The Floods of 1913

Affected Communities

The following is some of what happened to various cities and communities those fateful weeks...

Akron, Ohio

The water in the reservoir just south of Akron, which supplied water for the Eerie Canal, topped the concrete dam at 2pm on Tuesday, 25th March. An inspection was made and cracks were found in the concrete. Riders were sent downstream to warn everyone which saved many lives when the dam finally burst on Thursday, 27th March. Seven lock gates along the stretch of the canal near Akron were dynamited in an effort to relieve the flooding.

Attica, Indiana

On the morning of Tuesday, 25th March water started to flood the southwestern part of town known as Texas. The next day water was running over the Chicago & Eastern Illinois railroad bridge and it was no longer regarded as safe.

Baroda, Michigan

On Easter Sunday, March 24, 1913, a tornado touched down 3 miles southeast of Baroda, wrecking several farm buildings, a windmill and killing three cows and a calf who were in a barn. A granary was carried some 20 to 30 rods (110 to 165 yards) and buried in the ground and part of a house was torn off.

Birds Point, Missouri

For several days Missouri National Guardsmen had been at work trying to strengthen the levee near Birds Point, Missouri. On Tuesday, 1st April a 600ft x 10ft section of the levee detached itself and started floating down the Mississippi River with 38 men still on it. They floated downstream for some distance before all being safely rescued by boat.

Broad Ripple, Indiana

The village, situated in north Indianapolis, was flooded for two and a half days. The jail suffered badly from the floods and the Freemasons lodge was used as an emergency shelter for people made homeless by the water.

Brookville, Indiana

Brookville, which is situated at the junction of the east and west forks of the White Water River, suffered badly in the floods. Five wagon bridges, the Big Four railway bridge, the railway station and a paper mill were completely destroyed. Twenty men were escorted from the city after they were found looting flooded homes and businesses. When the bridges were destroyed the water rushed down the White Water River like a tidal wave and engulfed the towns of Cedar Grove (six and a half miles downstream) and New Trenton (eleven and half miles downstream).

Caseyville, Kentucky

The town hall floated way on the rising flood water. A livery stable was about to do the same when it was tied to a tree.

Cedar Grove, Indiana

When the bridges at Brookville, six and half miles upstream on the White Water River, collapsed the water rushed down the valley in a torrent. The farm buildings of a Mr. Wilhelm at Cedar Grove were all washed away. He later rebuilt them on land 30ft higher than they were previously.

Chillicothe, Ohio

The Scioto River breached the East End levee, overran the sandbag levee behind Riverside Street, and seeped through the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad embankment to flood Yoctangee Park. This series of events was to be repeated during a flood in January 1959.

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati is in southwest Ohio and whilst places further north such as Dayton, Columbus and Zanesville were starting their relief work the flooding there had only just begun. A warning of what was about to come occurred on Tuesday, 25th March, when heavy rains all that day caused the Ohio river to overflow its banks causing local flooding. The White Water River just to the south of the city also swelled and washed away two bridges.

By Wednesday, 26th March, low lying areas to the east and west of the city were already flooded, the inhabitants had also heard what had happened to Dayton and Columbus that week and were busy moving their goods and chattels out of basements and first floors to second floors or to other places. The next day, low lying areas in the city were flooded, as were communities on the opposite side of the Ohio River in Kentucky such as Covington, where 500 houses were flooded, and Newport, where 120 square blocks were under water.

On Saturday, 29th March, Second Street was under nearly 5ft of water whilst Front Street was under 10ft of flood water. Both the gas and electricity supply failed. That night a huge explosion was heard. Water had reached the calcium carbide stores of the Union Carbide Company at Pearl and Elm Streets and the resulting acetylene had exploded.

As in other places the flood did immense damage but by Tuesday the waters the water finally started to drain away.

Cleveland, Ohio

In Cleveland, which sits on the shores of Lake Eerie, the bridge in the middle of the city carrying the New York Central railway over the Cuyahoga River was swept away by the flood. A steamer, the "Mack" was tied to it but this escaped major damage. In an effort to relieve the water a way was dynamited from the canals to Lake Eerie. The levee near the Cleveland and Akron Bag Company burst around 4am on Thursday, 27th March, sending a further millions of gallons of water into the streets.

Cleves, Ohio

About seven miles south of Cincinnati, parts of Cleves were flooded to a depth of 15 feet. The flood water swept away the railway embankment.

Columbus, Kentucky

Work on strengthening the half mile long levee had been going on for several days when work was stopped in the face of rapidly rising water on Monday, 31st March. At 5pm the same evening the levee was breached in several places flooding the town to a depth of 10ft in some areas.

Columbus, Ohio

Columbus was flooded on Tuesday, 25th March. The levees at Broad Street and at Sandusky Street were both swept away. As in Dayton, fires also started in flooded, abandoned buildings. Refugees from the flood reported to the City Hall where their details were taken so that families could be reunited. They were also given clothing and food. All except one bridge over the Scioto and Olentangy rivers were swept away or had collapsed. As in other places, there was a rumor that a dam, this time Griggs Dam which at 35ft high, holds back 1,200 million gallons of water was about to burst, the rumor was false and the dam held but as in Dayton the rumor did cause panic amongst the stricken populace.

Among the federal aid sent to Columbus were one million rations, 20,000 cots, 4,000 tents, 30,000 blankets, 100 hospital tents, 5,000 cans of milk for children, 5,000 wound dressings, 10,000 syringe needles and 5,000 doses of typhoid vaccine.

Dayton, Ohio

Dayton in 1913

Dayton in 1913

Above Dayton there were two reservoirs, the Powerhouse and the Lewiston. It was the smaller of the two, the Powerhouse reservoir, that overflowed, sending a huge amount of water into the already swollen waters of the Miami River.

Most of the levees at Dayton were built of gravel, around 20ft high, 35ft broad at the base tapering to 12ft wide at the top. The first levee to be breached on Tuesday, 25th March was the one at the confluence of Wolf Creek and the Miami River which first flooded the area around Third Street. A little later the one on the Miami at Webster Street near Main Street, burst sending a 10ft. high wall of water racing through Main Street.

At 5th and Brown Streets the water was around 10 ft. deep. The North Dayton, Riverdale, South Park, East Dayton and Edgemont sections of the city were all flooded with somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 people were trapped in the business section of the city who took refuge in various buildings, hotels and the YMCA.

Even though surrounded by water, several buildings caught fire. The fire started in a drug store around noon in the square formed by St. Clair, Jefferson, 2nd and 3rd Streets near the junction of Third and Main Streets. The fire spread both north and south, to the north it destroyed St. Paul's Evangelical Church and to the south it razed two large liquor warehouses. At around 3pm, the fire leapt across 3rd Street and started burning buildings in the square formed by St. Clair, Jefferson, 3rd and 4th Streets where a paint store was destroyed. People trapped in the area were seen running from rooftop to rooftop to escape the flames. Many people were eventually rescued from the area by means of a block and tackle slung across the streets and pulled into the Beaver Power building.

A trolleybus full of passengers was carried by the water until it was wedged against a large pole. Death seemed imminent to the people inside, until a young man jumped into the icy water to help with a rope around his waist. He struggled against the current, but eventually ran out of strength and gave up. Three more young men repeated his actions, until the fifth person finally reached the trolleybus and helped the trapped passengers to safety.

There were rumors that the Lewiston reservoir dam had collapsed and that millions more gallons of water were about to hit the city. Luckily these rumors were false but did cause widespread panic. As it was, some districts of Dayton were under 16 ft. of water.

Several bridges had to by dynamited. What was happening was that wreckage being washed down the rivers were building up against them and acting as a dam. The bridges were blown up in an effort to control at least some of the flooding.

On Thursday, 27th March several people were killed when a train carload of carbide exploded near the railway station. Calcium carbide when it come in contact with water produced highly inflammable acetylene gas. The same day the Naval Reserve from Toledo, OH, 150 miles north of Dayton arrived with 100 boats and it was then that the bulk of the rescue work was done. Thursday also saw a trainload of sightseers arriving from Springfield but the militia met the train and sent it back to where it had come from.

James M. Cox, Governor of Ohio was in Columbus when news of the flooding of Dayton reached him and he immediately realized the scope of the disaster and asked the federal government for aid. It wasn't just Dayton that was flooded, Zanesville and Marietta on the Muskingum River were also were and communications with these towns lost. Communications were lost to Fremont, Chillicothe, Middletown and Hamilton. It was known that dams had been breached at both Fremont and Chillicothe.

To coordinate the relief work, Governor Cox set up a Relief Commission with himself as chairman. The members of this were John H. Patterson, Homer H. Johnson, Jacob Schmidlapp, S. D. Richardson, George D. Lattimer, Colonel W. M. Wilson (treasurer) and James T. Jackson who represented the Red Cross. As in other places, the telegraph girls stayed at their posts helping to spread news of the floods and keeping the rescuers and relief committee in contact.

John H. Patterson, president of the National Cash Register Company in Dayton was one of the most proactive people of the floods despite being near 70. He set 150 of his carpenters to work building boats and rafts to help with the rescue operation and to help get food and fuel to those who needed it. The company premises were also used a hospital, morgue, registration clearing house for people looking for missing relatives and friends and as a store for the supplies that were being bought to the city. He also arranged for the company's cars and trucks to be used in the relief effort.

Dayton was under martial law on Thursday and all districts were being regularly patrolled. A curfew was imposed between 6pm and 5am. One of the first persons who was arrested was a man who had stolen $50,000 worth of diamonds from a flooded jewelry store. There were unofficial reports of up to half a dozen people being shot by the militia for looting and robbery. No-one was allowed to charge for relief supplies. The telephone system was being restored and there was no lack of food. When found in groceries and other stores unspoiled food was turned over to the flood relief committee. There was however still a shortage of drinking water and fuel of all types, including gasoline and coal. This meant that despite the freezing weather and being wet most people had to have cold meals with no chance to warm themselves.

On Tuesday, 25th March, at the start of the flood, the rain had turned to snow and sleet which added to the suffering but on Saturday, 29th March it was warm and sunny.

When the water finally started to recede on Friday, 28th March, there was remarkably little wreckage in the streets - most of it had been swept far downstream but everything the flood water had gotten to was covered in a thick layer of mud, sometimes 2 ft. thick. Many domestic animals were drowned in the flood and the bodies of around two hundred horses were burned in the streets. A drowned horse was found in the tellers cage of the First National Bank and another on the second floor of a department store.

By Sunday, 30th March, the water pumping station was back in operation. Water pressure was still feeble due to the number of burst pipes but at least there was some clean drinking water available. Water was still being distributed from outside the flooded area in kegs and barrels. The sewer system was slowly becoming usable. People without good cause for being on the streets, especially sightseers, were put to work helping to clear debris by the Ohio National Guard.

Major Thomas L. Rhoades , President Wilson's military aide, was placed in charge of the sanitary and permanent relief organization with Eugene T. Lies of the Red Cross as his assistant. Rhoades set up a tented city just north of Dayton. The homeless were temporarily housed there. Some people were reluctant to leave their homes even though they were in need of cleaning and fumigation and these were forced to the camp. Private vehicles were impressed by the authorities to help in the cleanup of the city. This included the removal and burning of hundreds of corpses of horses and other domestic animals.

By Monday, a small part of the city was once again illuminated by electric street lighting. Airplane pioneers, the Wrights, lived in West Dayton and fortunately their papers and factory survived the flood. A house near the factory caught fire but also fortunately, this did not spread and the work of Wilbur and Orville Wright was preserved. Not so lucky was Dayton's public library which lost nearly all of its collection, around 40,000 books and documents..

Dresden, Ohio

The suspension bridge over the Muskingum River, which was built in 1853, was destroyed during the flood. It was replaced by a new suspension bridge in 1914.

The New Bridge at Dresden

The New Bridge at Dresden, built in 1914

This postcard has no printed text but does have an AZO stamp box which dates the postcard from between 1904 and 1918.

Elizabethtown, Ohio

The Miami river was temporarily held back by the embakments of the Cincinnati, Lawrenceburg & Aurora electric line and the Big Four railroads, but these were all soon washed away. The Highway Bridge, with a span 586 ft. and at one time the longest single span bridge in the world, ended up as a twisted wreck of iron and concrete, at the bottom of the river. Soon after, the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern railroad bridge near the confluence of the Miami and Ohio rivers was also destroyed.

Fort Wayne, Indiana

By Tuesday, 25th March 2,000 homes in Fort Wayne had flooded. The flooded was further increased when the Lakeside levee on the St. Joseph River was breached in two places. After these breaches flooding occurred so fast that many people became trapped in their homes unable to reach higher ground. It was decided to evacuate the Allan County Orphan's Home and whilst in the process of doing this one of the boats capsized and four young girls were drowned. In another incidenet a man was drowned at the Main Street Bridge whilst trying to rescue a family trapped by the flood.

A relief committee was formed which consisted of Mayor Jesse A. Grice; City Attorney Harry G. Hogan; Harry Kauffman, secretary; and City Comptroller William S. Cutshall, treasurer who coordinated rescue and relief work. The police seized twenty boats from a Mr. Gunkle and they received two carloads of boats from Rome City, about 35 miles to the northwest.

Churches and lodges set up folding beds and provided cooking facilities in their halls. Many families in private homes made guestrooms available. The furniture dealers equipped the Princess Rink with cots, Foster Furniture Company, Fort Wayne Outfitters, Fox Brothers & Company, and Indiana Furniture Company placed the top floors of their buildings at the disposal of the authorities; they also supplied beds and bedding.

Guards with orders to shoot anyone who disobeyed a command to halt patrolled the flooded districts in boats. Since many doors in flooded houses had been left open to let the water run out, strict measures were necessary to protect property from looters. No one was permitted to visit his home in the flooded area without a permit from Chief of Police Dayton R. Abbott. The Mayor also issued a proclamation asking that all instances of overcharging for food, bedding, medicine, and other necessities be reported to the City Hall. Offenders were promptly prosecuted.

At one river stage, on 23rd March the river stood at 6.7ft, by the morning of 24th March it stood at 19.6ft. The highest point of flooding occurred at 11pm on Wednesday, 26th March when the river stood at 26.1ft. Altogether people were killed and around 15,000 people in and around Fort Wayne were made homeless.

Franklin, Pennsylvania

The Alleghany River and French Creek both burst their banks at Franklin. To add further misery to the town no fires could be lit because the flood waters were covered in a layer of Benzine from the refineries at Titusville.

Fremont, Ohio

A central supply station was opened Wednesday, 26th March in the Elks' Block, all food, as it reached Fremont, was taken to this station. Free lunch rooms were established at once at the city hall building, Elks' reception rooms, Presbyterian Church, Croghansville school house, and Grace Lutheran parish house.

In all disasters there are people who maintain a happy outlook. One man who had just completed a house and found it off its foundation and minus the porch, told rescuers that "the three feet of space between the foundation wall and the house would ventilate the cellar nicely," and "he didn't care much for the architectural design of the porch and had expected to tear it down anyway."

A party of fishermen arrived from Port Clinton, 16 miles to the northeast, arrived to help in the rescue and they did great work. Unfortunately, one of their member, Isaac Floro, was drowned when his boat was demolished after striking a tree at the corner of Howland Street and Ohio Avenue. His body was found tightly wedged in a tree.

Greenfields Landing, Missouri

A 300ft portion of the levee gave way early on the morning of Tuesday, 1st April, allowing flood water to cover most of Mississippi County in Missouri.

Hamilton, Ohio

Hamilton was a place that suffered greatly from the floods. flooding began rapidly on Tuesday, 25th March, and by that evening many householders were taking refuge on the roofs of their houses. Both the gas and electricity plants were under 10ft of water and these people spent a dark, cold night.

At 12:12pm on Tuesday, 25th March the Black Street Bridge collapsed. Shortly after, at 12:28pm the High - Main Street Bridge went followed at 2:12pm by Cincinnati, Hamilton & Indianapolis Railroad bridge. The Columbia Bridge in the south end of town survived until 2:15am on Wednesday, 26th March when it too collapsed. One of the reasons this bridge collapsed was that the Coliseum a huge hall used to host roller skating, dancing, boxing, dog and poultry shows, political meetings, banquets and a variety of community events was lifted off of its foundations at North B Street near Wayne Avenue and crashed against it.

The Royal Theatre stood at 35 Main Street, it was ruined during the floods of 1913 and never reopened. The Cullen and Vaughn Lumber Company on North B Street saw $20,000 worth of its inventory simply float away. Debris ripped apart a streetcar abandoned on North B Street. At its peak, water was 35' 8" deep at the juction of Main and B Streets.

Hamilton was the home of the huge Champion Coated Paper Company. This colossal plant, six blocks long and a block wide burst into flames shortly after midnight on Wedenesday, 26th March. Also ablaze was the Martin Lingler coal yard and buildings at the northeast corner of South Fourth Street and Maple Avenue. Beckett Company paper mill simply collapsed into the flood water on Sunday, 30th March. One thousand Champion employees were paid in a massive cleanup, removing mud and debris and salvaging machinery and paper to make way for a new plant. Within three months, on 15th June, the rebuilt mill was in full operation.

Ohio National Guardsmen arrived on the evening of Tuesday, 25th March, but could do little during the night due to the lack of electric lighting but they were of great help over the next few days. They were helped by Ben Strauss, S. D. Fitton and Homer Gard who formed a committee to enlist a volunteer police force to maintain order. Twenty-five young men volunteered within 30 minutes. Armed with guns appropriated from hardware stores, they patrolled downtown streets in pairs. This volunteer citizens police were given instruction to shoot any person caught looting any store and to arrest and jail any saloonkeeper who attempted to open and sell liquor. In fact, all saloons were closed down until 18th April.

The city health officer, Dr. A. L. Smedley, was named military health officer. His assistants included 20 soldiers from the U. S. Army hospital corps at Fort Monroe, Virginia; 50 rnen from the Ohio National Guard medical corps; and other men from the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers.

A hospital established in the Methodist Church on Ludlow Street averaged 35 surgical and 50 medical cases daily for three weeks. Most of the patients suffered from exposure, exhaustion and hunger. Safe drinking water was a problem until the Mason Brewery on South C Street supplied empty beer barrels. They were filled with water and mounted along Main Street, where cooking and drinking water could be collected.

A meeting of First Ward residents was called for 10am Wednesday, 26th March, at the Reformed Church at southeast Ross Avenue and D Street. The 77 people who attended elected John F. Neilan, the city solicitor, as the temporary mayor of the West Side, which was cut off from the rest of the city. He was charged with coordinating relief and cleanup until normal govenrment operations resumed.

A telegraph office was installed in the basement of the George P. Sohngen house. Hundreds of personal messages and inquiries were sent to the east side. Three young children set about the task of collecting money from the residents of the First Ward to help with the flood relief effort. Mary Louise Gale, Jack Gale and Lois Face dug dandelions and sold them for 10 cents a pail. They spent most of the day selling them and collected $2.25 which they turned over to the flood relief committee.

Incoming food was distributed from the Reformed Church at the soutleast comer of Ross Avenue and South D Street. The four-year-old Lincoln Elementary School at Crray Avenue and North E Street sheltered the homeless and also served as a supply center.

On Wednesday, the Lakeview Hotel which stood on one of the higher areas of ground and had provided a refugee for at least 50 of the newly homeless itself became a victim of the floods when it too collapsed. Luckily, there was some warning that it was about to be destroyed and it was abandoned in time.

Secretary of War, Lindley Miller Garrison toured the town as a representative of President Wilson on Sunday, 30th March. The same afternoon, a public funeral was held for 49 victims who had been identified by that date. Up until then Greenwood Cemetery had been under water. On 3rd April, the authorities, not sure if all the bodies had been found, offered a reward of $10 for each one recovered from the debris.

During the cleanup operation at least 260 horses and thousands of dogs, cats, chickens and other animals were collected and cremated in a city park. The town of Oxford, about 20 miles to the northwest of Hamilton gave unstintingly to the residents of Hamilton. When Hamilton authorities tried to pay for at least some of the aid and material given the authorities at Oxford sent the tickets back.

By April, a temporary connection between the east and west sides of the river was established by the use of a pontoon bridge. Cable for the span was donated and hauled here by the flood relief committee in Richmond, Indiana. The bridge, which was about tlree feet wide, provided a walkway between Dayton Street on tle east side and Park Avenue on tle west. But more rain and a still swollen river caused it to be closed at times. Part of the pontoon bridge washed away when it was struck bv driftwood.

Thursday moming, April 4th, nearly a month after the flood struck, the barge "J. K. Cullen" was launched to act as a ferry. It was named in honour of James K. Cullen, chairman of the Citizens' Relief Committee. The Cullen provided a much needed link across the city, but not without controversy. County Commissioner Frank Kinch directed the project, over opposition from the the other two commissioners. Although the county was responsible for the bridges, the other commissioners thought that the city should finance and direct the ferry.

None-the-less, Kinch went ahead and bought the $2,500 worth of materials needed to build the barge from Cincinnati and it was constructed on the east side of the river at the end of Buckeye Street. The barge was guided across the river by means of a cable. The power source to run it was supposed to be the current of the river itself but this proved to be ineffective and an engine had to be added. The ferry was the main connection across the river for around four months and it was later used by crews constructing a new High - Main Street bridge. The "Cullen" sank in 10ft of water on the east side of the river near the Soldiers. Sailors and Pioneers Monument on June 21st, 1914. The cause of this was found to be a leak, neglected pumping and overweight.

In March 2012, I got an email from Kathy Kennedy who lives in Florida. Kathy wrote that her mother, who was just 12 at the time, lived in Hamilton and survived the flood along with 26 others in the third story attic of their home.

Indianapolis, Indiana

On the evening of Tuesday, 25th March, the Morris Street levee was washed away. When Broad Ripple flooded the Monon tracks at Westfield Boulevard and Winthrop the foundations were washed from underneath so deep that a six foot man could stand under the tracks. Many houses were washed from their foundations and several bridges destroyed including the one at Washington Street. As in other places, loaded railway cars were placed on the railway bridges to help weigh them down against the weight of water.

On Wednesday, 26th March, the levee built to protect west Indianapolis started to crumble and was washed away at 10am. As well as this one the levees along White River, Fall Creek, Eagle Creek and Little Eagle Creek all failed. Parts of West Indianapolis were flooded to a depth of 30ft! Several bridges could no longer resist the amount water and debris piled against them. The Washington Street Highway Bridge, Indiana & Vincennes Railway Bridge, Kingan & Company Bridge all collapsed and were swept away.

The Vandalia Railroad Bridge over the White River managed to survive until Friday, 28th March, when it too collapsed taking 10 railway cars with it. The water started to recede on Monday, 31st March.

Irontown, Ohio

As in other places, fire followed shortly after the flooding and several buildings were dynamited to create a firebreak when a block and a half of the business district caught fire.

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Flooding in the town would have been much greater if it wasn't for the 200 convicts from the Indiana Reformatory who worked for two days strengthening the levees around the Ohio River. A dinner was held in their honour on 13th April.

Lafayette, Indiana

On Tuesday, 25th March, a Purdue University student died trying to rescue two men after a section of Brown Street Bridge gave way. By the end of the day other bridges had either collapsed or had been swept away. The next day, the iron Main Street Bridge, opened in 1890, fell at 3:35 pm. Until the bridges could be repaired a cable-controlled ferry operated from 5 am. to midnight across the Wabash River at Main Street. The Brown Street Bridge was the first to be repaired; it reopened on 26th April, with timber replacing the iron span that had been swept away.

Lawrenceburg, Indiana

Lawrenceburg was warned on the afternoon of Thursday, 27th March to prepare for flooding by the weather bureau at Cincinnati. Most people heeded the warning and moved their goods to higher ground by Friday evening. Mayor Axby ordered that the levees were strengthened and work on that continued up to Saturday, 29th March whent the south levee on the Ohio River gave way at 2pm followed at 2:45pm by the levee immediately to to the west of Center Street where 100ft. of it simply lifted at the base, within minutes the breach was 600ft. wide. After thundering down Center Street the wall of water lifted houses off of their bases in Mary and Tate Streets.

The large carriage making plant of John Knippenberg was completely carried away. A forge fire in the plant set fire to the building and it was burned down to the waterline. Most of the town was flooded to a depth of six feet, nealy all 5,000 homes in the town were destroyed and and debris was found four miles downstream.

On the Sunday after the break the mayor appointed the following as members of a citizens’ relief committee: William H. O’Brien, A. D. Cook, V. M. O’Shaughnessy (chairman), George H. Lewis (treasurer), P. C. Braun (secretary), Jesse W. Riddle, Victor Oberting, Archibald Shaw, Ezra P. Hayes, Hugh S. Miller and Jacob Spanagel.

Logansport, Indiana

A bridge over the Wabash River was swept away on Monday, 24th March. Logansport itself was flooded on Tueday, 25th March when about a third of the town was under water. The gas and electricty plants were almost immediately put out of action. aThe same day ppeals were made to the Culver Military Academy and the United States Life Saving Station in Chicago for help. Both places sent 6 boats and crews to aid the town. The ones from Chicago were paid for by the Chicago Tribune.

Overnight around 4 inches of snow fell and the temperature plummeted, the weather as well as the swift current hampered rescue and relief efforts. The next day, the flood water was 16ft deep in parts of the town. Both the 3rd Street Interurban and 6th Street bridges were swept away. The Wabash Railway bridge was saved because the company put loaded coal cars on it to weigh it down against the flood water. The wagon bridge to Biddle Island, which itself was completely under water, was lost as were the Cicott Street bridge and the Lewisburg bridge. Ths Lewisburg bridge was the last of the covered bridges in the area around Logansport.

On Tuesday, 25th March, That night 4" of snow fell with freezing temperatures. The water level started to fall on Thursday, 27th March and the real job of cleaning the town up could begin.

Loveland, Ohio

The Branch Hill Bridge also known as Loveland Bridge spanned the Little Miami River just south of Loveland. It was washed out by the floods of 1913 and replaced by the Blue Bridge in 1922. A corn mill was also destroyed.

Lowell, Ohio

Most of the town lived on the island in the Muskingum River. Lowell boasted a tannery, brickyard, saw and flour mills most of which were destroyed during the floods of 1913. .After the floods of 1913 it was relocated off of the island.

Marietta, Ohio

The Putnam Street Bridge, just built in 1900, was swept away by the flood.

Martinsville, Indiana

On Monday, 24th March the authorities at Martinsville got word from Indianapolis, 30 miles to the north, that the White River was rising at the rate of 4ft and hour and that the water was rushing downstream. Just after midnight the banks at Centerton, 8 miles north, gave way, sending a torrent of muddy water to join the flood heading towards Martinsville. Many people didn't get or heed the warnings and so lost much of their belongings when at 6am on Tuesday, 25th March the flood waters reached the town. The town was flooded west of Main Street for a stretch of 4 miles.

Both the gas and electricity plants were put out of action at around 10pm that evening. The railraod and interurban tracks were severely damaged and the twon was cut off from the outside world by these means for several days. Around 100 families were left homeless by the flood.

Matthews, Indiana

The Matthews Covered Bridge, also known as the Cumberland Covered Bridge, crosses the Mississinewa River in Matthews, Indiana. It was built in 1877 by William Parks for $722. The 1913 flood floated it a half mile downstream but it was returned to its original location, but rasied 3ft., using rollers and horsepower. The bridge is a single span Howe Truss structure and has a length of 175 feet, or 183 feet including the 4-foot overhang at each end, with a portal clearance 15 feet 6 inches wide by 16 feet high.

The first bridge in Matthews was an open structure built in 1863 by William F. Parks. In 1878 the Smith Bridge Company built an uncovered Howe Truss structure at about the same location and a local contractor finished the roof and siding in 1879. The Matthews Covered Bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places, though no historical marker is present, in 1978. The bridge was restored in 1999.

Memphis, Tennessee

Along Bayou Gayoso in North Memphis at Overton Avenue the levee was of unusual construction. Part of it was made consisted of the wall of the abandoned Stewart-Gwynne Cotton Company. As Bobby Williams says in Mid-South Views the Floods of 1912 and 1913 "as a levee, it left something to be desired". No-one should have been particularly surprised when on 8am. on the morning of Saturday, 5th April it collapsed flooding the northern part of the city.

Metamora, Indiana

The Long Covered Bridge near Metamora was destroyed in the flood of 1913. Emmett Kennedy and his son Karl built a two-span replacement for the bridge in 1914 for $13,285.

Middletown, Ohio

On Tuesday, 25th March the railway bridge over the Miami River, which grew to be a mile wide, was swept away. Scores of houses were simple washed away by the flood. At 11:50am the mains water was shut off, it wasn't turned on again until 5:30pm on Wednesday, 26th March. Late Thursday, 27th March, food arrived but had to be eaten cold as fires were forbidden to be lit. The authorities has heard what had happened at Dayton and did not want fires starting in Middletown. Around 10,000 of the town's 18,000 population were made homeless.

New Trenton, Indiana

When the bridges at Brookville, eleven and half miles upstream on the White Water River, collapsed the water rushed down the valley in a torrent. There was an old covered bridge at New Trenton, nearby was a railway station, grain elevator, coal yard, lumber yard, and a saloon owned by a Mr. Brown. The bridge and all these buildings were swept away when the water reached New Trenton.

Olean, New York

Parts of Olean were flooded to a depth of 10 feet when the Canistco and Hornell Rivers burst their banks. Burst oil tanks meant the flood water carried a layer of oil which hindered the rescue and cleanup work as well a presenting a major fire risk.

Omaha, Nebraska

The tornado of Sunday, 23rd March left a trail of destruction in its wake. There were fires in Farnum, Cummings, Indiana, Hamilton, Leavenworth, Pierce, Emmet, Lake and other streets which would have caused more damage if it were not for the heavy rain that followed immediately after the tornado. Places like the Idlewild club building at 24th and Lake were first wrecked by the tornado and then destroyed by fire.

Despite having most of the windows blown out by the storm and some of them badly cut by flying glass, the telephonists at the Webster Telephone Exchange stayed at their terminals and did great work keeping the telephone lines open to the stricken area.

Peru, Indiana

As reported in the "Tragic Story of America's Greatest Disaster" by Marshall Everett - a Mr. Charles H. Thatcher reported that he, his wife, Louise, and a Mrs. Hoover were trapped on the second floor of their house when a boatman offered to rescue them, but at a cost of $100. Mr. Thatcher told them he would only offer $25 each but then the boatman said he would only take two of the three. They refused to leave each other and the boatman rowed away. They later heard a shot and later still saw the man's boat drifting in the current with him dead inside of it. However, a lot of the books such as this one published soon after the floods contain much that is widely inaccurate and even "facts" that could not possibly be true.

Peru was home of the Wallace-Hagenbeck Circus winter quarters and many of their animals were either shot before the water could reach them or drowned in their cages. The circus lost 8 elephants, 21 lions and tigers and 8 performing horses in the flood.

The Wayne Street Bridge over the Wabash River at Peru was the only bridge on sixty miles of the Wabash River to survive the flood of March, 1913.

Piqua, Ohio

At its height, some places in Piqua were flooded to a depth of 12ft, which inundated many manufacturing plants putting them out of business for good. Militia from Covington, about 7 miles to the southwest, kept order and helped with the rescue work.

Portsmouth, Ohio

On Tuesday, 25th March the bridge across the Scioto River was swept away as water from the swollen Scioto and Ohio Rivers flooded the town. Several fires broke out in the town which were difficult to deal with as mains water pressure was minimal. The Steamers "Klondike" and "J. I. Ware" bought food enough for a week on 31st March.

Rushville, Indiana

The only fatality during the March 1913 floods was the driver of a delivery wagon which overturned.

Sharon, Pennsylvania

The logging boom above Sharon gave way when the waters from Mill Run, Neason's Run, French and Cussewago Creeks descended on the milling town on Tuesday, 25th March. The bridge between Porter and Silver Streets was demolished by the force of the logs and water against it. One of the stone piers, weighing several tons, was washed a quarter of a mile downstream. The Wishart Planing Mill on Railroad Street caught fire and precious drinking water from a reservoir was used to contain the fire which otherwise would have spread to nearby wooden buildings.

Terre Haute, Indiana

By the morning of Tuesday, 25th March, Taylorville and West Terre Haute were already flooded. This was the first time that flooding had occurred in West Terre Haute. On the evening of Wednesday, 26th March a levee protecting north Terre Haute was washed away and a large part of the city was flooded. Houses in Maywood Terrace, southeast of Collett Park, floated off their foundations.

On Thursday, 27th March, around 8am the gas plant stopped operating, at 8:45am the electricity generating plant stopped working. Electricty was restored on the morning of Friday, 28th March. Gas was restored on the morning of Saturday, 29th March.

The high point of the flooding in Terre Haute was on Thursday, 27th March, when the water began to slowly recede.

Tiffin, Ohio

Associated Charities coordinated much of the relief effort under the leadership of Mrs. Charles S. Calhoun another relief center was the Capitol Food Company, under former Mayor Joswph C. Arnold and Councilman Chauncey Jones.

The Sunday, March 30, 1913 edition of the Tiffin Daily Tribune and Herald gave a list of the dead as...

Jacob Knecht
Clarence Knecht - found just south of Township Line Bridge on east side of river
Wilson Knecht
Mrs. George Klingshirn
George Klingshirn, Jr. 19
Magdeline Klingshirn, 17
Joseph Klinshirn, 15
John Klingshirn, 13
William Klingshirn, 11
Elizabeth Klingshirn, 10
Catherine Klingshirn, 4
Richard Klingshirn, 8
Helen Klingshirn, 2
Ray Hostler, 22
Regina Ranker, 18
William. D. Axline
Mrs. Wm. D. Axline
John Canty, Jr. - found at the rear of Motry residence on Water Street
George Schwab - found just south of Township Line Bridge on east side of river

Most of the fatalities were families who refused to leave their homes. The Knecht house was carried away at around 4pm, Tuesday afternoon. The fatehr and his two young sons were seen on the roof when it struck the dam below Speck's mill and the two Knecht boys were carried away. Mt Knecht managed to cling to a bush for around a quarter of an hour and although both Master of Boys Simpson, of the National Orphan's Home and Adolf Unger, a cadet at West Point, who was staying at the Home, tried valiantly but unsuccessfully to swim to him, he drowned.

The Klingshirn family all lost their lives when their house was washed away by the floods. Ray Hostler, their son-in-law and Regina Ranker were with them at the time.

Mrs. Axline refused to leave her home early on Tuesday when the other residents of Water Street fled. Her husband, foreman of the Tribune job rooms, left his work shortly before 10 o'clock Tuesday morning but couldn't persuade his wife to leave their home. The house was swept away around 5am on Wednesday, 26th March. Their house was split apart when it struck the railroad bridge. Witnesses saw them clinging to driftwood shortly after, but they were beyond help and both drowned.

All the bridges except the railway bridge which had railway cars full of coal and steel rails placed on it, were destroyed by the flood on Tueday, 25th March. The first to go was the Water Works Bridge, it being carried away by the flood shortly after 12 o'clock. At 12:30 the Perry Street Bridge was whirled away and at 1:58 the Monroe Street Bridge went out. The south half of the Washington Street Bridge was torn away at 2 o'clock and the remaining span went at 2:17. The Market Street Bridge, although having to withstand the greatest flood pressure, did not leave the abutments until 3:20. Just when the bridge at Riverview Park was torn loose is not known.

The flood began to recede in the late afternoon of Wednesday, 26th March and the ncame the first reports of looting. The town was placed under martial law and Mayor Keppel appealed for military help from Ohio Governor Cox. in response to this D Troop of the Ohio National Guard cavalry was despatched from Toledo who arrived at 9am Thursday morning. Also helping to keep order were Company 5 of the Junior Order of the United American Mechanics as well as hundreds of volunteers

Troy, Ohio

Federal troops who arrived in Troy enroute to Dayton, which is about 22 miles south, on Thursday, 27th March, found themselves stranded in the flooded town. The next day around half the troops left for Dayton following the line of the railway tracks, the others stayed in Troy to help with relief work there.

Unionville (Pinchtown), Ohio

On Ohio 821 / Ohio 60 there is a sign saying "Unionville" but no town of that name exists. Originally known as Pinchtown because of its location "pinched" between the Appalachian Mountain foothills and the Muskingum River the town changed its name to Unionville around 1904. The 1913 flood destroyed the town and it was never rebuilt. The main part of the town ended up in the yard of the Children's Home outside of Marietta. Part of the debris included the Unionville Church, a sawmill from Lowell, John Grimes Wagon Shop and a mess of wreckage, which was located where Ewing School now stands.

West Hickman, Kentucky

On Friday, 4th April, part of the levee in front of the Mengel Box Company gave way. Several brave men tried to block the breach with sandbags but eventually they had to give up against the torrent of water rushing through the gap. In an effort to stop the levee being washed away altogether they cut breaches into the levee at four other places, relieving the pressure against it. Parts of West Hickman was flooded to a depth of 15ft.

West Terre Haute, Indiana

Easter 1913, was the first time that West Terre Haute had ever suffered flooding. A boat operator drew a gun on Sheriff Denny Shea after the lawman ordered the man to lend his boats for a rescue effort, but he eventually relented.

Wilson, Arkansas

It was thought that raising the levee from 1ft to 4ft would be enough to contain the expected flood water. This was done by 100 men in the two weeks prior to Thursday, 10th April. Men were still working on the levee when a storm blew up from the west and over half of them abandoned the work. Forty-five men were still at work when 100ft of the levee was washed away. Within minutes, the gap had widened to 300ft and by the time the flood waters had receded 2,900ft of the levee had disappeared.

The breach here caused an argument between Lower St. Francis Levee District officials and Major E. M. Markham of the Memphis Engineer District who was in overall charge of the levee system. He claimed that they were incompetent but they answered that the levee was already waterlogged and the storm simply hastened the work of the advancing flood water.

Woodsdale, Ohio

The bridge at Woodsdale was destroyed and not replaced until 1916.

Zanesville, Ohio

The famous "Y" Bridge built in 1902 spanning the Muskingum and Licking Rivers was badly damaged by the floods and was later replaced.

The Aftermath

After a major flood people face further problems. Given the will and resources the infrastructure, electricity, gas, sewage disposal and so on can be largely restored within a week or so. Homes will generally take a year or two before they are fully restored or rebuilt. Unemployment after flooding such as this rises sharply, many businesses, some of them employing a lot of people, suffered such losses that they could never reopen again. There are personal issues too; some people would never get over the shock of such destruction or the grief of losing friends and relations. To give an example, it was said that most of the buildings in Dayton were rebuilt within a year, but it was nearly ten before the economic and emotional effects receded

Even as the flood water receded people were wondering at the vast area of destruction and what could be done to prevent it happening again. The system of levees were built after the 1860's and these massive structures, 10 to 30 feet high and miles long had given people a false sense of security. Whole city districts had been built on what had been flood plains behind them and it was these areas that suffered the most when the rivers flooded to a degree not seen in living memory in many places.

But not all, almost exactly a year before, in March 1912, there was major flooding all along the Mississippi River into which drains the water from 31 states and even dominions in Canada. All three political parties, Democrat, Republican and Progressive, used flood prevention as part of their election platform. When Woodrow Wilson was elected President the rhetoric concerning flood prevention that "such expenditures are not largess on the part of the Government; they are national investments." made during his presidential nomination acceptance speech was forgotten.

During the floods of 1913, in many cases the water did not overflow the levees but the gravel, stone and dirt levees were either saturated with water and were swept away or they could not stand up to the weight of water behind them and collapsed.

Immediately following the flood one of the major contributing factors to their severity was said to be deforestation of valley slopes. The arguments for this are that deforestation increases the amount of soil erosion on the slopes, the soil ends up in the waterways in the valley floors causing the waterways to become more restricted and by removing the soil from the slopes allowing less runoff to be absorbed. Trees and undergrowth are also said to slow the flow of water down the slopes allowing more time for it to be absorbed by leaf litter and soil.

Since 1913, there have been several studies on the relationship between flooding and deforestation but there is no consensus of opinion. For example, "Deforestation and logging do not increase the risk of major floods according to a new report from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization" (2005) and "The United Nations has said that deforestation may be one of the principal causes of the most severe floods to hit the Mekong delta in the last forty years." (2000).

The Ohio canal system was built between 1820 and 1850 but even by the time the last of them were being dug they were already becoming obsolete due to competition from the railways. During the floods of 1913, in an effort to disperse at least some of the water, some canal lock gates were dynamited. As the water receded some of the canals became choked with mud and debris and were lost to even recreational use.

Following the flood, John Patterson of the National Cash Register Company, Dayton, Ohio headed a flood prevention committee which eventually resulted in the formation of the Miami Conservancy District (1919) and the construction of five flood control dams at a cost of $31 million in less than three years. This was the first flood prevention system in the nation funded entirely by local funds and came 15 years before the Federal Flood Control Act of 1936. Edward A. Deeds, Vice-President of National Cash Register Company, was the apostle of the Miami Conservancy District, seeing the need for detailed planning, public support, and conservancy district legislation.

Ohio's first Conservancy District, the Upper Scioto Conservancy, was established in February 1915 to protect the upper end of the Scioto River valley from the kind of flooding that caused great damage in 1913. A flood control and land reclamation plan was prepared by the Arthur Morgan Engineering firm of Memphis, Tennessee and construction of the project, which required extensive dredging and swamp draining, was done by the F. C. Morgan Company of Indianapolis, Indiana.

In Indianapolis, first the city authorities and later the Federal Works Progress Administration looked into a long-range flood control plan. This included the construction of more and better levees, concrete flood walls, pumping stations, dredging, water course straightening, bridge reconstruction, channel relocation and and detention basins. This work continued up until the 1960s, work was at first coordinated by the Indianapolis Flood control District, a forerunner of the Department of Public Works; the Works Progress Administration; U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Indiana Flood Control and Water Resources Commission.

This page created January 9, 2010, last modified December 24, 2021