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The Great Flood of 1913

Scene from Brookville, IN after Great Flood of 1913
Scene from Brookville, IN after Great Flood of 1913

Did you know that Union County sits on high ground? 984 feet above sea level doesn’t rival Mt. McKinley, but it was enough to save the area that decimated the surrounding counties.

This month is the 100 anniversary of the Great Flood of 1913.  Ground still frozen from the winter and late spring storms lead to overflowing tributaries and massive devastation.  According to the Indiana Geological Survey, nearly every town in Indiana located along a major drainage experienced flooding, including Indianapolis, Peru, Terre Haute, Muncie, Carmel, Danville, and Shelbyville. Hamilton Ohio, Brookville, Cedar Grove and New Trenton were almost wiped off the map.  The Miami Valley Conservatory reports that the amount of water that passed through the river channel in Dayton equaled the amount of water that flows over Niagara Falls in a four-day period.   The widespread flooding caused an estimated $25 million of damage statewide (in 1913 currency) (Germano, 2008).

1913 Flood information, Page 1
1913 Flood information, Page 1

According to documents found by Union County Public Library Geneologist, Karen Coffey, “Liberty and Union County suffered more directly and indirectly on account of the recent storms and heavy rains and consequent high water and other attendant circumstances than has ever been known in the history of the county, but the loss, great as it is here, is almost insignificant in comparison with the losses, awful in their toll of life.”

“The bridges at Rushville and Morristown were also carried away and on the other side of Liberty the bridge over the Miami through anchored with 20 cars of coal, gave way with all and was carried down with the raging torrent.”

A direct report:

“It has now rained four days, some of the greatest precipitation this section has ever known.  At Richmond, the rainfall was nine inches in 24 hours.”

“The roads are badly cut up and washed with the loss of bridges and culverts; a conservative estimate would be $500,000 for Union County.”  The approaches to the Hunneman Ford Bridge has settled several feet.  It is possible to cross the Dunlapsville Bridge, but a large part of the abutment on one side has been washed away.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer said that seven months before the flood of 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation ordering the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to begin constructing flood protection for the Ohio River and other major rivers.  The result of this began in 1965, which became the greatest change to Union County since it was originally settled – the construction of the Brookville Reservoir.  The purpose of the reservoir was to control flooding in the Whitewater Valley and  into the Ohio River, and hopefully, to prevent a repeat of the loss of life and devastation to the region.