A few weeks ago when Sid Davis dropped off the information on the WLS picnic, he also brought a couple of articles about a tornado that struck Hamilton County in 1902.
That inspired me to try to compile a list of all the tornadoes in this county prior to the devastating Palm Sunday tornado of 1965.
Because most online sources for tornado stats, like the National Weather Service, only go back to 1950, I drew my information from accounts I found in the old newspapers.
I won’t claim the following list is 100 percent accurate, though. Although all the incidents came from stories that specifically mentioned tornado damage, it’s possible, especially in the early years, that straight line winds were sometimes to blame.
Also, additional tornadoes, or “cyclones,” could have touched down unobserved and / or unrecorded.
(Tornadoes were often inaccurately described as “cyclones” during the 1800s. While both are violent storms with powerful, rotating winds, they differ in several respects, such as size, how they’re formed and where they’re formed.)
The earliest reference I found to a tornado in this county appears in the March 15, 1907 Enterprise. According to the article, a “cyclone” ripped through the area of the Chester church and school north of Westfield (around U.S. 31 and 196th Street) on March 12, 1866.
I wasn’t able to confirm any information about that particular twister since no local newspapers are available for 1866, but the remaining tornadoes on the list were all taken from reports published at the time of the storms.
In the early hours of July 16, 1875, a “perfect cyclone” passed through Fall Creek and Delaware Townships. It was actually part of several storms that came through the county between the 15th and 17th. Trees and fences were blown down, and corn, oats and wheat crops were flattened.
Additional destruction was reported in Noblesville and Chicago (the area around Little Chicago Road and State Road 38,) but it’s unclear if that was from the tornado.
Fishersburg, on the Hamilton County / Madison County line, was hit by the “worst tornado that ever visited this vicinity” on September 25, 1878. Some men who were threshing when the tornado struck sought shelter behind a wheat stack only to have it blow down, burying them. They survived, but another man who’d been laying down railroad tracks nearby was killed by a falling tree.
On the evening of June 14, 1880, a funnel cloud about one-quarter of a mile wide roared through the northern part of the county, from Adams Township to Perkinsville, and “everything in its track was literally torn to shreds.”
The south side of Cicero was nearly wiped out. Homes were flattened, roofs torn off, and barns and orchards were wrecked. The Methodist church was turned into a pile of rubble — yet the tornado spared the parsonage, about 15 feet away.
Buildings were also destroyed at Strawtown. The tornado even sucked up water and fish from White River.
Miraculously, although seventeen people were injured — some of them severely — the only deaths were farm animals.
Three years later on the evening of July 16, 1883, an “incipient cyclone” hit Noblesville, tearing off roofs, blowing down trees and damaging the Presbyterian church’s steeple.
The publisher of the Noblesville Independent, W. H. Boswell, returned from a trip to Chicago to discover the Independent’s composing room destroyed. A board had been flung through a window in the office, letting in the wind and pouring rain. Copy was blown away and 15 cases of type were scattered across the floor amidst piles of debris.
The Independent was only able to produce a newspaper that week thanks to material donated by the editor of the rival Republican Ledger.
More tornadoes next week.

Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears on Wednesdays in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com