Detour in Madison as the Hwy 32 project is in progress.
June 4, 1925, Madison Star-Mail - A cyclone of the worst sort, but of limited area struck Madison county about seven miles west of Madison on the Upland Highway this week Tuesday about three P.M. It took as toll three lives and injured several more people.
Those killed were Mrs. Robert Scheer, and their hired man, Lot Ware, whose people live in Elgin, Nebraska. Those two were killed at the Scheer home. About a mile farther on Rev. Henry Zinnecker, M. E. pastor at North Bend, Nebraska, was killed in the cellar at Frank Schlender’s home. Mrs. Schlender was badly hurt by falling timbers and lost a thumb and had a finger on her hand broken. One of Mr. Scheer’s children was badly injured and was taken to the Norfolk hospital. The other child was reported as not seriously injured.
The weather for two or three days prior to the storm had been unsettled and cloudy but not weather to cause apprehension although Tuesday afternoon Superintendent Rogers of the Madison schools noticed that the barometer at the high school building gave warnings. Showers threatened after noon Tuesday but the appearance of the clouds did not cause apprehension. Only an ordinary spring shower was expected.
Mr. O. A. Sunderman who lives about a mile north of the Robert Scheer place able is able to give the most comprehensive description of the storm. He said that he was watching the approach from near Newman Grove and a dark cload seemed to dip down toward the ground and then rise and again dip down. Finally when it struck the Frank Schlender home about a mile away all that could be seen was a big confused cloud of dust and debris from buildings and trees that rose high in the air. It bounded upward and the next place it struck was the Robert Scheer place and again it rose. About a mile farther on it struck Otto Freudenburg place and the same thing occurred. All three of these places were in a line from the southwest to the northeast. They were about the same distance apart. All were surrounded by groves of trees. The houses on all three places were good ones, the Freudenburg and Scheer houses exceptionally good with modern improvements. All were surrounded with numerous farm buildings and set in heavy groves of timber. Possibly the trees and buildings in such abundance attracted the storm to dip down but the destruction wrought where the contact was made with the whirling demon is beyond description.
Mr. Sunderman says that as soon as the storm passed he went to the Scheer farm and helped take care of the injured. Mr. Scheer was away on a trip to Norfolk. Mrs. Scheer, the two children and hired man were in the kitchen. Mrs. Scheer went to into a bedroom to close a window when the storm struck the house and demolished and scattered it widely over the yard to the northeast of the house. Mrs. Scheer was struck by a partition of the house and pinned to the ground about 40 feet away and instantly killed. Lot Ware, the hired man was lying near by still conscious but suffering greatly and died before the arrival of the doctors from Madison. One child did not seem to be badly hurt but the other was seriously injured and the two children were hurried to Madison and thence to Norfolk to a hospital. A broken leg bone and many bruises and other injuries were reported and for a time recovery seemed in doubt and reports that this child had died were current.
The case of Rev. Henry Zinnecker is particularly sad. He was the M. E. pastor at North Bend. He and his wife and her father J. P. Laudeman, formerly of St. Edward, Nebraska where Mrs. Zinnecker was born and both well known there were on their way to visit the daughter of the minister who is married and lives north of Meadow Grove. They were driving a Ford sedan and had stopped in Madison. They drove west on the Upland Highway expecting to take the Meadow Grove road. They saw the storm approaching and had they kept going would have escaped except for the rain but they turned off the road and went to the Frank Schlender home for shelter. Mr. Laudeman and Mrs. Zinnecker say that the cloud that was dipping down toward the earth was in sight when they drove in and that Mr. Zinnecker had just driven the car into the garage that contained another car and implements and closed the garage door. As they reached the house the point of the cyclone struck the earth about 100 yards way. They had scarcely got into the cellar with Mr. Schlender’s family when the house was lifted clear of the ground and piled up in a heap in the yard. Apparently Mr. Zinnecker was struck by a piece of flying timber from one of the other buildings. A great hole was torn in his side and the occupants of the cellar were struck by pieces from the smaller buildings standing to windward. Mrs. Schlender was bruised and her thumb hurt so that it had to be amputated by Dr. Hartner and one finger was broken. One of the little boys had a nail driven into his finger and suffered bruises. Mr. Laudeman had his hand hurt but not seriously and the others were bruised more or less. Mr. Zinnecker’s body was brought to Madison and from Madison shipped to North Bend next day. Mrs. Zinnecker and Mr. Laudeman were taken care of by the family of Rev. Hammel till their return next day. Two men friends of the family also came over from St. Edward and stayed at Rev. Hammel’s and did what they could to cheer the afflicted minister’s wife.
At Otto Freudenburg’s home no one was hurt yet the destruction of buildings and property was absolute. Mr. Freudenburg gathered the family in the cellar on the windward side and the house was lifted off and carried about a block and smeared in scraps for another block then a side wind took the scraps at right angles with the course the house took.
No doubt there would have been no human casualties at the Frank Schlender home had it not been for the fact that the assembly of farm buildings were located on the windward side. There were no buildings on the windward side at either the Scheer or Freudenburg homes but at Scheer home the family remained in the kitchen and did not go to the cellar. Unquestionably had they gone to the cellar they would have escaped.
The destruction caused by the great Omaha cyclone exceeded this one in quantity only because the destruction at the three places could hardly have been worse. The destruction of farm implements and cars in all three places was complete. Mr. Freudenburg had two horses killed and two hurt. He estimated his loss in hogs at 75. Mr. Scheer loss of stock was reported as one horse, 4 calves and 15 hogs. Mr. Schlender had 4 horses killed, other bruised and 5 head of cattle and 9 hogs killed. It is understood that all carried partial tornado insurance.
The total losses are not to be estimated but damage to buildings occurred in many other places. At Ed Moening’s just this side of school house in district 63, sheds were blown down and a hole in the barn roof big enough for an elephant to crawl escaped. His new car was ruined. The tenement house and buildings across the road by the Scheer place all disappeared. The narrow pathway of the cyclone is attested by the building on the Blank place across from Freudenburg’s suffering in no way except a small building nearest of the road.
Farther toward Newman Grove a number of small buildings were blown to pieces or badly mussed up. Albert Kamrath lost his barn and the chimney on the house and some shingles were taken. The rain accompanying the storm was not severe. Thousands of visited the scenes of the storm and many men were at working the dead animals the net day. Mrs. Smart and Palmateer reached the scene very soon after the accident but as all poles were down a messenger had to go after them. The hired man at Scheers died just before they reached the place. Mrs. Scheer and Rev. Zinnecker died instantly.
The Freudenburg and Scheer homes are on the north side of the road and she Schlender farm is located about 40 rods south of the road. The cyclone part of the storm first appeared near Newman Grove and disappeared shortly after destroying the Freudenburg’s place. The Freudenburg premises were entirely new and modern. The Scheer home was also modern. The total property loss was probably around $100,000.
One of the freaks of the storm was the way the steel windmill tower was blown over and wrapped around the water tank at the Schlender farm. It was bent around so that it nearly encircled the tank. A hen was setting on a duck eggs at the same farm and although the covering was taken away from her the old cluck stayed on the job and was shown in triumph next day with the young ducks. At the Freudenburg farm the grain house was taken and the grain left in a big loose pile without cover. The new Ford car was rolled up into a tight roll about as big around as a barrel. Trenches were dug with road scrapers and the dead animals buried wholesale. Telephone poles and wire fence posts were broken off and wire carried to a distance all through the storm area. The fruit jars remand in place on the shelves in the cellars and Mr. Scheer’s pool table was in the basement, but not embarassed in the least by the rapid removal of the house.
When the word reached Madison that disaster had overtaken people in the tornado district the second car to leave contained Mrs. Smart and Palmateer. The third car was the repair boat for the phone company, it being known that the lines would not respond west of town. The repair gang helped relieve the immediate distress at the places worst hit and began putting the lines in working condition, With poles broken and lines smeared all over the territory theirs was no light job.
Early Wednesday morning the American Legion called for volunteers to help clear up the debris at the places worst hit. Many volunteers responded from Madison and joined with the neighbors on the farms to clear away the wrecks. To look at the work going on the impression would be that all the able bodied farmers for ten miles around were at work helping clear up the wrecks and the Madison men and members of the Legion helped as best they could. The Legion Auxiliary also lent a helping hand. Their greatest activities were in serving meals to the workers. On Wednesday they served 400 meals and nearly as many on Thursday.
A notable thing about the experience of those who passed through the ordeal of being in the worst of the storm is that they can recall nothing about it. It just became dark and confused and then it was raining on them.
Ralph Thatch was driving a pair of mules to Madison hauling a wagon load of hogs and a lot of wool bunched up on top. He saw the wind cloud approaching and drove as rapidly as he could. He thought of stopping at the Scheer home but fortunately he kept going. He was overtaken by the storm before he reached the Freudenburg place but probably the worst of the storm had passed by him. In relating his experience he said that everything became pitch dark and he was whirled off the wagon and deposited about thirty feet away. The wool was carried away but later was found. The hogs were set off by the side of the road and not hurt. He clung to his whip and the mules were not injured. Helpers coming along loaded his hogs on the wagon and for him the cyclone was over leaving only a confused recollection of being in darkness while he and his outfit were being thrown to the ground and mussed up.
Probably a hundred reports of cyclone damaged in different sections have come in but they consisted in turning over small out buildings or windmills. One look at the destruction wrought at the three places that were wiped out was enough to convince the losers that they had been having a piece of good luck in escaping as they did. This cyclone was thorough, so far as the three places were concerned, as the work of the great cyclones in the states of Illinois and Indiana reported early in the season. Then compare the destruction of three places with a thousand in the greater storms and the reason for calling for help is not hard to understand.
Knapp’s story shared about the 1925 cyclone
Melvin Knapp was born two days after the cyclone on June 4, 1925. He heard the story of the cyclone through parents, family and residents of Madison. Melvin said, “Many people were terrified of storms after the 1925 cyclone including my mother.”
Melvin Knapp shares his story on the storm. The cyclone was around an EF3 to EF4 tornado that swept across several farms.
Damage was done to the three farmsteads that were named. However Melvin stated that Adolph Freudenburg’s farm house was destroyed in the storm but family survive in basement. A small building on David Blank’s property was ruined. Also Frank Knapp lost the wheel in the windmill and Ed Knapp car was upset and the garage wrecked.
Melvin had a twist to the story of Rev. Henry Zinnecker, M. E. Melvin recalls that a 2x4 hit him in the stomach. A neighbor, Eldon Boe found the pastor in the yard.
The story about Mr. Freudenburg’s two horses that were hurt out in the field. They were blind after the storm. The vet came out to the farm for two weeks pulling slivers out of their eyes.
The story on Mr. Scheer’s children were that the children were swept away a quarter of a mile from the farm covered in mud but were found alive.
Star-Mail wanted to share this story and Melvin Knapp twist to the story. Folktales need to be remembered. It’s a part of Madison heritage. For decades Madison is a true community that helps their neighbor in need. In times of storms, depressions, wars, and hard times. We need to be a community. We need to take care of our own schools, businesses, newspapers, and neighbors. Otherwise there won’t be any stories to share for the future generations. The article was in 1925 when there were no pictures. Our positive action now determines Madison’s future.
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