National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce



Republican River Flood of 1935

A Closer Look at

Trenton, Nebraska


Back To Map Personal Stories Newspapers Accounts Photos Weather Data

Amount of Rain Measured -

Time Flood Impacted Trenton-10 am

River Depth at Trenton- 16 feet

River Width at Trenton- 0.94 to 1.02 miles


 Personal Stories from Trenton

From Bluff to Bluff, Too!

The Flood in East Trenton by Mrs. Anna Morgan Franklin

We were all together on Decoration Day 1935. Edith, Anthony, and Lorraine Frank came in from the farm and Johnny Robarchek had the day off from his work, was a rainy day but Edith, Anthony, and I went to the cemetery. Lorraine stayed with Irene and the boys. Irene had baked a chocolate cake and had dinner all ready to eat when we came home.

Edith’s left as soon as dinner was over as it looked so rainy, and the roads were bad on account of previous rains. Johnny left early to get back to his work on the railroad and the boys, Lester and Elmer, went to Wertz’s to help with chores, feeding and milking cows.

Irene went to the corner of the block with Johnny as he left and said the clouds were so dark and a continuous rumbling sound and flashes of lightning. The rumbling sound never seemed to stop all evening. Was raining hard when the boys came back from Uncle John’s and kept it up all night. Around three o’clock I was looking out the bedroom window as the lightning flashed. It looked like water standing all around the house.

I called Lester and Elmer to go see if chickens and ducks were alright. When they came in Elmer called Mainard Wertz to see if everything was flooded over there, and they went over there right away to work to milk and feed as they always did.

When it was light enough to see, the rains had about stopped. We could see horses and cattle standing near the trees by the river and water rolling by in large waves and water was over the bottom step at our back porch. The boys came home for breakfast and by the time we were thru eating; the water had gone down a little. A man came to the corner of the street and called to his horses. They came swimming across to him and the boys called the cows and they came across the water. One couldn’t get out and the boys got it out with a rope. Then Elmer went back to Wertz’s to help Mervin on the milk route. Lester and Irene were feeding the baby chickens on the back porch, and I was washing the breakfast dishes when some man came to the front of the house at the edge of the water and called to us. “You have got to get out, there is a nine foot wall of water coming. Get out right now.”

Lester and Irene tried to put a board across the window in the basement to keep the water out but the water was coming too fast. I couldn’t get into that cold water that was over my knees when I went to go down the front steps. Lester picked me up and carried me to the edge of the water. Lester ran to let Wertz’s stock out and called us to come help him. He was working the fence posts to loosen them and he got several loose and laid the fence down. Irene stood on a post he had laid down at one end, and I stood on the one at the other end, and he drove the young stock and pigs, and milk cows out on the west side.

The water was coming around us real fast by the time every critter was out. While we were standing on the wire waiting for the critters to get out, we saw our chicken house go. It kinda’ broke all to pieces. Then the bridge, south of Trenton, went and in a few minutes we saw the James Thomas house start down the river but it seemed to go to pieces too, as the big waves hit.

We followed along behind the cattle. They were heading north, and some man came dashing down the street by Mrs. George W. Carter’s house to let his cow out of the barn, and it started the bunch we were driving in every direction. Mervin and Elmer came down the street about then and helped get them all together again. One pig kept going back home, and they had to let it go, as the water was real deep by that time.

Just at the corner my Mrs. Carter’s house, as I was trying to get around a calf that started back, I got into a ditch and water was so deep, over my waist, and Elmer came and helped me onto the street again. He said they could get them, for Irene and I to go to the hill, but we followed along behind. Up by the elevator water wasn’t so deep so it was a little easier walking.
Half way up the hill, Mr. Charles Hutchinson opened his gate to his pasture, and the critters headed right in, as if they knew where they were going. Irene and I went on up to the top of the hill and stood watching the rushing water below us. We weren’t there very long till we saw our house start down toward Wertz’s. It kinda drifted northeast and finally stopped out in the cornfield. We were praying it wouldn’t go farther down.

Mrs. Hutchinson came to us as were watching the house and we were wet to the skin, and said to come to her house and get dry clothes. We went with her. It really felt good to get out of those wet clothes. Then we went back to the top of the hill to see if we could see the boys, and were so thankful to see our house still standing, but it seemed hours before we saw anyone around Wertz’s. Then we finally saw the horse and buggy and someone walking, so we went back to the Hutchinsons, and soon the boys, Mainard, Mervin, Lester and Elmer came to milk the cows.

The Hutchinsons had us stay all night at their home. Next day, we went to our house. Everything was just as we had left it except the beds were wet with muddy water. Mattresses were ruined, and we had to shovel the mud out. Beds upstairs were alright, so we could sleep in our home.

A few of our chickens had got into a tree row west of Wertz’s buildings, and a hog house had washed down from somewhere west of us, and settled down near our house. As the mud dried up the chickens found it to stay in.

Ed Riley (a mile east of town) reported a stray pig and some ducks at their place, so we got our ducks back and Wertz’s got their pig that got in the swift current of water.

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 Newspaper Articles from Trenton


From the Omaha World Herald Souvenier Edition

When the Rhode farm home near Trenton collapsed, a 3-weeks-old baby, Marie, was buried in the debris, but the child was later extricated unharmed.

From High Water Mark:

Flood Waters Sweep Trenton.

5 Known Dead, 7 Missing, In This Community; Many Families Homeless, Entire Valley Washed Out in Worst Flood In History; Loss Runs Into Millions.

Mrs. Clark Colver rescued Saturday after night and day in flood sector; no railroad service; army plane handles first class mail during emergency- R.R. bus line to carry mail; communication lines restored.

Friday, May 31, 1935, will be recorded in the history of Southwest Nebraska as the date of a devastating and terrible flood, which took toll of almost 100 lives in the Republican River valley and destroyed millions of dollars worth of property, including homes, lands, livestock, railroad tracks, bridges and highways. The flood waters came down the Republican river from the west as the result of torrential rains over the entire region, covering an area extending from Haigler as far east as the course of the river. 5.13 inches of rain fell in Trenton Thursday night and Friday. Further destruction was accomplished by a tornado which came from the southwest about two o’clock Friday afternoon and in its path took more lives and wrought havoc to farm buildings on both sides of the river..

Twelve lives were claimed in the vicinity of Trenton as homes and buildings were swept away. Mr. and Mrs. James Thomas and their son, Spencer, were taken in the waters after being carried about a mile and no trace has been found of the three occupants. Mr. and Mrs. Owen Murtha were carried away, as was their little home located about three miles west of Trenton on the lowlands south of the track. Mrs. Murtha’s body was found Sunday, but Mr. Murtha is still missing. Both Mr. and Mrs. Thomas and Mr. and Mrs. Murtha were pioneer residents of this valley and had aided in its development and progress.

Warning of Flood Menance.

In this region the deluge of rain began about eleven o’clock Thursday night and as early as 1:00 a.m. Friday morning, Burlington Agent Towle began warning people along the river of their danger. Few people in town knew what was happening until after daylight and it then seemed impossible to get across the river from any direction. The crest of the flood reached Trenton between 9:30 and 10 o’clock Friday morning and spread rapidly through the town…Two inches of rain and considerable hail fell as the tornado moved across the valley in the afternoon and the flood water, which had begun to subside shortly after noon rose to a greater height and raged eastward continuing its destruction and further terrifying inhabitants of the valley towns. Many Trenton homes and business places which had been spared the ravages of the flood waters from the river were considerably damaged as the canyons north and west of town emptied veritable torrents of water into town as a result of the afternoon downpours.

The Burlington Railroad estimates it’s loss at about $3,000,000 in this flood region. From Haigler to Oxford practically 115 miles of track and many bridges have been washed out and in many places the road bed completely destroyed…All bridges across the Republican in this territory were swept away by the flood waters, the Tuesday daily papers reporting that there is no usable bridges across the river in a 250-mile distance…The main channel of the river has changed its course south of Trenton and is now flowing almost a quarter of a mile south of the old bed. East of Trenton it has swung to the north almost the same distance, and in many places near here there appear to be several channels.


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 Photos from the Area


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 Cooperative Weather Data


River Flow Graphs

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