Flood Diaries: Tuesday, March 25, 1913

Margaret Smell

“Tuesday [March 25] morning between 5 and 6 o’clock we were awakened from our slumbers by the shrieking of whistles, the like of which we never heard. Before we could dress ourselves and reach the window the flood of water came rushing down the street. Every moment gaining power and drawing nearer. We soon escaped to the second story of the house carrying all the available articles, especially the eatable things we could carry with us. The dark, mudy [sic] water grew higher and higher as the day advanced. Ere night came we were privileged to seek further safety by a temporary bridge from window to window built of door shutters to a more substantial house with an attic.

A make-shift bridge

A make-shift bridge similar to what the Smell family might have used. (ms128_2-8-19)

When we escaped we found there were 23 of our party that escaped to the attic. And now the darkness of night came upon us and the crucial water drawing nearer and nearer. We saught [sic] our hard bunks being the only thing we could do, as we dare not strike a match or have a bit of light, except a flashlight, on account of escaping gas and fear of explosion which really were occurring not far from us. But alas, we did not seek our bunks expecting to sleep and rest, but rather to bear the horrible strain of perhaps our fatal doom, as best we could, and to listen to the heart rending cries for help – help of many others, near us – but not so fortunate as we were, then we heard them franticly chopping through the roofs there seeking safety on the roofs, facing a cold pitiless rain but many houses were swept from their foundations carrying their human frate [sic] with them down through the cold waters of death without a days warning to meet their God.”

houses swept from their foundations

One of the “many houses…swept from their foundations” (ms128_2-6-4)


J. G. C. Schenck, Sr.

“Alarm woke us up at 6:15 a.m. AES looked out window & found river had over flowed its banks & was running down Ludlow St. We dressed hurriedly & made our escape by auto out back way. See description at back of this book.”

From back of diary (Memoranda): “Woke up to find river running into Ludlow St. Took food up stairs. Took money & jewelry & ran for auto in Garage. Escaped by back way to Oakwood—the Stoddards—I went back to save [???]—Fred Hull & I were caught in house & waded to our knees—back way—were rescued by brewery wagon & landed on dry ground at Wayne Ave. & Ry— were wet above our waists. We left Chas Bruner on our poarch [sic]. All neighbors were in their houses—when we left. River rose 10 to 12 feet all over town. Water reached Apple St on Main. Rained steady for several days. Still raining.”


Bishop Milton Wright

Wright home at 7 Hawthorn Street (ms1_15-1-5)

Wright home at 7 Hawthorn Street (ms1_15-1-5)

“Alarm about the water rising. Russell Hartzell comes with a canoe after Mrs. Wagner, and takes in me. We glide down Hawthorne and on Williams Street to William Hartzell’s & they receive us most Christianly. The waters rise six or eight feet by 9:00, night, begin to subside at 11:00.

From the back of diary: “About 8:00 forenoon the waters burst onto our Street. I put on my overcoat, ready to go. A canoe came for Mrs. E. Wagner, and the boys said I could get in too. It glided across to Williams St. to William Hartzell’s, next north of the Baptist Church. I walked in the door- saved my shoes. His wife is sick abed. She was Jemima Ellen Schell. Their sons were Russell, Layton, and Howard, 22 & 14. Their girls, Mary, 12, Mildred and Carrie, 6. A smart nice family. They belong at Lutheran Church. They treated us the kindest. Their house is a two story, plastered Atic [sic] above. Hartzell’s (aged 42), parents died when he was young. Hers are living. He is intelligent, thoughtful, and Christian. The boys were out rescueing [sic] and Mrs. Pexton directed them to find Mrs. Wagner. Our children asked if they could take me. A young man carried me on his shoulders and set me in the canoe. We had no fire after Tuesday forenoon, only coal oil & alcohol. Our rations were limited, but sufficient. We had bread, eggs, etc. On Wednesday, we waited for the waters to go down, and Wednesday night. They discovered a child lodged in the next door yard north, and Daniel Snyder waded out & brought it to his house, where it lay till Wednesday morning, when I went in to see it. Just then its father came (Washburn) and took it away. While there, Mr. [blank] Siler, saw me and reported me to Orville. I slept a little Tuesday night, and more Wednesday night. Mr. Hartzell slept three hours Wednesday night.

Hawthorn Street during the 1913 Flood

Hawthorn Street during the 1913 Flood (ms1_15-1-7)

A swift river flowed down Williams Street, and, toward Hawthorn Street, many sheds floated and were wrecked Tuesday. It carried off Hartzell’s chicken house, and drowned his chickens, which had been moved to the barn. It seemed as if a widow and an old man had been Providentially provided for. We knew not what our near neighbors were doing, except Snyder’s north of us. We had no word about our children till Thursday morning. Katharine had advertised for me Wednesday, on Hawthorn Street. Lorin a week before had moved from Second St. to 331 Grafton Avenue, Cor. Grand Avenue. I had counseled higher ground (that policy) for a year past. The flood was second to Noah’s.”

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