On this day 100 years ago, Daytonians awoke to a cacophony of fire sirens, church bells and factory whistles, but few had any notion that it would be the deadliest day in city history —what would be known forever afterward as the Great Dayton Flood.
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In Her Own Words
Dayton librarian Minnie Althoff wrote about the way that the survivors stranded in the library became emotionally invested in the survival of a young man stranded in a tree. “After trying vainly to save his horse, one man was forced to take his halter off and tie himself to a tree,” she wrote. “We could hear the man in the tree calling for help and making frantic appeals for someone to come to his rescue. The black waters swirled around the building with a deafening roar. How would it all end?” No one slept that night, she wrote, as “the intense cold, the boom and roar of the water, greater than the Niagara it seemed, only increased the mental strain….The men had arranged to alternate in going to the window to call out to the poor man in the tree. How we listened to hear if he would answer. All night long, every 15 minutes, someone would call to him, ‘All right, old man?’ ‘Hang on.’ “Is the water going down?’ ‘It will soon be morning.’ At times the voice would be so faint we scarcely hear, then it would come back, ‘All right!’ At last he was rescued after hanging 26 hours in the tree.”
To learn more about the flood:
Dayton Metro Library:
Library lectures: Retired librarian and local historian Leon Bey presents a one-hour Powerpoint presentation, “Remember Promises Made in the Attic in 1913: The 100th Anniversary of the Great Dayton Flood and the Legacy of that Event,” tonight at 6:30 at the Northmont branch; April 1 at the Belmont branch; May 7 at the East branch; and May 11 at the West Carrollton branch.
Historic photographs: View the Dayton Metro Library’s extensive collection of photographs at http://content.daytonmetrolibrary.org/cdm/search/searchterm/Floods—Ohio—Dayton
Wright State University Special Collections & Archives:
Exhibits: The exhibit “Dayton’s 1913 Flood according to the Neukom Family” will be on display in the library lobby through June. The library also has created a traveling exhibit that can be borrowed by area organizations for up to two weeks, free of charge. More information can be found at http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/exhibits/1913_flood/
Read survivor stories: The library’s “Out of the Box” blog (http://www.libraries.wright.edu/community/outofthebox/)will include transcriptions of original letters and diaries written by flood survivors describing their experiences during the flood.
Great Dayton Flood Timeline: Tuesday March 25, 1913
At 6:50 a.m., the levees first break on the north side of the Great Miami River, flooding Riverdale and North Dayton.
At 7 a.m., the levee is overwhelmed along Monument Avenue, east of Main Street, and water surges into downtown Dayton at speeds as high as 25 mph.
At 8 a.m., the main levee of the Great Miami River breaks at Webster Street, causing a 10- to 20-foot wall of water to sweep through Main Street.
John Bell from the Central Union Telephone Company moves to a flood-free zone on a local roof and remains there throughout the storm, connecting into phone lines and providing the only source of communication between Dayton and the outside world.
At 10 a.m., the first of the flat-bottomed NCR rescue boats hit the water near Apple Street.
1:40 p.m., Burkhardt and Rotterman Drug Store, on the northwest corner of Third and St. Clair streets, blows up, its front wall collapsing into the street.
At 5:45 p.m., Gov. James M. Cox declares Dayton a disaster area and orders out the National Guard.
Follow the series: 100 years after the Great Dayton Flood
Sunday: An overview of the causes and events surrounding the historic flood.
Today: A hundred years ago on March 25, Dayton was hit with the worst disaster in its history. The Dayton Daily News follows the events of that tragic day through the written accounts of survivors, including the story of 104-year-old Margaret Kender, now living in Florida.
Tuesday: Flood survivors face new dangers as gas explosions rock the city.
Wednesday: Survivors remain stranded in their attics and on their rooftops, not knowing when rescue might come. Snowfall is a blessing because it extinguishes fires throughout the city.
Thursday: The water starts to recede and some victims are able to leave their homes and begin the massive task of rebuilding.