Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Carringers in the News -- The Great Tornado of Washington County, Iowa in May 1873

  It's time for another edition of "Carringers in the News" - a weekly feature from the historical newspapers about persons with the surname Carringer (my mother's maiden surname) that are interesting, useful, mysterious, fun, macabre, or add information to my family tree database.

This week's entry is from the Ottumwa [Iowa] Daily Courier newspaper dated 29 May 1873:

The transcription of this article is:  

Houses, Barns, Fences, Forests and Orchards Razed to the Ground.
Twelve Persons Killed and Twenty-four More or Less Wounded.
The exact starting point of the storm is not known, but it is believed to have been in Keokuk county, probably a few miles west of Lancaster, which town it is said, was totally demolished.  It advanced in a northeasterly direction, passing north of Tallyrand about three miles, and south of Keota through the German settlement called Baden, approaching the line of Washington county, where it jumped a district of about eight miles, alighting about six miles northwest of Washington, on the farm of Frank Brown.  Remaining on the ground for six or eight miles, it passed up to Highland township.  Leaving the earth here, it struck again in Middletown, where is force spent, and i disappeared as suddenly as it appeared.


"The farm of John C. Cunningham is about seven miles northeast of Washington.  Neither the barn or house are visible.  They had been torn to pieces, and only a few fragments remain, nearly all the timbers having blown away.  Dead stock was visible everywhere, horses, cows, pigs and chickens having been hustled about so lively as to deprive them of the breath of life.  Here and there were pigs impaled to the ground, while chickens were frequently encountered without a feather on them.  Three hundred head of stock were killed outright.  The buildings destroyed were worth about $4,000.  In the dwelling when the tornado approached, were Mrs. McCoy, daughter of Mr. Cunningham, and Mrs. Carringer, and two children of the former.  They went into the cellar for shelter, but remained there only a short time, being lifted up and carried some distance, and thrown to the ground.  Mrs. McCoy had her head cut and was badly bruised.  Mrs. Carringer was rendered insensible, but was not seriously hurt.  The children were uninjured.  They were found lying in a heap beside the cellar wall."

The article continues for two full columns with more information about the damage and casualties on other towns and farms.

This happened on 23 May 1873 in southeastern Iowa.  Several other newspapers around the nation carried similar information.  Another article said that Mr. D.J. Carringer's home was laid desolate.

The source citation is:

"The Great Tornado," Ottumwa [Iowa] Weekly Courier newspaper, Wednesday, 29 May 1873, page 3, column 3, David J. Carringer article;   GenealogyBank, Newspaper Archives   (https://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 6 December 2021).

Who is Mrs. Carringer who was "rendered insensible" in this tornado while visiting the John C. Cunningham farm near Washington, Iowa?  I believe that it is my second great grandmother, Rebecca (Spangler) Carringer (1832-1901), wife of David Jackson "D.J." Carringer.  In the 1870 United States census, the D.J. "Carrengtr" family, composed of D.J. (age 40, a farmer), Rebecca (age 38), Harvey (age 18) , Henry (age 16) and Effie (age 6) resided in Jackson township, Washington County, Iowa.  Four families below them on the census enumeration is the J.C. Cunningham family, composed of J.C. (age 56, a farmer), Victoria (age 24), Virginia (age 20) and Thomas (age 28).  

I have reviewed the 1870 U.S. census for other Carringer (or with approximate spellings) and do not find any others in Washington County.  In the indexing for this census, the D.J. Carringer family is listed as "Current."  

D.J. Carringer's farm in Washington county, Iowa was put up for auction in 1872.  I don't know if this is the same farm, or another one in the County that was destroyed.  I think it was probably the same farm.

I can't imagine the memories that Rebecca (and perhaps David J. and their sons) had of this "day in the life" where the angel of death barely missed blowing Rebecca away.  I have not seen any reference to this incident in the Carringer family papers that I have and heard no family stories about it.  The D.J. Carringer family moved soon after this to Boulder, Colorado where daughter Effie died in 1874 - another sad day for the family.

There are hundreds of Carringer "stories" in my family tree - and this was one of them. Life happens, accidentally and intentionally, and sometimes a newspaper article tells us of a near-fatal incident in the life of an ancestor.  I am glad that I can honor Rebecca (Spangler) Carringer today.

You never know when a descendant or relative will find this blog post and learn something about their ancestors or relatives, or will provide more information about them to me.


Disclosure: I have a paid subscription to GenealogyBank.com and have used it extensively to find articles about my ancestral and one-name families.

Copyright (c) 2021, Randall J. Seaver

Please comment on this post on the website by clicking the URL above and then the "Comments" link at the bottom of each post.  Share it on Twitter, Facebook,  or Pinterest using the icons below.  Or contact me by email at randy.seaver@gmail.com.

No comments: