Wolbrand “J.W.” Duitsman, Wessel Hoek, and Klaas Meyer Killed When Lightning Hits Church, June 6, 1913
The Freeport Daily Standard, Saturday, June 7, 1913
LIGHTNING HITS CHURCH; KILLS 3; BUILDING BURNS
BOLT PLAYS HAVOC IN GERMAN REFORMED HOUSE OF WORSHIP, BAILEYVILLE
VICTIMS WERE RESTING IN VESTIBULE, BENEATH STEEPLE
Fourth Man Slightly Injured; was ‘Clean-Up’ Day at Church – Edifice Burned to ground
J. W. DUITSMAN, age 60.
KLAAS MYER, age 35.
WESSEL HOEK, age 30.
Three prominent residents of Baileyville were instantly killed and a fourth resident was badly bruised about 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon when the German Reformed church of that place was struck by a bolt of lightning. Scores of others who were in the church were uninjured, but were badly frightened. The entire edifice was destroyed by the fire, which resulted from the bolt. The three men who were killed were J. W. Duitsman, aged 60; Wessel Hoek, aged 30, and Klaas Meyer, aged 35. Henry Meyer, brother of one of the victims, Ontje Oltman and George Geiken were near by when the three others were killed, but only Mr. Oltman was injured.
The lightning bolt struck the steeple of the church, under which the victims were sitting, and a peculiar fact is that only the men who were sitting down were killed, the three who were standing being unhurt, except Oltman.
HAD BEEN CLEANING CHURCH
There were eight men and about fifteen women and girls in the church at the time and they were thrown into a wild state of hysteria when it was learned that the church had been struck and the three men had been killed. Two of the three victims were only slightly burned by the lightning, but the body of Mr. Hoek was burned considerable. Hoek was struck directly on the top of the head by the lightning. All three were thrown from the benches on which they were sitting at the time. Ontje Oltman, the young man who was injured, was knocked down, sustaining a severe shock and bruises about his right leg.
It appears that yesterday was “clean up” day at the church and about thirty people had gathered at the edifice to assist in the work of cleaning out the church. They had been working since noon and when the storm broke they stopped work to watch the rain. They had rested but a short time when the church was struck. The women and girls who were assisting in the work were in another part of the edifice at the time, and when they learned what had happened they rushed from the building, screaming loudly.
AN OLD EDIFICE
The church, which was destroyed, was erected almost fifty years ago. It was a frame structure. Only the stone foundation of the building remained when the flames had spent their fury, and late last night the ruins were still smoldering.
All three of the victims were prominent residents of that village.
Mr. Duitsman, who was sixty years of age, was a pioneer member of the church in which he met his tragic end. He was the father of Jacob Duitsman, of this city, and is survived by his wife and six children.
Mr. Meyer is survived by a wife and three children. He resided one mile northwest of Baileyville. The other two victims resided in the village.
Mr. Hoek was a prominent young resident of that place and is survived by his wife and one child.
The accident is the most distressing of the kind ever recorded in that vicinity and shortly after the occurrence practically every farmer and resident within a radius of several miles rushed to the scene to offer aid to the grief stricken families. The farmers fought the flames, which enveloped the church, but their efforts were of no avail.
Dr. J. C. Akins, county coroner, of Forreston, was notified of the killing of the three men shortly after the dead bodies were found. He came to Baileyville late in the afternoon and conducted inquests. Verdicts of death from a stroke of lightning were returned.
CONDITION OF BODIES
The bodies of the victims were not as badly burned as had often been the case in similar mishaps. Hoek’s body was the most severely burned. Apparently the bolt struck him on the top of the head and passed down through his body. His hair was singed from his head, there were bad burns along his right leg so that the skin dropped off when the clothing was removed, and his right foot was deeply burned. The sole of his shoe on the right foot was torn loose and charred by the bolt.
Meyers’ hair also was burned, and there were burns and bruises on his left harm. The bones at the elbow were fractured.
There were few marks on the body of Duitsman. The left cheekbone was bruised and there were burns on the abdomen.
According to the testimony given at the inquest two of the victims were sitting on a bench on one side of the church vestibule when the lightning struck, and the third was seated on the bench at the opposite side of the vestibule. A fourth man, Oltman, was seated on an inverted water pail near by. Several other men were standing near by.
The men had been building new steps in front of the church and when the storm came they all went inside for shelter. The women of the “clean-up day” party all were in the rear of the church at the time the storms broke. The women said that when the lightning struck the church they saw a great ball of fire descend into the vestibule. They knew at once that the building had been struck, and all rushed toward the vestibule. They were horrified to find four of the men lying on the floor, three of them dead.
J. W. Duitsman was 60 years old on the eighth of last March. He was born in Germany. Mr. Duitsman was a retired farmer and had been living in Baileyville for more than a year. He was married on February 12, 1880, to Elizabeth Pfeil. Eight children were born to them, two of whom are deceased. The surviving children are Mrs. Lillie Becker, wife of George Becker, of Sioux Falls, S.D., Mrs. Grace Janssen, wife of John Janssen, of Kings, Ill., Mrs. Lottie Ross, wife of Will Ross, of Silver Creek, and Elizabeth, at home. He also leaves one brother, John, of George, Iowa., and four half-brothers, who live near Forreston. There also are two step-sisters and a half sister.
Wessel Hoek was about 29 years old. He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Kort Hoek, of Baileyville. The young man was a farmer and resided about a mile and a half from Baileyville. He was married three years ago to Miss Tillie Burma, who with one child, a daughter, Esther, survives. His parents and two sisters also survive him. The parents lived in Baileyville. The sisters are Jennie and Hiska, both living at home.
A double funeral for two of the three victims of the Baileyville church tragedy will be held on Monday at Baileyville. Short services will be conducted at noon at the homes of the late Mr. Duitsman and Mr. Hoek. The Revs. Bracker, pastor of the church that was destroyed, and Rev. Myers, pastor of the Baptist church, will officiate. Services will be held at 12 o’clock at the Baptist church.
Mr. Hoek will be buried in Scott’s Cemetery and Mr. Duitsman in Oakland Cemetery, west of Freeport.
Mr. Myers’ funeral will be held at 11 o’clock Monday morning from the home. The remains will be taken to Forreston for burial.
The Freeport Daily Standard, Saturday, June 7, 1913
TELEGRAPH WIRED DOWN EAST AND SOUTH OF HERE, AS A RESULT OF STORM
During the severe storm of yesterday many of the telephone and telegraph wires of the Illinois Central Railroad Company east and south of here were torn down. Forces of men were put to work this morning in repairing the wires and they were in working order this afternoon.
The Freeport Daily Standard, Saturday, June 7, 1913: BAILEYVILLE PEOPLE HAD NO FIRE APPARATUS TO FIGHT FLAMES……PIPE ORGAN, FURNITURE AND CARPETS ARE SAVED…….BIRDS’ NESTS IN PINNACLE OF TOWER, IGNITED BY LIGHTING, SPREAD FIRE……….Bits of straw, hay and other material carried by sparrows into deserted woodpeckers’ nests in the top of the German Reformed Church steeple at Baileyville, which was struck by lightning Friday afternoon it is believed was responsible for the destruction of the church by flames. The steeple is about thirty feet high from the base at the roof of the church to the pinnacle. For half an hour the flames burned slowly downward from the pinnacle of the steeple while scores of people were standing nearby unable to extinguish them because there were no fire fighting facilities.
In the pinnacle of the steeple, woodpeckers had drilled holes for many years past and the tip of the tower was fairly honeycombed.
The birds, which bored the holes in the steeple had deserted them and sparrows then occupied them. The sparrows use quantities of hay, straw, feathers and similar materials for their nests and it is believed that when the bolt of lightning struck the tip of the steeple, the hay and straw in the birds’ nests ignited.
There was only a small blaze on the top of the steeple after the shaft of lightning had descended and killed three men. Ladders were secured and men climbed upward in an effort to throw water on the burning steeple. They were unable to get the water to the top of the steeple and were forced to stand by and watch the flames slowly creep down the tower, and finally destroy the church.
Finding that there was no way to extinguish the flames, the church members turned their attention to the saving of the contents of the building.
The small pipe organ, valued at about $700, was taken apart and removed. All the pews, chairs, books, the pulpit and even the carpets and everything else in the church was saved. The flames burned a half hour on the steeple before reaching the church proper.
The church was built about 50 years ago. It was valued at between $2,500 and $3,000. There is $1,600 insurance on the church, Rev. Bracker is pastor.
Damage from Wind and Hail
Crops around Baileyville were cut down by hail; and large areas were inundated by the heavy rainfall. Trees were uprooted in several places and large limbs were broken off.
At the S. Wilkin farm, just this side of Oakdale campgrounds, the wind lifted a cherry tree, which was located just in front of the house, out by its roots and laid it down a few feet away.
Reports from German Valley are that the storm was not so severe there. There was a heavy rainfall, but no hail and not a great deal of wind. The storm was south and east of German Valley.
A silo on the Peter Boomgarden farm in Silver Creek, located on the South Freeport Road, was blown down by the storm yesterday. The silo fell over against an ice house demolishing the front part of the building. A few staves in the silo were broken and also the roof, but the remainder was intact.
A silo on the Emery Peck farm, north of the E. A. Aspinwall farm at Van Brocklin was blown down during the storm yesterday.
The Freeport Daily Standard, Saturday, June 7, 1913
HOUSE AT FORRESTON HIT BY LIGHTNING
Forreston, Ill., June 7. During yesterday afternoon’s storm lightning struck the residence of Herman Meyers, doing slight damage. Mrs. Meyers sustained a slight shock and was in a very nervous condition for some time afterward.
There was no damage done in this vicinity by the storm.
CAR IS BLOWN AWAY BY WIND
Runs two and half miles before steep grade stops it……..A peculiar incident in connection with yesterday’s storm was the blowing of a Chicago Great Western car from a siding near the South Freeport depot onto the main track and eastward along that track for a distance of two and one-half miles before it encountered a grade steep enough to cause it to stop. The car was loaded with merchandise. When the big blow came at the outbreak of yesterday afternoon’s storm it blew the car from the side track onto the main track, the car running through three switches before it reached the main line, along which it sped with great rapidity.
W. W. Beattie, the operator at South Freeport, realizing the danger caused by the runaway car, immediately reported the matter, and the east and west agents were notified of the trouble. The nearest train at the time was at Byron, nineteen miles east of South Freeport, and the nearest train west was at East Stockton, twenty-four miles distant. It was fortunate indeed that there were no trains running close to South Freeport at the time the car ran away, or there might have been a serious accident.
It was remarkable that the car remained on the track after running through three switches.
Forreston Journal, June 11, 1913
(Forreston, Ogle Co, IL)
LIGHTNING KILLS 3 IN CHURCH; BURNS BUILDING
Baileyville German Reformed Church Destroyed By Flames
J. W. Duitsman, aged 60
Klaas Meyers, aged 35
Wessel Hoek, aged 30
These three prominent men were instantly killed by a bolt of lightning that struck the Baileyville German Reformed Church Friday afternoon about 3 o’clock when a severe electrical storm passed over Baileyville.
Friday was clean-up day at the church and men and women were at work, the women cleaning the inside of the church and the men laying cement walks, when the storm broke they went into the vestibule of the church. Meyers, Duitsman and Hoek were apart from the others and were in conversation when the bolt of lightning struck the steeple. According to witnesses when the men were struck, they seemed to rise, then fall, they were dead when reached by the others in the vestibule, none having uttered a word or groan. Henry Meyer, brother of Klaas Meyer, one of the victims, Ontje Oltman and George Geiken were near when the others when killed but none were injured but Oltman whose injuries were slight.
Mr. Duitsman was a pioneer member of the church in which he met his sudden death. He is survived by his wife and six children.
Mr. Hoek was a prominant young resident of Baileyville and leaves a wife and one child.
Mr. Klaas Meyer lived in Stephenson county along the west road leading from Oakdale camp grounds to Baileyville. He leaves a wife and three children. All are well known, and highly respected by all who knew them.
An examination of bodies by Coroner Akins of Forreston showed that Mr. Meyer’s hair had been scorched. His arm was broken by timbers from the steeple which fell over and around the men. Hoek’s body was the most severely burned. Apparently the bolt struck him on the top of his head and passed down thru his body. His hair was singed from his head, his left leg was so badly burned that the skin dropped off when his clothing was removed. The sole of his right shoe was torn loose and charred by the lightning.
There were but a few marks on the body of Duitsman. His left cheek was bruised and a few burns on his body.
The women were in the back part of the church and were not injured.
The organ seats and other fixtures were saved but the church building was burned to the ground.
The funeral of the three victims took place Monday. Klaas S. Meyer was buried at Forreston. J. W. Duitsman in Oakland near Freeport, and Wessel Hoek in Scott’s cemetery.
J. W. Duitsman was 60 years old on the eighth of last March. He was born in Germany. Mr. Duitsman was a retired farmer and has been living in Baileyville for more than a year. He was married on February 12, 1880, to Elizabeth Pfiel. Eight children were born to them, two of whom are deceased. The surviving children are Mrs. Lillie Becker, wife of George Becker of Sioux Falls, S. D., Mrs. Grace Janssen wife of John Janssen of Kings, Ill.; Mrs. Lottie Ross wife of Will Ross, of Silver Creek and Elizabeth, at home. He also leaves one brother, John of George, Ia., four half-brothers, who live near Forreston. There are also two step-sisters and a half sister.
Wessel Hoek was about 29 years old. He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. Kort Hoek of Baileyville. The young man was a farmer and resided about a mile and a half from Baileyville. He was married three years ago to Miss Tillie Burma, who with one child, a daughter, Esther, survives. His parents lived in Baileyville. The sisters are Jennie and Hiska, both living at home.