Archive for the ‘Weather’ Category

THE 1933 TORNADO THAT STRUCK SCHAUMBURG TOWNSHIP

July 29, 2018

From all accounts, Saturday July 1, 1933 was very hot and muggy. When nighttime came, the situation did not improve. By early Sunday morning, the farmers in Schaumburg Township were awakened by almost constant lightning and high winds.

In observing the situation, some stated that “there appeared to be two storms. The first one appeared from the northwest, with bright clouds near the earth while overhead they were terrifyingly black… A second storm seemed to travel from the east and according to a prominent Schaumburg farmer, the two storms came together in the northwest. A severe wind and rain were the first marks of the storm followed by a hail storm marked by stones as large as eggs. This was followed by the tornado that did the greatest damage.” [Arlington Heights Herald; July 7, 1933]

Schaumburg Township was most severely hit in the southeast quadrant of the township. The area was bordered roughly by Wise Road to the north, Schaumburg Road to the west and township boundaries on the east and south. In fact, it appears to have come in through the south along Roselle Road, struck the Piske and Nerge farms along Nerge Road and then veered north towards the Pfingsten farm on Plum Grove Road, eventually passing through the Botterman farm just south of Higgins Road on the Elk Grove Township border.

Many took cover in their basements and cellars. All were worried about their animals and barns. Ruth (Piske) Lake, in her oral history with her sister June (Piske) Dunbar, described her father’s actions by saying, “Dad came from the barn to the house, turned around and said, ‘There goes the barn.”

When the storm had passed and it was possible to venture outside, another world awaited the residents. Wheat, corn and oat crops were completely destroyed by the torrents of hail that were “big as fists.” Piles of hail were scattered around. Trees were stripped bare of their leaves and, in fact, the Adolph Link family reported that one exterior wall of the house was completely plastered with leaves.” [Genesis of a Township, Marilyn Lind.] The photo below shows an overturned tree on the Thies farm.

Fortunately, no one was killed in the storm. Many houses saw windows blown out and damage to the exterior. Carrie Gathman Ollman, in her memoir A Time To Remember says,”Windows [were] broken in the house and rain came pouring in. Everything [was] soaked.”

The only local resident to lose his house was Charles Meirs on the Walter Nerge farm. The account in the paper listed his house as “twisted.”

The photo above is of the Pfingsten farm and shows how the trees were stripped of their leaves and/or uprooted. Fortunately, the Pfingsten house still stood as did some of the outlying buildings. The house had been built with bricks leftover from the construction of St. Peter Lutheran Church in 1863.

Viola (Homeyer) Meyer, another oral historian, said, “We lost a lot of chickens and some small buildings. And there wasn’t a window left in the house. We were all in the basement. The next day they took a shovel and pushed the debris out of the house.”

A number of local barns and silos, though, were irreparably damaged. According to the Arlington Herald article, those who lost their barns and buildings were Fred Pfingsten, two barns; Ferdinand Panzer, barn; Louis Nerge, barn and windmill; the Schmidt brothers, top of a barn and silo; Albert Brendemuhl, horse barn and two sheds; Charles Meirs on the Walter Nerge farm, barn and tool shed; Piske brothers, barn; Charles Stocke, barn; Herman Bottermann Jr., barn; and Elmer Moehlenbrandt, barn.

In the photo at the top of this blog posting, you can see the devastation on the Pfingsten farm. The cupola from the barn is lying upside down in the middle of the picture. Timber lies everywhere. The top is off of their wooden silo–the first of its kind to be built in Cook County. Workers are trying to salvage the piles of hay from the barns so that the animals still had food.

Unfortunately, a number of horses and cattle were killed. Despite the fact that many farmers were using mechanized equipment by the early 30’s, all of them still used Belgian draft horses and Percherons for work around the farm. Accounts in the paper vacillated between the benefits of having the animals in the barns or outside. Many farmers had their cattle herds outside because of the stifling weather. These animals “suffered badly from cuts and bruises from flying hailstones. Livestock… broke through fences and even fought to get within barns and sheds.” That is the degree to which the animals were panicked. Viola Meyer mentioned that Emil Lichthardt, a neighbor, came by the day after the storm to tell them their cows were all mixed up and would have to be separated somehow.

Six of the aforementioned farmers who lost buildings also lost animals. The greatest loss occurred on the Louis Nerge farm as seen in the picture above, where five horses and a bull died or had to be put down. One can imagine it was especially painful to lose the large draft horses. These animals had personalities of their own, typically lived long lives and were the farmers’ constant companions and supply of power. Yes, they ate their weight in food but the effort they gave was unsurpassed.

With the loss of crops, gardens and orchard produce, it was difficult to decide what should be replanted. It was almost too late in the growing season to replant corn, though many turned to 60 day corn and some to 90 day corn. Others planted soybeans and buckwheat. Carrie Gathman Ollman said, “Farmers had a lot of faith so they worked up the land again and planted the corn over… It did not get ripe but was all right for the silo.” The resulting silage was used to feed the animals in the winter.

As far as gardens went, it is necessary to remember that produce was still crucial to farming families. They canned and preserved much of their vegetables and fruits and used them throughout the winter. By this time of the year, the stock from the prior year was already depleted and now there would be nothing new to add to the shelves.

Keep in mind, too, that this was still the depths of the Great Depression. Using savings for the upcoming year to buy food for your family and animals was an unplanned expense. Making repairs and replacing barns and silos was even more costly. While many had insurance on their farms for the contingency of natural disasters, there were always more unconsidered expenses that came along.

The farmers recovered but a storm like that couldn’t be very far from their thoughts when the weather was just right. One has to suppose that when it was hot and humid, and black clouds and green skies would start rolling in, dread would start to build in their chests. In fact, Ruth (Piske) Lake said, “For many years afterwards, our mother would pace the floor and make us go into the chicken coop or the basement if the weather was bad.” She was well aware that when dealing with a storm of that proportion, there was only so much one could do.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library
jrozek@stdl.org

Pfingsten photos are courtesy of Delores (Pfingsten) Pederson.
Thies photo is courtesy of LaVonne (Thies) Presley.
Horse photo is courtesy of the Schaumburg Township Historical Society.

 

SNOWING *SOMEWHERE* IN HOFFMAN ESTATES

June 14, 2015

4314

On March 26, 1970, the northwest suburbs were hit by a 12-inch blanket of wet snow.  And it didn’t go well for some of the drivers.

This picture was recently acquired and the back of it says, “Spring Snowstorm Clobbers Chicago Suburb–Scene in Hoffman Estates, ILL.”  Can anyone say where this photo was taken?  It’s clearly a gently rolling terrain with young trees and either a fence or barricade in the background.  There look to be a number of spinouts and apparently the snow made things slippery enough that a police car couldn’t maneuver the hill either.  Or a truck for that matter.

I’d be curious to see if anyone recognizes the location.  Please leave a comment if you have a clue!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

FIRST IT WAS A TORNADO, THEN A DROUGHT, THEN THE CHINCH BUGS CAME…

July 22, 2012

It was a miserable, hot, dry summer in 1934.  The farmers of Schaumburg Township were worried about their crops and whether they’d have anything to harvest.  Following the devastating effects of the tornado that touched down in July of 1933, this was the last thing the area needed.

These were, after all, the years of the Dust Bowl and Illinois was not unaffected.   Not only did the dust from the Plains states make its way to this state but Illinois also entered an extended period of dryness beginning in the early 1930s.  In the spring and summer of 1934, the situation began to get worse.  It quickly became apparent that if rain didn’t come soon, the farmers would lose their crops.  Doing so would not only affect the family’s finances but also the animals that depended on the corn, oats, hay, silage and bedding that the crops provided.

Unfortunately, the rain did not appear.  But the chinch bugs did.  This indigenous insect positively feasted on the sap of the wheat, oat and corn plants.  According to Norman Freise, an oral historian, “They would attack the corn.  The corn stalk would be covered with them.”  To prevent the bugs from invading their fields, the farmers began plowing a strip around the circumference of their corn fields.  With drums of creosote provided by the federal government and passed out by the Cook County Farm Bureau, they began spreading the liquid daily around the fields.  “Turned back by the repellant creosote the bugs crawl along the ditch until they fall into post holes dug in the bottom of the furrow at intervals.  A daily dose of kerosene poured into the bottom of each post hole then finishes the job.”  Daily Herald, June 22, 1934.

The only up side of the chinch bug explosion was related by Norman Freise in his oral history.  This was the second year of the Century of Progress International Exposition in Chicago.  For the mere price of a pint jar of chinch bugs, Norm and his brother each were able to gain entrance into the Fair.  Since there was no shortage of the pests, the brothers enjoyed the fair a couple of times.

As the summer and the drought progressed, the farmers were forced to come up with alternatives for feeding their animals.  Ralph Engelking, another oral historian, mentioned that his father had to buy fodder corn for the animals.   This is a rough, loose feed that often consists of coarsely chopped stalks and leaves of corn mixed with hay, straw and other plants. Norman Freise’s father planted buckwheat as an alternative to corn to feed their  hogs. 

Fortunately, it appears the wells did not run dry on the farms of Schaumburg Township.  Of course, we cannot confirm this for every farm but it was never mentioned by any of our oral historians.  Schaumburg Township seldom had moisture problems.  It had both areas of glacial till—particularly in the eastern portion— where there were naturally occurring springs, and low marshy areas that often required tiling so that they could be used as fields.  In fact, Norman Freise said that when digging a well on their property, his father hit water at a mere 50 ft.  Others mentioned the high water table in the area, including Mary Lou (Link)Reynolds who lived on today’s Spring Valley property.  She said there were periods where they could stick a shovel in the ground and water would appear.  Unfortunately, in 1934 the surface water dried up and left the fields in desolate conditions.

Sadly, some of the farmers did not recover from this down year.  With no crops to profit from and cows and pigs to feed, some of the farmers were stretched to their limits.  This was the fifth year of the depression and the drought simply compounded any issues the family might have had.  Some were forced to sell their farms to others around them who were more fortunate or they looked further afield to the city dwellers who were interested in–and could afford–a rural getaway.  The drought of 1934 was just one thing too many piled on top of a list of hardships and, to this day, is the driest summer on record.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

THE BLIZZARD OF 1967

February 5, 2012

Our guest contributor this week is Pat Barch, the Hoffman Estates Historian.  This column originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of the Hoffman Estates Citizen, the village’s newsletter.  The column appears here, courtesy of the Village of Hoffman Estates.  

It was the storm of all storms, the kind of snow we had never seen before.  I must admit I love snow.  I think it comes from growing up in Chicago.  Our family lived across from an old abandoned mushroom farm.  The building, covered in dirt, was the perfect hill for sledding.  Waxing the old American Flyer with a scrap of soap, I could always beat the other kids on the hill.  Now as an aging adult, I still like winter.

But the winter storm of January 26 & 27, 1967 was more snow than I could remember. It’s the 45th anniversary of that powerful and frightening storm.  My husband and I had moved to Hoffman Estates in 65 and in 67 we had 3 small children.  On Thursday morning with a little snow on the ground, my husband went off to work as usual.  It wasn’t until later that they predicted heavier snow for the afternoon.  I went out with the kids to make a snowman and it didn’t take long to realize that I’d have hard work ahead to keep the driveway clear for my husband.  

I began to worry about my husband’s trip home.  He worked in Des Plaines and came down Higgins.  There were no cell phones then. No way to find out where he was.  We all had young families and hoped our husbands would make it home through the storm.  Much of the area was still open farmland and highway travel could be dangerous.

Many of them did make it home one way or another. Mine did.  After pleading with the state police, who were about to close Higgins Rd. west of Arlington Heights Rd., my husband was the last car allowed to drive through the forest preserve.  When he safely arrived at Rt. 53 the police were glad to see he made it through, wishing him well on the rest of his drive to Hoffman Estates.  Once Higgins Rd. was closed, the bowling alley at Arlington Heights and Higgins Rd. offered many of the motorists a place to sleep until the road could be opened again.  That didn’t happen for several days. 

We all tried to help one another.  If you had a snow blower, you helped anyone who needed it. The snow was falling so fast that we went to bed exhausted hoping to shovel out in the morning.  We awoke to a very white and quiet world.  Everything was buried in snow.  The snow drifts were so high we couldn’t get out the back door but we made it out the front door to survey the unbelievable scene.

The official snowfall for Jan. 26 was 16.4 in. and another 6.6 in. on Jan. 27for a total of 23 in. Winds were 20/30 mph. with gusts up to 50 mph. Over the next 3 days we saw every kind of equipment trying to clear the snow from Golf and Higgins Rd.  The drifts were like small mountains.  My oldest daughter and I took our sled to the A&P that was at Golf & Highland Blvd., Binney’s Liquors is located there.  The manager never made it home so we were able to load the sled with milk, bread and anything else we needed.  With a plastic drop cloth and some rope, we tied down the special cargo and headed back over the mountains of snow. I’ll never forget that storm.

Ken Gomoll, Asst. Director of Public Works, remembers the winter of 78-79 when we had a total of 83.7 inches of snow. That was a tough year for Public Works but they’re always ready for whatever comes our way.  Let’s hope the winter of 2012 will be kind to us. Happy New Year everyone!

Pat Barch
Hoffman Estates Village Historian
Eagle2064@comcast.net

Thanks to Pat, the photos are of the Barch house after the snowfall of 1967. 

WEATHERING THE GREAT SNOWSTORM OF 1967

February 14, 2010

The morning temperature on January 24, 1967 was 44 degrees and, later that day, it soared to 65.  Thunderstorms rolled across the area that evening but, by the following day, a low coming from the south and a high pressure system that swept out of Canada and over Lake Superior were beginning to converge.  By noon on January 26, 8 inches had fallen at O’Hare.  Snow continued to fall fast and furious and the situation became worse as the winds shifted and began causing serious drifting.    When the snow finally stopped around 10:00 a.m. on January 27, the area was at a standstill.  It was time to dig out. 

This photo shows the driveway of a Schaumburg home on Weathersfield Way after heavy shovelling.   Is this what your house looked like?  How did your family handle the storm?  Did everyone make it home?  Was anyone stranded?  Did you run out of food?  Please share with us how the people of Schaumburg Township weathered the great snowstorm of 1967.