Cherokee Daily Times from Cherokee, Iowa on May 31, 1960 · Page 47
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Cherokee Daily Times from Cherokee, Iowa · Page 47

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Cherokee, Iowa
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Tuesday, May 31, 1960
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Page 47
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SECTION FIVE CENTENNIAL EDITION • SECTION FIVE The Cherokee Courier CHEROKEE; IOWA, MAY 31, 1956 WATER WATER EVERYWHERE — And not a drop to drink as confluences of the Little Sioux and Railroad Creek produce -Cherokee's greatest distaster on record. A barn appears to be floating down river (at left) while more solid structure in center appearst still permanent. Note expanse of water all the way to bluffs far in dim background. f VETERAN OF THE FLOOD — This two- Chet Holden lives today to tell of that epochal ^story /frame residence survived treacherous night. This residence was moved short distance • ..'•':, , r "_ -inm __'_t.:l,, l_«»4.~.,4 »4. ».*YTI a* • nf +rt 9nn TJnrtTi -T?nn«PVplt' in "•! 928^15 - how bCCUttied 'flood of June, 1891 while located at corner of •East Main and Roosevelt. In those times the ' house" was property of C. B. Holden; whose son. 200 North. Roosevelt in1928;~is how occupied by Jerome McDevitt. JUNE 24, 1891 a saster •$•*, .„ f-fW-J^ ( .'l"»^-« v '^ V \^~%/?-^>< ~ .^A'' A^-^J^-V i^K'JiiS'" ' ™'»"^'±*&±t .WATER OVER SPAN, — Boiling flood waters of the Little Sioux River and Railroad Creek appear even with or above, the floor of .this bridge. Piles of debris and what appears to be broken parts of a building are. in fore- ground. In center are dozens of homes at least half under the current. In -left rear can be seen men apparently trying to. remove their belongings from one of the homes. Dateline — Cherokee in the Valley of the Little Sioux on June 24, 1891. Turn back the ages of time 65 years to that dread day of dis- • aster and near-death. Threatening, clouds angrily rolling through tempestuous skies . - • a vicious, pelting rain storm . . . deafening thunder .and hideous, jagged streaks, of Hades above .... - : This -is Jun e 24, 1891. It is the night of the most terrible ' flood in this city's 100-year history. •More than 100 families from-this city were rendered homeless, some $250,000 damage was inflicted . . . much livestock was lost, swallowed^ up in the vast torrent of a sea that once held the calm of the Little Sioux. Here's how it happened . . . the satanic night that Cherokee and its populace fought for its very life against the raging forces of nature: You're eating supper \vith the r amily in the kitchen . . . it's been luiet for some time outside. Evil The time is shortly after 6 o'clock : n the evening. You glance out the •vindcw. hear a rumble of giant force in the sky. Threatening, black masses of evil clouds are foiling up in the near west above Cherokee. They come on and within two hours a hard rain develops into a terrific cloudburst loosened like a sweeping Niagara from above. That beating, battering flood of a downpour goes on all nipht. Then at 3 o'clock in the morning, a fireman, one George Thompson —residing in. the eastern section of the city, ventures out. Thompson finds the entire "bottom." the lew- lands of Cherokee, inundated. Thompson and Owen Faus, a neighbor,,rush to ring the town fire bell. Their actions, their warnings save many, many lives this night in Cherokee. Within minutes, residents arc out of their homes, some of them carrying belongings—- others slrag- gling, running alone — lowarrl the one refuge of safety , . . the Alain # & ••& if • Street bridge. .Scon a mass of humanity — men with their wives and children . . . women in night clothing carrying ;fledgling babies in their arms. Many of the belated arrivals at •the span risked their lives to cross .the shaky structure. It's later in :the night . . . the last, of the resi- .dents out of the "bottoms" are safely across ... but for three •.men. -, . . • : Collapses They are finally across and on the Ujest approach . . . when suddenly, the bridge gives way. The span caves into the wild torrent of flood. But a desperate effort by the trio saves'them. They hold fast to the remaining hand rail and trees neanby. Soon after daylight: a second heavy downpour hits Cherokee . . and the raging creeks and brooks feed an already, high river. The Little SiouX .begins to rise . . . Many homes are yanked loose from their foundations like small pieces out of a tragic jigsaw puzzle. Brave men by the dozens see their livestock drowned . . . their property washed away before 'their very eyes. The Little Sioux rises six feet in one hour. I That is a record unprecendenled • and since unequalled in this city's annals. . . ' Buildings, homes never touched before by TTfglvwater are engulfed. Thrones of residents gather at the foot of Second Street . . . Many of them are pointing to what were orice their homes . . : houses, tossed like matchboxes on the crest of the flood, .being carried away downstream. There were but few boats. Yel they were manned by brave men. Those who refuse to leave their homes are taken out of upper slory windows and save'd. j , One Eli Richardson, ' a'most: completely exhausted, was found in the ranches of a tree north of '1he Beckwith Mill. He was taken off in a boat by Jim Henderson and John Blbdgett. George Pull had $2,000 worth of -lock in his slaughterhouse — and 15 head of hogs _ plus 15 head of cattle were lost. Wave The wave of water rolling Through the Cherokee area sent the .vaterworks under . . . and all bridges were swept to destruction. Officials reported a valiant effort to save the .iron bridge over the river on Second Street by ripping .off the planking. But not long •ifter the work was. done, the huge span lettered and toppled into the boiling'stream. Horses from the stable of F.. D. Yaw were tied down — and although they struggled to ..escape —were carried down with the buildings and debris. The Building and Lean Association here reported it lost 15 homes on which partial payments had been made. All railroad connections out Of the city were destroyed. Those living east and south of the river could not reach the city. Although damage reports from the botto^W lends were at first meager, it was found that farmers took tremendous blows, too. Disaster Parties reaching this city told of disaster down the river — said Cr.rrectionville was entirely swept away by the flood. Even while the high waters still raged, a citizens' meeting was called at the City Hall. E. C. Herrick was chairman and F. W. Jackson, secretary. The following committees were named: Committee on G.A.R. hall for dining, room, W. B. Chick, J. J- Primrose, W. Pelton; executive committee, Thomas McCulIa, N. T. Burroughs, Doctor Cleaves, W. B. Chick, J. J. Condon, J. P. Rankins; committee on funds, C. B. Huxford, C. B. Holden, Joe Green; relief committee, C. B. Holden, J. I-I. Umhoefer, 0. B. Fobes. The G.A.R; hall was at once converted into a dining hall whore meals were furnished free. The Masonic,'Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias opened their doors as lodging houses for sufferers. Priv- ate homes were taxed to capacity with refugees. * Sunny A sunny day followed the catastrophe near the confluence, of Railroad Creek and the Little Sioux. But it was a sad scene to behold— one of havoc and ruin. Homes along R.ailroad Creek were swept away or dashed together into a fantastic common shuffle- of : mute"\vreckage. For example: The home of'Mr. Searles was in the creek bottom where the county road bridge formerly stood. . . . Below this was.the Abe Stiner residence — in the middle.of Main Street. A huge chasm Where the Main Street bridge spanned Railroad Creek was evident. Occupants of many homes returned to their entrances the day brought only heartaches for the after. But their belated arrivals ruin they saw. Tunbulent waters had slammed furniture of many homes together. Covering all of it was a sediment of thick, black mud alone sufficient to spoil carpets, beds, bedding and clothing. Fifty or more families lost all of their possessions — their entire homes and personal belongings washed away. True, there were many heroic deeds that eventful night — and throughout the next fateful day. The rescue of Richardson was interesting and thrilling as if borrowed from the lore of a novel . . . .men who gave the alarm . . . the steeds galloping forth carrying ringing of the fire bell by which boats were brought . . . : Critical Then the loading of a boat in a wagon and the critical duel with the swift current before the man was reached . . . all these made the rescue one of the big events of the disastrous day. Of course, there were others. For example: The rescue of a man from the roof of a floating house just before it was dashed to pieces again the railroad bridge. Although no human lives were lost, a large amount '•of livestock was destroyed. It was a pitiful ' sight to see horses floating down and still reined to their wagons. At one juncture .the. forlorn cry of a dog atop a-floating-house was • mistaken for the cry. o£ a child. An all-out struggle ensued for the .rescue. Boatmen swore vigorously when they, found it was a canine ori the rooftop. - A hundred - families were destitute.' . • - '.'• ". -. i: At;,the:;:G.AiR.^HalL- frightenea : groups of pale women: and children •huddled on the floor and on rudely- constructed couches. Every bridge in town was knocked into the current by the force of; the rampaging waters. : Communication ties with the country sectors were made by transferring people across aboard the Cherokee .Boat Club's small steamer. Reports went out of great loss to homes and stock owned by farmers in the Mill Creek vicinity;. The Mill Creek dam was no more. However, the Beckwith Mill on the Little Sioux was standing and also the miller's residence. But all other buildings were destroyed —and thg mill practically useless. Enormous Meanhile, loss along .Illinois Central .was enormous. The track between here and Meriden was swe.pt away in many.locales. To the rescue two days later came 200'carpenters,^and 600 laborers who 'labored over the railroad bridge and the trackage northward. ' . ': . Roaring floods in other sections of Northwest Iowa also were reported in addition to a "fearful" cyclone in the Sutherland area. One example: A complete blacksmith's kit of'tools was found in the east part of Cherokee. There were no such shops in that part of town. The kit must have been swept down from many miles above. Governor Horace Boies of Iowa made a personal tour » of • the scene. He issued a proclamation to flhe people of the state. In it, the governor recommended that (See FLOOD On Page Eight) LOOKING NORTH — Scene looks across South Second St. bridge north from flooded Little Sioux River. Picture was taken during 1891 floods on Little Sioux and Railroad Creek. TOO LITTLE & TOO LATE — This temporary bridge across Little Sioux River was constructed after the disasterous floods of 1891. Sit of the span was near the old ice house where deep rcvined Railroad Creek empties into the river. FRONT DOOR FLOOD — Water ebbs at front door of residences of Cherokee during flood of 65 years ago. The over ilow - one of the worst in history among. Iowa's in-border cities -destroyed many homes and countless head of livestock; BOY & THE WATER — A young man of Cherokee glances_. at camera with flood of 1891 providing expansive view. Scene , was here in Cherokee after disastrous wash had hit the city, i

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