Fermilab History and Archives Project

A Boy's Memory of the Tornado of 1961 By Rodney Oxe

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"As a 14-year old boy growing up on his grandfather's farm, this day was pretty eventful. To start with, I was at my Uncle Mert's farm (Site 68), with my Grandpa and cousin Denny, filling the silo. Denny and I were unloading chopped corn and putting it in the silo while our Grandpa was in the field chopping corn. Rain had been threatening the whole day and it was very warm for September, but as long as it wasn't storming we could still keep working. It was around 2:00pm when the storm hit. Denny and I were unloading a haywagon and Grandpa was moving back and forth in the cornfield when the sky turned black as night and clouds were down on the ground. We stood and watched as it moved down Batavia Road. As fast as it started it was over. Grandpa walked out of the field while Denny and I were trying to restart the tractor. Once Grandpa got to the yard he told us we'd just experienced a tornado and that the grove of cottonwood trees out on the edge of our field was either gone or broken down. He helped us get the tractors restarted and we finished unloading so we could get out of the field.

When we got inside, my aunt had a phone call from the Hawks family stating that the tornado hit the Fitzgeralds' barn with the livestock in it and they needed our help down the road. When Grandpa and I got to the Fitzgerald farm the barn was almost flat on the ground. The hay was still intact and the neighbors were all helping to load hayracks and hauling the hay down the road to Lisle Hawks' barn (Site 65). After the tornado, the barn came to rest on top of most of Fitzgerald's livestock, cows and pigs. The members of the farm community, the Batavia Fire Department, and Dr. Jenkins, the local veterinarian, all tried to move hay and save Mr. Fitzgerald's animals. Dr. Jenkins had to put most of the animals down because they couldn't be rescued from underneath the collapsed barn. Damage from the tornado was worst at the Fitzgerald farm.

Roger Bartelt lost part of the roof of his house. His daughter, Marilyn, was upstairs preparing for the High School Homecoming Dance when the tornado hit. Her bug and leaf collections for school were blown away. Lisle Hawks lost the silo on his farm and Henry Giese lost a tool shed. My uncle's small grove of cottonwood trees was gone.

In the summer of 1963 another tornado came close, along the railroad tracks north of Wilson Street, but it went to West Chicago."

Farm Families

Farm Families