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Flood 1883: Newspaper Account, Feb. 6

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▼ 1883 Flood News Articles

- from the Wheeling Intelligencer, Feb. 6, 1883 



Some Interesting Scenes on the River Front Yesterday. Property Afloat. The Stage of water Compared to Former Freshets. News From Other Points.

The big attraction of yesterday was the Ohio River. It was on one of its periodical highs and everything not securely fastened by numerous chains and ropes, went down before its resistless force with a boom. The heavy rains of Saturday were so general both up the valley and in the mountains that the Alleghany and Monongahela rivers were both filled so as to overflow their banks and every stream and creek between this point and Pittsburgh was swelled to an unusual height and in several localities, the reports announce, they did considerable damage to property. Sunday morning the river at this point was on a stand, with about nine feet in the channel, but in a few hours it commenced rising and continued doing so during the day; the rise during Sunday would average about six inches per hour.

At one o'clock yesterday morning the gauge marks on the wharf indicated a depth of 22 feet, and the ice was just commencing to come down. At 9 o'clock there was 28 feet of water, and as far as one could see all was ice. The river was full of big cakes that were continually piling up over each other. It was Alleghaney ice, and was from 12 to 16 inches in thickness, clear as crystal and firm as rock. Its long journey had served to break it all up. The immense cakes with their jagged edges were continually grinding and crashing together with a horrid seething sound, and int several places played havoc with the banks, while there floated by every now and then evidence of the destruction they had caused at points above, in the shape of barges, flats, ties, lumber, spars and parts of boats that had been crushed and ruined.


The wharf and suspension bridge presented spirited scenes all day yesterday. Crowds were on hand watching the turbulent river from the difference vantage points, crowding around the bulletin boards to learn what the latest was from the headwaters and comparing with others how far up the levee the big rise of June, 1881 came. The oldest inhabitant was out in all his glory; there was plenty of him, too. He was found on nearly every corner surrounded by a listening congregation to whom he told stories that would discount a Verne. The man who always knows everything was there of course with an air that brooked no denial, he told just how much water there would be, and as usual missed it by several feet, but still he was in his element. Streamboatmen with an air of importance swaggered along and were gazed at with great respect. The only steamer at the levee proper was the Diurnal and her broad decks always held person who were engaged in watching the sigh. The outside platform of the P. W. & Ky. freight depot was also a popular place, especially for small boys, who experience great delight in chasing the rats that were driven out from below by the rising waters. A splendid view could be obtained from this point in both directions.


About 10 o'clock the Belle Prince steamed up and went out into the middle of the river for the purpose of securing a fine barge that was coming down. The steamer experienced considerable trouble, but reached the shore in safety. Three times did she make the perilous trip, but on going out for the fourth barge that came along, her wheel got clogged and she floated down past the levee and around the bend in the midst of the icy mass. The steamer managed to make the La Belle landing. Shortly after noon the J. W. Gould floated down, surrounded by ice. Her crew was on board, but the engines were not working.During the morning some foolhardy men ventured out from Armstrong's flat in a skiff for the purpose of capturing some fine longs. They succeeded, but from the shore it appeared as if they would be capsized every moment. The ice shortly after 10 o'clock commenced cutting into the bank at the P. W. & Ky depot in such a manner that the danger signal had to be put out. The ice men were out and securing a very large quantity of fine clear cakes. Such little things as these continued to amuse the crowd as it stood bundled up, and kicking its heels to keep warm. All this time the ice kept rushing by with a sullen roar as though boasting of its strength and the broken fragments of barges and rafts were seen everywhere.


The river kept rising steadily, and at two o'clock indicated 32 feet in the channel. As there was still more water to come according to the bulletins, the lower Main street merchants began to be alarmed, and their clerks were put to work getting up goods from the cellars. South street by six o'clock was crowded with barrels and boxes, while the lower floors were well littered up. About noon the grounds of the West Virginia State Fair and Exposition Association on the Island, commenced to be submerged, and at dusk were well covered. The river fence was damaged a little by the ice, but nothing serious was anticipated. The bottom lands of the Island north of the suspension bridge were covered early in the day, and in the afternoon the water commenced creeping slowly over the old fair ground and up the west end of Virginia street.

Wheeling creek was backed up far out into the country, doing a little damage to the banks and bottom lands. Several passengers coming in on the Hempfield were amused at a sign just this side of the tunnel, that rose out of the water covering the bottom lands. It bore the legend, "Lots for Sale Cheap." No one doubted it. All the streams hereabouts were similarly backed up. The P. W. & Ky extension stood the water and ice nobly. A few [ ] were lost by not being securely fastened. At the La Belle landing a little excitement was caused by a boy falling into the angry waters. A bank caved in under him. He was rescued, being only slightly bruised.


Following are the highest stages of water at Wheeling and Pittsburgh in years gone by, and from which it will be seen that the present rise it not all behind its predecessors. In fact this rise promises to take a prominent place in the list of freshets if the news from Pittsburgh about the Monongahela and "Yough" is to be believed. The table is as follows:

Year Pittsburgh Wheeling
  Ft. In. Ft. In.
1810 -- November..... 32 48
1832 -- February..... 33 4811
1852 -- April..... 319 48
1860 -- April..... 267 43
1861 -- September..... 30 442
1863 -- March..... 314 41
1873 -- December..... 256 393
1874 -- January..... 224 388
1878 -- December..... 246 349
1881 -- February..... 234 388
1881 -- June..... 256 409


At 6 P.M. there was a depth of 34 feet in the channel, and the river was rising slowly. At 2 o'clock this morning the marks showed a depth of about 37 feet, and the river was still rising. The ice had about disappeared, and the harsh grating sound was no long heard. The merchants on the east side of Main street, below Fourteenth were alarmed and having roused their clerks, were busy removing goods from their cellars. Main street was almost entirely filled with barrels and boxes.


Special dispatch to the Intelligencer.Steubenville, O. February 5. The river is still rising with thirty three feet. No damage to property is reported in the vicinity, but fears are entertained that damage will result to-night from the continued rise in the river. Just below the city the Cleveland and Pittsburg railroad track is being damaged tonight. The embankment is rapidly washing away, and it is probably that no trains will be running to-morrow between this city and Mingo. The water works shut down tonight, and the Pan Handle railroad authorities were notified that they could no long supply their engines in this city. It is though that the river will be higher than in June, 1881.


The Intelligencer's Bellaire correspondent gives the following account of the state of affairs at the Glass City, caused by the big river and ice:

The banks were lined all day yesterday by people, watching the tumbling ice and the floating barges. Quite a number of empty barges were broken across the bridge piers, making some fine sights for the curious. Many of the spectators were not only curious, but anxious to know whether they would be forced to move out. The water was out along the creek banks and around the gas works, but the bridge over the creek was above water. The ferryboat was caught on the Benwood side and forced to make the best of it. The upper wharf boat kept its place; the lower one dropped below the stock house of the Aetna Glass house. The large fleet of barges left by the George Lyale tied to to the railroad bridge kept their place ill four o'clock, when the water rose above the ropes and the ice [ ]yed out the ropes. The fleet might have been saved with new lines, but none could be bought here or in Wheeling. The whole fleet went together, and with it a barge loaded with lumber. The Gould towboat came down as far as the ferry landing in the afternoon, and straightened some of the barges at the nail works. Earlier in the day some sand barges of Manly's were swept away.


PITTSBURGH, February 5. — Dispatches to the Commercial Gazette from Rochester, Bridgewater and New Castle, Pa., report the river rising rapidly and threatening towns on the Ohio with inundation before morning. At Steubenville the water is over the Cleveland & Pittsburgh railroad tracks and travel is suspended. East Liverpool is partially submerged and a large number of families are compelled to forsake their homes. All the principal manufactories in the lower part of the town are under water and closed.


FAIRMONT, W. Va., February 5. — River 5 feet, 4 inches and falling.

MORGANTOWN, W. Va., February 5 — River 6 feet, 3 inches and rising; weather clear; mercury 28°.

PITTSBURGH, Pa., February 5. — Allegheny now about 26 feet and falling; Monongahela at this point 25 feet, and at a stand.

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