Filson Family Farm

Filson Family Farm

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The tornado that took my history away (Coplen/Severns lineage)

"The forecast for Wednesday April 3, 1974 was for showers on the East coast and for thunderstorms across the Midwest. In the heavens, a storm of an overwhelming magnitude was forming. Children went to school, people went to work and lives went on as normal until the second worst storm of the 1900's struck. Tornadoes broke across the heartland with such an intensity and frequency never seen before in the United States. Homes and schools destroyed. Loved ones lost..... 315 people who lost their lives in this storm and to the over 5,000 people who were injured."  - Scott Koerner.  1

I remember the day vividly. I was anxiously staring out of the Filson family farm window, watching a massive tornado cut across the Indiana cornfields. I didn't know at the time where the tornado had come from or where it was going. I was just glad it was passing the farm instead of heading towards it. What I didn't realize at the time was the significance the event would have on my genealogical research today. It wasn't until recently I realized the tornado was heading for my ancestral town. In a few minutes the tiny town of Talma, Indiana would be hit. Talma lies in New Castle Township in Fulton County, Indiana. This is the birthplace of my grandmother Grace Coplen and my great grandfather Elmer Coplen, and the home of my great grandfather Martin Van Buren Coplen.
 
The tornado that hit Talma was known as the “Monticello, Indiana Tornado”. Along with Talma, the nearby community of Rochester, Indiana was also devastated. The News Sentinel Newspaper of Thursday April 4, 1974 stated, “17 people were killed in the Rochester area, and law enforcement officers said the town of Talma was virtually wiped out.”
 
The F4 Tornado path as it passes Talma and Inwood, Indiana  2

I don’t remember Grandma Grace ever mentioning Talma to me. Most likely I never asked. I was too busy as a teenager to even care of such things. By the 1930s all my immediate family had left Talma and it was just another piece of land.
Talma school after the 1974 tornado  3
Arial photograph of the tornado destruction of Talma  3
Over the next few posting I will be writing about Talma, Indiana and the little community that is all but gone, but alive with my family’s history.

To read more about the “Super Outbreak” check out Wikipedia or the website for The National Weather Service. They have a page of photos published in the Rochester Sentinel of the destruction that hit Talma and Rochester in Fulton County.

Scott Koerner has put together an amazing site dedicated to the April 1974 event. He has a whole page of links that will lead you to videos of that day.

For a recap of the day, checkout this video about the weather from Accuweather

 
Sources:
1) Scott Koerner http://www.april31974.com
 
3) The Rochester Sentinel, April 4, 1974, via The National Weather Service

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