More Tornado Stories






McGrath Genealogy  |  Upperchurch Connections  |       Old Mattydale          |  What's New  |  Contact



McGrath Genealogy  |  Upperchurch Connections  |       Old Mattydale          |  What's New  |  Contact

















1912 Pitcher Hill Tornado

More Tornado Stories

“At Pitcher Hill, among the wrecked buildings are the house and barn of Mr. Chapman, the home of H. U. Wendell home and barn of William Michaels, the schoolhouse and others buildings, to say nothing of those that are unroofed or twisted. The farmers there are stared in the face by ruin. Although they carried insurance, few, if any, policies had wind clauses in them.”

“The wind cloud struck Pitcher Hill, near North Syracuse, a few minutes past 5. Many saw the cloud and were frightened. They hastened to shut doors, only to find their houses battered down around them.”

Interior of House Wrecked

William Michaels’s house, just south of Chapman’s place, is twisted out of shape and his barn is completely demolished. In the wreckage of the barn lies a white horse, killed by the falling timbers. The house outside does not look so bad but inside it is a wreck. It is twisted out of shape, plastering is fallen everywhere. Mr. Michaels was going from the barn to the house and the wind blew him against the house with great force. He could hardly talk of the catastrophe to-day.”

“There were horrible scenes within the homes. The people felt the walls sway, stairs fell or twisted, roofs came down. Windows were turn out. Furniture was scattered to the winds. In the cornfields near Michaels’s house is a stove that came from no one knows where. In front of the house are big poplar trees blocking the road as they lie at length with their roots and big portions of earth in the air.”

“The homes of Earl Benz and Albert Jewell are in ruins. Fred Zwicki lost part of his house and all of his barn. A big wagon was hurled through his henhouse.”

“Willard Davis lost the roof from his house and not a shred was left together of his barn. In his lot are dead chickens by the score. His family of children were in the house but were not hurt. Mr. Davis was in a lot near his home and was knocked down by the wind, while flying timbers were carried over his head. He was not injured.”

Frank Reen Badly Hurt

“Frank Reen is probably fatally injured. His ribs are broken and he lies in his home hovering between life and death. He was outdoors near the barn. The wind caught the big barn, moved it thirty feet toward the road and buried him under one corner. Mrs. Reen hurried out and tried to drag her husband from the wreckage. At last she succeeded.”

“The bard was taken up bodily and carried in the wind’s teeth. In the house every window was broken out. Katherine, his daughter, aged 11, was struck on the wrist by flying glass and was knocked down. The house was twisted and every door was out of place. At this point the wind cloud seemed to broaden to 1,000 feet in width. It tore down trees, mowed down a grove as if by a scythe, wrenched poles from the ground and sent boards and limbs flying.”

“Jacob Gratzer, living near Reen, hurried to the assistance of his neighbor when the storm passed. Gratzer’s own house was badly damaged. He and Mrs. Gratzer went to the aid of Reen and helped Mrs. Reen get him into the house. Mrs. Reen to-day was prostrated.”

Cloud Came From Northwest

“’The cloud came from the northwest.’ Said Mr. Gratzer, ‘riddled the woods northwest of us and then swept down on us.’ Two trees, one at the north and one at the south, probably a thousand feet apart, showed the path of the wind at that point.”

“Sweeping over Reen’s the wind struck the home of Sebastian Bartnet(?) on the Tempie (Temple) road. Six mighty trees were torn from the earth and piled in heaps. The corner of Mr. Barthel’s house was unroofed. An old log cabin, probably a century old, was undamaged. Across the road from Barthel’s into atoms [a line seems to be missing??] The storm seemed to spend itself or to rise higher in the air after it passed Barthel’s.

 [1912-09-16a2] – Tornado hits Liverpool – 2nd pg – Herald. The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, Monday, September 16, 1912.

Yet More Stories

“The first place visited was the home of Frank Reen on the old Ganet road, about two miles east of the first toll gate on the Cicero Plank road. A sorrow stricken wife was administering to the wants of a kind husband who is one of the most seriously injured survivors. He was struck down by flying boards ripped from the barn by the storm, and was found by Mrs. Reen in an unconscious state. The story and a half white house, their humble home, was partly unroofed by the storm. For 40 years Frank Reen has been an honest and hardworking farmer, and has done the best he could for his wife and two children. Catherine, 11 years, is carrying an arm in a sling, because flying glass from the windows tore the flesh. Car? The four-year-old, escaped the storm with a bump on the head.”

Aged Mother Weeps

“The aged mother of Mr. Reen was outside the house weeping bitterly, ‘My husband died six months ago,” said the sorrowing woman, ‘and now I am glad that he isn’t here to witness the awful wreck and my boy’s condition. And he has always been such a good son.’”

“The Reen barn was carried some distance and wrecked. The crops are destroyed. The neighbors say the Reens are very poor, and should the father die the family will be left in dire straits. Mr. Reen has a brother, John, living in Syracuse.”  

[1912-09-17a1] – Tornado Part 1 – The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse , NY, Tuesday, September, 17, 1912.  

Another Source

“Peter Michaels, whose loss is about $1,000, lives in Bailey road. ‘I never witnessed such poverty and destitution,’ he told The Journal to-day. ‘Probably I am the only one who has not been driven into absolute destitution. All of the unfortunate victims of the storm are sadly in need of temporary relief. It is true they have their farms and in time these may be used; but the destruction of the crops put these people in an awful predicament. Most of them have had to work hard to maintain themselves and now they are without homes or means of sustenance. I believe that temporary relief would be most welcome. They are a proud people and in time will be able to take care of themselves; but what is needed is temporary relief. I don’t know of a family in this neighborhood that is a victim of the storm which is not in an embarrassing situation.’”

“Fred Zwickie, who lived on the Bailey road,, had depended mostly upon the sale of the products of his orchard for a livelihood. That orchard is leveled to the ground together with his home. The family has been left destitute and nothing has been saved from the wreck. The loss is about $4,000.”

Orchard Wiped Out

“One of the most complete wrecks is that on the Amos and Parmolee farm on the Collamer State road, the large house was unroofed, and several barns are demolished. Those barns were filled with grain. The owners conduct a laundry in Syracuse. Although their stock farm and barn were only a short distance away, the storm did not touch them. It is estimated that their loss will be about $4,000. Only three trees in the large orchard remain standing.”

“Jacob Gratzer, on the old Ganet road, found his stack of choice hay scattered over the field after the storm. It contained eight large loads, and was valued at $150.”

“Six immense trees were torn from their beds and laid in front of the home of Sebastian Barthels on the old Ganet road. It was with much difficulty that the family were able to get in and out of the house. Mr. Barthels also loses his entire crop.”

“Jacob Streetmather is minus the roof of his barn and his crops are ruined. He lives on the old Ganet road.”

“Jacob D. Menger, on the State road, lost several trees in his orchard.”

“The storm ate its way through the Koring Bros.’ woods, about one mile east of Pitcher Hill. For a width of 1,000 feet hardly a tree remains standing. The massive timbers were snapped off like so many clay pipe stems.”

“Frank Crosby was a tenant of Arlie W. Richardson on the Plank road. He is an employee of the Lake Shore Railroad, and his household effects have been ruined by water.”

“There were two houses and two barns on the Michaels estate, and these, with the entire crops, were wiped out. The loss will exceed $2,500.”

“The first car on the South Bay road since the storm was run out about 10 o’clock this morning. It could get no further than Stop 6 at Pitcher Hill, as the wires have not yet been repaired.”

“Hundreds of automobiles drove to the scene of the wrecks all day. Last night carryalls were offered to take sightseers to Pitcher Hill.”

NOTE: On the 1874 map of the Town of DeWitt there is a G. C. Gannett living in the SW corner of Lot No. 9. The South Line of Military Lot No 9 is now called East Molloy Road. The section of what is now E. Molloy Road, from Townline Road to at least Thompson Road, was referred to as the “old Ganet road” in these articles.

[1912-09-17a2] – Tornado Part 2 – The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, September, 17, 1912.

The Lawrence Road School

“When District No. 7 schoolhouse [Lawrence Road School] crumbled before the wind the heavy bronze bell, which has been in use for three-quarters of a century, was thrown free from its fastenings and cast several hundred yards away from the school foundations. Two of its supports were found near the school, but the third probably will never be found.

As the bell sailed through the air it whirled about at a furious rate, all the while clanging away with its harsh metallic clatter. Its sound was heard above the din of splintering timbers and tumbling walls.”

“Lucinda Aubertine, the youthful teacher of District School No. 7 is very much at a loss to know where to keep school. Her charges, however, ‘don’t care whether school keeps or not.’”

“’I haven’t any idea where we will hold school,” Miss Aubertine said. ‘There is going to be a special meeting of the School Commissioners very soon and possibly they will find a building we can use.’”

[1912-09-17b1] – “Schoolhouse Bell Clangs Through Air,” The Post Standard, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, September 17, 1912.