CHAPTER XI 

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WATER SUPPLY—SNOW AND RAIN FALL—FLOOD OF APRIL, 1881—CLOUD-BURST IN HIGHLAND, 1876—EXTEMES OF HEAT AND COLD—BLIZZARDS—CYCLONES—ELECTRIC STORMS. 

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WATER SUPPLY

 

     In October, 1896, quite a lengthy and well considered editorial appeared in the Dell Rapids Tribune in reference to the drying up of the smaller lakes in the Northwest, and mention was made of the fact that in Minnehaha county numerous lakes, which only a few years ago contained quite large bodies of water, were entirely dried up and their bottoms turned into cultivated fields.  The editor had seen an extended article in the Pioneer Press, upon the subject of the drying up of the lakes in the Northwest, and took occasion to express the opinion that we would again see the former lake bed in Minnehaha county filled, though probably not as full as they were when the surrounding country was an unbroken prairie, and was drained into them.  The opinion was expressed in the Pioneer Press, that we would never again see water in a vast number of the dry lake beds, due to the dry period of the past few years, but that the cultivation of the adjacent country had absorbed the rainfall to such an extent that it had materially lessened the quantity of water flowing into the lakes, and was a more important factor still in the drying up of the smaller streams. 

While admitting to a certain extent that the cultivation of the land adjacent to the lakes would result in a greater absorption of the rainfall, the editor of the Tribune was of the opinion that too much importance had been given to this fact as a cause for the drying up of the lakes and smaller streams of water. 

Since the publication of this article in the Tribune, in an interview at Washington, Hydrographer F.H. Newell of the Geological Survey, went over this whole subject from a scientific standpoint, and many interesting facts were referred to, and important deductions made therefrom, which can not fail to interest the people of Minnehaha county, who have witnessed the gradual diminution of the water supply in the county from all sourced during the last decade.  Only a summary of this interview can be presented here, and it is gratifying to note the fact that Mr. Nisbet’s views were more in accord with these of the distinguished scientist than those of the Pioneer Press. 

Mr. Newell, when questioned as to the cause of the shrinkage of the water supply in the Northwest, in substance replied, that the shrinkage of water supply was not local to the Northwest, for there has been during the past few years a material shrinkage in the water supply in the Ohio valley region and in several of the eastern states.  This condition of things in the Northwest is not new, for at various times within the historic period lakes in which there is now considerable water have been completely dried up.  The larger shallow lakes have retreated in many instances to mere pools, while the wide surface of the larger bodies with well defined shores has fallen so considerably that navigation has been injured or destroyed.  The records of almost any water body demonstrate a similar behavior of the lakes in the Northwest. 

There has been an unbroken record of the height of Lake Michigan since 1859, and while it shows considerable fluctuations there is a certain rhythm or regularity about it.  The causes of the fluctuations in the lakes and streams are mainly climatic.  By an examination of tables of rainfall and temperature it will be seen that these have a certain range of fluctuation up and down, going down gradually for several years and then coming up again with great irregularity, too great for prediction.  The increase or diminution of water surface is the resultant of not only the greater or less rainfall, but also of the changes of temperature, of average humidity and of wind movement.  The irregular fluctuations in the intensity of the force of nature are sufficient to account for all the variations we find in the water supply.  The cultivation of the soil and the increase of settlement have an influence, but in comparison to the forces of nature they are exceedingly small.  In 1890 the census figures show that one-seventh of the land in South Dakota was improved, and it is to be doubted, even if no water ran off from the cultivated land, whether the effect would be noticeable. 

Many other minor considerations were discussed in this interview, but in concluding he said:  “As to the future prospect, it will probably be as in the past.  The larger lakes will undoubtedly fill to a height equal to that of the average of high waters in the past, and the smaller lakes, where not permanently drained, will probably reappear and for a series of years increase and again shrink.  As to when this increase in water will begin to take place, or how long it will last is impossible to predict, for these fluctuations, as shown by the oldest records, sometimes are short and sharp, at other times long continued and apparently regular.  It is fairly safe to assume, however, that what has happened many times before will probably recur again, except in so far as the works of man may have to a small extent, modified the effect of nature’s forces.” 

That the annual rainfall, one of the main sources of water supply in South Dakota, for the past ten years has been considerably below the normal, is known to every resident of the state, and if Mr. Newell is correct in his statement that there is to a certain extent a regular succession in the fluctuations of the annual rainfall above and below the normal for a series of years, then we may reasonably expect to again see in the near future many of the now dry lake beds in Minnehaha county filled with water. 

Since writing the foregoing in 1896, the annual rainfall has been gradually increasing, and it would seem as though the predictions of Mr. Newell are likely to be fulfilled.

 

SNOW AND RAIN FALL.

 

     The amount of snowfall in Minnehaha county is usually very light, but there have been several winters since inhabited by the white man during which there was a great amount of snow.  During the winter of 1856-7, there was an immense snowfall, and during the entire winter the cold was intense, accompanied by a penetrating northwest wind.  It is reported that in some of the deep ravines the snow did not melt until the July following.  One of the old settlers says that during the winter of 1869, more snow fell in this section than during any years since then, not excepting the winter of 1880-1.  Mr. Clark Coats says, that in the spring of 1870 he came from Flandreau to Sioux Falls at the time of the high water, and that never since then has he seen such high water in the Sioux river as he saw at that time.  He also says, that where the brewery now stands in the City of Sioux Falls, there was an immense snow drift, and that from the brow of the hill for fifty rods south there was so much snow that it looked as though the ground was level.  From this time until the winter of 1880-1 there were no remarkable snowfalls, except during the winter of 1872-3.  On October 14, 1880, the first snow fell, and it did not disappear until the following spring.  For a long time traveling was practically impossible, and the Village of Sioux Falls was as effectually isolated from the outside world as it would have been if surrounded by a hostile army.  During the winter the railroads were blockaded, and it was only at rare intervals and with great difficulty that mails were obtained.  Fuel became so scarce that families not only had to economize, but colonize, in order to delay, and if possible prevent, the exhaustion of the supply.  Wheat, the lumber in the lumber yards, and railroad ties piled up in the city for the extension of the Worthington and Sioux Falls railroad, were all burned; in fact, everything available was used for fuel.  A great many privations had to be endured.  Sugar was sugar about the first of March, and a good many of the ordinary comforts of life were dispensed with for the time being.  The nearest railroad connection was Canton, and for the greater part of the winter the only means by which Canton could be reached from Sioux Falls was by men on snowshoes, it being impossible for a horse to get through the snow.  A train reached Luverne April 9, containing a quantity of provisions for Sioux Falls, which was transported by teams to its destination, and by this means the most pressing wants of the people were supplied, although it proved inadequate to meet the demand.  The transportation was accompanied with great difficulties, as twelve inches of snow fell on the 7th and 8th of April, and four inches on the 10th and a like amount on the 11th during the same month.  During this memorable winter the people were in the best of spirits.  Social distinctions were abolished for the time being, although at this early date in the history of Sioux Falls there was but little to abolish.  The newspapers were published, but aside form guessing at what was going on in the outside world, the columns were filled with local matter.  On the 12th day of April, the Sioux Falls Times was printed on a single sheet of blue paper, and the next day the Dakota Pantagraph appeared on pink muslin.  Such, in part, is the history of one of the most remarkable experiences that the people of Sioux Falls have been compelled to pass through, all this resulting from an excessive fall of “the beautiful snow”. 

     As there has been no unusual fall of snow in this section of the country since that time, a short description of the

FLOOD OF APRIL, 1881;

which followed will appropriately come in here.  As spring advanced, the people in Sioux Falls realized the danger they would be in from high water when this great quantity of snow melted.  Some of the old settlers predicted a destruction of the village, but when the flood came they seemed as much surprised as those who drifted along apprehending no danger. 

     On Sunday, April 17, the first signs of the breaking up of the ice in the river were observed, but not until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning of the 20th did it go out, and the work of destruction commence.  The Pembina railroad bridge (now Milwaukee), the Eighth and Tenth street bridges, the Webber restaurant, the Henjum and Olson blacksmith shop, the Badger lumber office, the McKinnon and Ross planing mill and sash factory, the Cascade mill offices, the Cochran stable, the Gilbert ice house and the Queen Bee mill office went out with the ice.  Then the river fell about a foot, and the people felt assured that the worst was over, but the next day the water began rising and kept it up steadily until the middle of the forenoon Saturday, when the highest point was reached, which was fifteen feet and six inches above its ordinary level. 

     At 2 o’clock Saturday morning, the Riverside hotel went down stream, followed about 7 o’clock A.M., by the Sioux Falls mill at the foot of the falls.  The miller, C.K. Weir, was on the point of stepping into the mill to dress the stones during the enforced stoppage.  He stooped to pick up a board, and when he looked up, the mill had taken its departure. 

     The eastern portion of the wrecked Tenth street bridge was dislodged, and floating down stream struck a building on the east side of the river.  The two steered across Eighth street in the direction of the Cascade mill and elevator, but in some unaccountable way they changed course and passed these structures without doing any damage.  It seemed almost a miracle to the on-lookers that the Cascade mill was not destroyed, as it stood directly in the current and was in constant danger from the numerous buildings that were coming down stream from above.  The stock of the lumber yards was strewn along the bank for miles below the falls, the boom which had been constructed for the purpose of saving it having broke.  During the day the Wisconsin hotel, D.Z. Clark’s dwelling and laundry, Phillip Plaster’s saloon, the calaboose (from which the prisoners had been removed), numerous ice houses and a stable succumbed to the pressure of the water and went down stream.  Saturday morning, while the water was rising higher and higher, the citizens commenced to take precautionary measures.  The St. Paul railroad bridge was uncoupled in the middle and at both ends and anchored to the piling with hawsers.  Donahoe’s house at his brick yard south of the bridge, stood in the middle of the flood, but loaded on the first floor with 10,000 bricks, maintained its place.  Numerous small buildings were anchored with ropes.  The buildings on the east side of Phillips avenues, north of the Gilbert block, were emptied of their contents, and the merchants on the west side got their goods ready for removal, but these precautions happily proved unnecessary. 

     Fortunately no lives were lost, although there were a number of narrow escapes.  The damage to the railroads was great, and the total damage to property in Sioux Falls was estimated at $140,300.00 

     At Dell Rapids the damage was proportionately the same as at Sioux Falls.  Lumber yards, buildings and bridges were washed away and property damaged, but no lives were lost.  As has already been said, this flood was occasioned by the melting of heavy snow which had fallen during the winter preceding, but owing to the contour of the county nothing of a similar nature can ever happen except from a similar cause.  There have been several heavy falls of rain since the county was settled, but no damage worthy of mention has resulted.  The term “rainy season” will never be used to describe the rainfall in this county, but the New England term of “rainy spell” could at times be very appropriately made use of, and at no time more so than during the spring on 1888.  On the 26th day of April it began to rain, and for twenty-nine consecutive days rain fell at some time during the twenty-four hours.  It was a “rainy spell” and probably the longest the inhabitants of the county ever experienced, but even this long continuous rainfall did not raise the water in the streams to a dangerous height.

CLOUD-BURST IN HIGHLAND, 1876.

 

     Mr. Ole O. Graves, one of the earliest settlers of Highland township, has furnished us with the following account of a cloud-burst a few miles north of his farm: 

“About the first day of May, 1876, there was a cloud-burst a few miles north of my place on the upper Split Rock. The water came rolling down over the bottom from eight to twelve feet in depth.  One of my neighbors, a Mr. Lee, saw something moving quite a distance north of us and thought it was an immense flock of geese, and took his gun and started for the place.  He discovered his mistake just in time to escape with his life.  A pair of oxen were picketed out on the bottom below my place, and the water was so deep that it took them off their feet, and for a while the picket stakes held them fast so that they floated.  A man on horseback attempted to rescue the oxen, but was thrown from his horse.  He could not swim, but was fortunate in getting hold of the horse’s tail, and the horse took him to the shore.  When the stakes finally became loosened the oxen saved themselves by swimming ashore.”

 

EXTREMES OF HEAT AND COLD.

 

     This section of the country is not remarkable for extremes of heat and cold, but at the same time it must be admitted that when a thermometer registers 35° below zero and within six months registers 100° above, it has traveled over a wide field.  Reliable thermometers have done this in Minnehaha county, but these extremes are seldom reached, the temperature being rarely 30° below zero.  The first winter the writer spent in Minnehaha county the coldest day was 26° below zero.  Of course, there are cold winters and mild winters, hot summer and those of moderate heat.  The extreme cold spells are usually longer here than in the same latitude in the eastern states, and the same is also true of the extreme warm spells of weather, and it must also be admitted that there are few places where there are more sudden changes in temperature than in South Dakota.  But taken as a whole, the climate is invigorating and healthful, notwithstanding these occasional extremes of cold and heat, and the statistics show that the death rate in South Dakota, in proportion to the total population, is lower than in any other country in the world.  As appears elsewhere, the summer of 1871 was unusually warm, and the summer of 1886 was called a hot one, and during the summer of 1889 there was a long spell of excessively hot weather.  But the summer of 1894 was both hot and dry, and the Daily Press in its issue of August 9, said:  “Skunk creek is dried up and the prairie chickens have left the country along that stream because of the lack of water.” 

The coldest winters during the last fifteen years were the winters of 1884-5-6-7, especially during the two last years there were long spells of extreme cold weather.  But one of the coldest days during this period was February 4, 1883, when reliable thermometers registered 37° below zero.  Occasionally in midsummer the heat is 100°, but it is an unusually hot day in Minnehaha county when it is above 90°.  The 17th day of September, 1895, was one of the hottest days experienced in this vicinity.  A thermometer at the Cataract house, at 3:30 in the afternoon of that day marked 104° in the shade, and other thermometers in the city indorsed these figures as being about right. 

Dr. Levi S. Carter, Volunteer Meteorological Observer at Sioux Falls for the United States Department of Agriculture Weather Bureau, kindly loaned us the record of his observations for the last few years.  We have summarized the average monthly maximum, minimum and mean temperature, also the average precipitation and the number of clear days for the years 1893 4-5-6, a table of will be found below:

 

                                                         Maximum     Minimum     Mean     Precip     Clear Days 

January                                                   43             -24              11         1.20             17 

February                                                53              -23              16          .51              17 

March                                                    70              -9                39         1.61             17 

April                                                       80              19               48         3.80             15 

May                                                       89               30               61         2.83             18 

June                                                       95               36               68         3.34             19 

July                                                       101              44               72         1.63             24 

August                                                   99                36              71         1.38             21 

September                                             96                24              62         1.71             21 

October                                                 77               15               45         1.33             21 

November                                             62                -8               27         1.37            15 

December                                              47              -12               21           .70             18 

Coldest day, February 21, 1893, 35 degrees below zero. 

Warmest day, July 25, 1894, 107 degrees 

Precipitation 1893 26.71 inches 

Precipitation 1894 10.44 inches 

Precipitation 1895 20.33 inches 

Precipitation 1896 27.97 inches

     Since writing the foregoing, there has been such extreme cold weather, remarkable also for its great duration, that we should almost feel like stopping the press to record it, if this work was being printed. 

If extreme cold weather should be encountered in the future, it would be well to examine the record of the cold spell which the whole country experienced in January and February, 1899.  Hicks predicted mild, pleasant weather for the week commencing January 22, but notwithstanding Hicks, it commenced growing cold Wednesday evening January 25.  The next day it was colder still, and so on, until Sunday night when there was a snowfall of about four inches.  Monday it was cold, and it continued growing colder until Wednesday the 8th day of February.  During that day, the thermometer at no time indicated less than twenty-three degrees below zero, and at eight o’clock the following morning it was forty-two degrees below, and some ambitious thermometers indicated one or two degrees colder still.  This kind of weather, with little variation continued until Sunday night, February 12, when it grew warmer. 

It was one cold wave after another for eighteen days, or one cold wave coming down from the northwest in sections, with but little intermediate space between them.  It was a record breaker, not only in this locality, but all over the country east of the Rocky Mountains. 

Following is the minimum record of Dr. L.S. Carter for the first thirteen days in February, 1899:  9, 19, 14, 29, 28, 30, 29, 38, 42, 22, 40, 32, 13 degrees below zero.

 

CLIMATIC DISTURBANCES.

 

BLIZZARDS

 

     Although Minnehaha county is not remarkable for severe storms, still there have been some that are worthy of mention.  It is undoubtedly true that during the early settlement of southeastern Dakota, the class of storms known as “blizzards” were more frequent and severe than during the past decade.  In the biographical sketch of C.K. Howard will be found some incidents in connection with the blizzards of thirty years ago, and other early settlers have informed the writer that scarcely a winter passed without two or three blizzards of more or less severity.  Perhaps the most notable one that occurred since white people commenced to inhabit this county was the January blizzard of 1873.  It extended throughout Dakota, Minnesota, a portion of Iowa and the northern half of Wisconsin.  Upwards of seventy people perished in Minnesota.  In Minnehaha county the storm commenced in the forenoon of the 7th, and continued with but little abatement for nearly three days; four persons lost their lives and several others met with narrow escapes.  Robert Foster, who lived with his family in a sod-shanty in the northwest part of section 33 in Benton, lost two children.  On the morning of the storm his son Robert, fourteen years old, and his daughter Sarah, twelve years old, started out to go a little over a half a mile north, where some bait had been put out for foxes, when the storm overtook them.  They walked about a mile and a half south and a half a mile east, and finally stopped in a roofless sod-shanty, where they were found on the 15th day of March following, the girl still standing, and it was evident that the boy had died standing by his sister, but had fallen over as the snow melted away.  The other persons who perished in the storm were A.M. Abbott and a Scandinavian, whose name the writer has been unable to learn. On the 15th day of October, 1880, there was a heavy snow storm, and it would seem that it was worthy of being classed as a blizzard.  The last genuine blizzard visited this section of the country on the 12th day of January, 1888.  It struck Sioux Falls about the middle of the afternoon.  At 2 o’clock the sun was shining brightly, and the weather was delightfully mild and pleasant, but before four o’clock it was several degrees below zero, and the wind was blowing a gale from the northwest.  This storm was quite extensive, and coming as it did just about the time of the closing of the district schools, many a sad disaster happened.  At Baltic a Miss Jacobson was teaching school, and about the time the storm commenced she started to walk to the house of John O. Langness, in company with one of her pupils about fourteen years of age by the name of Josephine Grinde, daughter of Andrew Grinde, then living in Brandon.  They were blinded by the snow and frozen to death.  Another distressing case during this blizzard was the death of a Mrs. Kennedy and her son Joseph.  The home of the Kennedy’s was four or five miles west of the City of Sioux Falls.  About dark Mr. Kennedy started to go to a well a few rods from the house, and not returning Mrs. Kennedy and son went out to look for him.  When the blizzard had subsided she was found only a short distance from the house frozen to death, but the boy was not found until about the 20th of March following.  He had traveled about two miles and a half in the direction the wind was blowing.  Mr. Kennedy finding he could not return to the house crawled into a straw stack and remained during the night.  Three other persons in the county lost their lives during this storm. 

     Mr. Zeliff of Sherman has furnished us with the following interesting description of his experience in a blizzard:  “Since coming to Dakota I have seen but two blizzards.  The first one was in the winter of 1880-1, and the second one in January, 1888.  On the morning of January 12, during the last-mentioned year, I left Sioux Falls to drive to my home, a distance of twenty-five miles.  The snow was drifted, and my horses got down several times, and I progressed so slowly that at four o’clock in the afternoon I was still six miles from home.  I had just got my horses out of a snow drift and was letting them rest.  The sun was shining and it was so warm that I had taken off my coat.  The first I knew I was covered with a cloud of snow, accompanied with a sharp wind.  I looked at my watch; it was four o’clock. I started at once to get to a house, but soon found I was traveling in a circle, and was getting cold.  I stopped and unharnessed my horse, cut the ice off their nostrils, and let them loose.  I thought I would give them a chance for their lives.  I then turned the sleigh-box over and got under it and wrapped myself up in my buffalo coat and blankets.  I had hard work to keep awake. My horses did not leave, and occasionally I would kick the box and one of them would neigh in response.  At eight o’clock the next morning I pried the sleigh-box up with the neck-yoke I had taken under with me.  When I got out I could not stand, and I crawled around on my hands and knees until I found a landmark by which I knew the way to Mr. Royce’s house, and managed to get there, but I was so nearly frozen that I could not speak or stand.  Through the kind attentions of Mrs. Royce, I was able late in the afternoon to go for my horses, and found them leaning against each other by the sleigh.  They had attempted to follow me in the morning, but owing to a great bank of snow had been unable to do so.  They were quite warm when the blizzard struck us, and they were soon covered with a sheet of ice, and I think this protected them.” 

     As an illustration of the mental condition of some persons caught in a blizzard, we give below the wanderings of Peter E. Oien, a young man in the employ of Ole Gunderson of Mapleton, who was frozen to death during this blizzard.  He took a load of manure about seventy rods from Gunderson’s barn and unloaded it, and as the started back the storm struck him.  After it was time for him to return, and not doing so, Mr. Gunderson started out to pilot him in.  He soon found that instead of coming in the direction of his buildings, Oien had gone south.  Following the track he found that he had driven into a deep snow drift in a ravine. Here he had unhitched the horses and left the sled.  After this he could find on trace of him, although he continued the search until after dark.  The next morning he resumed the search and traced him in his wanderings several miles.  He finally was found dead within six rods of Joe Nieson’s house, six miles south of Mr. Gunderson’s place.  In one place he had followed a fence quite a long distance, and when coming to the end of it had turned and followed it back nearly its entire length, and if he had continued a few rods further would have come to a barn.  At another place he had gone straight through a grove and had passed near to a house.  Three times he was within three or four rods of a dwelling house, but did not seem to realize his surroundings.  He kept both horses with him.  Once he got into a snow drift.  He first got one of the horses out, and then went back for the other.  He drove them most of the way, but at last walked beside them.  When his body was found one of the horses stood near by it. 

     At the time of this blizzard there was a good deal of discussion in the newspapers as to what causes the singular conduct most people manifest when caught out in a blizzard, and in one thing they all agreed, that a majority of those people lose all power of reasoning and do not seem to recognize the most familiar surroundings.

CYCLONES.

 

     There has never been a real, genuine cyclone in Minnehaha county, but there has been some violent windstorms sweeping through this section at different times which in a few instances have almost reached the dignity of a cyclone, and have been termed by the newspapers “Baby Cyclones.” 

     During the summer of 1883 a strong wind accompanied by a thunderstorm swept over the northwestern portion of the City of Sioux Falls, and two or three houses in process of construction were destroyed, a few small buildings tipped over and a dozen chimneys blown down.  During the afternoon of Monday, July 21, 1884, a heavy thunder storm swept over the entire county, resulting in the loss of several lives and causing the destruction of considerable property.  The wind was terrific, but did not have the cyclonic twist.  The storm was most destructive in the northern portion of the county.  At Dell Rapids the Congregational church, a school house and three store buildings were blown down, and considerable damage was done to other buildings.  Another school house a few miles out from Dell Rapids was also blown down, and two children killed.  A store building was demolished at Baltic, and several buildings at Valley Springs were seriously damaged.  The most curious incident in connection with this great storm occurred in the southeastern portion of Highland.  A school house, occupied by the teacher, a Miss Chase, and twenty-one scholars, was driven before the wind a half a mile.  Miss Chase, in relating the incident, said:  “The first I noticed was a violent rocking of the building, and the overturning of the stove, and then the building began to move; at times it would seem to bound over ground, and then to slip along smoothly.”  She called on the children to pray for deliverance, but a little daughter of Ransom Walter replied:  “Let us get out first!”  Strange as it may seem no one was seriously injured, and the building but slightly damaged; and the people in the school district acquiesced in the new location of the school house.  The house of Peter Digre in Highland was blown down, one child killed and Mrs. Digre seriously injured.  A daughter of Samuel Dukken of Burk was blown some distance and killed.  But the destructive feature of this storm was not confined to the wind alone; the lightening was a fearful accessory.  Mrs. John Hill, of Highland, was struck by lightening and instantly killed; the house of Axel Scott in Lyons was also struck, killing Mrs. Scott and prostrating five others.  Several other buildings were struck, and considerable stock was killed. 

     The nearest approach in this county to a real twister occurred on the afternoon of May 3, 1895.  During a heavy shower in the vicinity of Sioux Falls, a little commotion was noticed on south Minnesota avenue in the city, and it was soon evident that arrangements were being made for a cyclonic display.  After everything was in readiness, it started out in a northwesterly direction, and as it advanced its track widened, regardless of the obstacles in its way.  At first it only overturned small buildings in a playful way, but it soon increased in fury, and after giving the Summit avenue viaduct a sharp blow it turned west and commenced business in earnest.  The tress in Pettigrew’s grove were blown down, some barns destroyed, and it at last focused on the Willowdale mansion and the bridge across the Sioux river; the house was unroofed and the bridge demolished.  The chain mortising works were visited, and the upper story of this “castle in the air” was scattered about the prairie.  But the most serious damage was done to the carriage works standing near the river.  One building containing nearly 100 carriages was blown down, and some of the carriages completely ruined and all of them more or less damaged.  From this point it went up the river about half a miles, and then as quietly disappeared as a real estate boom. 

     The western portion of the county has not been entirely exempt from cyclonic manifestations.  About four o’clock in the morning of June 21, 1892, the people in the southwestern part of Clear Lake township became suddenly aware that a “baby cyclone” was playing about their premises.  It originated a few miles west of this county.  In Montrose, McCook county, it destroyed the house of Wm. Olin, and his wife was killed.  As it came east it destroyed several barns and granaries, but became somewhat moderated in force when it entered this county.  When it reached the residence of John S. Lacy in section thirty in Clear Lake, it picked up his barn and hen-house and carried them away, but it did not move a buggy top that stood on the ground facing the wind not more than three feet from the barn.  It spent its force by the time it reached Hartford, but while traveling through Clear Lake it did considerable damage, breaking a woman’s arm, shaking up E.C. Kibbe’s buildings, destroying small buildings and removing others from their foundations.  In one instance where a building was destroyed the windows were found a half a mile away with the glass unbroken.

ELECTRIC STORMS.

 

     In addition to the usual electric display during thunder storms, there have been occasional storms in Minnehaha county which could be only characterized as electric storms.  During the summer of 1871, there were quite a number of them.  It was hot and dry all summer, and although every few days it looked like rain, it all ended in electrical displays without a drop of rain.  From time to time since then the old settlers of the county have reported similar occurrences.  But the electric storm of all others of which any account has come to the knowledge of the writer occurred during the summer of 1886.  About two o’clock one morning, if there was a person living within the limits of Sioux Falls who was not suddenly awakened, then there can be but little hope for such a person at the resurrection.   Upon looking out to see the cause of all the commotion going on, a cloud could be seen hanging over the northwestern portion of the city, from which lightening and peals of thunder were emitted at the rate of forty-five per minute.  The cloud was moving in a southeasterly direction, and passed over the city, without shedding a drop of rain, and was succeeded by bright starlight.  In the centre of its path the electric fluid seemed to be in a hurry to take the shortest line and make the quickest time possible to the earth.  Although, while passing over the city several buildings were struck by lightning, the storm did not seem to have any particular object in view and did no serious damage.  To those who were not too much frightened to appreciate it, it was a grand display, but such a one that no person could possibly wish to see repeated.  During the time the cloud was passing over the city the atmosphere was in such a peculiar condition that ordinary conversation could be distinctly heard and understood two blocks away.  Taking it altogether it was the finest free exhibition ever given in Sioux Falls. 

     Very frequently our newspapers publish articles with the head line “What a stranger thinks of Sioux Falls” and a little incident which occurred in connection with this pyrotechnical display would probably have found its way into the columns of the local newspapers if it had not been for fear of destroying the reputation of the place.  A gentleman had come in from the east on the Omaha train the evening before, with a view of making some investments in city property.  He was fatigued after his long journey, and retired early to his room at the Commercial hotel, and was soon sound asleep.  At two o’clock in the morning he awoke very suddenly, and , as he said, for a long time could not imagine where he was.  He felt certain he was not on the earth or in any other place he had ever heard of, and for awhile thought that he was being transferred somewhere in chariots of fire.  As soon as the storm was over, and he had regained his strength, he got up, dressed, and came into the hotel office.   He asked the clerk what had happened, and when he was told that nothing unusual had transpired as he knew of, he inquired when the first rain would leave Sioux Falls; he returned east that morning.  But before leaving, he told a gentleman in the city that he would not remain another night in this region of the country for all the gold there was on the continent.

 

   
 

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Sioux Falls, Minnehaha County, SD
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