Just as the people of this part of Kansas were beginning to congratulate themselves upon having escaped the awful losses of flood and storms which have visited so many other parts of the county recently, a tornado, or two or three tornadoes, swooped down upon different parts of Kansas on last Saturday evening and took a toll of several lives and thousands of dollars worth of property. And Comanche-co. did not escape. The southeastern part of the county was visited by an unusually severe tornado. The day had been very warm, the temperature rising rapidly during the middle of the day. It was then that a good many people remarked that surely the unusual temperature would only be a "storm breeder." And so it turned out. About 5 o'clock p.m. a small tornado suddenly formed a mile or so south of E. E. Parker's place in Oklahoma, about 30 miles south and a little east of here, and, in a very short time, a twisting, whirling, away tornado developed and started on its way in a southeasterly direction, covering a path nearly a mile wide. It seemed to gather fury as it went, and it did not stop until it passed through two or more counties. Fortunately no towns were in the immediate path of that particular twister although it struck quite close to Medicine Lodge. In its path, dozens of farm houses and various farm and ranch improvements were either completely destroyed or quite badly damaged. A majority of such losses were in Barber-co.
Heaviest Losses at Platt Ranch
In this county, the heaviest loss to property was at the Platt ranch, which lies in Comanche and Barber counties, about thirty miles southeast of this city. The loss there to buildings, livestock, farm machinery, etc., was complete, and will run into thousands of dollars. Two well built houses, one an eleven room house and the other a nine room house, together with all their contents, also the barn, sheds, garage, work house, poultry house, etc., were a complete loss. A large grove, one of the finest in that part of the country, and which was not far from the houses, was also in the path of the storm, and it, too, was a complete ruin. Many trees, some of which were from the one to two feet in diameter, were uprooted and practically all had the limbs and bark torn from them. It was indeed, a picture of desolation and of ruin. So fierce was the storm that almost every piece of timber, household goods, farm machinery, etc., was blown away and evidently scattered for many miles, hence the difficulty in recovering anything which was in or near the houses or on the premises. A part of the floor of the north house, a refrigerator which was found in the basement of the south residence, a small water tank and one corner of the blacksmith shop were about all that was left to show that it had ever been a place of human habitation.
The Platts had a fine lot of hogs about 140 head in all - and all but about 15 head were killed, it is said. Nine head of horses - practically all on the place - also about eight head of cattle were killed, or so badly maimed that they had to be shot. Men were kept busy for two or three days gathering up and burying the dead animals.
Roy Platt and his family occupied the north residence, while Roy's mother, Mrs. J. W. Platt, and her daughter, Miss Beverly, lived in the south building, which was located about 20 rods to the south, and on a little higher ground. Roy and his wife and mother and one of his children had gone to Medicine Lodge on that day, and did not return until a while after the storm had passed. Had they been at home, it is quite probably that some of them would have been hurt in the storm. Miss Beverly and two of Roy's children and the two hired men were the only ones on the place when the storm struck. One of the men, Wilbur Pardan, was doing some painting on the south house when he noticed the storm approaching, whereupon he hurriedly ran to the other building where Miss Beverly and the children were, and assisted them in seeking refuge in an outside cave, and thus they escaped being hurt.
Among the machinery which the Platts lost were a good tractor, a truck, a combine, a good car and numerous other articles usually kept about a well equipped farm and ranch. The car was in the garage when the storm struck. It as well as all the heavier machinery, was literally demolished and the pieces "scattered to the four winds."
The folks who were in the cave when the storm was raging said that they felt a suction so strong that they were almost lifted from the floor. A galvanized iron ventilator, which was in the cave, was drawn entirely out by the strong suction.
As is always the case under like circumstances, the most regrettable losses were many of the contents of the homes - keepsakes, souvenirs and numerous articles which were highly prized by the families and which any amount of money could not buy.
Mrs. J. W. Platt has lived on or near the scene of the awful devastation at the Platt ranch for about 42 years, she and her husband, who died several years ago, having been pioneer settlers in this county. The improvements which were blown away had been built during the past 30 years and were among the best to be found in this part of the state. For ten or twelve years they lived about two and one half miles away, over the line in this county. An unoccupied house and a barn on another part of the ranch were also destroyed. It is difficult to estimate the entire loss which the Platts sustained, but it will run into thousands of dollars. Some insurance was carried, but of course that will cover only a small part of the losses. The families have the sincere sympathy of all in their loss, not only of their homes, but also of the results of years of toil and sacrifice. It is presumed that they will rebuild, but as yet no definite plans in that respect have been decided upon.
Outside of the losses at the Platt ranch, very little damage is reported to have been done along the path of the tornado in this county. Some sheds and fences were blown down at E. E. Parker's. At J. E. McMoran's ranch, which is a few miles southwest of the Platt ranch, the poultry house, sheds and barn were blown away, and a caterpillar tractor was moved some distance and overturned. The storm seems to have lifted somewhat as it passed over O. L. Ring's as very little damage was done there. Three vacant houses on what is known as the Zion Settlement were blown away.
At the Platt ranch, a number of "freak capers" played by the tornado are reported. The cistern was found to be dry after the storm had passed the water apparently having all been sucked out by the force of the wind and electricity. Straws, shingles, etc., were found imbedded in trees, also pieces of iron from steel from machinery. A combine and other farm machinery were broken, twisted and scattered for some distance away. One wheel of the combine was torn off and carried a distance of several rods and lodged in a tree, and another large wheel from the same combine was carried several miles. The trees were left barkless and with only the larger limbs, all of which were badly broken, scarred and twisted. After the storm, a hen was found still siting on her nest of eggs on a sack in one corner of what had been the blacksmith shop, having escaped the fury of the storm.
A few turkeys seem to have been the only poultry at the ranch which escaped alive. They probably were some distance away from the house when the storm struck. Many dead chickens were found, and the feathers on most of them had been entirely stripped off.
One of the sad sights at the Platt ranch after the storm had passed was one of the favorite horses with a 2X4 scantling driven through its neck. It was shot as soon as a gun could be secured.
Some cement slabs, each weighing probably 300 pounds or more, and which had been used in the construction of a porch, were blown a distance of nearly 50 feet. Stands of wire, and strips of iron and steel were found twined around some of the trees.
A quantity of canned fruit, some potatoes and a few other articles which were stored in the basement of the north building escaped the fury of the storm. Most of the floor over the basement remained intact.
One of the rather interesting scenes after the storm was a sow and her litter of young pigs which escaped unhurt. They were lying as peacefully as though nothing had happened.
With the exception of the clothing they had on, the families lost all of their wearing apparel. Their bedding too, was a complete loss. Much of the clothing and bedding were found hanging in strips or shreds among the remnants of trees.
It is probable that, never before in this part of the state did a storm so completely destroy one or more homes and the improvements. The tornado which struck Coldwater on the night of May 9, 1889, did considerable damage, taking one life, but at that time no home was completely wiped out as was the case at the Platt ranch on last Saturday.
Chet Dale who has the east pasture of the O'Connell ranch leased, reports that about half a mile of fence was completely demolished, also that a number of large trees, some three feet in diameter, were blown down, while others had their tops and many of the limbs blown away. He reports also, that some of the buildings on the Doc Omey farm and ranch were destroyed.
The storm on last Saturday was preceded by some rain and hail. A strong wind blew, but it is evident that electricity was the element which made possible the awful consequences of the storm. It is reported that the tornado kept up its destructive work through the counties of Barber, Kingman and Reno, and that a total of nearly a hundred farm homes were destroyed or badly damaged along the way. Nearly a dozen people lost their lives in the storm, four of them being residents of Barber-co.
Eyewitness Account of the tornado at the Platt Ranch by Mike Platt,
published in The Hardtner Community News, Issue No. 90, Sept. 4, 2003.
The Tornado of May 7, 1927, As Told by Florence Mills Wells, An eyewitness account, transcribed by her grand-daughter, Peggy Wilson Newsome.
BARBER COUNTY SWEPT BY TORNADO
LEAVING DEATH AND DESTRUCTION
Published in The Barber County Index, May 27, 1927.
"MAY 7, 1927 TORNADO:
This tornado ranged from one-half to two miles wide and was on the ground for nearly 100 miles. It traveled from Barber County through Kingman and Reno counties before dissipating in McPherson County. There were 10 people killed and 300 were injured. This tornado may have caused more injuries than any other single tornado in our county warning area."
-- TOP TEN WEATHER EVENTS OF THE 20TH CENTURY FOR CENTRAL, SOUTH CENTRAL, AND SOUTHEAST KANSAS IN CHRONOLOGICAL ORDER, The National Weather Service.
Livonia (Richardson) Wells, Obituary, The Wilmore News, April 29, 1938.
John and Lizzie (Tennison) Platt
The Town of Aetna, Barber County, Kansas.
Aetna Cemetery, Barber County, Kansas.
Another tornado which hit Barber County, Kansas:
Twister Wrecks Buildings
The Hardner Press, April 21, 1927.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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