Marshfield, June 1905: Storm of the century
Marshfield reels from a devastating weather system
By Kris Leonhardt
On a Saturday evening in early June 1905, the air was thick with humidity in and around the city of Marshfield. As residents lay their heads down for the evening, they struggled to get comfortable in the hot, moist climate.
While some managed to drift off, others were stirring, waiting for the storm that would inevitably descend upon them.
In the evening hours, the sound of the approaching electrical strikes confirmed what had nervously been anticipated. A night of steady electrical activity followed. A constant assault of lightning continued randomly hitting trees and buildings.
The electrical storm, accompanied by a steady rainfall, continued throughout the night and into the next day.
As area residents awoke Monday morning, fear gripped them as they realized they were in for further onslaught from the storm.
The deluge lasted into Tuesday morning, causing drainage channels in Marshfield to fill with surface water. The overwhelming abundance caused the sewer to back up, filling flood cellars and basements and contaminating the city water.
The inundation of rain turned trickling streams into raging rivers; washed away roads, culverts, and bridges; and upset foundations and sidewalks.
Streams created by the storms traveled through the city, ripping up the landscape and tearing out the newly planted vegetable gardens that lined the streets.
Washouts leveled embankments onto the rail lines. With washouts occurring between Abbotsford and Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Central train service was halted, stopping northbound trains on Marshfield tracks and stranding passengers.
The accompanying winds left trees twisted and scattered throughout the city. The pickle factory had been moved from its foundation, and the roof was torn from the Upham Manufacturing paint shop and storeroom.
Farther into the country, homes, sheds, barns, and fences were blown down. Farming crops were destroyed in fields, brought down by the heavy winds. Crop damage was a huge blow to the area farmers, as family farms were completely self-sufficient.
Damage to crops by insects, drought, and severe weather was common, and area residents worked together to recover.
Residents spent the next weeks digging out from the storm and assisting their neighbors. Only one confirmed casualty occurred, caused by a lightning strike.
Kris Leonhardt may be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 51, Marshfield, WI 54449 or email at [email protected].