At the turn of the last century the residents of Carbondale’s west side thought a cyclone had swept through their neighborhood. Today, meteorologists would have called the storm a tornado.
No matter what it is called the mile-long black funnel shaped cloud that struck on the evening of Aug. 30, 1905, was something to behold.
According to news reports of the day, nearly every home on 42nd Street was either moved off its foundation or demolished. One woman was said to have been swept off her feet and carried 65 feet before being deposited shaken and bruised in a neighbor’s yard.
Livestock in the area were also swept up by the winds and deposited in the most unlikely places.
On Thorn Street, a barn was lifted from its foundation and smashed to smithereens. A horse that was inside was lifted into the air and ended up in a nearby cornfield. Another horse, this one tied outside a barn on Canaan Street, was deposited unharmed on the front porch of its owner’s home.
My grandparents’ home at 70 Green St. was right on the edge of the storm’s path. It escaped injury but my grandfather, Ed Pethick, was one of those who went to the aid of their neighbors. I remember my grandmother telling about the harrowing experiences.
The late Jack Hiddlestone, local historian and postcard collector, told about the events of that evening in the December 1993 issue of the Lackawanna Historical Society Journal.
It was big news in Carbondale but apparently didn’t make the front pages of the Scranton papers. It merited only Page 3 of the Republican, one of the predecessors of today’s Times-Tribune.
It was about 8:45 p.m. on a Wednesday night when the twister swept in from the northwest, cut a swath 200 feet in width along 42nd Street, continued across Dundaff Street and the D&H Railroad yards, finally dying out over the Belmont and Canaan Street areas.
Thirty homes were reportedly affected —some moved from their foundations, others reduced to piles of rubble.
Two of the homes involved were those of the Patrick Cuff and William Pope families. The Cuff home was badly damaged but the Pope structure was moved 25 feet before being turned into a pile of kindling.
Mr. and Mrs. Pope were not injured, but their three children who had already turned in for the night were trapped in their bed. That’s where my grandfather came on the scene.
According to a story I have heard many times, he and Pat Cuff picked through the rubble and rescued the Pope children from the debris. They suffered only minor bruises.
One of them, Billy, later operated a saloon for many years in the Casino Hall building on Seventh Avenue. The same building housed The Scranton Times Carbondale office where I worked for a short period of time. I remember enjoying the delicious hamburgers Billy did in a black cast iron frying pan. They made a great lunch.
Ed E Rogers is a Carbondale native who spent more than 70 years as a reporter and editor for regional newspapers. He frequently shares his memories of his home town with Advantage readers. He can be reached at EdERogers@aol.com.