A look back at the tornado of 1956

Tornadoes stormed through Allegan County on April 3, 1956. Here's a look back.

It’s been 67 years since West Michigan was hit by a deadly tornado. Laketown Township homes and property were damaged and residents injured. Excerpts follow from The Holland City News of April 5, 1956, and The Saugatuck Commercial Record of April 13, 1956.

More about the tornados can be found under the “Township History” tab on the township website.

Holland City News

The tornado hop-scotched over Allegan County, leaving fallen barns and homes, countless trees and debris scattered over wide areas.

Most extensive damage probably occurred at the Rivulet Hurst Dairy on 61st St., a half mile west of Graafschap Rd. Mrs. Gerald Scholten, wife of one of the dairy co-owners, said damage was in the thousands of dollars. One new barn was demolished, another big barn has the south end torn off. Apparently there was little damage to the plant itself, the homes and the cattle. The Scholtens had hurried their family to the basement as the funnel approached. Venturing out later, they found the tool shed gone, tools buried under debris and 50 head of cattle scattered from the barns. All the cattle were safely returned later by neighbors. …

According to J. Henry Gebben, operator of a Graafschap grocery store who surveyed the damage with the fire department, a number of homes and barns were destroyed. A house owned by Louis Ensing, occupied by the Jerry Genzinks, a half mile east of Graafschap on Castle Park road, was demolished. …

Another hard-hit area was Gibson. James Boyce, Allegan County treasurer, was hospitalized, his wife received minor injuries and their daughter Patricia was unhurt as they were hurled out of their house by the tornado. The house and barn were demolished and three cars were wrecked.

Mrs. Joseph Wolf was home with her young son, Tommy, while her husband was attending a dinner meeting. Their house “just disappeared” and both Mrs. Wolf and Tommy were hospitalized. Tommy was found in a field almost a block from where the house had stood. …

The Commercial Record

It will be a long day before Allegan County forgets April 3, 1956.

It was on that day, at 7:45 p.m. that two tornados slashed almost parallel paths across the county. The first struck at Saugatuck, ranging northwest across Laketown and Fillmore. The second entered the county at the southwest corner, through Cheshire Township, striking at Trowbridge and Allegan before entering northwestward through Hopkins and Watson into Barry County.

In the wake of the twin twisters, Allegan County Red Cross disaster workers totaled up the damage. Nineteen homes totally destroyed and 12 damaged. Twenty-six barns demolished and six more in severe need of repair. Eleven cars and trucks totally lost, two more damaged. Eleven cottages destroyed, four more damaged. More than 6,000 chickens killed and a score of other livestock lost.

Money-wise, the damage was expected to top three quarters of a million dollars with incidental losses not included.

By townships, the losses stood as follows. …

Laketown Township: Two houses lost, three damaged. Five barns lost, one damaged. Three trucks lost and four other buildings demolished. …

Boyce Home a Pile of Rubble

The Boyce house itself is just wreckage strewn spot on the earth. Came the rushing wind and noise and the house was scattered over at least three acres.

Only a pile of broken boards remain to mark the spot where the home of James Boyce, Allegan County treasurer, once stood. Mr. Boyce’s house and barn were directly in the path of Tuesday’s tornado and both were completely destroyed. Mr. and Mrs. Boyce, who were in the house at the time the twister struck, were taken to Holland Hospital where they remained a few days for treatment. They have since been released. Their daughter was unharmed. …