Source: Fort Wayne News, July 30, 1898, p. 7

A special from North Manchester, Ind., says: This vicinity was visited yesterday afternoon by the most destructive storm in many years. Trees were blown down and many buildings were unroofed. One end of the Rex windmill plant was blown away, the top of the main school building was carried to the ground and lightning destroyed three barns in town. Hundreds of acres of corn have been laid to the ground and great loss to fruit has  been sustained. The storm lasted about thirty minutes.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, November 2003

Dust Storm Sweeps over Indiana Fields

Probably the worst dust storm this section of the country ever experienced came Thursday, starting early in the forenoon and continuing to increase in severity until after nightfall. While it was not quite as bad as the storm told about a couple of weeks ago in Oakes, North Dakota where they claimed they could not see a building 200 feet away, yet it was plenty bad and worse than we ever want to see again. A part of the dust may have come from North Dakota but there was lots of Indiana dust mixed in the clouds.

In the field, on the roads and in the open street the clouds of dust made life disagreeable. It filtered through the most tiny crevices in the houses, spread itself over the nicely polished surfaces left by the spring house cleaning. The old timer shook his head and admitted he had never seen anything like it before - and hoped he would never see anything like it again. Friday morning the air was clear but at times during the afternoon there were dust clouds again in the air, but nothing like as bad as on the afternoon before.

News-Journal May 14, 1934


Source: NMHS Newsletter, February 1990

Snows and Cold of Yesterday
By Dr. L.Z. Bunker and Mrs. Edna Frushour Heeter

Unlike religion and politics the weather is not a controversial subject, hence its popularity for discussion.  The severe cold in December has brought out many tales of past winter chill!

Our present United States Weather Service began in the office of the U.S. Surgeon General Lovell in 1818; his efforts were later combined with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the Smithsonian Institution.  Since the combined services are less than 100 years old, we depend on local tales and family legends for information.

There are stories of deep snows in the trackless land of the pioneers, later snow to the height of fence posts, and snow that was tunneled to a farmer’s barn.

Civil War buffs tell us of the cold New Year’s Day, January 1, 1865, when bitter cold extended from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and east to the Atlantic Ocean.  This was near the end of the Civil War, and General Sherman’s army was marching through Georgia and into the Carolinas.  Advancing without the usual supplies, the troops suffered severely from the cold.  No temperature readings are available for this period.  One local soldier, Charles Kohser, wrote home to his folks to send him an overcoat.

Early tales tell of schools closed for weeks due to deep snow.  The rivers were covered with ice, though occasionally some broke through and were drowned.

The early years of the 20th century were marked by excessive cold and deep snow in this area.  Horse-drawn school buses were abandoned for bobsleds, and Dr. George K. Balsbaugh, a North Manchester physician, had a farmer drive him in a bobsled to see his patients.  Frostbite was a common ailment.

The lowest temperature recorded in North Manchester was -28 degrees F in the winter of 1912-1913.  A storm had struck in October and kept the country frozen until late February.

The 1918 was marked by heavy snow and, as a little girl, Edna Frushour Heeter who lived on a farm eight miles south of North Manchester took a snapshot with a Brownie camera of snow up to the porch roof of her farmhouse.  She sent this to her two brothers who were with the United States Army (AEF) working as airplane mechanics near Versailles, France.

There are more stories of cold and snows, especially severe in the early 1930’s.  With radio and later TV reports and warnings from the expanded United States Weather Service, however, much misery and disasters could be averted.

The year 1978 was a year of heavy storms, snow and ice extending over wide areas.  But the all-time record for cold was in our recent December 21, 1989, storm when the official temperature was -30 degrees F, the lowest ever recorded in this area. 


Source: NMHS Newsletter May 1994

Famous North Manchester Storms
by Ferne Baldwin

It was on January 12, 1918, that a storm struck North Manchester that made even the old timers admit they had never seen anything like it. The snow and wind had raged all day on Friday, the 11th, and a southbound Big Four freight got stuck in a snow drift south of the river about 2:00 a.m. on Saturday morning. The northbound passenger train never made it to North Manchester on Friday and finally returned to Wabash.

Two engines were sent from Wabash to try to reach the stranded freight but were unable to get through. Shovelers worked all day Saturday but because of the high wind and the intense cold could not get the tracks cleared. A carload of hogs was part of the train and canvas was used to cover the slatted side of the car to keep the hogs from freezing. The train had two engines and all the water had to be drained from them to keep the pipes from bursting.

The crew was in the caboose with plenty of fuel and food so they were reasonably comfortable. The train stayed there all day Saturday and Sunday and finally, late on Monday, the snow plow from Wabash cleared the track so the train could proceed.
Not much moved in Manchester on Saturday. No mail came to town; there were no rural deliveries and James Almack was the only city carrier to make a delivery. Busses and rigs were stuck in snow drifts. Car owners did not venture out. Telephone and telegraph lines were down. Temperatures ranged from 20 to 25 degrees below zero, but a very strong wind made it much worse.

WW I was on and because of fuel rationing, there was a very limited amount of coal in town. Most stores closed Saturday afternoon and did not reopen in the evening. Beginning Monday the town slowly came to life again.

A much more sustained storm period came in 1936. On January 21 North Manchester had a heavy snowfall with almost blizzard force winds which caused blocked highways. Several people in stranded autos froze to death in northern Indiana. Others who lived alone were found dead in their homes.

On January 22, North Manchester had 17 below zero; International Falls, Minnesota had 55 below. Day after day there was subzero weather. By early February the ground was frozen so deeply that water began to freeze in both town and country. Some farmers hauled water from North Manchester for the livestock. Water users in town were told to keep their water faucets partly open.

On February 3, there was snow, sleet and rain along with a high wind that glazed roads and closed the schools. Then it started thawing for a day or two but by Saturday night another blizzard hit the community and temperatures were about twelve below zero by Sunday morning February 9. Most schools were closed.

Some opened briefly but another heavy snow on February 12 caused them to close again for Thursday and Friday. Thirteen inches of ice was reported on Eel River and ice on lakes was as thick as three feet. More water pipes froze. Chester school was closed on February 17 and 18.

Then came the rain, thaw and flood. Eel River and Pony Creek both rose above flood stage. The thick ice heaved up in thick chunks. It jammed up at the bends of the river, especially below Liberty Mills and just below the Pennsylvania railroad bridge. The Liberty Mills jam broke but collected again at the Second Street bridge. Water flowed from the river across Sycamore and Mill Street and flooded several homes in Riverside. Dynamite was finally used to break the ice jam at the Second Street bridge.

Other towns were flooded, too. Peru was isolated for a time. Logansport was flooded and even part of Lagro and Rich Valley. Wabash residents in low areas had to be evacuated and about 100 were lodged at the city hall or other buildings. Some factories were under water. The temporary bridge across the Eel on Road 15 was washed away as well as forms and material. There were no Pennsylvania trains for two days. Eel River overflowed and water poured directly into Pony Creek. Officially the river was 14 feet above low water level. New York Central trains were held south of Urbana because the track washed out at Paw Paw Creek. Old timers in many parts of the U.S. remember the winter of '36.

Certain winters become fixed in the memory of people as record breakers either for cold temperature, heavy snowfall, or floods. Maybe with all the talk of global warming such winters are a thing of the past. Some are eager for a real humdinger again just to reassure us that we are not becoming "too warm."