INTERVIEW DATE: August 9, 1975


Interviewed by: Lois S. Davies

Transcribed February 2-3, 2013 by: Mike Robinson

Transcriber’s note: With the 100th Anniversary of the horrific 1913 Flood upon us, we are happy to present the fourth in a series of remembrances by survivors of that event. During the 1970’s, The Troy Historical Society recognized that among Troy’s citizenry were survivors of the flood, old enough in 1913 to have remembered it in detail. Early Historical Society trustee Lois Shilling Davies took it upon herself as a project to seek these people out and tape-record their memories of those times in interview format. We are grateful to her for this important work and the technical quality of the recordings. The complete series of these recordings is available for listening at The Local History Library by pre-arrangement with the archivists or The Troy Historical Society.

My name is Esta L. Barnes and I am 78; at the time of the flood, I was fifteen years old and my family lived at West Simpson Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Our home was directly across the street from the original Hobart Manufacturing Company. That area has changed considerably since that time; the Hobart National Headquarters has been built and a boulevard has been made west from the Hobart Headquarters and the expansion of Ridge avenue to a boulevard which takes in some of the land from our former home. We lived in a large seven-room house; we had a second floor, attic, and small basement. No furnace, we heated the rooms with coal baseburners except the kitchen, which was heated by the kitchen coal cooking stove. We purchased the home in 1907; for the first few years our light was from oil lamps but we added gas and electric prior to the flood. We had city water but outside plumbing.

The week of the flood it was very, very rainy; it rained all day Thursday, all day Friday, all day Saturday and all day Sunday. We in that neighborhood on Sunday evenings would gather in each other’s homes for popcorn and apples; one time we would be at our house, another time at Jacobs’ and then be at Cy Citizens. That Sunday, however, there was no gathering of the neighborhood; everybody stayed at home. After supper we went out and Pennsylvania and Simpson both began to fill up with water. Dad and I and my older brother Arthur stayed outside; our house was two and one-half feet above sidewalk level. The water began to crawl up into the yard inch by inch. At that time, Dad raised a lot of chickens- fancy ones for show purposes- providing us eggs for our own use; he also sold eggs for hatching, registered stock shown at the fairs which won many prizes. The south end of our lot was lower than the front end where the house sat, so Dad finally said, “We’d better get out to the chickenhouse and put those chickens up in the haymow of the barn” where we stored our horse. When we went out, the water was ankle deep; we were only out there about fifteen minutes when we returned to the house, I was in water up

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to my waist; the next morning water was up to the roof of the chicken house, so if we had not moved them to the barn, they would all have drowned.

In addition to Arthur, I had an older sister, Gertrude, my younger brother Earl who lives down on South Market Street; I have a younger sister Audrey Shane who lives on South Walnut Street. All were home at the time of the flood; in addition, our Grandmother Kearns had lived with us for quite a number of years. She was sick in bed at the time

In her bedroom on the second floor. Now the water was beginning to come into the house so we all went to the second floor. We carried bedding up from the main floor as we didn’t want it to draw dampness, took all dresser drawers and set them on bedsprings. My dad had a bookcase with quite a few books; we took the two bottom shelves of books and stacked them on the top of the bookcase. All rugs, chairs were carried up and we thought we had everything out of reach of the water. But the water was four feet deep on the first floor, the bookcase upset sending all the books into the water; that four feet took the water up over the bedsprings, ruining everything we had set on them and the house was a mess downstairs.

By Monday morning, we were marooned on the second floor and then we began to worry about FIRE! We had heard that Dayton was burning up and were concerned it would happen if a fire started in our place. Luckily, nothing like that happened.

Interviewer: Was there any school that Monday- did other kids get to school? I know you couldn’t, could you?

I don’t think there was school as far as I know since a lot of of the streets were flooded- not only the west end of town but up at the Post Office corner, that was all flooded, Zwiebels corner was flooded (transcriber’s note: West Main and Elm). All over town there was high water- no school Monday or even Tuesday.

Interviewer: What caused so much flooding in the West End of town?

The west end of town, back in those days, always was considered low- it was my understanding that many years ago the old river bed came down through the west end of town and I know that many a spring when we had a lot of water and sometimes even in the fall when the rains were heavy, there would be a lot of water in the west end of town. There was a ditch that ran down through the B&O railroad tracks, running from West Main Street to West Market Street and maybe beyond. Every spring that ditch would overflow to the ground around it and all those fields would be filled with water two and three feet deep if there was an extra heavy rain. I can recall my mother telling me when she was young living out on the Fenner Road west of Troy and they used to come into town on what is now Route 55 or West Milton Pike. Coming into West Market Street directly south of the Hobart plant #2 which was the old McKinnon Dash factory,

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there would be water standing. It is evident that this end of town had been low and swampy for many years.

Monday the rain began to quit, but the water began to level off and Sunday night we had one bedroom window on the east side of the house and we saw a horse floating down Pennsylvania Avenue. We had taken some food upstairs because we didn’t know how long we would be there. It was Monday afternoon when they took us out of the house. Alfred Bretland came in a boat; he first took Grandmother Kearns out, as she was sick. We had to go out over the front porch roof and into this boat; it took Grandmother Kearns and mother up to the hill and they came back and got the rest of the family. I don’t remember whether there were two or three trips involved to get us all out. At that time there weren’t too many houses on the hill; McConnell had a house down opposite what used to be Court Street and Morris’s lived in a big house which was right at the end of West Simpson Street. We were taken to the Morris house and that night there were more than forty people staying in that house. Next day after we got up, we saw the water was still pretty high, although it had begun to recede some but it looked like it would be a slow process. Mother suggested that four or five of us boys go out to her brother’s home which was my uncle Arn Kearns who lived out on the Horseshoe Bend Road west of Troy. We walked out there, stayed two or three days, so Morris’ wouldn’t have to feed six hungry boys.

In the meantime, people began to hear how things were in Troy; people from places west of us- Covington, Pleasant Hill began to bring food in to people up on the hill so it wasn’t too bad a situation because in an emergency like this, everybody was willing to help and a lot of people did. We walked back into town and by that time the water had gotten down to where we could wade through it on the streets. I told the folks I was going down to the house to see if I could get in to see what things looked like and see if I could start cleaning up. I went in the house and everything was in a shambles and there was an inch of mud all over the floor. I walked in there, looked around and went back up the hill until somebody was able to come down and help me. It was the next day before Dad, Mother and my younger brother Earl wanted to venture back. We got shovels, garden hose and just scrapped and shoveled this mud to the door and outside. We washed the floors all down and it was quite a job cleaning the mud out of the house. Then the floors were wet all over so we opened up the house to let things dry our before we could even start doing anything with furniture. We threw away most of the books and it took quite some time for the house to dry out after the flood was over because it stayed cold and damp after that. It wasn’t very good drying weather. Eventually we all got back to living again but Grandma Kearns, still sick in bed, stayed up on the hill for several more days until things dried out.

Interviewer: Do you know how long it was until they had school again?

No I don’t, but the school (transcribers note: the old Kyle building then served as the high school) was not seriously damaged as it set on an elevated hill or lot; it could have been possible that the school had its basement flooded. City water was still available when we got back in the house and I don’t remember if they ever forbid us to use it- we began to resume life just as we always had. At that time the water plant was at West Main and Ridge. When we got back in the house, the electric was back on again; the gas service was never interrupted. Although the coal got wet in the coal shed, it was soon usable and we had heat in the house. The chickens and horse all survived but we lost all the furniture on the first floor; it was quite a loss.

One more little story: one block below us at the corner of Court Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, there was a one-story cottage owned by a black man named Seymour Stroud. He and his wife lived there at the time of the flood and the water was much higher in their house than in ours because his was on lower ground. They had no second floor but they did have an opening into the attic; they got up there and Mr. Stroud broke hole in the roof and crawled on top of it. Mrs. Stroud said “let’s pray” and Mr. Stroud said “you pray and I’ll get out and look for a boat.” They lost about everything they had but were saved by being seen on the roof.

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