Baca County History

by the Plainsman Herald

The Two Buttes Cyclone: Aug 1917

Two Buttes Cyclone

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, newspapers and the general public in the United States often referred to tornadoes as “cyclones.” This can be attributed to a misunderstanding of the terms and a general lack of knowledge about the distinct differences between these two weather phenomena at the time.

As meteorology advanced and weather phenomena became better understood, the terminology became more precise. By the mid-20th century, the distinction between tornadoes and cyclones was more widely recognized, and the terms began to be used more accurately in both scientific literature and popular media.

It’s important to note that this confusion was primarily an issue in the United States, while other regions with tornadoes, such as Europe, had their own terms for the phenomenon. Today, tornadoes and cyclones are recognized as distinct meteorological phenomena with unique characteristics and terminology.

August 10, 1917 there was a tornado at Two Buttes Colorado. It was reported in the The Springfield Herald, Volume 31, Number 1, August 17, 1917 as follows:

About 6 p. m. Friday evening a cyclone funnel dipped down to the ground about a quarter of a mile southwest of the town of Two Buttes, and passed through the town diagonally to the northeast, apparently expending its force about a mile or a mile and a half from town. 

H. D. Gaither tried to get into the hotel after seeing the cyclone coming; failing, he laid down and tried to hold onto the side walk, but was picked up and thrown into the middle of the street, breaking some ribs and otherwise seriously injuring him. 

At the same time the wind caught up Dr. Verity’s store room and residence, wrecking the former and tearing the latter to pieces. Luckily, Dr. Verity was in Lamar. 

It also about the same time caught up the Fred Kempin residence, tore it to pieces and smashed up everything in the house. Luckily, the Kempin family was also in Lamar. 

The Wheeler and Stanton store (concrete) was caught at an angle, and only the south wall left standing. Peculiarly, the dry goods that were on shelves along this wall were left in their places, while other things were blown away or smashed up— hats, caps, boots and shoes being,among the former. Loss will probably reach two or three thousand dollars.

Photo is from the Eldon & Virginia Campbell collection

NOTE: All Photos are from the Eldon & Virginia Campbell collection.

Onda Young and printer Pruitt* saw it coming, and Young said “let’s run out of its path.” They became separated, however.’and after the storm Pruitt was found in the torn-to-pieces Wheeler and Stanton store with his skull crushed in. 

Gifford’s real estate was next picked up and scattered promiscuously. It was a new building and is a total loss —building and fixtures probably over $1,000. 

U. J. Warran’s building was next hit —picked up and torn to pieces and scattered for half a mile. It was just being built and was nearly completed. 

Metcalf’s barn back of his residence was caught in the whirlpool torn to pieces, and littered the path of the storm for half a mile. The Parks house, half a mile northeast of town, was the last of the tornado’s victims—scattered everywhere. In this case again the family was luckily away. Half a dozen cars were injured and two ruined. This is the second damaging cyclone to hit the county since its settlement, the former one passing over the Short Grass country, wrecking buildings, killing one and seriously, injuring others. 

The sympathies of the whole county go out to the Two Buttes sufferers.

Note his name printed as Truett in the next article. 

The Lamar Register, (Lamar, Colorado) Volume 32, Number 11, August 15, 1917  —On last Friday evening a little after six o’clock a small cyclone struck the town of Two Buttes southeast of Lamar, and in almost the twinkling of an eye slammed men and property around in the most promiscuous manner. Its course was hard to trace and there was even much divergence of opinion as to the direction it wa traveling, but all agreed as to it.force and destructiveness. The worst destruction was at the Holeman grocery store. The stone building was torn open in the front and back sections, the walls falling out and roof caving in. Seven people were in the building and all miraculously escaped injury. However, Mr. Truett.priner on the Two Buttes Sentinel, was found afterwards in the ruins with his head crushed. He was not in the building before but was evidently picked up from the street and hurled there. Mr. H. D Gaither, who runs the hotel and is one of the best known and most popular residents of the little city, was on the street in front of the hotel and was picked up and slammed back on the ground with great force. Four ribs were broken and one of the broken pieces pierced his lungs. He was very seriously injured but late reports are favorable to his recovery. He has many warm friends in Lamar who hope sincerely for his complete restoration to health. The exact extent of damage to property could not be learned. Two store buildings and three residences were badly damaged and nearly all the business houses and many residence had the window glass all broken out. There seems to have been very little damage outside of the town so far a news has come to I.amar. The track of the storm was only about 100 feet in width, but it committed all of freaks such as pulling loose the supports of a large windmill and tank without doing any damage to the upper part, and tearing a hencoop all to pieces and leaving an old hen calmly sitting on a nest of eggs unruffled by the destruction of all her surroundings. Several autos from Lamar started down as soon as news reached here which owing to telephone wires being down was not until next morning but when they arrived the excitement was all over and little help could be given. There was no rain, hail or lightning accompanying the storm.

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