Thursday, June 13, 2019

Wabash River Flood 1959

February 11, 1959 (Wednesday) Logansport Pharos Tribune, page 1

Worst Flood Since 1943


  The worst Logansport flood disaster since 1943 appeared to be nearing an end Wednesday noon as the Wabash River remained virtually stationary for a period of several hours just below the 19-foot mark. Local authorities were hopeful that the river had reached its crest after climbing less than two-tenths of a foot since 7 a.m.

  Thirty-two Logansport homes had been evacuated with the help of Logansport National Guardsmen Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Both the National Guard armory and the vehicle storage building were half full of appliances and furniture of all kinds removed from flooded homes in the south and west parts of the city. Working cooperatively with the Cass county sheriff's department, city and state police, the twenty National Guardsmen and two officers headed by Lt. John Fillmore spent the entire night on flood duty and were still hard at work Wednesday.

The first call authorizing ten Guardsmen and one officer for flood duty was received at the local armory at 5 p.m. Tuesday as the result of a telegram from the Cass county commissioners to Gov. Harold Handley. At 10:45 p.m. Tuesday, Wayne Schaefer, Cass county director of Civil Defense, called Governor Handley for more help, and ten additional Guardsmen and another officer were called out. Law enforcement officers, civil defense officials, and Red Cross workers also were working virtually around the clock to aid flood victims.

Scores of homes in Logansport were without heat Wednesday as their basements began filling with water from overflowing sewers. The Washington grade school, closed Tuesday when water backed up beside the building, remained closed Wednesday. The Eighteenth Street Bridge remained the only link connecting the Southside with the main part of the city Wednesday after high water closed both the Cicott street and Third street bridges to automobile traffic. This created a traffic jam on Eighteenth Street and at one time cars were lined up a half mile on U.S. highway 35 and all of the way to Seventeenth Street in the other direction. Many people were late for work Wednesday morning due to the traffic tie-up.

  Fears were expressed for the safety of the Eighteenth street bridge because of the heavy load of traffic, and orders finally were given to limit the traffic to one way. Six cars were permitted to travel over the bridge at one time, with the last car handing a flag to the officers on duty so traffic could move in the opposite direction. By Wednesday morning most of the streets on the south side were closed to traffic, along with West Wabash avenue, Front, West Melbourne, Wilkinson, West Broadway, First street off Market, Third street at the underpass, all of Biddle's j island, and Market street west of Cicott. As a result it was necessary to reroute traffic on U. S. 24, U. S. 35, and State Rt. 29 and 25 through the city.

  Despite the fact that Goose Creek overflowed, sending the water across Cicott at the turn of State Rt. 25 into Logansport, some motorists were foolhardy enough to try getting through the icy water. As a result National Guardsmen had to push some cars and even trucks which stalled there. Guardsmen also rescued a carload of young people in a car which stalled in front of Berkshire's. Three trucks were being used by the Guard on a round-robin basis, plowing through water four and a half feet deep to reach some of the flooded homes. Each truck was manned by a driver and four men. While two of the trucks were out evacuating homes in the flood zone, the third was having its brakes thawed out at the armory. This was necessary to keep the brakes on the 2% ton trucks from going out completely. Some people in the flood area waited too long to call for help. At 613 Bartlett Street for example, Guardsmen found the water too deep even for their big trucks to get through. They were driving through the icy water up to the floor boards of the trucks and many of the Guardsmen were wet from head to foot by the time they had finished loading appliances and furniture on the trucks.
Above - a car tries to go through the flood waters - Washington Elementary School in background.

Although they had a mobile unit with a two-day radio in use, the radio went out of commission during the morning, hampering the communications between the men and the armory. Approximately 300 Logansport telephones also were put out of order at midnight in the Melbourne and Helm street area when water seeped into a cracked phone cable under Front street. Linemen had the necessary repairs made by 6 a.m. The business district began to feel the effects of the flood Wednesday as the water spread across Broadway and Second Street in front of the W-S-E Motor Sales, and it also spread across Market Street at First street. The dripping vehicles which went through the water spread a layer of ice for a distance of several blocks in both directions, adding to the hazards of motorists. At Georgetown, the situation remained unchanged, with all of the 100 residents of the village evacuated except for the six men left behind to guard against possible looting of the flooded area. Water also was around cottages at Miami Bend, Guardsmen having moved two families out there with the help of the local Radar unit. Ice was reported gorged again below Georgetown as more kept coming down the river with the flood waters. The water at Georgetown was reported six feet deep.

February 12, 1959
The Wabash River has passed the “nuisance” stage and moved toward disaster level. Water is creeping near to the business district. An additional 20 families have been evacuated. This makes 55 families, total, moved out of their homes. Emergency housing and feeding stations have been set up by the Red Cross including one at St. James Lutheran Church.

There is deep water on Broadway and traffic is being detoured. Water surrounds the Pennsylvania Depot on Fourth Street. Wheatland Avenue, Cicott Street and W. Market are all flooded.

National Guardsmen and Civil Defense were called out and moved people and furniture. Eighteenth Street Bridge is the only means of travel between the south side and the downtown – and there is a limit of 6 cars at any one time on that bridge due to concern over the strain of the flood. No trucks are allowed; they must continue on to the Cass Station Bridge to cross.

February 12, 1949 Logansport Pharos Tribune (above)

February 14, 1959 (Saturday) Logansport Press page 1

Clarence Quillen, city electric line foreman who took part in rescue work at Georgetown, wonders what became of a light truck that he saw swept away by the ice Tuesday morning. Quillen said he was on the north bank of the river above Georgetown when the ice broke and jammed again and sent water and, ice over the banks.

Across the river a light truck was on a low spot in the road. As the surge came, the truck driver jumped out and ran for high ground nearby. The ice overwhelmed the truck, which Quillen believes was pulled into the river. In any event, he knows the driver got out but he never saw the truck again. The incident being across the river, he is curious as to who the man was who had the narrow escape, and if the truck has been seen since.

Catfish Found In Basement Of Store

A small catfish that got washed back into a sewer pipe came to an untimely end in a down town basement. Water which backed into the basement under the Chas. Young & Son appliance store at 315 Fourth street, was pumped out yesterday to reveal the misplaced catfish.

Gorge ln The Eel East Of Adamsboro

Eel river, it turns out, is not clear of ice by any means. Above Adamsboro the ice is still jammed and gorged. Several islands there impede free flow of the ice and it has forced water onto farms of Charles Bennett on the south bank, and land on the north. At one time, a mile of the river road was under water, Bennett said, and his home was marooned for three days. The ice that came down and forced out the mass above Tenth street dam was from the river below the present jam, which could be moved by ice from above there. However, no damage is likely from this ice.  By the time it gets moving, it should go out freely.

No Sightseers for Georgetown

Sightseers will be kept out of Georgetown today and Sunday. Sheriff  L.0.Hall said last night that spectators have been interfering with residents moving back. Some inquisitive strangers have even walked through homes. The north approach to the town will be blocked off at the Crooked Creek Bridge, just north of the town. The Georgetown Bridge will be blocked off at the south end. The north river road will be blocked at the second overhead west of Logansport, where the road meets US 24. No one not living in the area, or having business there, will be allowed in. Cass Co. Civil Defense police will man the blockades, the sheriff said.

Wabash Under 13 Ft. Late Last Evening

The Wabash River reading at 10 o'clock last night was 12.40, a drop from 14.22 at 7 a.m. The river hit 19.75 late Wednesday night.

Wabash River Flood of 1958

   On June 11 it was reported that the Wabash already at 15.6 ft was slowly rising after three straight days of “cloudbursts” and violent storms.  From Wabash and Marion to Lafayette – families in the Wabash Valley were keeping close watch.

Brig. Gen. John W. McConnell order out 50 Guardsmen to fight a Deer Creek levee break, at Delphi, where 25 families got out ahead of the flood.

Gen McConnell also ordered sandbags to Peru and Marion.

   Between Marion and the junction of Mississinewa and the Wabash, the Wabash County sheriff’s dept. warned dozens of families to flee their summer homes at Maple Grove and Red Bridge.
Lightening killed 12 cattle on the Lawrence Wagner farm near Auburn.

 Kokomo city officials advised citizens to fill containers with clean water as flooding in Wild Cat Creek threatened the city waterworks.

 Tornado alerts were issued for most of the state.


The Wabash River slowly receded Thursday after reaching a crest of 17.8 feet in Logansport at 5 o'clock in the morning, but a forecast of showers and thunderstorms by Thursday evening, caused continued anxiety among those in the flood areas. Frank Elmlinger, local weather observer, said the river remained stationary for several hours before it began to drop slowly. By noon it had receded only a tenth of a foot. The Indianapolis weather bureau had predicted a crest of 18 feet or more here. The crest in this flood was just a foot below that reached in the last local flood on January 5, 1950, and was the same level reached by the flood of March, 1930. Although an estimated 75 families moved out of their homes here, few of them actually had water above the basements of their houses. Many basements were flooded, including those in the business district on Market street west of Pearl Street. It was too early to make any accurate estimate of tide flood damage, but it was believed that most of it was suffered by farmers, who lost complete fields of corn and soybeans.
The peak of the flood activity was reached Wednesday night, with approximately 200 local citizens actively engaged in relief and patrol work including the Red Cross, the National Guard, Civil Defense units, special deputies, Boy Scouts, ham radio operators and  soldiers from the radar unit in addition to the regular law enforcement agencies. Much of the activity was necessitated by the fact that all of the telephones in the south and west sections of the city and at the Logansport state hospital were put out of service at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday by water entering a 1200 pair telephone cable near the bus depot.   Telephone officials said water backing up in the manholes apparently caused sufficient pressure to force the water into the cable, shorting the lines out. Telephone linemen worked all night making the necessary repairs and local officials of the General Telephone company said they hoped to have service restored by noon today. They estimated that 3,000 telephones were affected.

Both the National Guard's radio telephones and the mobile short wave sets of the ham operators proved of great value in the emergency. The Guard kept units at Longcliff,  at the city building, and at  Civil Defense headquarters, and also for a short time at Memorial and  St. Joseph hospitals.

The ham radio operators, on the air continuously since 7 a.m. Wednesday, roamed the flood area with their mobile units, reporting families that needed help, locations where water was over roads and streets, and places where traffic was congested.

Operating on two frequencies, 75 meters, and six meters, they kept in  contact with their headquarters in the basement of the city building, The ham operators participating in the volunteer relief work included Don Hyman, Charles Mays, John Rice, Harry BurkJiast, Jr., Nelson Shepherd, Eugene Buntain, John Frye, Harold Kane, Robert Minnick, Dr. Edward Bosh, Ronald Btame, Bill Withrow, and Robert Gharis. Automobile traffic on U. S. highway 35 and state road 29 was still being rerouted Thursday because of the high water in the underpass on Biddle's island. However, cars continued to use highway 25 despite the large section, of the road that was under water at the Cicott street curve from the flooding of Goose Creek. U.S. highway 24 also was partially covered by water at the west edge of the city next to Harvey's drive-in.

June `3, 1958 Logansport Press (above)

Although much of the high water had receded in the county there still were places where roads were under water. The county highway department said, for example that the water remained to the top of a fence post on a road northeast of Royal Center. The highway department was busy Thursday hauling stone to a large washout at a county road intersection three miles northeast of Royal Center and a mile north of the place where the other road was still flooded. It will take a carload of stone to fill that washout alone, highway officials said. A number of smaller washouts in the county already have been repaired, and the work of replacing washed out culverts also has begun.

Thirty local National Guardsmen were called into service Wednesday afternoon at the request of Wayne Schaefer, local Civil Defense chief. They remained on duty Thursday.

The business and Professional Women’s Club helped the Red Cross keep its office open all night by working two-hour shifts. The Red Cross put cots and blankets in the new education building in the St. James parish hall for the use of flood victims but those were not needed as most stayed with friends or relatives. The Red Cross fed the Guardsmen, Civil Defense workers, Red Cross workers, and the radar men, and the radar men served coffee to the volunteers during the night also. The Salvation Army took coffee .and doughnuts to the volunteers Thursday morning.

Sightseers continued to drive around the flood areas Wednesday night and Thursday morning, creating a traffic problem, despite the pleas of law enforcement officers and Civil Defense Director Wayne Schaefer for them to stay away.

Barricades manned by Guardsmen kept them out of the flooded streets, however.

June 14, 1958 Logansport Press, page 1 (above)