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Wellington Daily News - Wellington, KS
  • Tornado of 1892 changed Wellington

  • Wellington was a thriving city in 1892 with a population of more than 12,000, and growing steadily.
    Jim Bales, President of the Chisolm Trail Museum Board, said a tornado that year changed Wellington forever during a program at the Sumner County Historical and Geneological Society meeting Monday.
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  • By James Jordan
    The Wellington Daily News
    Wellington was a thriving city in 1892 with a population of more than 12,000, and growing steadily.
    Jim Bales,  President of the Chisolm Trail Museum Board, said a tornado that year changed Wellington forever during a program at the Sumner County Historical and Geneological Society meeting Monday.
    At the time Wellington was growing faster than Wichita, which had a population of about 24,000.
    “We lost several businesses and banks in the tornado and Wellington never did recover.”
    There was also a major fire a few years later that took out some buildings, and that was another major blow to the city.
    The tornado struck at 8:57 p.m., after having flattened the town of Chrystal Springs and causing heavy damage in Harper.
    There were of course no telephones or radar, or any way to warn anyone.
    The storm came very fast and left just as fast. Bales said people on the other side of town did not even realize the damage had been done.
    The storm hit on East Harvey at first, and then moved on through the downtown area, east toward B and C streets. It caused extensive damage to a 26 block area.
    A city council meeting had broken up just before the storm hit, and that building was destroyed.
    Eleven people were killed, 29 were injured. There were four newspapers in town then and all four were damaged. Three churches and two schools were also heavily damaged.
    Bales had a large number of pictures that showed the damage. One church was turned upside down. The top floor of a school was taken off.
    Bales said there was one telegraph line working, and a message was sent to Wichita to ask for doctors and help.
    As many as 15 trains brought perhaps as many as 15,000 people from all over the state, and they ended up spending most of their time just looking around, the pictures suggest.
    “That Sunday was a very hot day. The city put ice water out on the street to keep people hydrated. Originally they came to help dig people out, but they all came to look,” he said.
    Since it was a big railroad town, there were also people in town that didn’t live here. Among the dead were a piano tuner from Kansas City, and a horse trader from Kentucky.
    There were also stories of amazing escapes. Four people were in the Worden Grocery Store when the tornado sucked the back end off the building. Those people were pulled out and thrown 140 feet away, but were relatively unhurt.
    Page 2 of 2 - The tornado stopped the momentum of growth in its tracks. Soon after the storm three banks failed. The city was not able to rebuild city hall until 1907.
    Harper was also heavily damaged and also stopped growing.
    Bales said a lot of people may not have had the resources to rebuild. Ho noted the landrush of 1893 came soon after that, and people went to the landrush instead of rebuilding.

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