Chances are that something is about to trigger your interest in the Great 1913 Flood — our region’s most devastating historical event.
Perhaps it was the moving drama presented by Wright State University’s theater department in January/February that brought the tragedy to life. Or the Dayton Art Institute’s new “Watershed” exhibit featuring paired photos of now and then. Or perhaps it will be “The Great Flood Building” that’s about to open at Carillon Historical Park.
When that interest begins to surface, you’ll be wise to head to one of the libraries in our region. Cities across the region affected by the memorable event are gearing up to welcome you with exhibits and lectures and, of course, books. Best of all, access to all of this information is free.
It all began in November 2011, when representatives from the Miami Conservancy District began meeting with representatives from historical societies, universities, cities and libraries.
“We wanted to see what the local communities were doing to commemorate the flood centennial, so we asked them and we asked how we could support their efforts,” said Angela Manuszak, special projects coordinator for the Miami Conservancy District. “Before the end of the first meeting, we had priority projects best done as a region and a steering committee including reps from every river city starting at Piqua upstream, all the way to Hamilton downstream.”
Libraries, she says, are perfectly equipped to play a key role in the dissemination of information about the significant event.
“We recognized that libraries — both local public libraries and university libraries — preserve many important collections related to the flood: photographs, newspapers, documents and of course books,” Manuszak said. “They also partner with historians that can share the human interest stories that make these collections come to life.”
By viewing exhibits and hearing presentations, Manuszak said today’s citizens have an opportunity to think about how the flood — and especially the community’s response to it — is woven into the fiber of our region’s politics, our geography and our quality of life.
At the colleges
Wright State University’s Special Collections & Archives Department at its Paul Laurence Dunbar Library has shown great commitment to preserving flood history, Manuszak said.
“We’ve created a traveling exhibit on the flood that organizations can borrow for free for up to to two weeks,” archivist Lisa Rickey said. “We created the exhibit to try to share the story of the flood using primary sources and chose to do a traveling exhibit to reach more people.” The three panels focus on the City of Dayton, trace the story of the flood and include the story of the Conservancy District. For more information on the traveling exhibit, see: www.libraries.wright.edu/special/exhibits/1913_flood/
Wright State also has a display in the Dunbar Library that encompasses the whole Miami Valley and also has posted some online resources that tell where many flood-related collections can be found across the valley. See http://libraries.wright.edu/special/1913flood/
“We are also planning a series of blog posts on the Archives’ “Out of the Box” blog that will include transcriptions of original letters and diaries written by flood survivors describing their experiences during the flood,” Rickey said. An introduction to that series will be posted on Monday, March 18, and the transcriptions will start on March 24. (http://www.libraries.wright.edu/community/outofthebox/)
Two Wright State University Public History students are currently working on 1913 flood projects — one is creating a resource list of archival materials pertaining to the flood; the other is inviting participation (from organizations as well as the public) to create a “Virtual Gallery” of flood photos using Flickr. To contribute to these projects, contact the WSU Archives at (937) 775-2092.
University of Dayton: Did you know that those who fled to high ground found a haven at St. Mary’s College, the school that became the University of Dayton? On that first fateful night, 400 refugees took shelter at St. Mary’s College; by the end of the week the number had grown to 600. All in all, the college assisted 800 refugees.
Treasures from the university’s archives including photos, a roster of the refugees written in their own hand, original film footage of the flood and a first-person oral history are currently on display on the second floor of Roesch Library on the University of Dayton campus.
“Hope on the Hill: Marianists and the 1913 Dayton Flood” runs through June 17. A free program is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 4.
Because times vary, if you’d like to visit, its best to call (937) 229-4094 or visit udayton.edu/libraries for a schedule and directions. Digitized materials from the collection are available online by visiting the 1913 Flood Collection at digital.udayton.edu.
Nancy Horlacher, local history specialist for the Dayton Metro Library since 1986, oversees the 8,500 flood-related items that reside at the downtown library. She was previously curator of collections for Carillon Historical Park.
Horlacher is happy to come to your organization or club meeting to give a free program titled “Dayton Under Water.” Visitors can also visit the Local History room in the lower level of the downtown library, where the archival flood items can be requested and viewed on the premises.
In recognition of the 100-year anniversary, Horlacher has assembled some of “the coolest stuff” for a flood display.
“We have a report from General George H. Woods to President Woodrow Wilson on the Dayton flood,” she said. “And we have a poster declaring Martial Law in the City of Dayton — you can see holes in it because it was placed at the end of a boxcar from the Pennsylvania Railway.
“Two years later at the Panama Pacific Exposition in San Francisco, they had a huge exhibit about the flood because it was so important and this was the book they published to go along with the exhibit,” Horlacher said.
Upstairs, in the Main Library auditorium, the library’s display coordinator, Carlette Jewell, has displayed front pages of the “Dayton Daily News” from the day the rain started through the rebuilding of the city. If you wonder why some papers seem to be missing, it’s because the presses for those historic days were under water.
The City of Hamilton’s official commemoration period —March 1 to May 4 —includes public programs, museum and library exhibits, walking tours and a community festival focusing on Hamilton’s future as a river city.
Curtis W. Ellison, who is heading up the project, explains that the Hamilton Commemoration is an initiative of the City of Hamilton in partnership with Miami University via the Michael J. Colligan History Project.
“The Colligan Project website — colliganproject.org — has a page with full information about the commemoration and many digitized images of the flood experience taken from postcard and photograph collections of Jack Armstrong, Rob Wile and the Eckert Family,” he said. “Then and Now” comparative photographs by Brian D. Lenihan are also available on this website.”
The Hamilton Lane Library is featuring an exhibit about the flood in downtown Hamilton and sponsoring three public presentations by Hamilton historian Jim Blount. Blount spoke Jan. 8 on the status of weather forecasting in 1913, March 12 on Hamilton flood relief in 1913, and will speak April 9 about obstacles to preventing another flood like that of 1913.
“The interest in the 1913 flood anniversary in Hamilton is beyond expectations,” said Blount, who has spoken to overflowing crowds at each of the lectures and says there are only a few spaces left for his April 9 presentation.
Valerie Elliott at The Smith Library of Regional History (Lane Public Libraries) has put together a series of displays focusing on a different city each month: January was Hamilton, February was Middletown, March is Oxford, and April will be Dayton. Each display includes visuals and personal accounts.
A presentation “Towns on the Tributaries in the 1913 Flood” will show what happened in little towns such as Oxford, Brookville and Camden, Elliott said. The program is slated for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 28 at the Smith Library, 15 S. College at the Smith Library.
Sunday, March 24, is the day to visit Piqua: the Piqua Public Library will join with the 1913 Flood Committee to host a number of activities including a guided walking tour led by Piqua historian Jim Oda through the areas of Piqua that were devastated by the flood in 1913. The 1.5-hour tour will start at 2 p.m. in front of the Library, 116 W. High St.
There will be a flood exhibit in the main library — open from 3:30-5:30 p.m. At 4 p.m., a reader’s theater presentation will feature first-hand accounts of Piqua residents.
“Residents will be present with artifacts and memorabilia from their own family histories,” Oda said. “The Local History Department will be selling the newly revised driving tour of the 1913 booklet written by Gary Meek.”
Deirdre Bray Root, reference librarian for MidPointe Library Middletown, reports that her library system has a current exhibit of its historic flood photographs at the Middletown branch through the first week in April.
“The photos are from the George Crout collection and have been digitized and made available on the library’s website through the work of Middletown historian Roger Miller,” she said. ” In addition, there will be a PowerPoint presentation of flood photographs available to view and download on the library’s website at www.midpointelibrary.org.
The Middletown library’s extensive collection of digitized photographs, including additional flood photos, is available on the library website at http://middletownlibrary.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/landingpage/collection/Crout
The Troy Historical Society has teamed up with the Troy-Miami County Public Library Local History Library to remember the 1913 flood in Troy.
In addition to an exhibit of flood related documents and a digital frame of Troy flood photographs displayed daily, the Society has published a book, “Troy and the Great Flood of 1913.” The introduction was written by Local History Library Archivist Patrick Kennedy, text for the book by Troy Historical Society President Judy Deeter and photographs were collected and digitized by Rick Jackson, a former Trustee-at-Large for the Troy Historical Society.