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Posts about Disasters

July 14, 1890: Sea Wing capsizes on Lake Pepin

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: December 2, 2014 - 8:57 AM
 
Powerful thunderstorms moved through Minnesota on a steamy Sunday afternoon in July 1890. A huge tornado, later immortalized in a Julius Holm painting, churned across Kohlman Lake, “a little summering place” in what is now Maplewood. At least seven people were killed and dozens injured.

That evening, about 70 miles to the southeast, on Lake Pepin, a much larger tragedy unfolded. A “cyclone” blew in from the west, capsizing a steamer carrying more than 100 passengers and crew up the Mississippi River. A Minneapolis Tribune correspondent who happened to be on the scene told the tale in gripping — if maddeningly chronological — fashion.

[Originally posted in April 2008, this entry was among hundreds that evaporated in a server purge on or about Aug. 1, 2014. Reposting in connection with Curt Brown's excellent piece in the Star Tribune. Thank goodness for archive.org's Wayback Machine.]
 
 

DROWNED!

 
An Awful Disaster At Lake Pepin, Minn.
 
A Steamer Capsizes With 150 People Aboard.
 
The Wind and Waves Have no Mercy on Them.
 
Only Twenty Succeed in Saving Their Lives.
 
People Watch the Awful Struggle From the Shore.
 
But No One Could Lend Any Assistance.
 
The Storm Drowned the Cries of the Unfortunates.
 
A Disaster Never Before Equaled in the Northwest.
 
LAKE CITY, Minn., July 13. – [Special.] – What may prove the most disastrous storm in many years passed over this place this evening killing probably 100 people and damaging property to an extent that at this writing cannot be estimated. Your correspondent was visiting friends in Lake City and was sitting in the yard when what appeared to be an ordinary electric storm was noticed coming up from the West. In half an hour the whole heavens were converted into a complete canopy of lightning which was watched with interest by the brave citizens of the little village and with fear by the timid women and children. A little before dark a terrific wind struck the community and your reporter sought the shelter of the house just in time to escape being caught under a huge tree that came crashing down against the house. Windows were closed instantly and none too soon, for the cyclone was upon us and trees and houses were fast being demolished in its path.
 
The steamer Sea Wing about a year before the tragedy. (MNHS.org photo)

The steamer Sea Wing about a year before the tragedy. (mnhs.org photo)

 
While my wife, in fear and trembling, sought the seclusion and protection of the cellar in company with the ladies, I assisted in closing shutters and making preparations for the worst that could be expected while trees were heard to be crashing down and missiles were striking against the house. The building proved strong enough to weather the blast, and in half an hour the worst of the hurricane had passed. As soon as the trees had been cleared away from the front of the house your correspondent started out and soon learned
 
THAT A HORRIBLE CALAMITY
 
Had befallen the place, that had not been equaled since the St. Cloud cyclone several years ago. People began to gather on the streets, and in a few moments the news was scattered abroad that an excursion boat with over 200 people on it was capsized in the middle of Lake Pepin. The boat proved to be the steamer Sea Wing, which came down the lake from Diamond Bluff, a small place about 17 miles north of here, on an excursion to the encampment of the First regiment, N. G. S. M., which is being held a mile below this city. The steamer started back on the homeward trip about 8 o’clock, and although there were signs of an approaching storm, it was not considered in any way serious, and no danger was anticipated. The boat was crowded to its fullest capacity, about
 
150 MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN
 
from Red Wing and Diamond Bluff being on board, and about 50 people on a barge which was attached to the side of the steamer. When about opposite Lake City the boat began to feel the effects of the storm; but the officers kept on the way. The storm increased as the boat continued up the lake. In 15 minutes it was at its height. Nearing Central Point, about two miles above Lake City, the steamer was at the mercy of the waves, which were now washing over the boat, and all was confusion. The boat momentarily ran onto a bar and the barge was cut loose, and the steamer again set adrift in the lake. A number of those on the barge jumped and swam ashore. As the barge also floated again into the deep water those on the barge saw the steamer as it was carried helplessly out into the middle of the lake, and as they were being tossed about on the raging waters, they were horrified a moment later to see the steamer and its cargo of 150 people
 
PRECIPITATE INTO THE LAKE.
 
Those on the barge remained there until they were drifted nearer the shore and they were all rescued or swam ashore. Among them were two ladies who were brought to the beach by strong and ready swimmers. There were about 50 in all that were on the barge.
 
The events that transpired on the steamer after it separated from the barge are probably most clearly stated by those who were rescued from it about half an hour ago. It is now 12 o’clock midnight. As soon as the [storm] had begun to affect the progress of the boat, Capt. Weathern [Wethern, actually] gave instructions to run the boat into the Wisconsin shore but it was a too terrible force of wind and wave. In five minutes more the waves began to wash into the boat and fill its lower decks, and while hailstones as large as hen’s eggs came down on the heads of the poor helpless creatures which were huddled together on the top, a huge wave struck the craft on the side at the same moment that a terrific blast of wind, more horribly forcible than the others, came up and carried the boat over, all of the people on board; 150 or more were thrown into the water, some being caught underneath and others thrown into the waves.
 
The boat turned bottom upwards and only about 25 people were observed to be floating on the surface. These caught hold of the boat and climbed upon the upturned bottom, those first securing a position assisting the others. In 10 minutes more than 25 or so who had obtained momentary safety on the boat could observe no others of the boat crew or passengers floating on the surface of the continuing high sea of waves. Afterwards, however, as a flash of lightning lighted up the surface of the lake, the sight of an occasional white dress of a drowning woman or child was observable, but it was impossible for those who witnessed the horrible sight
 
TO LEND ANY AID.
 
Those remaining began calling for help from the shore as soon as the storm began to abate and in half an hour lights were observed flitting about on the pier at Lake City, opposite which point the upturned steamer had now been driven. Before help could reach them, however, the creatures who remained to tell the horrors of the night were again submitted to another battle with the elements, with no word of warning; and as they were just beginning to hope that they would be taken off by the citizens of Lake City, the boat again turned over, this on its side and again all of the 25 remaining souls were hurtled into the water. Of these several were drowned before they could be brought to the boat by those who succeeded in remaining afloat and again securing hold of the boat’s side. As the men hung on to the railing, in danger each moment of being washed away by the waves, one man observed the forms of two women wedged in between a stationary seat and the boat’s side, both pale in death, as the lightning gleams lit up their upturned faces. Another man saw two little girls floating past him as he hung with desperate efforts to the steamer’s side.
 
National Guard members survey the wreckage of the Sea Wing. (MNHS.org photo)

National Guard members survey the wreckage of the Sea Wing. (mnhs.org photo)

 
Half an hour after the passage of the storm your reporter went with others to the dock where the steamer Ethel Howard was anchored safe from the storm. It was presumed that the steamer would at once proceed to the rescue of the drowning, but when I asked the captain, Mr. Howard, if he was going out to the rescue, he replied that he was not going to run his boat away from the shore until the indication of another approaching storm had disappeared. He said also that he did not propose to run the risk of losing his boat in order to look for dead people out on the lake. Citizens of Lake City, who heard Captain Howard’s remarks, were most severe in their denunciation of this position he assumed in the face of the statements made to him that every minute might mean the saving of a half dozen lives. Many talked of taking the boat away from him by force, but there were not enough to put the threat into execution, and other means of rescue were resorted to. In a few minutes a dozen or more rowboats were manned and put out from the shore. The upturned boat was at last discovered;
 
THE TWENTY OR MORE REMAINING PEOPLE
 
Clinging to the boat were rescued and brought to the shore, most of them being men who could swim.
 
Among those who are known to have been on board the steamer and who are undoubtedly drowned are: Two children of C.H. Reberick, Peter Goken, his wife, five children and hired girl, Fred Sebes, wife and daughter, Mrs. Capt. Wethern and her two children, F. Christ, Wm. Blaker and family of three, Mrs. Hempting and daughter, Gus Beckmark; a Miss Flyn, Bose Adams and Ira Fulton. A full list of the 150 passengers, which are pretty certain to have been drowned, is not obtainable at this writing. A large majority of them were women and children. Those being saved being nearly all strong men, who were able to swim, and cling to the boat, after it had capsized. On the return from the capsized boat with three or four people who had been rescued, one of the row boats encountered two floating bodies, each with a life preserver attached.
 
In Lake City the damage to property by the cyclone is great, although no fatalities have been reported. Collins Bros.’ saw and planning mill is totally demolished. The roof of the opera house, owned by Mr. Hanisch, was carried away and the stores underneath more or less damaged by the rain and hail.
 
Up to this time, 1:30 a.m., 62 bodies have been found and laid out.
 
Julius Holm's 1893 oil painting shows the Kohlman Lake tornado as it skirted the edge of St. Paul.

Julius Holm's 1893 oil painting shows the Kohlman Lake tornado as it skirted the edge of St. Paul.

 

Nov. 11, 1940: The Armistice Day blizzard

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: November 11, 2014 - 11:58 AM
 
The forecast for Armistice Day 1940, as reported in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune dated Nov. 11, gave barely a hint of what was to come that day: “Cloudy, occasional snow, and colder, much colder.”

Many took advantage of the mild holiday weather and made plans to spend the day outdoors. Then came rain … which turned to snow, accompanied by howling wind … and more snow … and then the cold. More than 16 inches of snow fell in Minneapolis, more than 2 feet in other parts of the state. Temperatures dropped from near 60 to the single digits in less than 24 hours. Telegraph and telephone lines went down, cutting off communications and complicating the task of reporting the big story. In the end, 49 people died in the Armistice Day blizzard in Minnesota, many of them duck hunters trapped in remote bottom land along the Mississippi when the blizzard hit.

The Minneapolis Morning Tribune’s “6 A.M. Alarm Clock Edition” of Tuesday, Nov. 12, 1940, provided exhaustive coverage. Here is the lead story, followed by a few of the dozens of storm-related briefs. The photos below appeared in subsequent editions of the Tribune and the Star Journal.

(Originally posted in August 2005.)
 
Forty-nine people died in Minnesota in the 1940 Armistice Day storm, including these lightly dressed duck hunters.

Forty-nine people died in Minnesota in the storm, including these lightly dressed duck hunters.

 

N.W. STORM RAGES ON

Forecast Gives No Hint of Letup; 7 Die as Zero Wave Rides Blizzard

Motor Traffic Paralyzed; Scores of Towns Isolated

Gale Hits Hard at Telegraph and Telephone Services — Auto Mishaps Trap 100 Near New Brighton – Blocked Streets Send Hundreds to Hotels

 
The Armistice day blizzard that virtually paralyzed transportation and crippled wire communications in Minneapolis and the northwest, roared into Tuesday with no sign of abating.
 
The weather bureau offered little comfort with a forecast for today of partly cloudy in the south and west parts of Minnesota, with occasional light snow in the northeast portion; Wednesday; fair and continued cold.
 
Snow had stopped falling at Bismarck and Grand Forks, N.D., this morning but high winds continued the blizzard conditions of Monday.
 
The storm, which passed through stages of rain and sleet to a blinding gale of snow, hit telegraph and telephone services hard. Most communities were isolated. Temperatures fell by the hour. At 4 a.m. it was 5 degrees above zero in Minneapolis.
 
The full extent of casualties will not be known until communications are opened up again, but deaths of six men, three of them hunters, and one woman, were reported last night.
 
The dead:
 
Walter Strom, 1700 Hawthorne Av., Soo Line fireman, killed in wreck at Watkins.
Mrs. E.Y. Arnold, 2124 Ann Arbor St., St. Paul, traffic victim.
John C. Johnson, 55, 222 Tenth Av. N.E., died of exhaustion.
Harry S. Mason, 75, 329 South Warwick St., St. Paul, died of exhaustion.
Herbert Junneman, Wabasha, Minn., a hunter.
Theodore H. Geiger, Eau Claire, Wis., a hunter.
 
Thousands of persons stranded in the loop crowded downtown hotels, taking every available room, and overflowing into dining rooms and lobbies. It was the buiest night hotel men could recall.
 
During the storm, winds reached a velocity of 60 miles an hour, drifts piled up as high as five feet, and there was a temperature drop to sub-zero depths, Williston and Minot, N.D., and Hot Springs, S.D., reporting 10 below.
 
Practically every road in Minnesota was blocked early today, the state highway department reported.
 
Plows were kept off highways because of poor visibility, and the danger of accident, but officials said every effort would be made this morning to open up the travel lanes.
 
Motorists Warned
 
Meanwhile, they warned motorists not to venture forth unless they had specific and authentic information about road conditions. Those who had found shelter were urged to stay there until conditions improved. Plans were made to send out bulletins on the radio this morning.
 
Storm Causes Train Wreck
 
Blanketing out visibility by the storm caused a train wreck on the Soo line at Watkins, Minn., in Meeker county, west of Minneapolis. Passenger train No. 106 coming into Minneapolis from Enderlin, N.D., overran a switch signal and collided head on with a freight train. Fireman Strom on the freight train was killed and Engineer Floyd Terpening, 2408 Central Av. N.E., was seriously injured. Two other trainmen were injured.
 
Only the tops of cars are visible in this view of snowbound Excelsior Boulevard, looking west toward the Minikahda Golf Club overpass in Minneapolis.

Only the tops of cars are visible in this view of snowbound Excelsior Boulevard, looking west toward the Minikahda Golf Club overpass in Minneapolis.

 
One woman was killed and her husband and another woman were hurt when their car apparently was thrown into the path of an oncoming truck by the strong winds near the Ramsey county line on highway No. 212. The fatality victim was Mrs. Arnold. Mr. Arnold and Mrs. Nels Chamberlain, 139 East Winnifred St., St. Paul, were taken to Mounds Park hospital. The truck was traveling about 15 miles an hour when the crash came, Mrs. Arnold being thrown out as a door of the automobile was sprung open.
 
Nearly 100 Marooned
 
Nearly 100 persons, a dozen of them cut by flying glass, were marooned near New Brighton following a mass traffic accident in which 30 or more cars piled into each other on highway No. 8.
 
Ramsey county deputy sheriffs, with one of them injured in the mixup, helped to get the motorists to New Brighton, while others found refuge in a farmhouse. One of the sheriff’s squad cars was almost demolished as it got caught in the crash of cars.
 
The jam started when an automobile collided with a White Bear-Stillwater bus. Three more cars piled into the bus, and one of them sideswiped an oncoming car in the opposite traffic lane. Within a short time two dozen other motorists, blinded by the snow, slid into the pile of disabled machines. The injured deputy, Kermit Hedman, was severely cut below the knee.
 
Pedestrian Collapses
 
Johnson collapsed while walking at University Av. N.E. and Broadway. Passersby carried him to a nearby filling station, where he died a few minutes later. Dr. A.N. Russeth, deputy coroner, said death was due to a heart attack, brought on by exhaustion.
 
Mason, a retired St. Paul police lieutenant, was found dead in the garage of his home. He apparently died of over-exhaustion while digging tulip bulbs to keep them from freezing. He was found by his daughter, Mrs. John W. McBride, with whom he lived.
 
Junneman, 38, a barber of Wabasha, Minn., drowned in the Mississippi while he was hunting with several companions. The boat was capsized by the storm. He clung to the side of the overturned craft for awhile, but became numb and exhausted and slipped into the icy water when rescuers were stalled in attempts to reach him.
 
The bodies of Geiger, 30, and Detra, 34, both of Eau Claire, Wis., were washed up on the shore of the Mississippi river seven miles north of Alma, Wis., last night, victims of the violent snow and windstorm. The men apparently had been hunting ducks in the vicinity.
 
Duck Hunters Marooned
 
Warner’s Hardware must have had this ad on standby, ready to appear after the first big storm. It ran alongside storm coverage inside the Minneapolis Morning Tribune on Nov. 12, 1940.

Warner'€™s Hardware must have had this ad on standby, ready to appear after the first big storm. It ran alongside storm coverage inside the Minneapolis Morning Tribune on Nov. 12, 1940.

 
Hundreds of Holiday duck hunters were marooned – 100 along the Mississippi river between Winona and Wabasha, and another 100 near Parkers Prairie, in addition to smaller parties in various sections. One group on an island near Winona was rescued by a government tow boat.
 
In Minneapolis, where the rush hour of automobile traffic late in the day packed ice into the ruts of trolley rails, street cars were practically at a standstill by nightfall. Every available plow, 17 in the Twin Cities, of which 11 were in Minneapolis, got on the job, but the fact that nearly 40 street cars were of tracks in various parts of the city served to stall the plows, too. Under the direction of Fred Bjorck, general superintendent of the Twin City Lines, an all-night fight was made to open up street car traffic.
 
Early today Mr. Bjorck said it appeared likely that most lines would be open to the public in time to get to work today.
 
Pack Ice Into Tracks
 
Not only did motorists pack ice into the streetcar tracks, but in some instances, motorists who got stalled on tracks locked their cars and abandoned them. Ice on trolley wires also served to handicap the service.
 
In the effort to open up the lines, Mr. Bjorck made arrangements to hire a number of city trucks to help the streetcar company. These, in turn, supplemented a fleet of private trucks hired by the company.
 
Streetcar busses were blocked as well as the street cars by the traffic jam, and by icy hills.
 
Games Called Off
 
The storm came on a holiday, when schools were closed. Holiday football games between prep school teams were called off, and Armistice day ceremonies, including a parade in Minneapolis, were curtailed or cancelled entirely.
 
In Minneapolis, the prevailing wind was 27 miles an hour from the northwest, though gusts at times reached 40 to 50 miles. By 7 p.m., the moisture brought by rain and snow measured 2.13 inches in a 24-hour period. There was a high temperature of 38 degrees at 3 a.m. yesterday and then throughout the day and the night, the mercury fell steadily.
 
Communications Hard Hit
 
The fact that telephone and telegraph service was hard hit added to the isolation of various communities of the northwest. Towns were cut off from towns and farms from farms. Scores of communities were able to grope about only within their own immediate snowbound areas and could only surmise what was going on in other places.
 
The storm brought special handicaps to various services.
 
Power company officials, fighting to restore lines, were hampered by road and street conditions, which made use of trucks and automobiles nearly impossible. It was difficult, too, because of the condition of communications, to locate fallen wires.
 
It was the worst November storm in years, and it was all the more demoralizing because it marked a swift turn from rain to snow, with little warning. Railroads, street car companies and other transportation agencies were caught by surprise and were not immediately prepared to muster equipment and crews. That gave the storm quite a headstart.
 
Then, too, because of poor visibility and the danger of accidents, snowplows were kept off the highways in many sections.
 
The Milwaukee railroad’s westbound transcontinental Olympian train, which left Minneapolis at 9:25 a.m., got as far as Bird Island, Minn., 98 miles west of Minneapolis, where it was tied up because broken wires interfered with the dispatching system. From their car windows, the passengers watched the drifts pile up around them.
 
A dozen other trains were either halted or slowed down.
 

 

5 Get Rides Home When
Ambulances Answer Calls

 
Fifteen persons, stymied in efforts to get rides, thought of a novel solution to their problem. They went to the General hospital receiving station to await ambulances calls which might send an ambulance to their section of town. Five rides were obtained this way.
 

 
CHIP OF WOOD HITS EYE
 
At the peak of the storm Claus Johnson, 57, who lives in a small cottage at Twenty-seventh avenue north and the river, was chopping wood to replenish low fuel stock. A chip hit him in the eye, perforating his eye-ball. He was in fair condition in General hospital.
 

 
Mrs. Anna Tollefson, police matron, was hostess for the night to 30 women, who, marooned in the loop, sought lodging in the matron’s quarters. An emergency kitchen was set up, and sandwiches were served to about 100 people. A number of men were given lodging in the city jail.
 

 
HOUSE IS RAZED WHILE FIREMEN BATTLE DRIFTS
 
The two-story home of Nick Smith at Nineteenth Av. S. and Sixty-sixth St. in Richfield burned to the ground last night while a Richfield fire truck was trying to reach the home. Three times the truck was blocked by stalled cars — first at Portland Av. and Sixty-sixth street, then, as it tried another route, at Cedar Av. and Seventy-eighth St., and, on its third and final unsuccessful effort to reach the blaze, at Thirty-fourth Av. S. and Seventy-eighth St. For an hour and a half, while they futilely tossed buckets of water on the blaze, Smith and his neighbors could hear the siren of the fire truck as it cruised to the vicinity.
 

July 14, 1890: Lake Pepin steamer capsizes

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: July 17, 2014 - 6:44 PM
 
Powerful thunderstorms moved through Minnesota on a steamy Sunday afternoon in July 1890. A huge tornado, later immortalized in a Julius Holm painting, churned across Kohlman Lake, “a little summering place” in what is now Maplewood. At least seven people were killed and dozens injured.

That evening, about 70 miles to the southeast, on Lake Pepin, a much larger tragedy unfolded. A “cyclone” blew in from the west, capsizing a steamer carrying more than 100 passengers and crew up the Mississippi River. All told, 98 passengers died. A Minneapolis Tribune correspondent who happened to be on the scene told the tale in gripping — if maddeningly chronological — fashion.

(Originally posted in July 2008; reposted to clean up design, update links, add this image of the Tribune's front page and allow fresh comments.)
 

DROWNED!

An Awful Disaster At Lake Pepin, Minn.

A Steamer Capsizes With 150 People Aboard.

The Wind and Waves Have no Mercy on Them.

Only Twenty Succeed in Saving Their Lives.

People Watch the Awful Struggle From the Shore.

But no One Could Lend Any Assistance.

The Storm Drowned the Cries of the Unfortunates.

A Disaster Never Before Equaled in the Northwest.

LAKE CITY, Minn., July 13. – [Special.] – What may prove the most disastrous storm in many years passed over this place this evening killing probably 100 people and damaging property to an extent that at this writing cannot be estimated. Your correspondent was visiting friends in Lake City and was sitting in the yard when what appeared to be an ordinary electric storm was noticed coming up from the West. In half an hour the whole heavens were converted into a complete canopy of lightning which was watched with interest by the brave citizens of the little village and with fear by the timid women and children. A little before dark a terrific wind struck the community and your reporter sought the shelter of the house just in time to escape being caught under a huge tree that came crashing down against the house. Windows were closed instantly and none too soon, for the cyclone was upon us and trees and houses were fast being demolished in its path.

 
The steamer Sea Wing about a year before the tragedy. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

While my wife, in fear and trembling, sought the seclusion and protection of the cellar in company with the ladies, I assisted in closing shutters and making preparations for the worst that could be expected while trees were heard to be crashing down and missiles were striking against the house. The building proved strong enough to weather the blast, and in half an hour the worst of the hurricane had passed. As soon as the trees had been cleared away from the front of the house your correspondent started out and soon learned

THAT A HORRIBLE CALAMITY

Had befallen the place, that had not been equaled since the St. Cloud cyclone several years ago. People began to gather on the streets, and in a few moments the news was scattered abroad that an excursion boat with over 200 people on it was capsized in the middle of Lake Pepin. The boat proved to be the steamer Sea Wing, which came down the lake from Diamond Bluff, a small place about 17 miles north of here, on an excursion to the encampment of the First regiment, N. G. S. M., which is being held a mile below this city. The steamer started back on the homeward trip about 8 o’clock, and although there were signs of an approaching storm, it was not considered in any way serious, and no danger was anticipated. The boat was crowded to its fullest capacity, about

150 MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN

from Red Wing and Diamond Bluff being on board, and about 50 people on a barge which was attached to the side of the steamer. When about opposite Lake City the boat began to feel the effects of the storm; but the officers kept on the way. The storm increased as the boat continued up the lake. In 15 minutes it was at its height. Nearing Central Point, about two miles above Lake City, the steamer was at the mercy of the waves, which were now washing over the boat, and all was confusion. The boat momentarily ran onto a bar and the barge was cut loose, and the steamer again set adrift in the lake. A number of those on the barge jumped and swam ashore. As the barge also floated again into the deep water those on the barge saw the steamer as it was carried helplessly out into the middle of the lake, and as they were being tossed about on the raging waters, they were horrified a moment later to see the steamer and its cargo of 150 people

PRECIPITATE INTO THE LAKE.

Those on the barge remained there until they were drifted nearer the shore and they were all rescued or swam ashore. Among them were two ladies who were brought to the beach by strong and ready swimmers. There were about 50 in all that were on the barge.

The events that transpired on the steamer after it separated from the barge are probably most clearly stated by those who were rescued from it about half an hour ago. It is now 12 o’clock midnight. As soon as the [storm] had begun to affect the progress of the boat, Capt. Weathern [Wethern, actually] gave instructions to run the boat into the Wisconsin shore but it was a too terrible force of wind and wave. In five minutes more the waves began to wash into the boat and fill its lower decks, and while hailstones as large as hen’s eggs came down on the heads of the poor helpless creatures which were huddled together on the top, a huge wave struck the craft on the side at the same moment that a terrific blast of wind, more horribly forcible than the others, came up and carried the boat over, all of the people on board; 150 or more were thrown into the water, some being caught underneath and others thrown into the waves.

The boat turned bottom upwards and only about 25 people were observed to be floating on the surface. These caught hold of the boat and climbed upon the upturned bottom, those first securing a position assisting the others. In 10 minutes more than 25 or so who had obtained momentary safety on the boat could observe no others of the boat crew or passengers floating on the surface of the continuing high sea of waves. Afterwards, however, as a flash of lightning lighted up the surface of the lake, the sight of an occasional white dress of a drowning woman or child was observable, but it was impossible for those who witnessed the horrible sight

TO LEND ANY AID.

Those remaining began calling for help from the shore as soon as the storm began to abate and in half an hour lights were observed flitting about on the pier at Lake City, opposite which point the upturned steamer had now been driven. Before help could reach them, however, the creatures who remained to tell the horrors of the night were again submitted to another battle with the elements, with no word of warning; and as they were just beginning to hope that they would be taken off by the citizens of Lake City, the boat again turned over, this on its side and again all of the 25 remaining souls were hurtled into the water. Of these several were drowned before they could be brought to the boat by those who succeeded in remaining afloat and again securing hold of the boat’s side. As the men hung on to the railing, in danger each moment of being washed away by the waves, one man observed the forms of two women wedged in between a stationary seat and the boat’s side, both pale in death, as the lightning gleams lit up their upturned faces. Another man saw two little girls floating past him as he hung with desperate efforts to the steamer’s side.

 
National Guard members survey the wreckage of the Sea Wing. (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)

Half an hour after the passage of the storm your reporter went with others to the dock where the steamer Ethel Howard was anchored safe from the storm. It was presumed that the steamer would at once proceed to the rescue of the drowning, but when I asked the captain, Mr. Howard, if he was going out to the rescue, he replied that he was not going to run his boat away from the shore until the indication of another approaching storm had disappeared. He said also that he did not propose to run the risk of losing his boat in order to look for dead people out on the lake. Citizens of Lake City, who heard Captain Howard’s remarks, were most severe in their denunciation of this position he assumed in the face of the statements made to him that every minute might mean the saving of a half dozen lives. Many talked of taking the boat away from him by force, but there were not enough to put the threat into execution, and other means of rescue were resorted to. In a few minutes a dozen or more rowboats were manned and put out from the shore. The upturned boat was at last discovered;

THE TWENTY OR MORE REMAINING PEOPLE

Clinging to the boat were rescued and brought to the shore, most of them being men who could swim.

Among those who are known to have been on board the steamer and who are undoubtedly drowned are: Two children of C.H. Reberick, Peter Goken, his wife, five children and hired girl, Fred Sebes, wife and daughter, Mrs. Capt. Wethern and her two children, F. Christ, Wm. Blaker and family of three, Mrs. Hempting and daughter, Gus Beckmark; a Miss Flyn, Bose Adams and Ira Fulton. A full list of the 150 passengers, which are pretty certain to have been drowned, is not obtainable at this writing. A large majority of them were women and children. Those being saved being nearly all strong men, who were able to swim, and cling to the boat, after it had capsized. On the return from the capsized boat with three or four people who had been rescued, one of the row boats encountered two floating bodies, each with a life preserver attached.

In Lake City the damage to property by the cyclone is great, although no fatalities have been reported. Collins Bros.’ saw and planning mill is totally demolished. The roof of the opera house, owned by Mr. Hanisch, was carried away and the stores underneath more or less damaged by the rain and hail.

Up to this time, 1:30 a.m., 62 bodies have been found and laid out.

 
Julius Holm’s 1893 oil painting shows the Kohlman Lake tornado as it skirted the edge of St. Paul.

March 14, 1913: Bassett Creek, the ‘Venice of Minneapolis’

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: March 15, 2013 - 6:59 PM
 
Twelve-mile-long Bassett Creek once meandered unfettered through marshlands from Medicine Lake in Plymouth to the Mississippi River near Nicollet Island. In the late 1800s, developers began filling in the wetlands near the river, but the homes were prone to flooding, and, thanks to widespread dumping of garbage upstream, the creek became little more than an open sewer. After the spring floods of 1913, described in the Minneapolis Tribune story below, the Legislature approved funding to divert the creek into a storm sewer. By 1923, the final mile and a half of the creek was underground.
 

BASSETT’S CREEK ON ITS ANNUAL TEAR;
DWELLERS IN “VENICE OF MINNEAPOLIS” BUSY


North Siders Move Out:
Bassett’s Creek at Doors

Police Patrol Boat Busy Rescuing Stranded Householders and Goods.

Frozen Sewers Cause Added Difficulty in the Neighborhood Affected.
 
The annual overflow of Bassett’s creek, resulting from spring thaws in the low land in North Minneapolis, caused a call for the police patrol boat yesterday, and several families, isolated in their homes by the sudden rush of water during the night, were rescued from an uncomfortable position.
 
Water Comes Up Fast.
 
The water this year rose more rapidly than in other seasons and surrounded houses within a radius of two blocks. Fears are entertained that the water will undermine foundations, as has happened before. Should the water continue to rise it is probable that the fire department will be called into action to pump the water to points where sewers can carry the flood away. A number of sewers in the vicinity are still frozen and men of the sewer department are encountering difficulty in opening them.
 
The annual overflow of the creek, officials say, would be eliminated if sufficient funds could be procured to convert the now open creek into a closed sewer. A bond issue of $200,000 was asked of the legislature this year, but the senators thought that was excessive so they allowed only $50,000 to conduct the work during the next two years. F.W. Cappelen, city engineer, declares this amount not sufficient to pay for the work needed and there is a probability, he says, that the same conditions will keep up until some future legislature allows a bond issue sufficient to complete the work.
 
Stream Up to Steps.
 
The water reaches the doorsteps of many residences and in some instances families are forced to take refuge on second floors. The police boat works back and forth, taking people and their belongings from their homes and carrying supplies to those who are unwilling to leave their houses.
 
This image, taken from microfilm, accompanied the Tribune flood story. The caption provided no address or names, only this: "Preparing to move."

 

 

July 21, 1907: The Tribune Girl and the fire chief

Posted by: Ben Welter Updated: January 11, 2013 - 3:30 PM
 
 
  Nan Russell Dunnigan in 1914.

Nan Russell Dunnigan, whose work appeared under the byline “The Tribune Girl,” wrote hundreds of first-person feature stories for the Tribune between 1907 and 1914. She interviewed Sarah Bernhardt, Ethel Barrymore, John Philip Sousa, Booker T. Washington and Sir Robert Baden-Powell. She had a frosty encounter with Isadora Duncan. She attempted to interview Maude Adams, but found the popular “Peter Pan” actress to be “interview proof.”

Dunnigan took on a variety of other assignments. She made police and fire checks. She interviewed politicians and businessmen. She worked as a “Salvation Army lassie” for a day. She led Minneapolis orphans on an outing to Lake Minnetonka. In her final months with the Tribune, she traveled to Europe and filed reports from London (where she got lost), the Vatican (where she enjoyed an audience with Pope Pius X) and Belgium (which she didn’t enjoy one bit).

Her last piece appeared in September 1914. Three months later, on Christmas Day, she married George F. Authier, private secretary to Minnesota’s governor, Joseph Burnquist. Authier had just secured a new job as the Tribune’s Washington correspondent, and the newlyweds soon headed east. The Tribune Girl apparently hung up her notebook and pen. No further stories by Nan Russell Dunnigan or Nan Authier turn up in a Google search.

 

Tribune Girl Talks With Fire Chief
on Freak Calls of the Unsung Heroes

 
Canterbury and His Merry Men Relate Tales, Amusing and Pathetic, of Occasions When Alarms Meant Unusual Work for Fire Laddies When They Arrived on Scene – Settle Family Difficulties and Answer Call of Small Frightened Lass.
 
By The Tribune Girl.
 
It was a sizzling morning.
 
The Tribune Girl emerged from the last of the offices that she is obliged to visit daily at the court house, and in the argot of newspaperdom “had covered her run, found nothing doing, and was all in.”
 
Feeling thus limp and wilted (literally as well as figuratively) she sauntered into fire headquarters to cool off.
 
Now if there is one place in the court house that the feminine scribe feels perfectly at ease in it is the office over which Chief [James] Canterbury presides.
 
Everybody is so good natured and easy going around fire department headquarters, and the ladies have so many little stories that they reserve for the reporter girl that it is little wonder that she enjoys visiting this haunt of “unsung heroes.”
 
In the sanctum sanctorum of Chief Canterbury this scorching morning the girl found the genial chief and his first assistant, Michael Hanley. It was plain that the business that the two were transacting was not of the most minute importance, for they were lolling back in their chairs, wearing expressions of as great contentment as did Nero at the burning of Rome.
 
“Am I intruding?” asked the girl, knowing full well that she would receive the welcome that was accorded the prodigal of old.
 
She sniffed surreptitiously for the savory smell of cooking veal.
 
“Indeed not. Here is the easiest chair awaiting you,” spoke up the chief, who was playing host to this impromptu little gathering. “This is the only office in the place,” he continued, “where there is a breath of air and we are enjoying it by spinning yarns.”
 
“Here is copy, rip snortingly good copy,” thought the reporter, “if they will only talk shop,” so to prod gently she remarked: “”Do tell me about some of your unusual fire calls. I have always heard that you are called out for everything from fishing cats out of wells to assisting kites to part company with friendly telegraph poles.”
 
The Tribune Girl chatted with the chief, left, and his first assistant, Michael Hanley.

 

 
Fire Laddies Settle a Family Row.
 
“And right you are,” said the chief, “but these freak calls that give you people stories are not the ones that give us any pleasure. Get Hanley here to tell you about the family row that he was called out to settle not long ago.”
 
“Say that was a funny thing,” spoke up the good-natured first assistant, the man who is said to be the most popular in the service. “But it did not seem so funny then.”
 
As he shifted to a more comfortable position, The Tribune Girl summarily forgot whether she was in Minneapolis or Alaska, for this meant that the ball was rolling and there was no end of good material in sight.
 
“Well, it was about 5 o’clock one nasty rainy morning that the alarm came in,” commenced the dean of the department. “It was from a box down south not a great distance from the falls, and through the mud we tore to it. When we arrived we found it was a small chimney fire that we had little trouble extinguishing. Well, all the way back the boys cussed in all the languages they knew, for the afternoon before they had cleaned up their apparatuses and this made another job for them. Well, sir, we had been back in our respective houses about an hour and the boys had the engines just about clean again when in came an alarm from the same box. This time, I can tell you, we did not lose a minute, for all the way down we pictured the house enveloped in flames because of our negligence in not properly attending to the first blaze. When we arrived at the house we did not see as much as a whiff of smoke, and there did not seem to be trouble anywhere, but in this we were mistaken. Before we got through we found more trouble than we were looking for.
 
“Well, to make the long story short, after we left the first time the master and mistress of the house got into an argument over the cause of the chimney fire. He said that it was her fault and she said that “he was a ‘mean old thing, now, there,’ and, woman-like, would not be downed, so up she goes to the corner and turns in an alarm. (She would let the firemen decide.) Well, the firemen did decide, but their decision was that this was the limit of anything that they had thus far encountered. One of the fellows suggested that we form a 12-foot ring and let them settle it according to Queensbury rules, as we deserved something for playing the part of a miniature Hague tribunal, while another voiced the opinion that Chief Corriston would not be a bad one to act as referee, but the majority of the boys were too mad to speak.”
 
Little Lass to Blame.
 
At this juncture the chief lighted a fat black cigar and the girl thanked her lucky stars accordingly, not that she is overly fond of smoke, but, like most girls who are endowed with numerous brothers, real and acquired, she realized that it promised to add much to the reminiscent mood of the occasion. She was not disappointed for the chief commenced:
 
“That was another rather amusing call we had from the open box in front of St. Barnabas hospital one afternoon this spring. We hurried to respond and found that it was a false alarm. Now I investigate false alarms, particularly from those keyless boxes, because it is a thing that is apt to give us no end of trouble. Well, this time I thought that it was some schoolboys who were to blame, and I was not far wrong in my guess. It turned out to be about the prettiest little lass of 7 that I ever saw. It appears that the children were trooping home from school and the littlest girl in the party was ‘dared’ to turn in an alarm.
 
“The poor little thing was taunted until she could not stand it any longer, and in desperation turned the key. Not until the wee maid saw us coming did she realize what she had done, but when she did the poor little thing scampered home and was on the verge of convulsions when I arrived. I suppose I should have been very severe with the child, for turning in a false alarm is a serious matter with us, but when I saw her and how frightened she was all I did was to assist her mother in quieting her.”
 
“Isn’t he getting soft-hearted in his old days?” asked Mr. Hanley in a bantering tone, and while the girl agreed she privately voted this gallant fire fighter a perfect dear.
 
Many “Freak” Calls Mean Tragedy.
 
“While we are fortunate in having many little things happen that serve to amuse us,” continued the chief, “in the main it is the darkest side of life that we see. Most of our freak alarms as you call them mean a tragedy to some heart. We have more than once been called to remove a man who has been electrocuted at the top of a telegraph pole and whose lifeless body hung suspended from the wires. We have also taken a man off a roof who met a similar fate, as well as rescued men from sewers, cesspools and ditches. A rather pathetic thing happened last fall. We were called to extinguish a fire down on the finest part of Park avenue. On our arrival we found that the fire was out, for it was a load of hay belonging to a poor old farmer out near Osseo that had been burned. When we arrived at the scene of the recent conflagration we found the unfortunate man sitting at the door of the barn, where he came to deliver the load, completely discouraged. It appears that this was the last load of hay that he had to sell, and the wolf was knocking with vigor at the door of the home where his wife was lying ill. It was altogether as sad a case as I ever run across, and the worst part of it was that the fire was started by the mischievous ten-year-old boy of the house where the man was delivering the hay. I have often wondered if the poor old fellow was ever paid.”
 
A Heartrending Affair.
 
Seeing that a hush fell on the little group. “I remember that,” spoke up Mr. Hanley, “but speaking of sad experiences, I think that fire that occurred out on Seventeenth street southeast and Sixth street about seven years ago was the most heartrending affair that I ever witnessed. It was in the fall of the year and a woman was cleaning up the dead leaves in her yard and burning them. Somehow her clothing caught fire and it was but a moment until she was a mass of flames. Her little 10-year-old daughter ran out to her assistance and with rare presence of mind threw a rug that was on the clothes line over the woman, hoping to smother the fire. If it had been large enough it might have served its purpose but the rug was too small to be of any benefit and before the child knew it in her excitement her own garments were in flames. There, side by side, the mother and her brave little child were fatally burned and they both died on the way to the hospital.”
 
Just then the immaculate young fellow who attends to the business office of the department, came in to confer with the chief. At the same time Michael Hanley was wanted at the telephone, and The Tribune Girl, feeling strangely depressed, wearily left the office, wondering how the city editor would vent his wrath when she announced that “There was nothing doing at the court house today.”
 
Fire Chief Canterbury in his courthouse office in about 1900. (Image courtesy of mnhs.org)

 

 
A Minneapolis fire engine and crew paused for a photo at 3rd Street and 6th Avenue S. in about 1905. (Image courtesy of mnhs.org)

 

 

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