Giant Oak on Berkey Farm Blown Down

Buildings and Trees are Wrecked by Hard Blow

The Giant of the Berkey woods, largest burr oak tree in the United States and possibly in the world, crashed to the earth through lesser timber in Tuesday morning's windstorm, which caused much other damage in Warsaw and throughout the county.

After six centuries, the towering Kosciusko county landmark, weakened by years of decay, yielded to the gale, its roots snapped at the seven-foot base and its lightning-scarred top described a great arc as its 124 feet height sprawled westward, taking two large neighboring trees and many smaller ones with it.

No one saw the giant fall or heard the crash.

Lloyd Silveus, who resides just west of the woods, had almost daily noted the top of the Berkey monarch jutting from the surrounding trees. As the half-hour gale diminished, Silveus, from force of habit, looked toward the tree-top. It was missing from the skyline. He made his way back through the woods and found the tree flat on the ground. Examining the butt of the tree he found that the heart had "doated" or decayed. Some of its huge roots had snapped off, others remained imbedded in the earth.

Was Centuries Old
Forestry experts had estimated that the tree was 500 or 600 years old. The diameter at the base was more than 7 feet, it had a limb spread of 96 feet and the distance from the ground to the first limb was 61 feet. The tree once greatly exceeded the 124 feet in height but sometime in the past lightning or wind tore out the top.

The Berkey woods, mecca of tourists because of the nationally-famous tree, is located four and one-half miles northwest of Warsaw on the old Jacob Berkey farm, now occupied by Hiram Berkey and owned by the Mart Berkey heirs.

Scores of other trees were down throughout the county, outbuildings were toppled over, larger buildings were partially de-roofed, billboards and signs were flattened or swept away and several narrow escapes from falling trees were reported in the wake of the storm, which struck at 8 a.m. and lasted until 9.

Close Call at Winona Lake
Fortunately the wind was from due east and many trees which might have crushed houses had they fallen at an angle passed between dwellings, inflicting only minor damage.

At Winona Lake, a falling tree missed Roy Shaw, chief of police, by a mere foot as he was backing his automobile from the fire station driveway.

The roof of the Willard Variety store, located on the main street of North Webster and managed by Carl Bockman, was almost completely torn off by the strong winds. The roof of the Waterford grade school, near Goshen, was lifted off and carried over state road 15 by winds estimated to be blowing between 55 and 70 miles an hour. Two children were taken to Goshen hospital for minor injuries and discharged. Warned by the breaking of a window, the school principal had the 150 pupils taken to the basement of the building where they were gathered when the roof was destroyed. Three ambulances were rushed to the scene from Goshen. Waterford is a small settlement south of Goshen.

Trees Down in Warsaw
Damages from wind in Warsaw kept Street Commissioner Ralph Kreamer and his crew busy. By mid-morning Tuesday, trees and large limbs were reported down at Park avenue and Arthur street, Park and Fort Wayne streets, Bronson and Main streets, South Detroit street, Pike and Union streets, and in the 700 block of North Lake street.

At Fort Wayne street and Park avenue a tree fell against the John Cook residence, slightly damaging the house. A house at 729 North Lake street, owned by Jesse S. Miller, was damaged by a falling tree. Roots of the trees tore up sidewalks when they fell.

Trees fell into wires and telegraph poles at 1403 East Main street, and at Pike and Union streets. Trees and limbs were reported down in Oakwood cemetery. The railroad warning flasher at the Big Four crossing on Market streets was blown down and badly damaged. Commissioner Kreamer was making frequent inspection trips to the flood gates and dike at the northwest corner of Center lake, where high waters caused a flood crisis a year ago. Although the water was rising, the situation there was believed to be well under control as the city had built the dike to new heights for added security.

Lowlands Flooded
The gale followed a night-long torrential fall of rain which flooded lowlands of the county and sent water up over highways in several places.

The wind disrupted telephone and teletype communications over a wide area in this part of the state. A limb blew down from a tree and fell across the top of a convertible coupe owned by William Chappel, of Country Club drive, a Conservation department employee, damaging the car considerably. Chappel's residence, owned by Francis Bowser, lost a part of its roof covering. Traffic was blocked on Country Club drive by fallen trees. Trees along the lake shore, where the wind was especially violent, were blown down, and shingles were blown off the roofs of homes all around Winona Lake. Atwood, Mentone, Claypool, and Leesburg reported minor damages.

Large Barn Destroyed
At Syracuse electric power was disrupted at 8:30 o'clock Tuesday morning. A large barn east of town was completely destroyed. The roof of the Liberty Coach Manufacturing company was partially destroyed. Many trees were reported down.

Milford reported electric power cut off at 7:30 a.m. A large onion-storage building collapsed, and a furniture manufacturing plant was badly damaged. A number of telegraph poles were down and barn roofs destroyed.

Etna Green reports that the lumber yard there has been flooded with orders for roof shingles. A large tree at the north end of town fell and seriously damaged a house. Many trees near the town were down. Trees and telegraph poles down are reported in Pierceton, but no serious damage.

Warsaw Daily Times Tuesday April 11, 1944


Warsaw Daily Times Tuesday, April 18, 1944 page 1

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