On Monday, April 28th, Jim Bales, local historian and President of the Chisholm Trail Museum Board, will present the program “A Turning Point In Sumner County: The 1892 Wellington Tornado”, a program about the 1892 tornado in Wellington, and how it affected Wellington’s business and the growth of the city, to the Sumner County Historical and Genealogical Society members and guests at the Wellington Senior Center, 308 South Washington, Wellington at 6:30 p.m. Contact Jane Moore at 620-447-3266 in case of inclement weather.
On May 27th, 1892, when a tornado hit the fast growing new town of Wellington, Kansas, there was no radar, no tornado sirens, no trained tornado spotters, and the tornado took everyone by surprise.
“About where the Memorial Auditorium was it took out an area about 2 blocks wide there,” Bales said, “That was probably the widest spot.”
There were no radios or televisions,” Bales said, “And people on the south side of town woke up the next morning and didn’t even know anything had happened.”
Bales has photographs of the damage. Lots of photographs. Using a Powerpoint presentation with maps and photos, Bales will track the path that the tornado took through Wellington, twisting through the new and bustling downtown area, cutting a two-block-wide swath in places, coming down at about West Harvey and the Rock Island tracks, and heading east towards the area of “B” and “C” streets.
Thirteen people died. More were injured. Buildings, banks, and homes were destroyed, and one man was picked up along with the timber that had him pinned down, and then dropped him off, mostly uninjured, about where Roosevelt school is now.
Bales will tell the stories that go along with the tornado, and will also talk about the lasting effect the tornado had on the city. According to Bales, Wellington had just gone through a big growth spurt following the end of the cattle drives and the beginning of large wheat harvests, and the tornado had a long-lasting and very negative impact on the growth of the city.
“At that time, Wellington was growing faster than Wichita, and we had a population of 12,000 people” said Jim Bales, “We lost several businesses and banks in the tornado and Wellington never did recover.”