"At 7 o’clock, Monday, March 24, all the lights in the city of Peru, Ind., went out," said an eyewitness of flood conditions in that city. "Soon afterwards the water works was flooded out of commission. We went to bed by candlelight, only to find that there was no heat. The fires were drowned out."

Tuesday morning the flood waters descended and Peru shared the fate of many sister cities in Indiana and Ohio. Then followed 48 hours of abject misery for most of the inhabitants. The scene was described by one sufferer thus:

"With the trees, houses, bloated bodies of horses, dogs, and even human beings floating around, nothing to drink except the muddy yellow slop of the flood, full of sticks, straw, sand and chicken feathers, no light except candles, no heat, although the chill of the water is clammy and penetrating, and the supply of provisions, except canned goods, running low, Peru was a scene of horror. The town is situated on a level spot along the Wabash, with the court house, where a great crowd had sought refuge and were sleeping and eating huddled together, the highest spot for a mile in any direction. You could just see the tops of the houses in South Peru, across the river. The swollen river was from half a mile to three or four miles wide and the current was running about 25 miles an hours."

A blinding snowstorm, which appeared to have swept the entire northern part of the State, sent terror to the hearts of sufferers. Two thousand people in the courthouse, made ill by the filth in the building, strove for permission to get into the streets. Those on the single square not yet submerged in their turn prayed for shelter from the blinding storm.


All through the night from the steps of the courthouse could be heard the wails of the people in the street. And as the moans and shrieks of the sufferers floated across the muddy waters groans from those within the temporary refuge joined.

On Thursday a relief party from South Bend, headed by Lieutenant-Governor William T. O’Neill, reached Peru. The organization of rescue squads started and people were moved to places of safety.


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© 2001, Lynn Waterman