Culver Naval and Military cadets, when they returned from their rescue work at Logansport, Ind., brought stories of the bravery of the shivering sufferers. Fifteen hundred persons were taken from flooded houses to places of safety by the cadets, who handled their cutters in the fierce currents of the Wabash, which made a river of every cross-street of the town.

Fences and twisted masses of wires hampered the rescue, but the cadets proved equal to their heroic task.

Through the roof of one small house two women were released from a dark attic, where they had sat for forty-eight hours, without food, drink, bedding or light, and all the time ignorant of what was going on outside their prison.

Several mothers and new-born babies were rescued by the hospital corps, whose members lifted them in blankets into the big cutters in which they were taken to ambulances at the water’s edge. For one sufferer who complained that her feet were cold, a jug of hot coffee in the cutter served as a hot water bottle.

An old man who had been dragged out of an attic window insisted that he be taken to feed his horse.

An industrious hen was found perched on a second-story window ledge, where she had just laid a contribution to the household food.

The horrors of Ohio and Indiana floods were brought closer home to other cities when refugees began to arrive at homes of friends. Improved train connections from the affected districts enabled hundreds of refugees to escape the flooded district. Many pitiful stories of privations endured and ruin in prospect were told by arrivals to the newspaper men who thronged every railroad station and met each incoming train.

There were scores of affecting scenes as the engines puffed noisily into the terminals and the passengers alighted from the coaches. Men and women rushed into each other’s arms, children were seized in warm embraces and kissed half to death, and many tears of joy were shed as the flooded districts gave up to anxious watchers relatives from whom no word has been received for days.


J. W. Kreamer, a railway postal clerk running between Chicago and Marion, Ohio, over the Erie Road, had perhaps as interesting a story to tell as any one. Mr. Kreamer stood beside a farmer Thursday afternoon on the edge of the flooded district adjoining Peru and watched three young bridegrooms go to their death in a stolen boat.

"The farmer and I were talking, near a wagon on which his boat was lying," said Mr. Kreamer. "I had tried to bargain with him to row me over to Peru, as my wife’s father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. R. Bowman, were marooned there. The farmer, whose name was Oliver Wilson, refused to take me over, because he said the boat wasn’t safe.

"While we were talking, a few hundred feet from the wagon, three young men ran up. They had been making their way over the muddy roads from an interurban, which stopped its cars three miles away.

"We heard them shout gladly as they saw the boat and before we could reach them they had taken the craft from the wagon, set it in the water, shipped their oars and embarked.


"Come back, come back,’ cried Wilson, as we ran toward them. ‘You will all be drowned.’ They shouted that they could take care of themselves and rowed out into the current. They hadn’t gone a city block when their boat struck a submerged fence post or tree and was torn apart. One of the men disappeared under the water, but the other two hung on to the fragments of the boat and were swept along a hundred feet or more in the current. Then they lost their grip and sank after trying in vain to swim.

"On the run into Chicago I learned that these men were brakemen on the Chesapeake and Ohio. They had been married about six months ago, within two weeks of each other, and their cottages stood side by side in that part of Peru now under water. They had gone to Akron, Ind., on the Erie milk train in the morning and were trying to reach their brides when they were drowned. I found lots of the men on the road who knew them, but we have not been able to identify them by name.


Mr. Kreamer, after this experience, succeeded in getting a boat and an oarsman, who rowed him to with-in a block of where his father-in-law and mother-in-law were marooned.

"They wouldn’t let us go any closer," he asserted. "An armed patrol was thrown about the town, keeping out every one but relief workers. My relatives, I learned, were on Smith Island, one of the only two spots in Peru which at that time were out of water. Smith Island, comprising perhaps an acre and a half of ground, having on it only four houses, was populated by about 1,200 persons—men and women and children.

"I think the refugees there were in better shape than at the courthouse, for there are some wells on Smith Island. While I was there a number of farmers’ boats with milk cans and food aboard were rowed in as far as the courthouse."

"And when the milk got there," broke in C. W. Helms and Walter C. Thomas, who were standing near by listening to Kreamer’s story, "there was an awful time. We were at the courthouse, having escaped in a boat after about thirty-six hours of it.


Mr. Helms told the story of his and Thomas’ escape, and of the scenes that attended the distribution of the first milk. Thomas was a nervous wreck and shuddered as he listened to his companion’s account of the horrors they had endured together.

"They ordered an armed guard to supervise the distribution of that first milk, which was a welcome as the manna described in the Bible." said Helms. "The women fought to get more than a share for their babies, but it was necessary to have a fair distribution, and that was about a gill to each person. Many men gave up their share to women with babies. Later, before we left, plenty of provisions had arrived, and we only came away because we were anxious to get to Chicago. We made the trip back to town on a relief train that had been sent in from Chicago by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad, and that brought plenty of food for a day or two at least."

This Chesapeake and Ohio relief train was in charge of T. H. Gurney, district passenger agent of the road, with headquarters in Chicago.


"We started the train at 10:30 o’clock Thursday morning, flashing word ahead by wire that it was on its way," said Mr. Gurney. "At Hammond we took on a big supply of bread, donated by the townspeople, who said they also had a cash fund of $1,000 to be used later for the sufferers. All down the line into Peru we found wagon-loads of clothes and food which the farmers had hauled into the stations for shipment on our train.

"At Griffith, Merrillville, Beatrice, La Crosse, North Judson, Kewanna, Twelve Mile, Fulton and Hoovers we loaded on eggs, groceries, poultry, milk and clothing. The people gave willingly and said if we needed more it would be forthcoming. At Lake Bruce we loaded a lot of rowboats on to a flat car.

"We ran to within two miles of the Peru depot, when we found 500 feet of track washed out. We made a foot bridge, however, and transferred the supplies to a string of flat cars, with a Wabash engine attached. The food was hauled into town and we started back. Only Helms and Thomas came back with us, although on the trip down we had taken about eight of our employes anxious to get to their families in Peru."


While Mr. Gurney was describing the experiences of the relief corps there staggered into the offices an unkempt, wild-eyed man, with a three-day growth of beard on his face and mud smeared all over his shoes and trousers. His clothes were in rags.

"Hello, Carl," shouted somebody in the office, and in a minute the stranger was the center of an excited group of railroad men. It was learned that he was Carl Decker of Chicago, a brakeman on the Chesapeake and Ohio’s star train, the Old Dominion flyer. The eastbound Old Dominion, with Decker aboard, left Chicago Monday morning and got as far as Webster, Ind., where it was stalled.

The passengers were taken in automobiles to Richmond, where they were sheltered safe and well cared for in a hotel. They were unable to get East or West. The westbound Old Dominion, due in Chicago at 2:30 o’clock on Monday afternoon, was stalled for five days at Converse, Ind., with washouts on both sides, but the passengers are safe and well cared for. Decker brought this information, and then told the story of his own journey to Chicago.


"Like those three poor fellows who were drowned near Peru, I am a bridegroom," said Decker, "and after I had been shut up in that Richmond hotel for nearly three days I decided to get to Chicago and my wife if I had to swim for it. I left Richmond Wednesday morning on foot.

"After walking about ten miles I came across a lot of water and I stole a boat, which I rowed for about six miles. Then I came to a stretch of the tracks of the Pennsylvania Road and I got a lift of about twenty miles on a work train. I borrowed a horse from a farmer, who took my word that I would leave it with his brother, about eight miles down the road. I left the horse there, and the brother told me if I walked about five miles more I could get another Pennsylvania work train. I found that train and got another lift.

"All told, I guess I walked about seventy miles and rode on the Pennsylvania five times and used one horse and two boats. At last I got to Rochester, where I caught the Erie and came straight into Chicago.

"The passengers on the two stalled Old Dominion trains had a great time. They had plenty to eat and lived like a company on shipboard, with games to pass away the time."


Another Chicagoan who had an experience similar to Decker’s was Harry Brinkerhoff, a traveling salesman. Dressed in rubber boots, blue shirt and a mud-stained traveling suit, Brinkerhoff arrived from Peru, Ind., in the afternoon, after being three days and two nights on the road.

"I went to Peru Sunday on business," said Mr. Brinkerhoff, "and was to leave Tuesday morning at 7 o’clock. When I awoke I looked out of the window and found the city was covered with several inches of water. I watched the waters as they climbed slowly inch by inch.

"Then I left the hotel and went to the courthouse, covering the distance by boat. Men, women and children were crowded together. There was no room for any to sit down, and no one made any attempt to keep the place clean. They were too tired and frightened to care.

"I left the courthouse Tuesday night in a boat which some one had left, and started on my way down the river to some point—I did not know just where. I had been in many flood experiences before, having lived along the Red River for several years, and knew how to handle a boat in the swift running stream.


"All Tuesday night and part of Wednesday I was tossed about on those waters. I saw bodies float by me, intermingled with trees and ruins of the houses. About three miles out of Peru I passed under a tree in which were the bodies of two girls, frozen. As I passed I reached up with one of my oars and tried to jar them loose, but they were frozen too tight.

"At another place I passed under a bridge. A house was lodged against it. The waters were so high I could look into the windows of the upper story. There I saw the bodies of a man, a woman and two children. In the same room were the bodies of several pigs and other live stock.

"The only time I was in real peril was when I was passing under a railroad bridge. Here rapids had formed over the debris, and I was forced to lie flat in the boat and let it shoot past. The gunwales scraped the bottom of the bridge flooring and the boat whirled in the eddies, but did not capsize. I got to Logansport safely, and by a series of boat rides, ‘hikes’ and wagon rides reached Plymouth, Ind., where I took the train for Chicago,"


Heroism of young men of Warsaw, Ind., first to respond to Peru’s telegraphic cry for help, saved the lives of hundreds of persons. Members of the Warsaw Boat Club, many of them high school pupils, launched eighty boats, steered them through the flood to Peru and with the aid of citizens established the two havens at Smith Island and the courthouse, then carried the people to them.

Lawrence Gannon, an employe of the Michigan Central, who was visiting relatives in Peru, told how they rescued him with hundreds of others.

"There was one message for help sent from Peru before the wires went down and that was received at Warsaw," said Gannon. "Scores of the boys there got together and they must have assembled quickly, for their boats, eighty of them, with the boys pulling as if in a boat race, shot into the streets of Peru while the people were struggling in the water.

"Those boys kept up a constant boat patrol from the houses to the courthouse and the other island. I was standing in the second story of a house when they rowed up and got me. They picked people out of the stream."

A country-wide appeal
From Pittsburgh Sun
A country-wide appeal


The national guardsmen of Ohio and Indiana were ordered out. President Wilson directed Secretary-of-War Garrison to proceed to the Ohio flood district and he was able to co-ordinate the relief forces by the power of his office.

Food and clothing and money from all parts of the country was hastily collected and loaded upon cars. From far distant Haiwaii came contributions by cable.

For days the need for assistance was felt in many places. Store keepers and other business men found their stocks ruined with no chance of recovery and men well-to-do were plunged into poverty. However long time credit by wholesalers enabled such merchants to continue their business and to feed and clothe the people.

After the flood swept through Ohio and Indiana they found their way to the Ohio and on the Sunday following the tornado cries for help came from Ohio and Mississippi river towns. Governor Dunne of Illinois directed companies of the national guard to proceed to the river with car loads of bags which filled with sand were used to strengthen and repair the levees.

While men were shown to be powerless in the face of such a demonstration of the elements, the powers of civilization to relieve were manifested in a remarkable way. Strange as it may seem thousands of people found the flood an actual benefit. Poor people most always live in the lowlands, because the possibility of floods makes land cheaper there. These poor districts were hit the hardest and men out of work and barely living, with their families, found upon being rescued that they were provided with fine clothing from homes of rich people and for once they had ample food and no fear of the morrow. But those working people who have saved money and bought little homes on the cheap lowlands saw their savings wiped out in one night and they faced the discouraging problem of again saving sufficient to rebuild their small shelters.


Two other disastrous floods of modern times were those at Johnstown, Pa., and at Galveston, Texas. Each of these disasters were confined to one locality and the horror was limited, but in the tornado and flood of 1913 hundreds of towns and cities and thousands of farm neighborhoods were included and the horror extended from New England to the Rocky Mountains.


The Johnstown flood, May 31, 1889, was caused by the bursting of the great reservoir of Lake Conemaugh, two and a half miles long, and a mile and a half wide and one hundred feet at its greatest depth. The great wall of water swept down the beautiful Conemaugh valley, destroying Johnstown and all its suburbs. Fire completed the destruction. The loss of life was 2235 and the property destroyed was estimated at $10,000,000.

The dam which held back the waters of the Conemaugh reservoir had been pointed to as a menace for ten years before it finally gave way.


Messengers were dispatched to Johnstown to warn the inhabitants, but the messengers were only half believed. Already, from a log boom that had come down earlier in the day from another creek, the streets of Johnstown were knee deep in water, but comparatively few residents took that warning seriously and went with their families to the hills. When it became certain that the dam was going, an engineer named Parks mounted a fast horse and rode to Johnstown, 18 miles away, crying the danger as he rode through the valley.

At three o’clock the whole center of the dam gave way for 800 feet in width. Trees, rocks and earth bounded into the air. A great flood of water, half a mile wide and 40 feet high, rushed down the valley. It caught up Mineral Point. It tore down upon East Conemaugh, where the Pennsylvania railroad had its yards, and demolished every house. Engines weighing 20 tons were picked up like chips and made to serve the will of the flood as battering rams.

The Galveston flood occurred Sept. 8, 1900. Within a period of five hours, but chiefly between 7 and 9 o’clock that night, 6000 lives were lost and property, including 7000 buildings, valued at $18,000,000, was destroyed.

A West Indian hurricane, lasting 18 hours, the wind veering in every direction and reaching a maximum velocity estimated at 185 miles an hour, swept over the city. Streets were flooded to a maximum depth of 16 feet above mean low tide. The gulf of Mexico was hurled upon the fated city.


The tidal wave swept the buildings from their frail, sandy foundations. Many of those which resisted the force of the waters were thrown down by the furious winds. Throughout the night of Sept. 8 Galveston was a seething sea. The next day came the slow subsidence of the waters, the hurricane meanwhile having swept onward to wreak its havoc in other regions.

Almost all of the residence part of the city was in ruin. Much of the business quarter was irretrievably destroyed. The piers were washed away, shipping was driven upon the beach or hurled out into the gulf and sunk. Warehouses, churches, schools, bridges, docks, railroad stations, the tracks of the railroads in many instances, with locomotives and cars, hovels and mansions, the homes of the low and the high indiscriminately were blotted out, and over a considerable part of the city all landmarks were obliterated.


Galveston’s most serious of all losses was its loss of life. The destruction of property in the city and its suburbs was $30,000,000. This is exceeded by the property loss in the big Boston fire of 1872, which was $80,000,000. It is far below the destruction of property in the Chicago conflagration of 1871, which was $190,000,000. But in loss of life the Galveston catastrophe far surpassed all the other calamities which ever occurred in the United States up to the storm and flood of March 1913.

Leaving a bloody trail
From the Register, Wheeling, W. Va.
Leaving a bloody trail
Drawn by T. V Gilkison


Back to Legacy