House Demolished Near River Henry Residence

One of my distant Schumm cousins sent me this interesting photo of a house a couple miles east of Willshire that was nearly demolished about 100 years ago.

Home near Willshire c1920. (photo submitted by Carol Schumm Piper)

The home was near River Henry Schumm’s home on route 81 near the St. Marys River. River Henry was Carol’s great-grandfather, the father of her grandfather Herman Schumm. The photo is from her grandfather’s photo collection. It looks like the photo could have been taken in the 19-teens, judging by the dress on the woman standing in the doorway. It is too bad the branches are hiding her face.

Carol said the photo is simply labeled Near Willshire and her grandfather said it was a neighbor’s house. Carol wondered if it was damaged by a tornado.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Several tornadoes have gone through this part of the country over the years, some of them doing considerable damage, especially in the Willshire area. Two notable tornadoes hit the area in March of 1918 and March of 1920.

Did one of those tornadoes damage this house? Or was it something else?

The 1918 and 1920 tornadoes both occurred in March. I noticed that there were leaves on the fallen branches in the above photo and on the tree in the background. Today is March 31st and there are no leaves on the trees here yet.

Possibilities include that it was an early spring in 1918 or 1920 and one of those tornadoes hit the house; a different tornado or high wind hit the house during a summer month; something else destroyed the house; they were tearing down the house. Whatever happened, there were lots of branches scattered around. It looks like wind damage.

Then there is that big X on the one wall. We wonder what that was all about.

A few years ago I wrote about the 1920 tornado that went through this area and caused considerable property damage and loss of life. [1] In that blog I posted some old photos that showed some of the wind damage from what I believe to be that storm. The photos were some that my mom had and so they were likely taken around the area where she grew up, on the Schumm farm a couple miles east of Willshire.

Possibly 1920 Van Wert County Tornado, east of Willshire

Van Wert County Tornado

Possibly Louis Schumm Farm

I originally wondered if these photos were taken at my great-grandfather Louis J. Schumm’s farm, which he purchased in 1878. My mom and other immediate family members had heard only that their orchard was destroyed by a tornado years ago, not of any damage to any of their buildings. These photos could have been taken at their neighbors’ farms. And there are leaves on the trees in most of the photos.

Clean up and rebuilding in Van Wert County

According to newspaper accounts there were 14 barns destroyed in Willshire Township during the 1920 tornado. The damage reported: Louis Schumm, barn down; William Buechner, barn destroyed and dwelling seriously damaged; Otto Stetler, barn destroyed and three dead horses; Robinson house and barn down; Jesse Boyer and Jesse Weiler, houses and barns badly wrecked; barns destroyed at Jacob Gunsett, Thomas Friedly, Maynard Stetler, Jesse Tickle, and Dudgeon farms. The George F. Robinson farm in Van Wert County occupied by Frank Wright was swept of its buildings.

Did the house in Cindy’s photo belong to one of the above-mentioned families? Could be.

More about the 1920 storm:

On Sunday, 28 March 1920 at 7 o’clock in the evening, a group of destructive and deadly tornadoes struck the area. The storm swept through portions of eight states and followed a path similar to that of the 1918 tornado. Although the 1920 storm was not as wide across as the tornado two years before, it was more serious. It came from the southwest, crossed parts of Mercer County and went on into Van Wert and Auglaize Counties. Just about every township in Van Wert County, as well as portions of Mercer, Auglaize and Darke Counties were struck by the high winds. Also hard hit were Monroeville, Bryant, Geneva, Berne, and Zulu in Indiana.

Below are some newspaper excerpts from the 1920 storm. Note that the Willshire Herald called the storm a hurricane.

Tearing on east the hurricane struck the Willshire territory in the Milo Campbell-W.E. White neighborhood, spreading out from one-half to one mile in width…The Campbells were left without shelter…Will Evans had his house wrecked and barn demolished. The Duckcreek church was razed and the wreckage strewn over ten acres of ground. The M. Branstetter place was hard-hit, as were the G.W. Sapp, Perry Hoblet, Jesse Tickly, Frank Dudgeon, Elmer Stetler, Floyd Friedly and many others.

Coursing northeast the hurricane struck the Ridge territory with terrific force. The Shell brick school house was leveled to the ground; Audie Stetler’s barn was demolished and several horses and a cow killed; the F.C. Myers and Mart Stamm, E.A. Acheson, Joe Doner, John Wright, Jesse Wheeler, Jesse Boyer and Wm. Buechner farm buildings were all badly damaged, and over in Liberty Township the big barn on the J.M. Dull farm was wrecked and his fine brick house damaged. Wm. Rader in Ridge Township was instantly killed and Mrs. Rader died while being taken to the hospital in Van Wert.

The storm in it greatest severity crossed Mercer County in two places, the northwest and southeast corners. In the northwest part the Duckcreek Church in Blackcreek Township seemed to be the first object on which the wind vented its fury; the structure was laid flat. And from this point northeasterly on into Willshire Township, Van Wert County, the wrecked homes and farm buildings, and other debris, plainly mark the storm’s path. No less than 25 farm homes were badly damaged and but few places escaped injury of some kind.

The large barn of Charles Schumm on the Willshire Road was badly twisted by the storm. Among the heavy losers from the cyclone in Blackcreek Township are Wm. Evans, Mike Branstetter, Wm. Hamrick, Milo Campbell, Oscar Krall, John McGough, Clarence Hoblet, Frank Dudgeon, and many others. All suffered the demolishing of houses or barns or both and had narrow escapes from injury. Nearly everyone lost livestock of some kind.

And finally, from the History of Duck Creek Church, Mercer County: Late in the evening of March 28, 1920, just after dark, the church was completely blown apart by a cyclone. It destroyed the church building and turned over or broke cemetery stones, but the church bell came straight down and was later moved and used in the Mount Hope Church, four miles to the west.

Thanks to Carol for sharing this photo. We may never know who all these buildings belonged to or when all this damage occurred.


[1] 1920—Devastating Hurricane Visits Willshire Vicinity , 8 July 2011, Karen’s Chatt.

Newspaper sources:

The Willshire Herald, 2 April 1920
The Van Wert Daily Bulletin, 29 & 30 March 1920
The Van Wert Times, 29 & 30 March 1920
Van Wert Twice Weekly Bulletin, 30 March & 1 April 1920
The Rockford Press, 2 April 1920



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    • Brian Brewster on March 31, 2017 at 7:56 pm
    • Reply

    I have a large article from the Geneva Herald about the 1920 tornado in Jefferson Township. It is very brittle but in relatively good shape. tells about Daniel Brewsters barn being destroyed.

    1. I did not know that! Where was that barn located? I am not sure I remember where Daniel lived. There was certainly widespread damage from that storm. And to think that there was no way to warn people back in those days that a tornado was coming. Thanks for writing.

    • Carol Piper on April 1, 2017 at 9:42 am
    • Reply

    Great write-up, as usual, Karen. Thank you!

    1. Thank you for sending me the mystery photo. Too bad that woman was hidden behind the branch and too bad there wasn’t more information on the photo. It is a very interesting photo.

    • Brian Brewster on April 5, 2017 at 7:13 am
    • Reply

    Daniels lived 2 places. Both Kefferson Twsp. Just north of Jack Weavers in what is now a field and to the last where Wayne Weavet now lives. On the Jefferson Schoolhouse road. These are the only 2 places I know of and not sure of dates.

    1. Thanks, Brian! Good information.

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