Ken and Linda Burton didn’t know about the tornado that roared through Great Bend on Nov. 10, 1915, until they made a recent discovery at a flea market in Hutchinson. That’s when they found a slim booklet of photos published by The Daily Tribune in Great Bend.
The book originally sold for 25 cents.
The Nov. 11, 1915, edition of the Tribune sported the headline: “Two Dead in Tornado Here; A $600,000 property loss — Light and Power Plants, laundry, big flouring mills and many homes swept away. Southeast portion of city a scene of Devastation this morning.”
Tribune reporter Veronica Coons wrote about the twister in 2015, the 100th anniversary.
“Charles Smith, a piano salesman, and WW Hale, an employee of the mill, were listed as dead, with four others, listed as ‘May die.’ They were Jacob L. Imel, a mill employee; Mrs. J.G. Krebaum, wife of the foremen at Moses and Clayton Ranch; John Miller, Pennsylvanian working on the Moses and Clayton sheep ranch; and Carl Johnson, 12 years, the son of Marion Johnson. His mother, Mrs. Marion Johnson, wife of the post office engineer, was listed as injured.
“Days later, only Mrs. Krebaum would still be alive.”
The historic storm is well documented. Karen Neuforth, research coordinator at the Barton County Historical Society Museum and Village, talked about it in 2015 when museum had a special exhibit for the 100th anniversary.
The tornado destroyed Eastside School, which was also known as Roosevelt School and other names, Neuforth said. Photos of the front of the brick building taken after the storm seem to show it intact, but photos from other angles show it was beyond repair. The school was located on the southeast corner of Lakin and Frey. Next to the school, at the Moses and Clayton Ranch, 1,000 sheep died in the storm.
The Burtons learned some of that history more recently, after their flea market find. Showing the book to neighbors, Ken said a lot of people didn’t know about the tornado.
“They called it a cyclone, not a tornado,” he noted. From reading the booklet, he also learned that the city didn’t have a method for warning people about the approaching storm. “They didn’t have any whistle here,” he said.
While the 1915 tornado was the worst that the Golden Belt has endured, it wasn’t the last. The Great Bend Tribune has reported on the Hoisington tornado on April 21, 2001. A photo booklet on that storm, “Night of Destruction,” was also published by the Tribune. There was also the Greensburg tornado on May 4, 2007, which caused damage in Stafford and Barton counties; a storm that killed two people in Stafford County on May 24, 2011; and the May 16, 2017, “tornadic thunderstorm” that caused extensive damage as it traveled from Pawnee Rock to Susank and Beaver.
Great Bend tests its tornado sirens at noon on Tuesdays, unless the weather appears threatening.
For the rest of this week, the National Weather Service forecasts showers and thunderstorms likely on Thursday, and mostly sunny on Friday and Saturday, with a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms Saturday night, mainly after 1 a.m.