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Flood 1883: Newspaper Account, Feb. 9

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▼ 1883 Flood News Articles

- from the Wheeling Intelligencer, Feb. 9, 1883



The River Reaches Within a _______ of the HighestStage of the Big June Rise of '81 – Exaggerated Reports Precede the A_______t of the Water – Some Reminiscences.

It will probably be found this morning that the Ohio river is receding, and the big water of February, 1883, will in a few hours be a thing of the past. The river reached its highest point this morning about 2 o'clock, the depth then being, as nearly as could be calculated, 39 feet 6 inches, and perhaps a few inches over. The water covered the track on the levee from in front of Seamon's cigar store, across Twelfth street to a point opposite Pollack's cigar shop.

Yesterday morning there was an anxious and worried crowd of citizens strung all along the wharf, and huddled about the bulletin boards. The morning papers had contained news of a most alarm character, leading one to believe from the reports from Pittsburgh that a river at least 45 feet might be expected here by noon. About 9o'clock new began coming in that lessened the anxieties of residents of the Island, and those on the South Side who lived in low and_____________________ nesday, when it commenced to raise, was 35 feet deep. At 4 o'clock yesterday afternoon it was 37 feet 6 inches in depth, the rise having been very slow.


The day was a lovely one and the scene from the levee was a very spirited one. The ladies turned out in the afternoon and visited the place in large numbers, enlivening it very much. The Diurnal, Batchelor and Andes were at the landing and they looked monstrous.From the boiler decks one could easily look into second story windows along the wharf, and from the top of the Texas roof one could obtain a glorious view of the submerged Island. The Princess made regular trips to Bellaire in order to accommodate the B., Z. & C.passengers. The little packet looked twice her size as she would come streaming in on the bosom of the mighty river.

The roustabouts were busy getting the merchandise off the levee that had been discharged by the Andes the night before. Rivermen made marks showing how far the river, in their judgment, would come up.There was an endless line of promenaders pacing up and down the pavements watching the river, the boats and the P. W. & Ky.freight trains as they dashed along the water-covered track, the wheels sending out showers of spray. The river was so high that from the lowers guards of the boats one could step out on to the cars. At dark the boats put out spars so as to avoid floating over on the track or being lefton the bank in case of a sudden fall.


From Eleventh to Fourteenth streets on Water, nearly every cellar was flooded to a greater or less extend. On Main street from Alley 9to the creek a large portion of the cellars held water, and the street was half filled with barrels and boxes. On South street it was the same. All along out the creek the banks overflowed and considerable lumber was carried away. The gas works were fortunately not injured. About the Riverside and Belmont mills and south of the latter, there was altogether too much water for comfort.

In the Eighth war below Thirty-sixth street, houses along the river band were surrounded. On Chapline street for a square along theCaldwell run bottoms, the water just covered the street car tracks last night, while the run was backed up for a considerable distance back, causing much inconvenience. The rear part of houses on the west side of the street from the run bridge up to Twenty-sixth street were flooded with water. As far as can be learned there has been no damage done that can not be repaired.

The probabilities are, that the waters will recede slowly at first and then go with a rush. There has been more a scare connected with this freshet than any other for years past, and it has lasted longer than any other. For nearly four days there has been over thirty feet of water at this point, and it is overpowering to think of the vast volume of the recent rain falls as shown in the immense quantity of water that has passed there.


The exaggerated reports fromhead waters night before last, of the big river that was to be expected here, alarmed residents of theIsland, and many of them removed their household goods to the second stories of their residences or to other houses. An amusing story is told of one prominent citizen who went home at midnight with his pockets full of Pittsburgh exaggerations by telegraph, hailed and his family, who came out for him in a skiff. He went in, remarked,“Biggest river coming for fifty years!” and began tearing up carpets as if he thought the river would be on him in a jiffy.When the “biggest river for fifty years” showed up, he went around asking his friends to kick him. The water did not cover nearly as much territory as inJune, 1881. It covered a large portion of both the old and new fairgrounds, and all the gardens of residents on North Front street. From Virginia street north to Zane, and as far east as Broadway, was a sheet of water, and the houses rising out of it made not a bad miniature of Venice, especially as the skiffs and batteaux passed from house to house or about the streets. The entire southern part of the Island was submerged, though the water entered few houses.


In anticipation of a great flood of water the inhabitants of the low lying portions of Martin's Ferry prepared to move out at an instant's warning, but up to six o'clock last evening the necessity of removal had not arrived, and all fear of a flood had about ceased.It was then within about a foot of the height reached in June, 1881.

At the Buckeye Glass Works the finishing department was obliged to suspend owing to a failure in the supply of benzine, the sources of supply being overflowed. The Union Glass Works was also stopped, the water having come into the coal sheds and engine room. The LaughlinMill was also off on account of being partially flooded.

No damage of any consequence to private property has been occasioned here by the raise, except at the Buckeye Glass Works,where one tier of packages in the wareroom is under water. The loss will be trifling.

The ferry resumed her trips yesterday, and as she landed at the foot of Washington street she appeared twice as big as when lying at her customary landing place. Travel was not very brisk, but the ride on the river's broad bosom was likened to an ocean trip by some of the passengers.


The scenes around the high-water here yesterday were similar to the day before. Express wagons and drays were hauling water, for all the old race of water carts have disappeared. The power house of the water works was at work every available minute, but the water put out the fires. This whole trouble, ____________ the stoppage of our factories, will be avoided in the future if the new power house is put high enough.

Philip Long's house at Gravel Hill was untouched, but the houses towards the middle ferry got wet. The stock house of the blast furnace was under water, and boys were skating on the ice about the railroad bridge over Indian Run. The water here was just under the bridge at Noble street where the street cars cross. The houses occupied by J. W. Janes and Mrs. Malcolm, are the only ones between the railroad and the river, except in lower town touched, and the waters yesterday forced these families up stairs.

Mercer's wharf-boat was receiving and discharging freight as usual,her guards being on a level with the Cleveland & Pittsburgh trails. The streets on both sides of the creek parallel to it were both under water, and skiffs were plying around the market house and up Belmont street to the alley back of J. B. Shannafelt's residence.Till 4 o'clock the new creek bridge could be reached from below, but the approaches on the upper side are under now. The market house was half full. The narrow gauge bridge was the only way to cross except by skiffs. The yards of the lower glass houses were all dry, but the lower story of the Ætna warehouse, supported on piles that were too strong to be hurt by the ice that wrecked the narrow gauge engine house, was emptied and the goods taken higher.

The narrow gauge train came and left on time, the transfer between the depot and Pinch run being made by the steamer Princess. A number of passengers came in by this way to see the high water.

The C____same up this far easily enough at the same time that theAndes passed, but she was unable to get under the bridge. She ran alongside the trestle at the Baltimore & Ohiopower house and transferred her Pittsburgh and up river freight to Cleveland &Pittsburgh cars that were run out on the trestle.


The first news from Pittsburgh was that the river was rising with27 feet 7 inches in the channel. The was at 3:20 A. M. The next news at 9:20 A. M. was that it was falling. The last bulletin was at 9:45P. M. and was, river 24 feet 5 inches and falling.

STEUBENVILLE, February 8 – 8 P.M. — River 35 feet 6 inches and falling.

BROWNSVILLE, February 8 – 12 ?.M. — River 31 feet 6 inches and falling slowly.

RICE'S LANDING, February 8 — River 30 feet and falling.Weather clear; thermometer 34°

GREENSBORO, February 8. — River 28 feet and falling.

MORGANTOWN, W. Va., February 8 — River 20 feet, 9 inches and falling; Weather clear; thermometer, 25°

OIL CITY, Pa., February 8 — River 6 feet and stationary;weather clear.

PARKER'S LANDING, February 8. — River 7 feet 6 inches, and stationary. Weather clear and pleasant.

LOUISVILLE, February 8 — River rising 5 inches per hour 23 feet; canal 21 and falling. Heavy drift on the Kentucky side. Space between water and bridge is 66 feet; clear and cold.

CINCINNATI, February 7. — River 54 feet 2 inches at 7 o'clock and rising 3 inches per hour; clear and cold.

EVANSVILLE, Ind., February 8. — River 34 feet 3 inches; cloudy; thermometer 29°


Something About the Big Floods of the Past.

The height of the river on Wednesday, the alarming dispatches fromPittsburgh and the force with which the creek, already swollen to an unusual height, ran out, bringing down with it ice and drift,naturally created considerable excitement in the minds of those living on the lower levels of the city, and quite as naturally awakened in the minds of old citizens, who witnessed the floods of1832 and 1852, remembrances of those disagreeable times, whether they lived outside the danger line or not. An Intelligencer reporter called on Col. Henry Hubbard at his saw mill yesterday, and found him keeping a watchful eye on his property, which was surrounded by a boom. A few moments' conversation was had with him, in the course of which he said:

The flood of 1832, which reached its culminating point on the 11thof February of that year, though but a few inches higher than the one of 1852, was much more destructive, owing, probably, to the fact that the lesson then learned was not entirely forgotten by 1852. The flood of 1810, occuring when the country was much more sparsely inhabited about the low bottoms, which were avoided on account of malaria, left but few traces and fewer remembrances of loss, while those of 1832and 1852 are yet fresh in the minds of those who witnessed them. The flood of 1832 followed the breaking up of the ice in the river and creek and was occasioned mostly by melting snow in the mountains,while that of 1852 was mostly from rain, of which we had three days and nights of such rains as only could have been equaled when Noah had completed his flatboat.

During the flood of 1832 the river at times appeared to be a floating village, as a dozen houses were in sight at a time,accompanied by something of every nature about a house that would float. In one instance there was a hay stack to the side of which clung a sheep, which at the same time a cock was perched on the top,who evidently enjoyed his ride, as he frequently flapped his wings and crowed. But the damage was not all done about us on the river, as many houses were swept away from the lower part of the city, and though many hair-breadth escapes were reported, I do not remember any loss of life.

With much that was pathetic there was an occasion streak of the humorous. An instance of which was, when an elderly German who kept a ten pin alley and a pig pen on Main, below Twenty-second street, and who had been forced to take refuge on top of the one-story house he occupied, witnessed the loss of his treasures. Just as the skiff reached him he cried out “Oh, mein Gott! Mean Gott, there goes meins pigs, meins rolly polleys and all.” Along with the houses that were swept away went the bridges over the creek at Main andSixteenth streets, those severing the ties that had ever been on a strain between the north and south end of town. These bridges were wooden. The one at Sixteenth street was covered, and on the plan of the one over Back river, and the best that ever spanned the creek at that place. The one at Main street was open and worthless, having been built by the government in 1819.

The floods of April, 1852, though destructive of much property in the way of lumber, out-houses, fences, etc. was much less so in houses, nor did it entail as much suffering, owing to the season.Both of these floods covered the entire Island with the exception of a small mound in the yard of the Berger place. The heights reached by these floods are both marked on the water works building, you know,and the one of 1852 on the lamp post in the middle of the stone bridge over the creek, at about a man's height above the pavement.That water filled this office we are now in, half way up to the ceiling.”

Several other old citizens told about the water coming upFourteenth street so as to fill the cellar of the old Hullihenbuilding, corner of Fourteenth and Market streets, now used as a Chinese laundry. Skiffs were rowed up to the Exchange bank steps, and all along Water street. Nearly all agreed that the water of yesterday was probably greater in volume that that of 1832 and 1852, but the river is much wider now, the banks having been cut away fearfully by floods in the past, and the flood of 1832 would probably not bring the river out of its banks today.

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