National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Eel River Flood

newspaper article from the Journal, North Manchester, Indiana

February 22, 1883

The usual spring thaw and freshet has passed and more damage has been done in all parts of the country than every before. At this place the amount of injury, although slight, was greater that it has ever been in the past. The river was highest ever known. The thaw began on Wednesday of last week and continued with heavy rains until Friday night. Snow and ice covered the ground and filled the gutters, making it impossible for the water to get away. Water collected in the low places about town, and lots and sidewalks were inundated. Cellars were filled and much other damage was done, besides making it very disagreeable for people to get around. The incessant rains and water from melting snow and ice very quickly swelled the river. On Friday it rose rapidly and the great volume of water spread out over the bottom lands adjoining the banks. The ice was thick and strong and did not seem to be much affected by the rise of the river, except along the edges. The water rose so rapidly during Thursday night and Friday forenoon it was though the whole southeast part of town would be inundated.

The logs at Clapp and Jacobs sawmill were in danger of being carried away. The water had overspread the whole of that neck of ground known as the "Island", and was running in a big stream across the low ground just north of the bridge. It was also backed up over the flats south of the river and into the Heeter Creek bottom to the depth of four or five feet, rendering the roads impassable. The rise of the river was so rapid that it was thought best to break the ice loose and get it started downstream. Some parties were supplied with Gun Powder and they began the work of blowing the ice loose. By evening they had nearly all the ice out between town and the Strauss? mill dam. The shock from some of the strong blasts broke a number of window glasses in houses next to the river. Notwithstanding the ice was out of the river and the water kept rising slowly. That portion of town south of Main Street and east of Mill Street was in great danger of being inundated. The water rose to a depth of four feet.

The water ran into several houses, causing much trouble to the inhabitants. Dave Lautzenhizer was compelled to pack his goods in the second story of his house. The water stood up to the windows on the floor. In that part of town between the railroads, known as "Smoky Row", the water raised in a large pond there, to a height that several families living near it had to remove their goods from the lower floors. Although rain had stopped and cold set in, freezing the ground Friday night, the high waters had not subsided much. The low ground adjoining the river was still under water. Many roads leading to town were impassible on account of high water and hardly any farmers came to town that day. The floods began to subside, and by Saturday evening had gone down a great deal. By Monday the river was running in its natural channel.

Other places in this vicinity suffered fully as much as did this place. The railroads underwent much damage from washouts and broken bridges. Trains were delayed and in some cases abandoned. At Liberty Mills a portion of the Wabash Railroad bridge was butted out by the ice, and also the bridge at Collamer was rendered unsafe. Both are now repaired so that trains can pass over them. On the C W & M there were several washouts. One was just a short distance north of town where the bed was washed away for the length of several rails. Another one was at the county line. No trains ran on either road on Saturday until in the evening. The passenger going east Friday was belated and did not reach here until late in the afternoon. It laid here until Saturday evening and returned to Peru.

At Other Points...

All over the state, and more especially along the Wabash Valley, have the floods done great damage. The Wabash River was higher than ever before known. At Peru, Logansport, Lafayette, and Wabash and other points the height of the water surpassed that of a short time before, by several inches. At Wabash the river was one foot higher than it was February 4. The whole portion of town that was flooded before, the submerged district comprised and area covered by 65 houses and five factories, which were surrounded by water several feet deep. People within danger of the water moved out and those houses already submerged were abandoned. The companies owning the factories carried all perishable property to safer places.

The damage was not so great as the flood a short time before. Part of the C W & M Railroad bridge, which has been repaired, was again taken out by the high waters. Two hundred men were thrown out of employment and the damage in that locality of the past two weeks is estimated at $100,000. Other points on the river suffered fully as much from the high waters at Wabash. Houses, factories, and warehouses were submerged entailing a large loss.

In Fulton County five iron bridges and many wooden ones were wrecked by the angry waters. Growing wheat has been seriously damaged and in many places killed altogether. A large amount of livestock has been killed. All in all this has been the most severe and destructive flood that has visited this country in many years, if indeed its equal ever did exist.