GOVERNOR COX TAKES CHARGE
OHIO EXECUTIVE QUICK TO AID SUFFERING THOUSANDS —NATIONAL GOVERNMENT SENDS TENTS AND RATIONS.
Governor James M. Cox of Ohio took charge of the flood situation within a few moments after the first great walls of water began to sweep down the valleys of the state. He was stationed in Columbus when the first news of the terrible disaster at Dayton was received. He was able at 9:10 a. m. Wednesday morning to give this heartening assurance over the long distance telephone to John A. Bell, wire chief at Dayton:
"Soldiers will be in Dayton this morning; the legislature will probably pass an appropriation of at least $250,000 this morning. I am sending a message to the legislature now. I have asked the federal government for a million rations, and have asked the governors of other states as well as the federal authorities, for coats, tents and clothing."
Within the short time preceding this message Governor Cox had sent the following message to President Wilson;
"We have asked the secretary of war this morning for tents, supplies, rations and physicians. In the name of humanity, see that this is granted at the earliest possible moment. The situation in this state is very critical. We believe that 250,000 people were unsheltered last night, and the indications are that before night the Muskingum valley will suffer the fate of the Miami and Scioto valleys."
To this President Wilson had promptly replied:
"Have directed the secretary of war immediately to comply with your request and to use every agency of his department to meet the needs of the situation." Shortly after midnight Wednesday Governor Cox sent out to the world a statement of the flood conditions in Ohio that appalled the country with its heart-rendering cry for help. As a graphic picture of the situation at that hour, portraying as it does all the terrible dread of further catastrophies that had seized the entire state, this statement by Governor Cox, written in the anguish of the hour, when hundreds of the people of his commonwealth were lying beneath the muddy waters of the floods, is far more interesting than any account written after the floods had subsided and the dead counted. It is as follows:
"The exact extent of the appalling flood in Ohio is still unknown. Every hour impresses us with the uncertainty of the situation. The waters have assumed such unknown heights in many parts of the state that it will be hardly less than a miracle if villages and towns are not wiped out of existence in the southern and southwestern parts of Ohio. The storm is moving south of east.
"Please give great publicity to an appeal for help. My judgment is that there has never been such a tragedy in the history of the republic.
"Columbus is the center of all activities in behalf of the stricken cities. Every hour has apparently been filled with an accumulation of drastic circumstances.
"Piteous appeals have been made by men who were surrounded by water and confronted by the approaching conflagration in the city of Dayton. Every human energy has been exerted to give relief and yet the measure of assistance has been comparatively small.
"The day began with a storm signal from the weather bureau, saying that there would be a dangerous rise in the waters of the Muskingum river. All the towns along its source, including Zanesville and Marietta, were advised. Before noon the situation assumed a critical aspect at Zanesville and the historic Y bridge was blown up with dynamite.
"The loss of life in Zanesville is uncertain because all telephone communication ceased yesterday at noon. Marietta cannot be reached, but it is safe to assume that the same devastating results at Zanesville were carried on to Marietta.
"A flood situation developed in the Maumee and Sandusky valleys in northwestern Ohio, but the damage to life and property was nothing compared with that in the south.
"In many respects the Dayton situation is absolutely without parallel. The city is unable to send to the outside world any accurate idea of the real loss. North Dayton reported a loss of 100 lives. Later precisely the same situation was reported from Riverdale. West Dayton was almost completely under water and the houses in Edgemont, a residence section, were so deep in the flood that great destruction certainly ensued there. On the high lands of South Park and East Dayton pockets were developed and people were drowned in apparent elevations where it would seem naturally impossible. The water at 5th and Brown streets, which is twenty-five to thirty feet above the elevations in the business section, reached ten feet.
"At this time a river, wild and turbulent, four miles wide, is sweeping through the business section of Dayton, to say nothing of the overflow in the residence sections.
"Telephone communication was established before the day was over with four points in the city. Bell, the intrepid Bell telephone operator, reported first that he had sent scouts into the different parts of the city by boat. His belief at daylight was that the loss of life had been overestimated, but by 10 o’clock it was known that easily 500 people had been drowned. We cannot resist the belief that the loss will not be less than 1,000.
"The Miami river enters Dayton directly north and south, separating North Dayton from Riverdale. It then makes a complete turn west and runs about three-fourths of a mile; then it turns directly at right angles to the south. These bends have been the undoing of the city and caused the break in the levee.
"Not until to-day was it apparent that between 10,000 and 12,000 people are penned up in the business district in buildings, hotels and the Y. M. C. A. building, making it apparent that the flood came so quickly that the business community was unable to reach the hills of the city.
"The city hall is patrolled by a number of policemen inside and it is situated so as to enable the officers to make more or less accurate estimates of the number of people in the business section.
"Fire broke out in the square bounded by St. Clair, Jefferson, 2d and 3d streets soon after noon. The blaze was noticed first in a drug store. It swept north and destroyed St. Paul’s Evangelical church. The flames then shot to the south through the wholesale district, consuming two large wholesale liquor houses.
"The fire is still burning. We were advised by telephone that people could be seen on the roofs of the buildings in the imperiled square and that they were jumping from one structure to another, keeping safely away from the flames. The water at this time had receded to about five feet in that part of the city.
"The appeal came over the telephone to the statehouse that unless boats were sent at once from some part of the stricken district loss of life would be tremendous. It develops that the rescue from this square was complete.
"The Beckel hotel, immediately across the street, was on fire at noon, but the flames were put out. Howard, from the Home Telephone building, reported that the roof of the Beckel house was black with people, standing guard over their safety point. South of the stricken square is another wholesale section and it developed that about thirty-five women and children were in several of the buildings.
"About 3 o’clock the flames leaped across 3d street and attacked the square bounded by 3d, 4th, Jefferson and St. Clair streets. Lowe Brothers’ paint store was destroyed and another tremendous sacrifice of human life was imminent. Fifteen men in the Home Telephone building succeeded, however, in rescuing the women and children by the aid of a block and tackle, getting them into the Beaver Power building, a fireproof structure.
"Instructions have been given from Columbus to the militia in the southern part of Dayton to give vigilant eye to the fire district and if the flames start in the direction of the Home Telephone building and the Beaver Power building to risk passage through the turbulent river, which is running through the city, with boats.
"At daylight fifty boats will go into the business district of the south part. The naval militia, with 100 boats, left Toledo at midnight. The federal life saving crew, with equipment, will arrive at Dayton from Cleveland by way of Toledo at daylight, so that unless developments during the night are unseemly the whole situation ought to be measurably well in hand this forenoon.
"We are disquieted, however, by its report from the Lewistown reservoir that the wind has changed to the north and the water is beating against the banks on the south shore, which has been standing the pressure of the waves for ten days. If the reservoir should give way the wildest imagination could probably not bring an accurate impression of what will happen in Dayton.
"From all over the United States responses have come from individuals, corporations, trade bodies and municipalities. The appalling nature of the tragedy is understood. Railroad communication is seriously interfered with all through Ohio and it is imperative that assistance be given by telegraph remittance. The American Red Cross will have complete organizations at Columbus, Dayton and other affected points to-morrow.
"Serious trouble is reported from Fremont and Chillicothe. Dams have broken at both places. Troops have been asked and loss of life is reported. We are unable to get any accurate idea of the loss of life at Hamilton. Both that place and Middletown are so isolated that we fear the worst.
"In Columbus the situation has improved. The Scioto is receding. It is feared that when the waters have left the western part of the city a considerable loss of life will be revealed. Almost within sight of the capitol building three men, two women and a child have been hanging to a tree for over twenty-four hours; yet the waters are too swift to make their rescue possible.
"JAMES M. Cox,
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