Yutan, NE Tornado, Mar 1913
The day of Easter Sunday in the year 1913 will be remembered by the residents of Yutan and their descendants as the date of the worst calamity that ever visited Saunders County; the date when a raging tornado whirled towards the town from the southwest and ripped a path through the community and destroyed the lives of nineteen people then living in Yutan. In proportion to the population Yutan suffered more than any other town in the path of the cyclone, even more than Omaha, where fully two hundred lives were lost.
Easter morning, 1913, dawned with crisp, clear atmosphere and a bright sunshine, an ideal Easter morning. As the morning advanced, however, the heat became rather unusual for the time and season and dire predictions were made by several men of the town who were accustomed to observe the weather accurately. Late in the afternoon of this day, March 23d, the sky became overcast with storm clouds and the wind velocity rose to the degree of a gale. About 5 oâ€™clock rain began to fall and the clouds assumed angry shapes. The situation was very ominous.
Although the actual eye-witnesses are few, it is known that suddenly a funnel-shaped cloud formed in the southwest, its spiral edges tapering to the ground and whipping its way intermittently toward Yutan, traveling northeast. The few who were able to summon their courage and wits dashed for cellars and other places of safety, but the larger part of the population did not know what was happening until the immense cloud had fairly struck the town. The storm passed in less than a minute, leaving the dead and injured and damage to property estimated to equal one hundred thousand dollars. The tornado struck the town in the west part and passed through, cutting a path from three to five blocks wide. The standpipe of the waterworks was the first object in the town to be struck and it was leveled to the ground.
As nearly as can be learned the funnel-cloud formed near the Town of Mead, six miles west of Yutan, and struck the ground in very few places until the latter town was reached. It came with a tremendous roaring sound, compared by some to the rattling of a wagon along a rough road, only much exaggerated. The storm passed, a quiet settled over the town for an instant and then people rushed from their homes and places of business, to seek medical aid for the injured and to take care of the dead. Fire broke out in the ruins which was fanned by a gale from the northwest. The loss of the standpipe and the consequent lack of water with which to fight the flames was a great handicap, but the citizens worked with a tremendous will and cleared a space in the ruins, with the purpose of checking the blaze. The pumping station had been damaged and a group of men were there endeavoring to repair the machinery. The roof had been blown in onto the machinery and pump, but after this was pried loose it was learned that water could still be pumped. This gave a fairly good supply of water with which to fight the flames. While the men were working to save their homes, another storm of near-tornado character passed over the stricken section. Aid had been summoned from Ashland, Wahoo and Lincoln, and of these Ashland was the first to arrive. However, before this the fire had been controlled. Three wells were pumped dry before the pumping station was repaired. The delegations from the different towns soon began to arrive and they lent material assistance in caring for those hurt and taking the dead from the ruins. They also subscribed liberally to a fund for the assistance of the sufferers.
A careful search revealed the fact that nineteen persons had lost their lives and seventeen others were injured and many had minor bruises. Twenty-two buildings were almost totally demolished and a score of others were badly damaged. There were some miraculous escapes from death and many lives were saved by the freakish actions of the storm. People were hurled through the air and carried several hundred feet and yet escaped. One child was carried a quarter mile from his home, but was unfortunately killed. The path of the storm could be followed. through the town by the wreckage, but there were some peculiar turns and twists outside of the path, where a building would be wrecked and those beside it not touched.
The nineteen persons who lost their lives, in the storm or died afterwards from injuries were: Mrs. W. A. Steinbaugh and baby, Mr. and Mrs. A. R. Hammond and child, Mrs. Fred Gilster, Mr. and Mrs. Herman Starrman (postmaster), Henry Schele, Mrs. William Babcock and seven-year old daughter, three children of Fred Haynes, child of H. C. Jensen, child of John Rhode, Mrs. William Soggert, Mrs. Hans Behrens, and infant of Fred Ohm.
The injured were: Mrs. Storm, John Heldt, daughter of Herman Starrman, William Soggert, Mr. and Mrs. Fred Haynes, son of William Babcock, son of Dan Harmon, Mr. and Mrs. R. Jensen, Mr. and Mrs. John Rhode, Mrs. Fred Fuscher, Mrs. Chris Passo and Mr. and Mrs. Fred Ohm.
There were four churches in the village and all of them were more or less demolished. The Reformed Church and the Free Methodist Churches were totally destroyed. St. Johnâ€™s English Church was jammed out of shape and was torn down. St. Johnâ€™s German Evangelical Lutheran Church was moved from its foundation, the steeple and entire front torn out and the interior damaged. The first two churches have never been rebuilt.
The following residences were demolished or nearly so: Hans Storm, Mrs. Amelia Jacobs, Fred Steinbaugh, Mrs. F. Hirsch, Miss Mertins, Henry Bierbaum, John Bender, Mrs. Wibka Behrens, William Soggert, J. Batton, Mrs. Gilster, Henry Kirschman. Chris Passo, Ben Freeman, Ed Hayden, F. C. Marnann, Fred Hayden, Mrs. McNett, Susie Wuethrich, Dan Harmon, Henry Heldt, W. J. Parmenter, Mrs. Adsit and J. Holdst.
The following homes and buildings were more or less damaged: Fred Stamp, Herman Stang, Fred Hirsch, Claus Eggers, John Zugg, Mrs. Siepkin, Fred Fuscher, John Heldt, John Ohm, Mrs. Nellie Bellâ€™s drug store, Otto Peters, Fred Hamann, H. C. Peters, B. & M. depot, Trans-Mississippi elevator, Reverend Iffert, Mrs. Hubble, W. J. Parmenter, Doctor Koerber, Mrs. Wirmer.
There were a number of people living in tenement houses who lost everything they had. A terrible gloom came over the town after the disaster and as soon as possible a relief commission composed of William Miller and R. H. Parks was appointed and they received and distributed many articles of clothes and furniture and gave out a cash fund of nearly six thousand dollars. The committee aided many families and assisted in building nine cottages for the most unfortunate. Other donations were received from outside towns and from various personal sources.
Past and present of Saunders County, Nebraska : a record of settlement, organization, progress and achievement, Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1915, pages 118-121