The lady sat in her rocker, smoking her pipe, and told me strange stories of days gone by.
“Sometimes strange things fall out of the sky,” she began.
“Back in 1901, there were fish falling from the sky here in Independence, where it was estimated that nearly a ton of small, silver-colored fish fell from the sky and covered the town square. People scrabbled from everywhere, picking them up by the handful, but some just complained because there were none big enough to be considered keepers and wondered where on Earth they came from.”
In the July 12, 1873 issue of Scientific American, it was similarly reported that Kansas City had experienced a shower of frogs that darkened the air and covered the ground. Those people who cabbaged on to the frogs declared they were a delicacy from the heavens and hurried home to fix frogs legs for supper.
Freak storms of such geese, fish, snakes and frogs have periodically been reported around the globe over the years. They are thought to be caused by water spouts or even tornados sucking such critters from bodies of water and depositing them many miles away.
I mentioned geese, because in 1943, a storm dropped more than 200 geese on the town of Galena, Missouri along Route 66, west of Joplin. They were probably victims of a lightning strike, because the folks who tried to eat them complained because they had an odd electrical taste.
Fish, geese and frogs are not the only things that drop from the sky. Tornados are notorious for carrying debris they pick up and dropping it many miles away. I well remember the 1957 Ruskin Heights Tornado that tore through the Ruskin Heights High School. The tornado deposited school books and classroom property across my grandparent’s farm some 25 miles northeast of Ruskin along the Missouri River bluffs. My grandfather made a phone call to the proper authorities, and several gentlemen in trucks arrived and picked up every piece of the debris from one end of the farm to the other.
In 1995, a tornado hit the Double Cola bottling plant in Moberly, Missouri, depositing hundreds of unopened cans of Double Cola over 150 miles away in Keokuk, Iowa.
The lady went on to say that back in 1833, on the night of Nov. 12, “A meteor shower, like had never been seen before, lit up the skies over northwestern Missouri. Meteorites fell from the sky by the tens of thousands, and estimates ran as high as 200,000 per hour. The meteor shower was well visible across Eastern Jackson County, but those people who lived along the Missouri River directly underneath the shower watched in awe and many assumed it must be a sign from heaven, wondering if the sky itself was falling. Both fear and joy gripped the religious community of the approaching apocalypse.”
Today we know that the meteor shower was the result of the earth passing through the tail of the Temple-Tuttle Meteor, but in 1833 no one had a clue.
The lady in the rocker said the Prophet Joseph Smith commented on the event: “I arose, and to my great joy, beheld the stars fall from heaven like a shower of hailstones; a literal fulfillment of the word of God, as recorded in the Holy Scriptures, and a sure sign that the coming of Christ is close at hand.”
However, here in Independence, many locals felt that the fire and brimstone from the sky was more likely a sign that they should rid themselves of the Mormon population. The experience excited superstition and fear in many and was simply another reason to justify the expulsion of the hundreds of Mormons, who believed that Independence was their Zion.
Reference: “Forgotten Tales of Kansas City,” by Paul Kirkman.
Reach Ted W. Stillwell at Ted@blueandgrey.com or 816-896-3592.