. The Pentecostal Church was on the property where our house stands. We took out some of the old foundation after we moved here. The schoolhouse stood where the brick school stands now. And on Main Street the business places were almost wiped out.
On either side of the street from the Gilpin store that stands on the west side and from the Post Office on the east to the road south, business places completely filled in the empty space that is there now. The City Hotel owned by B.H. Overholser stood just west of Max’s house. Some of the other business places, as I remember them, were Codell State Bank, S.R. Tucker, President; Wm. Littlejohn, M.A., Ph.D., M.D.
Dr. Littlejohn spent three days in his office in Plainville then three days in Codell. Carl H. Bradford, dealer in harness and saddlery; the Comrade Barber Shop owned by A.E. Auld, everyone called him “Jum”; W.A. Doak, Mercantile Co.; Lasher and Tucker, dealers in farm implements, buggies and machinery; Charley Darland, dealer in gasoline and coal oil; The Comrade Garage, C.F. Johnson and Elmer Bice, agents for Studebaker cars; there was a telephone office, lumber yard, a variety store owned by W.A. Barry; a restaurant, a produce station where we sold cream and eggs; another grocery store, I think. Of course the bank building is still there and the lumberyard was where the Post Office is. There were other buildings destroyed and several homes, among them the Methodist parsonage, which was north of the Methodist Church, and one or two houses north of it. Yes, Codell was almost destroyed. Much of it never was replaced, many scars still remain, grim reminders to those who remember. This is the end of Cyclone Day 1918, May 20th. The rest is what happened later.
DAYS FOLLOWING THE CYCLONE
The two neighboring towns, Plainville and Natoma, turned out in full force to help clean up the debris. I am sure it was all appreciated.
The days following the cyclone were hectic ones for all of us. Nearly every night a storm came up and Codell literally went underground. Several new cyclone caves were built. The days were spent cleaning up the debris.
George and I and the boys spent our time between the two families. I have wondered if one family put up with us as long as they could then packed us up and took us to the other home. I know it was weeks before I could walk. So I must have been a burden to some one, and there were two little boys to care for also. Of course Grandpa was gone most of the time doing his farm work. He would take his lunch and be gone all day. Of course Walter was at the folks too. We had several milk cows, so did Walter and they were all taken to the folks. Aura and Eva did the milking that summer for the three families. They milked seventeen cows night and morning. Milking was not all of it, there was the separating of the milk to do and calves to feed. As I said, these were hectic days.
O, how we wished we could move to ourselves, and be a little family again. But as you may have guessed, we didn’t have much to move, in fact we did not have anything. When we were married, we had all new furniture, nice furniture. I was really proud of it. I know in this day and age, newly married have nice furniture, but back in those days it was not so. I thought I was just about the luckiest girl around. One thing I did not have at first was a rocking chair. When Worden was only a few days old, Grandpa brought me a rocking chair. I loved it. Many are the memories of the rocking I keep in my heart. How many, many times I rocked both of the boys at the same time. There were only fifteen months between them, so I had two babies to rock. And do you know when we did move ourselves, and there was no rocking chair, I missed it most of all, and it was a long time before I had another.
Our family and friends salvaged a few things around the place where we had lived. One thing was my wood and coal Round Oak Range. (One time when we were in Minden, Nebraska, we saw a range there exactly like the one we had had; we looked it over a long time and remembered). Back to the range, the warming oven on the back of the stove was torn off, but we used the stove for sometime.
The Red Cross gave us $200.00 as they did every family in Rooks County that had lost their home. I suppose other counties did the same. So with that and a few other things that were wrecked but we used, and the things our families and friends gave us we moved to ourselves, just the four of us, and started over again. And we were happy.
We had plenty of clothing and bedding, our families and friends saw to that. I remember different things they gave to us, especially for the boys. Some of them just divided the clothes and they gave us the best. I know, a little white shirt that was given to Worden, every where we went he wanted to wear it. It wore more from washing than wearing. Millie Zeigler, Jim’s Mother, gave us a comfort and a pair of pillows that she had made. I still have the pillows. They were such nice ones. I think they were goose feathers and she picked the geese, too. O, I could go on and on. I know I’ve forgotten a lot of things, but not the love shown us in our time of need. Someone picked up a few things in the mud puddles, some clothing and such, I recall a tablecloth, I think a towel or two, and my wedding dress. They put all the things in a tank of water and rinsed out the mud, then took them home and washed them. My wedding dress was scarcely torn at all. It has a lot of lace on it and very fragile, but when it was all clean, it did not look bad. Barbara has it now. She wanted to wear it at a church service at her 2nd wedding. I do not know if she did wear it or not.
We moved first to a house about two miles south of Codell and lived there a short time, then moved into Herb Darland’s on his farm about one and one-half miles north west of Codell. The house is just across the road from me now here in Codell. Darwin Merrill owns it. It is furnished with antiques. It has no modern conveniences, but they like it that way. They stop by on their travels across the States a few times a year and stay a day or two. They live in Denver.
Wanda was born Sept. 18, 1918, while we lived in Herb’s house on his farm.
There was no schoolhouse in Codell when school time came in Sept. 1918, after the tornado in May, so the children went to school in Natoma and Plainville. They had the first grades in private homes here in Codell. My folks moved to Natoma to send their eight children to school. Aura, Evart, Harry, Eva, Noel, Florence, Wayne and Merle and again we moved, into the old Rock House, to take care of things there. Of course we moved our cattle there too. This was our third move after the cyclone. But it proved to be of short duration.
The terrible flu epidemic of 1918 and 1919 was getting under way and soon many schools (maybe all of them) in several counties were closed. My folks moved back to the old rock house with us. Sixteen of us. And in a short time we were all down with the flu. That is, all except my Dad. He cared for all of us. How he did it, only God knows. you could not get any help, for love or money. Most every home had some one sick. If they did not, they were afraid of it. Many people died, several of our friends. Soldiers at Fort Riley died like flies. We heard that coffins were stacked every where waiting a turn to be buried or shipped home. The doctors were on duty day and night. Most every night around ten o’clock our Doctor came to see us, and made the rounds. I remember one night, I was sick, but was up with Wanda. She was only four months old, and she was very sick. The doctor said, “Your baby has the flu, but there is nothing I can do for her.” I bathed her often trying to reduce the fever. She was real sick for several days. I think we must have given her aspirin. We were so worried about her and were fearful we would lose her. The rest of us took aspirin, I am sure, and maybe cough medicine. Grandpa and Worden and Max were upstairs. I did not even see them for days. Ralph Glendening came every day to do chores and bring us anything we needed. He did not come into the house, until one day he decided he was needed and so he came in and stayed there. He took the flu after the rest of us had improved some. He did not have it bad, but I assure you he had plenty of nurses. There was a lot of talk about our family being sick, so many of us and all surviving. There was even a write-up in the newspaper.
The Grady family, friends of ours (we went to school together a few years before) lived on the south side of the road about half way to Plainville. Three of their children died with the flu and all were buried the same day. They were grown. Two girls and one young man. I think both of the girls were going to college in Hays. Lee was the boy’s name. Bernetha was one of the Grady girl’s name. I do not remember the other girl’s name. And a sweet little girl, Ruby Overholser, only four, died while we were down with the flu. Her mother was Herb Darland’s sister, and a real dear friend of mine. Bessie Darland, Herb’s wife, says she and Della, (Ruby’s mother) correspond and often speak of me. Della lives in Anaheim, California.
In the meantime Grandpa had rented another farm, the Sauers place. It was situated about six miles north east of Plainville. On a cold windy day, in early spring we moved there. We still did not have much to move, our broken stove, beds, a table and a few chairs. We had already moved them, but we were a family again, and again we were happy. Our fourth move after the cyclone. We lived there until the next August. Wanda was a year old, and we moved again to the farm we lived on for fifty-two years (I think). It will be six years, Oct. 17, since we moved to the Lilac Place. It was five moves in a year and five months. Well, this is more than the Cyclone Story, I know.
Now, I am alone. Grandpa died, July 20, 1974. I miss him, and I am lonely and sad at times, but I am thankful for all the blessings showered upon me, for my family and friends close by and for the little Lilac Home where I live.
There is something else I should add. The next year on the 20th of May 1919, I was in St. Frances Hospital in Topeka, had an operation, and on that night there was a severe thunderstorm there. I was on the third floor; the south side of my room was all windows. The wind, rain and hail that beat against those windows. Together with the severe electrical storm that accompanied it, upset me somewhat. The lights went out all over the hospital; nurses and doctors were running around with flashlights. It was turmoil for a while, and I was sure I was going to be a victim of another cyclone. The next morning early, they called in the doctor. My fever had soared, and I was on the sick list again. After looking me over, he was sorta puzzled as to my condition and asked what I had been doing. When I told him, I guess it was the storm that had upset me, he said, “Why, it didn’t hurt you.”
When I told him of the cyclone of a year ago, he sat down on the side of the bed and asked all about it. I just about told him all of this story. He was real concerned then. I don’t think he ever came into my room after that, that he did not mention the cyclone of 1918. I have tried to remember his name, but I have forgotten it.