Historical Images of Porter County

Ruins of Catholic Church, Kouts, Ind.
Kouts, Indiana

Date: May 26, 1917
Source Type: Photograph
Publisher, Printer, Photographer: Kouts Centennial Book (1965)
Postmark: Not applicable
Collection: Steven R. Shook
Remark: St. Mary's Catholic Church in Kouts was destroyed by a tornado on May 26, 1917. On this date, northern Illinois and Indiana experienced a significant weather event spawning a tornado that caused significant destruction. The storm system spawning the tornado began at 3:10 pm in Mendota, Illinois, and traveled at a rate of approximately 40 miles per hour. The storm headed in a primarily easterly direction with a very slight southern tilt, traveling just north of Elwood, Illinois, then between Crown Point and Cedar Lake, Indiana, through Hebron, and then ending in Kouts at 5:56 pm. Intense darkness was reported by those directly in the path of the storm. In Illinois, hail stones from the storm system were measured to be the size of hen's eggs, while in Porter County hail stones measuring six to ten inches in circumference and one-half pound in weight were reported to have fallen thickly in the area. Property loss in Porter County alone was estimated to $500,000 (approximately $8.4 million in 2008 dollars). In Porter County, the mile wide tornado killed two individuals, D. B. Resh, an old farmer, and fifteen year old Julia Lane. Numerous livestock were also killed, twelve family dwellings were destroyed, and significant timber and orchards in the path of the twister were heavily damaged or destroyed. The Porter County Red Cross, which was founded just one month before this tornado (April 26, 1917), raised $2,000, while the American Red Cross appropriated $3,000 to Porter County for contingency relief. These funds were used to assist forty families in Porter County.

The seeds for the construction of the church, seen demolished here, were planted in 1883 at meeting of local Catholics that raised about $700. A picnic to raise funds for the construction of the church was held on July 24, 1884. Father O'Reilly, from Valparaiso, then purchased the church lots (Lots 3 and 4 in Block 2 of the Wright's Addition) from Hillary A. Wright in September 1885. The church was constructed so that the building could easily be converted into a parochial school house should the congregation grow to significant size. After its destruction, the congregation soon rebuilt an "underground church" or "basement church." During the rebuilding, a church rectory was built in the adjacent lot. In 1926, the present church was constructed over the old basement church.

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Image and related text prepared by Steven R. Shook


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