STRANGE STORIES OF DEATH
COLLEGE BOYS AND GIRLS SEE DESTRUCTION OF HOMES— YOUTHFUL STUDENTS RISK LIVES TO SAVE—THREE GIRLS TELL OF FLOOD EXPERIENCE.
Strange stories of a death which hurled itself down, swift and sure, from the hovering rain clouds upon a helpless and bewildered people were told by refugees from the stricken sections of Ohio and Indiana.
A dozen counties became an inland sea. From these water-washed wastes a few fortunate travelers emerged to bring to the outside world appalling stories of death, desolation and ruin.
Their stories of the havoc of the deluge eclipse the wildest fancies. Hundreds escaped from the first onrush of the waters only to meet a slower and more miserable death from starvation and exposure. Exiled from the rest of the world, the question of how to reach these people was for days without an answer.
Night came down, freezing cold, over a tract of desolation.
Without rations, and in some places without even shelter, unfortunates could only steel themselves to hold out until the waters receded and rescuers and relief expeditions reached them.
Four college girls from the Ohio Wesleyan university at Delaware, Ohio, where there are fifty known dead, give a stirring picture of the heroism of rescuers and the desolate plight of victims.
One man, escaping from the devastated region of Ohio, told of a modern Paul Revere, who risked his life in a midnight ride to arouse the inhabitants of the valley. He told the countryside the floods were coming and hundreds escaped to the hills.
An Erie train, with hundreds aboard was three days overdue, and from it no word could be learned. The fate of the passengers was unknown, and all efforts to reach the train by wire failed.
A resident of Bowling Green, Ohio, who fled from the flooded district told of the death, loss and suffering in that region.
The four plucky college girls who escaped from the doomed city of Delaware, Ohio, where they were attending school were:
Miss Mabel Lees, 325 South Elmwood avenue, Oak Park.
They arrived by the way of Toledo. They reached Toledo after a perilous trip over the Hocking Valley, where the train ran with water from the raging Maumee river rushing over the car axles.
For two days previous they were marooned in a school dormitory with 200 other girls who subsisted entirely upon canned tomatoes. Thirty-five were dead in the city and 4,000 homeless and cut off from relief when they left Delaware. Dispatches from the city placed the number of the lost at 50.
Delaware is a city of 10,000. It is twenty miles north of Columbus, sixty miles from Dayton and in the heart of the flood-stricken district. The Olentangy river, which divides the city in half, was its destruction. The eastern section was submerged and cut off from outside aid.
Dr. George W. Hyatt nearly lost his life when he crossed the roaring gorge which separates the halves of the city. With a medicine case strapped to his back, he finally crossed the stream by clinging to a cable thrown from one shore to another and administered to the sufferers on the deluged side.
Dr. Hyatt was the only man who would venture across the swollen stream.
The town is under martial law. Students from the university were sworn into company K of the Ohio National guard, stationed there, and orders were given to shoot dead any who attempted vandalism or robbery. This step was taken when it was learned that a number of tramps, who had ridden into the city the day before the flood in a box car, were looting houses.
The university campus became a lake. The buildings, which are on high ground, had not been reached by the encroaching waters when the girls left. Student quarters, however, were flooded and the school was dismissed until April 9.
The following account of the catastrophe was given by Miss Mills a Wesleyan college girl:
"The rain began on Easter Sunday. By Tuesday night Delaware was deluged. Lights were out, car service suspended, and there was no water with which to fight fires should conflagration break out. All was chaos and confusion.
"It is estimated that 4,000 persons were homeless and destitute on the east side of the Olentangy river. It was freezing cold and the sufferings of these marooned people must have been terrible.
"The boys from the college did heroic rescue work. They began at 3 o’clock Monday morning when we were awakened by cries and the firing of distress guns. The boys organized themselves into shifts and worked continuously. They saved many lives.
"The unwritten law of the sea, 'women and children first,’ was enforced with determination and heroism. The men of Delaware have done all that could be done to protect their women. Despite the efforts of rescuing crews, there was a great loss of life however. There is no way of telling how many are dead on the east side of the river.
"Some of the college men brought the word to the dormitory, where the girls had established a relief station, that one entire family had been wiped out in a most spectacular manner. Mr. and Mrs. Frank Melching and five children died when a gigantic tree, swept down by the current, crashed into their home just as they were attempting to escape on a raft.
"One little girl, 12 years old, carried from the flood by rescuers who came too late to save the remainder of the family was taken to an improvised hospital, ignorant of the fate of her parents, brothers and sisters.
Three women were drowned when the police attempted a rescue on East Winter street. They were taken from a second story window, but the boat, which was a light craft, was thrown against a telephone pole and demolished. The women were swept away in the current. Their names, according to a handbill printed by the Delaware Gazette, containing a roster of the dead, were: Mrs. Slosson, Miss Esther Jones and Miss Hazel Dunlap.
"College girls established a bureau of relief and gave their own clothing, in some cases, to destitute flood victims. A corps of girls sewed day and night for the refugees. The Beta Theta Pi, the Phi Kappa Psi and the Sigma Chi fraternity houses are thrown open for relief stations.
"Professor W. E. Dixon, director of physical culture at the university, and Robert T. Hills and Frank Ellison, students, were marooned twenty-four hours in a tree, when we left the city. The three had been engaged in rescue work and the skiff in which they were riding was overturned. They swam to a tree, which they climbed, where they remained for thirty hours, their wet clothing freezing to their bodies.
"It was stated in Delaware, before I left, that a relief train was on its way from Cleveland, with a life saving crew and boats with which to reach the marooned people on the east side of the river."
"We are justly proud of our college boys," said Miss Edith Quayle, daughter of the superintendent of motive power of the Chicago & Northwestern railway. "They certainly were heroes in this emergency. If it had not been for them there certainly would have been a greater loss of life. Their work in taking frantic women and children from deluged buildings will long be remembered."
Miss Lees brought a "flood extra" of the Delaware Daily Gazette, dated 5 p. m. March 25. The extra names seventeen dead and recounts the valiant work of rescuers. The paper is an example of the production of a newspaper under difficulties. With gas, electricity and all public utilities out of commission, the type was set by hand and the paper printed on one side of a "bill sheet" on a job press.
The paper tells of the perilous condition of Mayor Leas of Delaware. Swept from a rescue boat, from which he had been directing the work of saving lives, he managed to gain a second story building in the business section. When the paper was printed, aid had been unable to reach him.
Walter Kelchner, a student was named as the saver of many lives.
The damage was placed at $2,000,000.
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