Wednesday, September 11, 2013


Messenger House at corner of Port Watson Street and South Main Street
Cortland Evening Standard, Saturday, September 30, 1896.



Hotels, Factories and Houses Unroofed— Grandstand at the Fair Grounds Wrecked —Trees Uprooted — Chimneys Blown Down — Many People Frightened— Some Strange Freaks.

   Cortland was last night visited by the most terrific wind storm that it ever experienced. There were no indications of it in advance and no one was prepared for it. The weather forecast yesterday said that there would be heavy rain last night, and the looks of the sky justified the prediction. At about 5:30 the rain came and the storm was sufficiently disagreeable all the evening to drive from the streets every one who was not obliged to be out. The wind gradually came up and blew in gusts, but it was not till after midnight that it got in its best work. At first it lessened to a considerable extent, but this was only to catch its breath for a new blast.

    About 1 o'clock it began to make things jingle, and from that time till after 4 o'clock there was little sleeping done in this town. Well built houses that have never quivered before any storm that they ever fell in with, shook and trembled last night, and in many cases their inmates were trembling more than the houses did. Trees bowed before the blast and turned up their roots to the weather. Branches were torn off and chimneys were scattered broadcast over a large area. During the earlier part of the storm the rain beat against the windows in sheets, but later on this stopped entirely and there was only the shrieking of the gale and the roar of the elements which continued till after 4 o'clock when the force of the storm seemed to have spent itself.

   This morning the streets presented a pitiable appearance. When the cyclone dropped down on Cortland in August, 1890, doubtless the wind was as hard as this, but in that case it cut a narrow swath diagonally through the village. This storm was wide spread. It affected the whole village and the country round about.

   During the height of the storm a large portion of the tin roof on the Squires building [clocktower—CC ed.] was rolled up and dumped into Tompkins-st. A few minutes later there was an awful crash from the direction of the Messenger House and all the great tin roof upon that splendid hostelry rolled itself up into a cylinder and was caught up by the wind and swept clear off the roof. A spectator said that the tin seemed for some seconds to be sustained in the air by the wind, and then it plunged down into the center of Port Watson-st. Three chimneys were demolished while the tin was rolling itself up. The house was full of guests at the time and they were frightened half out of their wits.

   The tin roof of the livery stable of M. H. Kingman, behind the Messenger House, was also torn off and rolled itself into the back yard of the Messenger House. The tin roof of the brick barn of Z. Rogers next John Hodgson's blacksmith shop, together with the roof timbers were blown off. The tin roof of the residence of F. J. Doubleday, corner of Church and Port Watson-sts. was torn off and blown up Church-st. nearly to the First M. E. parsonage, where it wrapped itself about one of the large elm trees, A huge elm tree in front of the residence of C. L. Kinney on Port Watson-st. fell to the north, smashed the edge of the piazza and the roof and just missed landing on the house itself. Part of the tin roof of Samuel Keator was torn off. The tin roofs of E. A. Fish and Harrison Wells were both loosened, but neither was taken off. Mrs. Mary T. Murphey had several windows smashed in her house on Port Watson-st.

   Both smokestacks at the works of the Cortland Door and Window Screen Co. were blown down. One was smashed beyond hopes of repairs, the other one can possibly be put together again. The works are shut down until at least one new stack can be put up again.

   The south brick wall of the boiler room at the works of the Cortland Forging Co. was blown in and destroyed. This is an old wall that went through the fire, but was thought to be strong enough to stand. When this wall was destroyed the wind had full sweep under the new roof, but so far as discovered it has not started a hair.

   At Cooper Brothers' foundry three windows were blown in and carried sash and all ten feet behind a pile of plank. Only three lights of glass in these sashes were disturbed and only two of these were broken, the third falling out upon the ground unbroken. A henhouse near the foundry 10 by 25 feet in size and about 10 feet high was lifted up bodily and thrown twenty feet against a barn and is badly twisted. One hen was killed. A rear piazza of Lester Cooper's house was torn off.

   At the factory of the Cortland Specialty Co. the tin roof was torn off and thrown down upon the Lehigh Valley tracks. The smokestack was torn down and broken.

   The Howe Stove Co., the Excelsior Top Co. and the Ellis Omnibus Co. were unscathed.

   A section of roof about forty feet square upon the blacksmith shop of the Cortland Wagon Co. was torn up and laid over back upon the roof which was uninjured.

   The tin roof was torn off the wood shop of the wire mills of Wickwire Bros. and a considerable portion of the roof of the front building which is 165 feet long was torn off.

   The factory of the Cortland Mfg. Co. Ltd. lost its tin roof.

   The splendid grandstand upon the fair ground is in ruins. The roof was totally demolished and all the open space between the seats and the track is covered with kindling wood. This stand was erected about six years ago at a cost of over $4,000 and was the finest grandstand in this section of the state.

   One of the most peculiar freaks of the storm was at the old carriage factory between Cortland and Homer once run by the Knights of Labor. There are two buildings which stand side by side. Each is two stories high and about 30 by 50 feet in size. The north building is undisturbed, but the south building is nearly destroyed. The whole second story including roof and going down as low as the tops of the first story windows was picked up bodily and was thrown completely over the top of the north building and landed in the field in a state of collapse forty feet north of the north building.

   In this connection it may be noted that the spire of the Congregational church in Homer was badly stripped of slate on the north side, while the south side was undisturbed. The wind all came from the south east and nearly all the damage done to buildings was on the south or south east side.

   The big water tank on the top of Prospect Hill also came out second best in its effort to withstand the storm. The tank is cylindrical, is forty feet high, forty feet in diameter, and holds 375,000 gallons of water when full. It is made of the best boiler plate steel riveted. At a point twenty-two feet above the foundations there is a horizontal break two feet long and above this the steel is bent over toward the north at an angle of nearly 45 degrees. Superintendent Taylor has set J. D. Keeler and a force of men at work trying to spring the frame back to its place. In that event the break can be patched. If this cannot be accomplished a new top will be required. In any case no one need fear a shortage of water, as the tank is still all right to a height of twenty-two feet, and all that will be required is more frequent pumping at the pumphouse.

   The roof was torn off the house of C. H. Stone, 6 Blodgett-st., and chimneys were swept from the adjoining houses of C. L. Whiting and John Dillon.

   The scuttle was blown from the roof of the Pomeroy-st. school and the top of the storm door was torn away.

   The house of Mrs. Mary E. Gardner, 18 Owen-ave. lost its roof.

   In the house of Coon Brothers on Hyatt-st. the entire casing and sashes of a large double window was torn out and blown half way across the street. The entire front of the house was loosened.

   A large maple tree fell on the house of W. J. Greenman on N. Church-st. and did considerable damage.

   The piazza of Geo. W. Edgcomb's house on N. Church-st. was damaged.

   A small smokestack at the Lehigh Valley car shops was blown down. The freight house at the station lost part of its roof.

   A house belonging to James S. Squires at 25 Duane-st. lost half of its roof.

   Part of the roof of the foundry of the McKee & Webb company was blown off.

   Many slates were torn off the Baptist church.

   Slate from the spire of St. Mary's Catholic church were blown across Grant-st. and into the house of Mrs. C. H. Jones on the north side of the street, breaking windows up stairs and down stairs.

   A barn near the water tank on Prospect hill was blown down flat.

   A section of plank sidewalk 150 feet long in front of the premises of R. J. Lucas was picked up bodily and turned bottom side up in the street. Between the original location and where it was found are a number of trees fifteen feet high. The sidewalk must have been lifted clear over them.

   An evergreen tree at the corner of Tompkins and Water-sts. fell through a chamber window breaking the glass.

   Half of the roof on Byron Crane's house on Frank-st. was blown off.

   Half of a shingle roof on the house of a farmer named Oakes on the Virgil road was blown off.

   Out in the country bad damage was done. B. E. Kinney west of the village reports that his windmill was blown down, from twenty to thirty fruit trees uprooted, as many shade trees, and roofs of sheds and barns badly damaged.

   A passer between here and McGrawvllle reports only five apple trees standing in the large orchard of Fred Conable, all the others being down.

   Fences on farms were blown far and wide. On the Wlckwire farm last night a force of men had to be turned out to catch the horses which were running at large after the fences went down. The same is reported of cows at other farms.

   The windmill of A. B. Benham on North Maln-st. was blown down. A barn on the farm of Fred Hatch south of the village was unroofed.

   One hundred and fifty lights of glass were broken in Hopkinsgreenhouse on Groton-ave.

   So many trees were blown down on the gulf road near Kinney's cider mill that it was impossible for some time to get through.

   In this report no attempt has been made to note trees blown down or chimneys off. There was scarcely a house in town this morning in which chimneys were either not off or were damaged. Every street was full of fallen trees or of branches off trees. The corporation men were busy for several hours opening up the streets. Telegraph, telephone, fire alarm and electric light wires were down. A lineman asked E. D. Foote to help him lift a telephone wire. Foote was a little afraid of the wire and lightly touched it with his fingers. It had crossed an electric light wire somewhere and was alive. He was thrown violently to the ground and could not get his hand off the wire. The lineman seized him and pulled him away. He was all right again in a half hour, but his fingers were badly blistered. Had he laid hold of the wire in the beginning and got the full force of the shock he would probably have been killed.

   A horse belonging to J. D. Brown stepped on a live wire on Elm-st. this morning and was thrown, and lay fifteen minutes before he could regain his feet. Another horse belonging to a party unknown had a similar experience on Court-st. Every one should be careful about live wires at such a time. It is a safe rule to let all wires wholly alone.

   The telephone service in Cortland is pretty badly crippled. Wires are down so that none of the outside towns can be reached yet. Manager Nolan has been busy since 5 o'clock this morning getting the local lines in shape. This morning only a few instruments could be used and as soon as the electric cars began to run most of these were burned out.

   The Western Union telegraph service is also badly crippled. Manager O. K. George succeeded in communicating with Binghamton at 3:10 this afternoon, the first outside place.

   The D., L. & W. was behind in arriving from the south by reason of an accident detailed in another column.

   On the Lehigh Valley there was no communication by wire with the west before noon. The train arrived from Canastota at 11:30, having been due at 8:50, but it was not permitted to go on west as there was no way of finding out the whereabouts of the train due here from the west at 9:48. The latter train arrived just before 2 o'clock and proceeded to Canastota, and then the other train went on to Elmira.

   It is likely that very much of the damage here in town is here unrecorded, as it has been impossible to cover every case, but the instances mentioned above will give an idea of the violence of the storm.

circa 1896 locomotive with cowcatcher


Had Been Blown Across the Track below Messengerville. Fireman Killed Instantly. Engineer Escapes Uninjured.

   A southbound coal train on the D., L. & W. R. R. crashed into a large hemlock tree, which had blown cross the track one mile below Messengerville, a little after 4 o'clock this morning. The engine and three cars were tumbled down the embankment and the fireman was instantly killed.

   The train was in charge of conductor Duffey, Engineer Carpenter, and Fireman Edward Delanty. The train met the trackwalker at Messengerville, who had just come by the place where the wreck occurred, and the track was then clear. As the train approached this place, Engineer Carpenter saw the tree lying across the track and at once reversed the engine, but the train could not be stopped and struck the tree, throwing the engine and four cars from the track.

   The engine and three cars continued on at least 100 feet before toppling over to the left and down the embankment to the edge of the river. There was no one in the engine at the time but the engineer and fireman. The latter was in the left side of the cab and as the engine struck on its side the unfortunate man was pinioned between it and a large log lying there.

   Death must have been instantaneous for he was found lying on his breast across the log with his breast entirely crushed in and the right hip badly crushed. His entire body was badly scalded by the escaping water and steam.

   Engineer Carpenter jumped for his life and was uninjured, save a slight bruise on the right arm. The three cars that went down the embankment were gondolas, loaded with crushed stone. One gondola was thrown from the track, but remained upright.

   A wrecking crew was at once sent down from Syracuse, and also one from Binghamton. The body of the dead fireman was taken from under the engine with some difficulty and taken to Marathon, where the remains were prepared for burial and were taken to Binghamton on the southbound accommodation train, which went down at 11 o’clock as soon as the track was cleared. The track for a distance of over 100 feet was torn up.

   Coroner W. J. Moore of Cortland was summoned and went down on the wrecking train, but decided that no inquest was necessary.

   The place where the wreck occurred was just one mile below Messengerville station, where on the right there rises abruptly a steep bank for about 300 feet. On the left and about twenty feet from the track is the river. The log, between which and the engine Fireman Delanty was pinioned, lay in a hollow and had this not been there the probability is that the man would not have been killed. The tree, which lay across the track was a large hemlock, at least two feet in diameter and had been blown down by the high wind, a distance of 100 feet. The cowcatcher of the engine was broken, but the boiler remained intact. Two of the gondolas were turned completely over and the other lay on its side, broken in two in the middle.

   The track was cleared and repaired, so that the southbound train, which passes through Cortland at 10:22, was delayed only half an hour.

   The train reaching Cortland at 6 A. M. from the south was backed to Marathon and waited there until the passage of the two southbound trains, and passed through Cortland at 12:15.

   Fireman Edward Delanty, who was killed, was 32 years of age, was unmarried, and resided in Halstead, Pa., where a mother and sister live, having been dependant on him for support.


Crisp Local Happenings at the Corset City.

   Our people are gathering apples to-day. It isn't very hard work for the wind assisted them last night. In many cases the trees are gathered also for the wind played havoc with the orchards in this vicinity. In fact fallen trees and broken limbs from fruit and shade trees are so common that nearly every one in the village has them, while the orchards of Frank Burlingham, Frank Dunbar, Birdseye Hicks, and Lorenzo Parsons north of the village are ruined. Dr. H. C. Hendrick lost eighteen fine fruit trees besides the damage to shade trees and Mrs. Greenman's orchard is a mass of upturned trees and broken limbs.

   No great damage was done to buildings, although a large portion of the steel roof of the Village hall blew off and the roofs of the box factory, a storehouse and shipping rooms were started. The roof of Mrs. Hill's residence on Gothic-st. was broken by a falling limb. The large flagpole on Main-st. fell and was broken in two. Windows were blown from a number of houses, those on the south side of Frank Dunbar's house going in by the wholesale. The doors were blown from H. D. Totman's barn and Frank Dunbar and L. Parsons have each a barn ready to collapse. A wing of Mrs. Rhoda Freeman's house is also in ruins. A cherry tree two feet in diameter which stood in Frank Burlingham's barnyard was twisted off. A portion of the belfry of the Presbyterian church was blown off and one piece driven through the roof. Northeast of this village the destruction of timber was complete. About two hundred acres are laid low and Frank Burlingham, Frank Dunbar, George Case, George Cass, Helmer Jacobs, Mrs. Wilcox and W. J, Buchanan are among the heaviest losers. The Potter house and the residence of Miss Ruth Sweet, Mrs. Lucetta Fancher and George Palmer had narrow escapes from falling trees.

   F. B. Graves is hunting for his hens, he has found his henhouse. C. M. Bean has an illustration of the land flowing with milk and honey and R. Morse who had his squashes stored on the stoop of his residence has been getting them in from his neighbor's yards. One of the wind's freaks was to cut off two shade trees from in front of B. H. Randall's residence on Elm-st. and leave the rest of the long row standing.

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