Flashback Friday: Windstorms

 Bethphage Mission

On these hot, dry days, here’s a Flashback Friday story that reminds us of the ferocity of nature and the determination of people who serve in spite of obstacles.

This excerpt comes from Heart of the Hill, by Robert Turnquist.  He dedicated his entire career to serving at (now Mosaic in Axtell).  The book was published in 1987 and copies are a rare find today.

“Dust and Dismay in the Dirty Thirties”

“When the occasional strong gales come with what seems almost hurricanic force, one wonders what it must have been like on the Axtell prairies in the drought years, especially in 1935, the year of unbelievable winds and veritable mountains of dust.

“Merinda Norblade and her sister-in-law, Viola Norblade, don’t have to wonder.  They lived through that experience at Bethphage where they were employed.  … Merinda told a dust storm story about the Ten-Virgin Window.  This beautiful art glass window was for many years set in the north wall of the music room which adjoined the parlor in old Home Sarepta. It was located immediately above the ornate upright piano. …


“Mrs. Nordblade explained that the wind blew with such tornadic violence that she and Viola held a large piece of board flush against the inner surface of the somber-toned masterpiece until the wind subsided somewhat, to prevent its being blown in by the force of the storm. …

“ … (T)here has been nothing like 1935.  Probably it was Walter Boline, the ‘farm boss’ at the time, who tied a long rope, looped it carefully around each of the people who were working on the farm, and groping his way through the visually impenetrable dust, lead them home to Emmaus. …

“Sister Edna Palmblade was a native of Axtell. … She had been visiting there was one of the fiercest storms hit. … She set out for the Mission.  It is nearly half a mile from Axtell to the Mission, and the road in those days was dirt.  There is, however, a sidewalk … which extends the entire distance. … Sister Edna followed this route, but when she crossed the road to the Mission, she encountered more problems. It was simply impossible to see, even a foot ahead.  She had no alternative but to crawl on her hands and knees from the entranceway of the Mission to the front door of Sarepta. … Here hands and knees were reportedly bruised and bleeding when she finally found refuge.  Her fortitude, determination, and devotion to duty were not atypical of the Bethphage Sister.”

(Sarepta and Emmaus were the names of residential buildings at Bethphage Mission. Sarepta was home to the deaconesses who devotedly served for decades there.)





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