Indianapolis, IN Tornado, May 1860

SINGULAR PHENOMENON.

Water Spout and Tornado – Houses Blown Down.

(From the Indianapolis Journal, May 30.)

Storms, like troubles, seem to come in crowds. Last week was full of them, and this week starts fair for a similar exhibition of elemental disturbances. Yesterday evening we were visited by the first tornado for several years, and it was accompanied by very much the same appearances, and marked by the same features, that distinguished the singular tornadoes that visited Illinois and New York a year or two ago. The day had been hot, but began to show signs of a change about 4 o’clock. Clouds gathered slowly and in broken masses till about 6 o’clock, when the whole sky was covered with rounded lumps, with fleecy edges, presenting something the appearance of scales, and so singular as to attract much attention. In about half an hour they grew thicker and darker in the West, and showed unmistakable indications of a storm. As the cloud swept up the sky it changed from the dark hue it had at the horizon into a dull brassy color, the almost invariable attendant of a hurricane. Towards the East it swung down within a few degrees of the horizon in ragged fringes of a dusty color, through which the clear sky was visible at many points, but towards the South it was very dark, with a sharp, well defined line below which the sky was perfectly clear. Over head and to the West it was a yellow flecked with fast flying feathers of white cloud. In a few minutes it began to hail and such hail stones have very rarely been seen in this region. All were very large, and many of them fully as large as hens’ eggs. Luckily they fell very sparsely, or we should have had few window lights and little fruit left.

While the cloud was driving to the East, a singular phenomenon was observed in the South east. A black cloud bellying down like a bag let drop from the lower end a tongue like a waterspout, which whirled and swayed exactly as the descriptions (illegible) a waterspout does. This we judge, was very much such a (illegible) as appeared in New York a year or so ago, and afterwards in Illinois, where its swaying tongue like an elephant’s trunk thrashed a whole village to fragments. No one who saw it from the city thought it indicated any serious elemental disturbance, and they watched it only as a queer formation of clouds. But it appears to have been a full brother of the terrible family we have alluded to. About dark we learn that it passed about a mile and a half south of the center of the city, or just beyond the outskirts, dealing destruction in its course. Just beyond the southeast end of the city it blew off the roof of Gardener Goldsmith’s house, and tore it to fragments, and leaned the frame walls east ward so far that they are in a very dangerous position. Mr. Goldsmith was caught by the falling timber and dangerously if not fatally injured. His right arm was crushed between the shoulder and elbow, several of his ribs were broken, his left ankle broken all to pieces, and he was so severely injured internally that his life was considered by Dr. Bullard, who attended him, to be in imminent danger. All around the vicinity rails were blown about like feathers, large trees were twisted round and broken off, and fences were blown down. Further to the west it was reported that Mr. Henry Wikoff’s house was demolished and two men slightly injured, but we could learn no other particulars last night. A mile or less to the East the tornado appeared to rise, and merely swept off the tops of the trees in the neighborhood of Willis Wright’s residence. Probably we shall hear of very serious damages to other houses, and possibly to life to day. The track of the tornado was apparently but three or four hundred feet in width, and within it the destruction has no doubt been very great. Its length we have at present no means of ascertaining.

Chicago Press & Tribune, Chicago, IL 1 Jun 1860