Lee County Illinois
Part of American History and Genealogy Project

Willow Creek Township Tornado

''The tornado of Sunday, June 3, 1860, struck this township about 9 o'clock at night, midway of the west line of section 18. William Cutts was within eighty rods of it when it left the township; he says the noise was not unlike the rattle and clatter of a freight train when standing close to it, except that the former was more tremendous in volume. Boards, plows, harrows, timbers, reapers, stoves, furniture, earth, stones, animals, everything that it could gather in its way, was whirling, dashing and crashing with a thundering roar and force that filled the ear with a sound of picturesque terror as much as if heaven and earth were battling for the same space at once. Andrew Stubbs, standing out of its range, as it went by, saw it first, several miles west and describes its appearance as it approached and passed.

"The night was moonlit and from where he watched the tempest, the moon was visible throughout. Massive pillars of flaming cloud were piled from earth to sky; the top was a sheet of flame; shafts of electricity as large to the view as a stovepipe, poured in hideous currents down the seething mass of inky blackness, presenting a sight of sublime horror.

''The first house in Willow Creek which received its fury was Abram Miller's near the township line. It was unroofed, then taken up, carried over the well and the stable, but failing to clear a straw stack, was overturned and scattered in all directions. The occupants were Mr. Miller and two children. The mother lay some time under a part of the roof in an insensible condition, having sustained considerable injuries. None of the others were much harmed. The children, sound asleep in their beds when the shock occurred, were thrown twenty-five rods into a wheat field, where one of the little fellows was found shouting lustily that all the windows were broken out. A tin boiler standing beside the house, full of water, was not disturbed; and a book of receipts, brought from Iowa, was picked up on the farm. Gilbert E. Durin's place was the second reached. His house stood nearly out of the path of the electric monster, but a small addition was snatched away and dashed into fragments. James Nealis and another man were blown into the tops of some locusts in the dooryard, and the former was cut so badly in the thigh on a scythe hanging upon a limb, that he bled nearly to death. A. N. Dow's premises were the next to suffer. His house was seized as if it had been a toy, carried into the air and turned roof downward, going to pieces in utter wreck. Eight persons composed this family, and all were more or less hurt, one child having an arm broken.

''The moving column raised slightly at Twin Groves, through the south one of which it tore a gap ten to twenty rods wide, leaving the undergrowth but little disturbed, while twisting, splintering and interlacing the taller trees, mostly stalwart black walnuts, in the wildest disorder. The damage to the timber fell chiefly on William Smith. Thompson's house, a very heavy structure, was unroofed, and the large building moved on its foundation. His strong corncrib and two log stables shared the general ruin. A man named Scheiler, living on Thompson's land, had his house demolished, and all seven of the family were severely injured, and horribly begrimed, as if violently rolled and dragged in fine dirt.

''From this point to section 14, lay a stretch of prairie, and no injury to life and little damage to property was done; but there a house belonging to William Bacon, occupied by Allen Johnson and his sister, Norwegians, was wrecked. The inmates, on the first appearance of the storm, had luckily gone to a neighbor's, and thus escaped its terrors.

''The county line was reached midway of section 13, and here at Allen McConeky's the most painful destruction was accomplished. It was now between 9 and 10, and the family had retired. Bain had been falling hard but calmly before the crash came, and, Mrs. McConeky arose to attend to keeping the rain out of the windows. The wind began to rise, and in a few moments so increased that she remarked to her husband that the house would blow away. He sprang to her side at the window, and at that instant, she relates, she saw the east side of the house coming in upon them, but can remember nothing more, save that she was conscious of lying on the ground with a heavy weight resting upon her body. The house was shivered to atoms. Mr. McConeky was killed outright, also the eldest and the youngest boys. Another little son was terribly bruised and all hope of his recovery was for some time abandoned. Mrs. McConeky had an arm broken. Horses and cattle were killed here as elsewhere in the path of the destroyer.

''In the vicinity a boulder weighing half a ton was lifted from the ground and carried some distance; but the most curious exhibition of power was at the point where the storm ended its work, three-fourths of a mile east of the county line. At this place was a piece of newly broken prairie. The furrows lay parallel with the direction of the tornado, and the tough sods were lapped up, twirled into a close body, and deposited forward in a pile of ten or twelve wagon loads. As if glutted with disaster, the storm now raised, and carrying on its dismal and solitary energies high up in the air, moved on to Lake Michigan, where it lost its identity.''

Enlistments from Willow Creek Township
Norwegians of Willow Creek Township
Willow Creek Township Tornado

Lee County Townships


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