THE FLOOD AT TIFFIN
GRAPHIC STORY OF AN EYEWITNESS OF THE FLOOD AT ITS HEIGHT—INCIDENTS OF THE DELUGE THAT SWEPT MIGHTY BRIDGES AWAY.
Tiffin on Wednesday night, March 26, was a city of sorrow and desolation, paralyzed and grief-stricken, with a loss of a score or more of lives and a property loss close to $1,000,000. The electric light, water and gas plants were out of commission, and similar suffering and distress to that experienced at Dayton prevailed on all hands.
Mayor Keppell on Thursday wired Governor Cox, requesting a company of militia to relieve the corps of police and city firemen there, who were exhausted after sixty hours’ work in rescuing flood victims.
Looting in the inundated districts was said to have assumed serious proportions and the local officials did not feel able to cope with the situation.
The Ursuline Convent and St. Francis Orphanage were thrown open to the refugees made homeless by the raging waters.
The two-story brick block of Austin J. Houck crumbled Thursday afternoon and was washed away.
All the banks at Tiflin informed the County Commissioner that they stood ready to furnish money to all who lost their belongings in the flood, and this alleviated the suffering of many of the homeless.
The known dead included Mr. and Mrs. W. D. Axline; Jacob and Clarence Kenecht and one child; Mr. and Mrs. George Klingshirn and seven children.
Here is how some of them died:
When the Axline residence was picked up by the flood and started careening down the river, watchers saw Axline and his wife standing in the window of the second story. Her head was pillowed on his shoulder. The cries of the wife could be heard above the rushing water.
Axline patted his wife on the back and kissed her. A moment later the house crashed into the Baltimore & Ohio bridge. It was splintered like a bundle of sticks. With their arms about each other, husband and wife disappeared beneath the raging waters.
When the home of Jacob Kenecht was swept away Mrs. Kenecht and her five children were in the dwelling. Kenecht was outside. When he was picked up by the current he grabbed the limb of a tree. He held on for fifteen minutes. Rescuers attempted to throw him a line. Each time the wildly running water held the rope within a few inches of his outstretched arms.
Finally, exhausted and numbed by the cold, Kenecht gave up the fight against death. "Thanks, good-by, boys, I’m——— " his last words were swallowed by the water that engulfed him.
A terrible blizzard raged over the stricken city Thursday, with a number of families still marooned in water-surrounded houses.
That the death list was not swollen Wednesday by several more was due to the bold efforts of the Toledo life-saving crew with its three boats, and the Sandusky crew with its nine boats. These men saved many from death, braved danger in swirling currents and took desperate chances in rescuing families.
Until Monday morning, "Sailor Jack" Willis was an inconspicuous character. On Wednesday he was the city’s hero. He took charge of the rescue work. The life-saving baskets and cables were made and operated under his orders. By stretching cables to a water-surrounded house the occupants, one by one, were brought to places of safety.
"Sailor Jack" personally saved ten people. And after sixty hours of work, with no rest, he dropped exhausted. A movement has been started to obtain for him a Carnegie medal.
Four women, two of whom were Mrs. A. W. Knott and daughter, were rescued from the roof of a barn on Water street by telephone linemen, who clung to the tops of the poles and swung lines to the women. The four were hauled to safety, hand over hand.
Regina Moltrie, school teacher, climbed a telephone pole when the flood struck her home. On her hands and knees she crawled across heavy cables to linemen, fifty feet above the rushing water.
County Treasurer W. O. Heckert, his wife and three children were taken out of their home in a huge basket suspended to a cable. A life line was swung for a block and a half to save County Surveyor Charles Peters, his wife and child. The family relayed from building to building. Sixteen people marooned in the Bonette Hotel were taken out in baskets, as were ten girls, employes of a mitten factory.
The bodies of four children, three boys and a girl, were found near the Tiffin Wagon Works. It is believed they were washed down from Upper Sandusky.
Mrs. Josephine Wagner, eighty-four, laughed at warnings of a flood. She refused to move. An hour later firemen carried her down a ladder from the second story of her home.
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© 2001, Lynn Waterman