In the face of the conditions at Dayton, learned with the opening of the morning newspapers of Wednesday, March 26—two days after news of the Omaha tornado had been received—the public responded nobly to the appeals for rescue and relief.

The Government did its part, the army organization being used to furnish protection, shelter and rations to the homeless and suffering. States and cities appropriated funds to aid in the work; associations of business men, clubs, and societies contributed their quota. And soon the people of the stricken districts in the two States affected by the flood learned the lesson taught Chicago, when it was laid in ashes in 1871, that the quality of human mercy is not always strained.


On March 26 President Wilson issued the following appeal to the nation to help the sufferers in the Ohio and Indiana floods:

"The terrible floods in Ohio and Indiana have assumed the proportions of a national calamity. The loss of life and the infinite suffering involved prompt me to issue an earnest appeal to all who are able in however small a way to assist the labors of the American Red Cross to send contributions at once to the Red Cross at Washington or to the local treasurers of the society. We should make this a common cause. The needs of those upon whom this sudden and overwhehning disaster has come should quicken every one capable of sympathy and compassion to give immediate aid to those who are laboring to rescue and relieve.

"Woodrow Wilson."


"If our worst fears are confirmed, it will be necessary for us to call on the outside world for tents and supplies in order to make provision for the worst calamity that has ever befallen this state," said Governor James M. Cox on the morning after the flood descended.

The Governor also said troops were ordered out for duty in the capital city and that the naval reserves were dispatched from Toledo to Piqua. The Dayton companies are on duty in that city, he said.

The Cincinnati companies, presumably, the Governor said, would be dispatched to Hamilton and Middletown, which lie in the Miami Valley, and which sent out distress signals.

At the suggestion of Governor Cox a bill was drawn and presented to the Legislature the same day by Representative Lofrie, appropriating $250,000 for relief of the flood sufferers of the state.

Governor Cox sent out appeals for aid to the Governors of all the border states of Ohio, including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky. Tents and provisions were badly needed, according to the Governor’s appeal.


As an example of the outpouring of practical sympathy the aid extended by the citizens of Chicago may be cited. Similar steps were taken in most of the large cities of the country.

The Chicago Association of Commerce issued the following appeal through a special Flood Committee the morning after the flood swept over Dayton:

To the People of Chicago and Vicinity:

Your contribution to the fund for the relief of the sufferers in the stricken district of Ohio and Indiana is desired immediately.

A substantial sum was immediately wired the President of the United States, who is president of the American Red Cross, and further contributions must follow from day to day.

It is desired by your committee that all whose hearts go out to our neighbors in their distress be given an opportunity of subscribing, and that the fund be a general expression of the sympathy and helpfulness of this great city.

To that end we ask your subscription, no matter how small it may be. Your committee will have responsible representatives on the ground to act with officials of the Red Cross and the State Governments.

Send your contribution to the Chicago Association of Commerce, 10 South La Salle Street, Chicago, making checks payable to the order of Francis T. Simmons, Treasurer, and receipt will be duly acknowledged.

Chairman. JOHN W. SCOTT,
Vice-Chairman. FRANCIS T. SIMMONS,

Treasurer Flood Relief Committee, Chicago Association of Commerce.


One Chicago newspaper printed the following call in response to Governor Cox’s appeal for aid:

"The Chicago American calls upon the people of Chicago to respond to the appeal of the Governor of Ohio for financial and other material assistance for the thousands of persons that are suffering in the flooded districts. The swollen rivers, broken dams and overflowing lakes in the hills of Ohio have caused millions of dollars’ worth of loss, thrown thousands upon thousands of men out of work, closed factories and business houses, blocked railroads and rendered homeless and destitute unnumbered thousands of men, women and children. The disaster is the most appalling in the history of Ohio and one of the most terrible that any portion of the United States has known.

"‘He gives twice who gives quickly.’

"Ohio, through her chief executive, calls on the world to come to the rescue. There is no time to be lost. The need is great and immediate. Clothing, food, tents, money and medicine must be furnished to the stricken people with a lavish hand. There must be no suffering in Ohio that the people of the United States can, with magnificent generosity, prevent. The opportunity is here for Chicago to rise to this occasion as grandly as she has always risen to the plea of suffering municipalities, and as grandly as the nation rose to Chicago’s relief in her time of tremendous trial in 1871.

"Send contributions of money, payable to the Chicago American Ohio Relief Fund. Notify the American where supplies of clothing, bedding, tents, cooking utensils and other necessaries may be called for. Let there be no stint in Chicago’s response to Ohio’s appeal."


Quick response to Chicago’s appeal for aid for flood sufferers in Ohio and Indiana came at the weekly luncheon of the ways and means committee of the Chicago Association of Commerce March 26. The following contributions were among those pledged on the day following the flood:

Marshall Field & Co $5,000.00
Sears, Roebuck & Co 5,000.00
International Harvester Co 5,000.00
Commonwealth Edison Co 5,000.00
Crane Co 5,000.00
Armour & Co 5,000.00
Morris & Co 2,500.00
Swift & Co 2,500.00
Carson, Pine, Scott & Co 2,000.00
Butler Bros 2,000.00
Cudahy Packing Co 1,000.00
John V. Farwell & Co 1,000.00
Mandel Bros 1,000.00
Hart, Shaffner & Marx 1,000.00
Siegel, Cooper & Co 1,000.00
Boston Store 1,000.00
The Fair 1,000.00
A. M. Rothschild & Co 500.00
Spaulding & Co 500.00
Evanston Commercial Association 500.00
Wilson Bros 500.00
Charles A. Stevens & Bros 250.00
Hathaway, Smith, Folds & Co 250.00
Chapin & Gore 250.00
A. C. McClurg & Co 250.00
Albert R. Barnes & Co 150.00

Chicago’s tota1 subscription exceeded $300,000.

A total of nearly $60,000 was subscribed to this Relief Fund in Chicago the first day.


The prompt action taken by the Federal authorities to relieve distress and guard against pestilence in the flooded districts is shown in the following report from Washington:

Wednesday, March 26.—Convinced that the Ohio-Indiana flood would be followed by a pestilence that will claim double the number of victims of the flood itself, President Wilson, through the War Department, has taken unprecedented measures for relief. Not only are a million rations and tentage for 30,000 persons on the way to Columbus, but within twenty-four hours eight army surgeons with 10,000 vaccine and anti-typhoid points and medical supplies in abundance will be at work in the district.

President Wilson ordered these things to be done immediately on receipt of an appeal from Governor Cox. He has since been assured by Chairmen Martin and Fitzgerald of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees that whatever money is expended will be appropriated at the opening of the coming session of Congress.

The appeal for food and medical supplies, from Governor Cox reached the White House shortly after noon. Ten minutes later the War and Treasury Departments and other governmental agencies were at work rushing preparations for relief on a scale never before equaled in this country in days of peace.


Before nightfall a quarter of the supplies that were ordered forwarded were on their way by express with instructions to those in charge to employ automobiles and pack trains if the relief trains should be stalled by washouts.

The first invoice was dispatched from Chicago, the nearest available point of supply. The provisions, medicines and supplies not readily available were purchased in the open market, boxed and loaded on trains by as many men as could be hired for the purpose.

In the emergency the army ration (enough food to feed one man one day) was made up as follows: Eight ounces of salted or tinned meat, hard bread and one pound of flour for use where baking can be done; baking powder, evaporated milk, coffee and sugar.

These supplies were purchased by the depot quartermaster of the army in Chicago with instructions not to haggle over the price.

The first consignment of supplies was dispatched to Columbus, from which place it will be distributed under the direction of Governor Cox.

Majors Normoyle and Logan, U. S. A., were started from Washington for Columbus this afternoon with orders to do everything possible to aid Governor Cox in giving relief. Both have done duty of this kind in the Mississippi flood districts and are the kind of men upon whom General Wood, chief of staff, and Quartermaster-General Aleshire place absolute reliance.


No assurance could be given by the railroad authorities that the supplies sent from the emergency depot in Washington could be got past Pittsburgh on their way West. However, a special train will be ready at Pittsburgh and the supplies will be rushed to Columbus if possible.

From Philadelphia 4,000 tents were shipped this afternoon by special express train, together with 30,000 cots, 200 hospital tents and 400 stoves. The tents are of the conical wall type, and in an emergency can accommodate six persons each.

In conjunction with the work of the War Department, the Red Cross put its entire machinery to work, and in addition began the task of raising the enormous amount of money that will be necessary very soon.

Supplemental to the work of the Red Cross, Secretary McAdoo directed that the public health service immediately get into action. All the surgeons of the service that can be spared from other duties will be rushed into Ohio.

Although up to midnight no order for the movement of troops had gone out, all the post commanders within a range of 500 miles of Ohio were instructed to have their men in instant readiness to march. The first report of vandalism or the looting of the destroyed cities that reaches the War Department will result in an order for the troops to be entrained for Ohio.


To the People of Toledo:

Our state has been visited by one of those fateful calamities that are so vast and appalling that the imagination is powerless to reduce to human terms the suffering and anguish they produce. The floods of the past three days suddenly, in the night, turned out of their homes thousands of people in all the western part of our state, and men and women and children find themselves without shelter, without clothing, without food. They sit in sorrow and despair, benumbed by the disaster that has overwhelmed them.

These are our own people, the citizens of our own Ohio, and the great heart of Toledo will not fail to respond quickly and generously to the appeal that comes to us this morning. I am appointing a committee to receive contributions—contributions of all sorts, clothing and food and money—and I am sending word to the mayors of the stricken cities that Toledo will help them. He gives twice who gives quickly.




The following dispatch from Toledo tells part of the story of the work of relief promptly organized there:

Toledo, Ohio, March 27.—The cry for help from the raging torrents of water that swept throughout Ohio, leaving in its path death and desolation, has given way to a cry for bread.

From Fremont, Tiffin, Ottawa and other stricken cities in northwestern Ohio today came appeals to the Toledo Commerce Club for bread and yeast.

Fremont, through Chief of Police Knapp, placed an order with local bakeries for 5,000 loaves of bread. The Commerce Club gave each bakery in Toledo an order for 2,000 loaves of bread, making 10,000 loaves that the Commerce Club will distribute before tomorrow.

Toledo bakeries are rushed to the limit of their capacity and their regular trade is being neglected to care for the needs of the northwestern Ohio flood sufferers.

The cry for gasoline is also coming from northwestern Ohio cities. With gas plants in the various cities shut down and other fuel under water, the flood victims are suffering from the cold. The most of the gasoline will be used as fuel, although some of it will go to operate power boats that are doing noble rescue work.

Ottawa, Ohio, also called for more supplies and the Commerce Club volunteer committee is busy getting this train ready.

A second train, carrying thirty-eight rowboats, was dispatched to Dayton early today in charge of police officers delegated by Chief Knapp to assist at Dayton.

Clothing, food, blankets and cash are coming in to temporary quarters of the Commerce Club relief committee in the Nasby building in large amounts, and Toledo is doing its share for the relief of the sufferers in splendid style.


The first Toledo relief train, according to the following message received by Secretar Biggers, of the Toledo Commerce Club, from Governor Cox, must have reached Dayton early on March 27. The message read:

"Toledo did the most effective work of any city in the State or surrounding country. The city grasped the seriousness of conditions, apparently, before any other city, and I have taken the trouble to call you on the telephone to express to the people of Toledo and to your organization my deep appreciation and the deep appreciation of all of the people of the State.

"Toledo’s train was the first on the ground, and I understand the relief workers are doing noble service in the stricken city of Dayton."


Other cities that took early relief action, according to dispatches received March 27, were as follows:

New York.—Physicians, nurses and Red Cross workers, bearing medical supplies, food and clothing, left for the flooded district Thursday night.

San Francisco.—Mindful of the generosity shown San Francisco in the hour of her affliction, Governor Johnson joined with the Legislature in an appeal to contribute to the relief of the stricken cities of Ohio, Indiana and Nebraska. Chambers of commerce and mayors in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Stockton, Seattle, Spokane and others of the principal cities up and down the coast set about raising funds.

Des Moines.—Governor G. W. Clark issued an appeal asking aid for the flood sufferers.

St. Paul.—Governor Eberhart telegraphed Governor Cox, of Ohio, offering aid and asking the needs of the flood victims. A joint resolution appropriating $5,000 for relief was introduced in the House and acted on quickly.

Milwaukee.—Department Commander Spratt, of the State Grand Army of the Republic, issued a special order asking subscriptions from Civil War veterans for their comrades who suffered in the floods.

Salt Lake City, Utah.—A fund of $1,000 was raised in a few minutes by the Salt Lake Commercial Club, March 27. The Ohio Society of Utah raised a like amount.

Pueblo, Colo.— The Trades Assembly last night voted $1,600 for the flood relief.

Klamath Falls, Ore.—Klamath County has started eight carloads of potatoes to the flood sufferers of the East. Others will follow. One car will be sent to each big city in distress.

Baltimore.—It was announced at the general offices of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company that all relief supplies consigned to communities in the flood regions will be transported free. They will receive first consideration and be forwarded as promptly as possible. Governor Goldsborough, president of the Maryland Red Cross Society, issued an appeal for contributions in aid of the flood sufferers.

Harrisburg, Pa.—Governor Tener issued a proclamation calling on the citizens of Pennsylvania to extend aid to the flood sufferers in Ohio.

Sterling, Ill.—Mayor J. W. McDonald raised a $300 benefit fund for Dayton flood sufferers.

Champaign, Ill.—Mayor Coughlin, of Champaign, issued an appeal for funds to aid the flood sufferers and named a committee to solicit.

Hammond, Ind.—Though meeting with serious flood conditions in their own cities, people of the Calumet region are raising $50,000 in cash and sending a trainload of supplies to the central Indiana flood district. The Hammond Chamber of Commerce sent out a car of blankets, clothing and food supplies. The Hammond Boat Club will send its commodore and fleet of motor boats on Chesapeake & Ohio flat cars to Peru. The East Chicago Chamber of Commerce voted a large subscription and forty factories in that region have started contribution lists. Mayors of Gary, Hammond and East Chicago issued proclamations today.


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© 2001, Lynn Waterman