You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

‘Washed Away’ captures 1913’s flood of memories


On March 23, 1913, an outbreak of severe weather across the Midwest cut swaths of destruction through parts of Nebraska, Illinois, Indiana and other states. In Omaha, Neb., a tornado wrecked thousands of buildings and took 140 lives. These grim events were horrifying harbingers of what would transpire in Dayton on the following day.

As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Great Flood of 1913, we are grateful that our meteorologists can now reliably predict severe weather. On Monday, March 24, 1913, the residents of cities such as Dayton, Indianapolis and Columbus had no inkling of what lay ahead for them. Children on their way to school that morning in Dayton passed through streets that were already ankle deep with rainwater.

And the rain just kept coming down. Geoff Williams describes the terrible events of that day in his book “Washed Away: How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Natural Disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed It Forever.” Williams, a freelance journalist based in Loveland, Ohio, scoured newspaper archives to reconstruct the unleashing of this watery cataclysm as it engulfed numerous communities throughout the heartland of this nation.

Here in the Dayton area we often refer to it as the Great Dayton Flood.

The disaster that hit Dayton garnered significant newsreel footage during that time. The flooding was widespread. The floodwaters swept through many communities across the Midwest in a devastating surge.

Williams provides hundreds of accounts of the incredible things that transpired. Houses floated by and some smashed into bridges. There was a hysterical tone to some of the news reports. One Michigan newspaper’s headline declared that “Dayton’s Awful Story Lies Beneath Seething Sea; Even 10,000 May Have Perished Dayton is Burning!” Fortunately that headline was an exaggeration, and the death toll was not as great as it could have been.

The author writes that on that day “John H. Patterson wasn’t preparing for a flood. He was preparing to go to jail.” Patterson, the founder of the National Cash Register Company, had established a virtual monopoly in the cash register business through some aggressive business dealings.

Patterson had been tried, convicted and sentenced to serve a year in jail for his offenses. He had not yet been incarcerated when the deluge came. As the rising waters inundated Dayton Patterson’s leadership of NCR was crucial in saving lives and providing relief for many survivors. His reputation went from tarnished to burnished, and he ultimately avoided going to jail.

There were heroes and villains. Some rescuers were relentless in their efforts to rescue citizens stranded on rooftops and clinging to floating debris. Others, possessing fewer scruples, extorted bribes from desperate flood victims. The author cites the example of one such hooligan who demanded a hundred dollars, a huge sum, in exchange for providing an escape for a stranded victim. The intended victim refused to pay and was left behind. A little while later that enterprising thug drifted by again in his boat, he was dead. Apparently someone else had replied to his extortion demand with a fusillade of gunfire.

Dayton recovered. Arthur Morgan enacted flood control measures, alleviating the likelihood that such a terrible thing will ever happen again.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Springfield Entertainment

NFL dismisses report claiming Lady Gaga can't talk Trump at Super Bowl Halftime Show
NFL dismisses report claiming Lady Gaga can't talk Trump at Super Bowl Halftime Show

Pop star Lady Gaga is weeks away from headlining the Super Bowl Halftime Show, but one report says she won't be able to talk about the election or President-elect Donald Trump, who will be inaugurated as president by the time of the show. According to Entertainment Tonight, citing an unnamed source, Gaga will not be allowed to talk about politics,...
SSO’s Grapes & Escapes gets a ‘Clue’
SSO’s Grapes & Escapes gets a ‘Clue’

Contact this contributing writer at bturner004@woh.rr.com. No dinner plans for Saturday, Feb. 4? The Springfield Symphony Orchestra will gladly offer a “Clue.” The annual Grapes & Escapes fundraiser turns to colorful characters and daring detectives for its 2017 theme with a beloved board game as its inspiration — “Clue: The...
Burt Reynolds to auction replica 'Smokey and the Bandit' Trans-Am
Burt Reynolds to auction replica 'Smokey and the Bandit' Trans-Am

Remember the iconic muscle car driven by Burt Reynolds in the kitchy yet classic 1977 movie Smokey and the Bandit? Who wouldn't want to own a Trans-Am just like it? Bidders will get their chance Friday at an auction in Arizona, MSN Autos reports.  A listing for the Barrett-Jackson sale in Scottsdale shows a Pro-Touring Firebird...
Report: Jennifer Holliday pulls out of Trump inauguration concert
Report: Jennifer Holliday pulls out of Trump inauguration concert

Holliday retweeted The Wrap's report on her Twitter account.In a letter addressed to "my beloved LGBT community," Holliday explained why she initially accepted the invitation to perform at the inauguration, saying she wanted to perform for the people, not for Trump. But after a vocal backlash, Holliday has decided not to perform.  According...
Children remember your words for the rest of their lives

“Parentspeak - What’s Wrong with How We Talk to Our Children — and What to Say Instead” by Jennifer Lehr (Workman, 276 pages, $14.95) We’ve all seen it. And heard it. In public places, watching parents interact with their children, what’s being said and done. Heck, maybe they were your own kids and you are evaluating...
More Stories