Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Some Notes On Floods At Marietta

The Marietta Register, December 18, 1873

The rivers here have been high this week - higher than before since January 1862, twelve years ago next month, when the water was about a foot above what is was now.  Yet it was not one of the big floods, such as came upon this locality nine times in the last hundred years.  It came to a stand Monday evening when Front street, below Putnam, was under water, which barely came upon the floors of a few stores - was just even with the floor of the Post Office, and about six inches below the floor at the front of the stores of Bosworth, Wells & Co.

The most notable flood here since the first settlement was in February 1832 - over ten feet higher than it was this week; yet in June 1772, it was some three feet higher at Wheeling than it even was in 1832, as marked by the first settlers there at the backwater at the falls of Wheeling Creek.

In 1778, there was another flood, within two feet of the mark of that of 1832; and in 1784, the water here was just about the level of that in 1832, as appeared from marks at the cabin of Isaac Williams on his "tomahawk improvement" opposite the mouth of the Muskingum.

When the first settlers began building on the low bottoms at Marietta in 1788, Indians shook their heads and said they had seen the water up to a certain height on the sycamores, but their warnings were disregarded as exaggerations; and for twenty-five years after, there was no flood here to over flow the banks of the rivers - or twenty-nine years after the great flood of 1784.  

But in January 1813, the security of Marietta people was sadly disturbed when came upon them one of the most appalling floods known in our history, the famous "Ice Fresh," as it was called.  The river was full of very heavy running ice, causing great destruction of property.  The water came to a stand January 28, at which time it had turned severely cold, making ice thick enough so people could walk on it over all the lower part of the town, at a height of some five or six feet above that of the water this week.

April 1, 1815, the water a little higher than it was in 1813, yet but little damage was done.

The famous flood of 1832 was at its height here, February 13th.  The winter began early, and ice stopped navigation in the last of November 1831, the mercury standing at 12 degrees above zero on the mornings of the 28th and 29th.  December 18th, it was 10 degrees below zero.  From January 20th to January 30th, 1832, sixteen inches of snow fell here, and in the first part of February, snow lay upon the ground over a foot deep; and in the mountains it was three or four feet deep.  Heavy rains came on, eight inches of rain falling here from February 1st to the 12th.  The water here began rising on Thursday, February 9th, and came to a stand on Monday the 13th, when it stood about two inches deep on the floor of the building now used for the Preparatory Department in the College yard; and it was some fifteen inches deep in the front rooms of the house of Dr. Hildreth.  The river was out of its banks for nine days.  

The destruction of property all along the Ohio was immense.  At Pittsburgh, the floods was at its height on the morning of the 10th; Wheeling, afternoon of the 11th; Marietta, morning of the 13th; Cincinnati, morning of the 18th, where it was over sixty feet above low water.

The next high flood here was in December 1847 - about six feet below that of 1832; and on April 22, 1852, about four feet and a half below.  The great flood of April 13, 1860, was next to that of 1832, at this point, since the first settlement, coming up within about three feet of the highest mark in 182.

Notes might be made on these floods to the extent of columns of the Register which might be of interest, but space must limit to a mere outline.

R. M. S.


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