Week 9 of 52: Disaster

For week 9 of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks the theme was “Disaster.” I was thinking about my ancestors concerning this topic and immediately thought that every death to the family could be considered a disaster. Not wanting to focus on death, I tried to remember what other disasters I have uncovered in my family tree.

I remembered that I had found a few newspaper articles about damage to my 3rd great-grandfather, Barney Whittaker’s farm. The one I selected for this blog post was about a destructive wind storm that went through the area of Richmond in Tioga County where Barney lived. This wind storm happened in the early hours of Wednesday, September 1896:

Destructive Wind Storm, The Advertiser (Mansfield, Pennsylvania), 30 September 1896, p. 3, c. 6.

Destructive Wind Storm.
This morning between 3 and 4 o’clock a gale from the southwest, accompanied by rain, did much damage in this boro and vicinity by unroofing buildings, blowing down trees, fences and chimneys, stripping orchards of their fruit, moving buildings from their foundations etc. Not much damage is reported north of town but from all other directions come reports of greater or less loss.
Some of the principal losers and their losses are as follows:
Smythe Park Association – Fifteen large shade trees blown down or damaged.
William Jerald – Barns unroofed.
Jackson Smith – Barn unroofed.
Fred. Voorhess – Barn moved.
Mrs. Clark – Tobacco shed blown down
Normal School – Skylight blown off and broken, other damage to windows.
Paisley Woolen Co. – Section tin roof blown off and small smoke stack blown down.
Asa Cleveland – One barn blown down and another unroofed.
Oscar Richmond – Barn unroofed and fourteen apple trees blown down.
Elias Baity – Tobacco shed blown down
C. L. Strait – Poultry sheds blown down.
McConnell Bros. – House damaged; 300 bushels apples blown off.
Barney Whitteker – Barn unroofed.
Philo Woodard – Barn unroofed.
S. W. Beach – Sheds damaged and chimney blown down.
Norman Buck – Poultry house and corn-crib blown down.
James Burton – Barn unroofed.
Lewis Barrett – Barn unroofed and hog pen blown down.
Valentine Reep – Corn-crib blown over
James Dewey – Two barns unroofed.
Fred Davis – Barn unroofed.
Morris Estate – Windmill blown down
M. B. Clark – Windmill blown down.
Volney Ripley – Thirty apple trees blown down.
Mrs. R. D. Webster – Barn unroofed.
Silas Davey – Chimney blown down.
J. M. Barden – Barn damaged on the Slingerland farm.
Charles Nelson – Orchard uprooted.
G. N. Welch – Shed blown down, barn unroofed.
Edwin Wood – Fine row shade trees in front house all but one blown down; also two fruit trees.
Benj. Judge – Chimneys.
D. H. Pitts – Five shade trees.
Chas. Thompson – Chimney.
Mrs. Ellen Hodges – Trees, chimney and one window.
J. M. Clark – Chimney on farm house.
Edward Horton – Farm barn damaged.
Allen farm – Twenty apple trees uprooted or blown down, windmill demolished, other damage.
Newton Beach – Twelve apple trees blown down, buildings damaged.
The Troy stage driver reports six or eight barns along his route and an orchard of 45 trees in Gray Valley blown down.

I can’t imagine the loss that all of those families felt. The end of September is part of the apple season picking and all of the crop that they may have lost the chance to harvest must have been devastating. Plus those fruit trees that were uprooted – I wonder if they were able to save some of them by replanting them. I hope they all had enough food to get through the winter.

The newspaper article doesn’t list any loss of livestock, but I would guess that there was due to all of the damaged barns and poultry sheds. I wonder if all of those families were able to repair the damage to their barns, etc. before winter hit – though I imagine that not all of them were able to.

It was fascinating to read about the items on the farms and try to imagine what a typical farm in Barney’s area of 1896 consisted of. Here is a list of the items mentioned in the article:

  • Barn
  • Shade trees
  • Tobacco shed
  • Windows
  • Skylight
  • Tin roof
  • Smoke stack
  • Apple trees
  • Poultry shed/house
  • House
  • Shed
  • Chimney
  • Corn-crib
  • Windmill
  • Orchard
  • Fruit trees

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