STORY OF THE MEANEST MAN—"I WANT THAT BOAT"
PAGEANT OF HORROR SEEN FROM RIVER BANKS—MORE ABOUT HEROISM OF COLLEGE BOYS—A PAUL REVERE.
"While at Delaware I saw college students make many thrilling rescues by swimming out into the swift current and swimming back with a flood victim. One young man swam out and rescued thirty persons in one day. He was the bravest fellow I ever saw," said Rev. E. R. O’Neal.
"I saw a house with one woman and three children clinging to the roof floating down the stream. The house was whirling and bobbing up and down in the water. The woman was screaming for help. Persons on the edge of the flood had a small boat, but they could not row fast enough to catch up with the house.
"The house bore down on the Pennsylvania railroad bridge and crashed against it. The mother caught the bridge and held on. The children went down, but came up again near a tree. The eldest child helped the other two and held on to the tree. The boat put out and rescued all of them.
"A few minutes later a house with an old man about 75 years and his wife floated down the stream. The woman was lying on the roof. The old man was holding her. Suddenly the house struck a tree and the brick chimney fell off. Then we saw the old man lift his wife in his arms and carry her to the chimney hole in the roof and let her down into it. When the rescuers put out in a boat and caught up with the house, one of the rescuers inquired for the woman.
"‘She is dead,’ said the old man. ‘She died two hours ago, and I was afraid to let her lie on the roof because the water would carry her away.’
"I saw another house with a man and woman clinging to the chimney to keep from falling off. The house struck a tree and the chimney crumbled. Both went down before the boat reached them and we never saw them again. These are only a few instances of the horrible things seen in the flooded district.
"I went from Delaware to Prospect and the same tragedies were repeated. At Prospect I saw the meanest man in the world. The meanest man, I think, is a farmer who owned a boat at Prospect. He lived across the river from the town. He lent his boat to a Baptist minister who used it for rescue work. They saved more than a dozen women and children during the day. It was the only boat in the town.
"Although the minister could not rescue but two persons at a time he was doing noble work. Many persons were swept away before the boat could reach them. Late in the afternoon the farmer came to the shore and announced he wanted the boat. He declared he would take the boat by force. He said he wanted to go across the river and attend to some business.
"The minister refused to give up the boat, but offered to row the farmer across the dangerous river, if he could keep the boat. The farmer grudgingly assented, and a newspaper man from Marion and the minister rowed him across. It was the first attempt to take the boat across the swift river and was extremely dangerous.
"The preacher declared he would take any risk in order to keep the boat. They landed the farmer across the river after much difficulty. They started back and when in the middle of the stream the boat capsized and both went down. With the boat hundreds of persons could have been rescued.
"To show they were willing to do anything to help the sufferers more than 100 students at Wesleyan college volunteered to leave the city so there would be 100 less to feed. The students departed at night for their homes in different parts of the country.
"At Celina I saw the same suffering. The town was under ten feet of water. I saw them take ten bodies from the water at Massilon, O. Prospect, O., was under fourteen feet of water and the river at that point was four miles wide. I saw them take more than a dozen bodies from the water.
"The reports of the dead have not been sent in from these small towns and the country will be appalled when the full number is known. From what I saw I do not think the reports have been exaggerated."
From out the little town of Minster, Ohio, in the heart of the devastated district, and only several miles south of the Grand reservoir, came a story of heroism that parallels the famed ride of Paul Revere. It was brought to Chicago by one of the first of the district’s refugees to reach that city, Charles Dietrick.
"It was in Minster on Monday," Dietrick said as he stepped from a Lake Shore train. "Late that night I succeeded in getting away. I fled from the city before big danger appeared imminent. I ran away because of the warning that was given me."
Minster is south of the big reservoir and west of the Miami river. The river and the huge dam form a rim to a saucer-shaped valley, of which Minster is the center.
"The man who gave us warning is nameless, so far as I know," Dietrick told. "He rode through Minster late Monday night, calling out that the river was rising and that the reservoir seemed about to break. At the hotel in which I was staying his warning was received with cynical smiles. I was one of the few that gave him credence. I got out on the last train run from the district."
What the failure of heeding the warning has cost the other inhabitants of the town probably was not known for days. Dietrick, who is a traveling salesman, living at Detroit, had little to lose in flying from the place at once.
Many were trapped between the waters of the broken reservoir and those of the flooded Miami.
"Our monitor had ridden through the entire stretch of country between Minster and the Grand," Dietrick told. "His horse was fagged almost to the point of dropping in its tracks. The clothing of the man was drenched by the rain that had been falling since Sunday. The cold wind had torn at his face until it seemed blackened. He told us that he had been riding since the afternoon and expected to stay in the saddle until daylight.
"‘You don’t seem to understand,’ was the way he met the laughs that followed his first warning. ‘I tell you I have seen both the river and the big dam. The river is away over its banks and rising every minute. The reservoir can’t last. You’d better get onto higher ground while you have the chance. Good-bye.’
"Then he dashed away to the other houses and finally eastward from the towns to Anna and Swanders. Piqua was covered by water at the moment, but we didn’t know it."
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