June 5, 1841

Saturday, 5th. Started early to get clear of our red visitors. Descried a large herd of buffalo on the opposite side of the river–saw several boats descending the river, laden with fur, robes, etc. They belonged to the American Fur Company–one of our Company, E. Stone, returned with them.

The latter part of the day was very inclement, high winds, dark clouds rushed in wild confusion around and above us. Soon with amazement we saw a lofty waterspout, towering like a huge column to support the arch of the sky; and while we were moving with all haste, lest it should pass over us and dash our wagons to pieces, it moved off with the swiftness of the wind and was soon lost among the clouds. Rain & hail succeeded, the largest hailstones I ever saw. Several were found, an hour after the sun came out bright & warm, larger than a turkey egg.

Another one of the emigrants, James John, described this same storm:

There came up a storm in the afternoon. The wind blew very hard and on the opposite side of the river a tremendous hurricane. We saw trees flying on the air and water blown our of the river a high apparently as the clouds. After the storm abated we traveled about one mile and found hail stones as big as goose eggs.

Tornadoes, hailstorms, and wild weather are nothing new to the Great Plains, but this was the first time these Americans had seen weather quite so spectacular.tornado-1999

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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