Interviewed in his office at City Hall

Interview Date: July 7, 1975


 interviewed by: Lois S. Davies

Transcribed by: Mike Robinson October 30, 2012


Interviewer’s note: This is the third in a series with survivors of the 1913 Flood. During the 1970’s, The Troy Historical Society recognized that among Troy’s citizenry were survivors of the horrific 1913 Flood. These individuals had keen memories of that event, 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 remembrances 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.

I was 13 years old at the time of the flood; we lived at 505 McKaig Avenue, just off Monroe Street. We had a substantial frame house with a basement, two story with an attic. We had electricity, water, toilet facilities, natural gas and a coal furnace which I was not allowed to touch; my uncle took care of that.

The first thing I remember about the flood was that sometime between two and three o’clock in the morning, I woke up hearing the church bells ringing, the fire bell ringing continuously and knew that something was wrong. Back in those days, any great disaster was heralded by a ringing of the church and fire bells. I got some clothes on, proceeded downstairs to see what was going on. I was told, quickly, that we were having a flood. Our lot at home was leaning towards the north because the lower end of the lot was quite a bit lower than the front end, which the house sat on, and we had a stable back there with two horse stalls. I found out that my uncle had already taken the horses out to his father’s property at the corner of McKaig and Elm which was several feet higher than ours. Everybody began passing rumors- that the Lewistown reservoir had broken and that the dams had broken all the way down the valley and, of course, while we didn’t have the Conservancy dams during those years, we had smaller dams which we used to feed water into the old Miami and Erie canal. People would go by and tell us to get out and go up the hill because we were in great danger. So finally it became daylight and you could see that water was rushing down the street; water had put out different electrical circuits of the city; the arc light in front of our house was out- we had to wait for daylight. As daylight came, we found that McKaig Avenue was thoroughly flooded—heavy current coming down McKaig making a right-angle turn down Canal street and as we watched it we were starting to get a little bit chilly too because the water had started to come into our cellar and had put the fire in the furnace out; everybody got on some extra clothes and when it got light enough to see good we started taking stuff upstairs because we didn’t know how high the water was going to get- we was just hoping the water wouldn’t get into the house but we didn’t know.

All these wild rumors floating around, if you believed any of them you was liable to be in water over the top of the house but anyway, we moved everything upstairs that we could and I remember distinctly loading the piano on the dining room table, my uncle and I, to get it out of the water; we finally gave that up. We just didn’t have enough ambition or strength to do this.

As the water got higher, pretty soon it began to run from the back of the lot, up through the driveway and out the front. In other words, the water was deeper in the rear than in the front and it finally got to the point where it could flow through the driveway east of the house which we used. The house west of us was lived in by Mrs. McClellan and her two daughters; they had a driveway also and they had water coming through their driveway.

Of course, we kids talked back and forth across the water from open windows and promptly named it the McClellan River and the Terrell River and were very busy watching things. Down the street would come a mass of debris, maybe it would lodge at the corner, or maybe just skid around the corner and go down. There were buildings going down, chickcn coups- some with chicken on them and dog houses. That other building, which is labeled a “necessary”- several of those floated by- in fact, one of them came up our driveway and floated past our house and floated on past down the street. We were astonished- later on we found out whose it was- it was ours!

So we stayed in the house and took up one of the hot air registers in the sitting room as we called it and we kept watch on that. The water kept coming up in that register till finally it was within an inch of the floor of the house and stopped. We found out later why it stopped: they had dynamited a hole in the Big Four railroad embankment at the south end of town and let some of the water and pressers get away. I think the reason we had so much water in the west end of town was the fact that the Adams Street bridge was just new, in fact it wasn’t exactly finished yet, they still had a lot of false work under the bridge and this served to catch the debris that kept floating down from the North and made a dam. That made the water go to the west and down through the west side of  town- down the old raceway and the Miami and Erie Canal and B&O railroad which still goes down on the west side of the city. We found that out, of course, after the flood was over.

The next morning, along came a boat and they told us they would take us out if we wanted to since we didn’t have any heat or much in the house to eat, so we decided to go down to Troy Street- my grandmother’s house- sitting closed up; she was in Florida for the winter. We got into the boat and they rowed us around down Canal Street and over to Short- there was a high-level bridge at Short and they put us on the bank there and then it was walk to my grandmother’s house, proceeding to make ourselves comfortable.

It was very fortunate that we did because they had a furnace in that house and we could get warm again. After we got down there we had to see what damage had been done so we went over to the Market Street bridge; we could hear people screaming for help in Nineva, a settlement of homes down in the hollow which is now, of course, the river bed because the Conservancy took that whole area out, expanding the river and adding another section to the bridge. These people were in real trouble; some were on housetops, some were in trees and several people had drowned already. It was this we went out to see and wherever else we could get to on foot. At the time, though, we couldn’t get below the old D&T traction line at the banks of the canal on South Market Street because all that was still flooded. However, in a few days, the water went down and we could then get out.

I might add another sideline to this reminiscing; my sister lived in Dayton- she was married living in Riverdale. Of course, the folks were very much worried about her and we didn’t have any telephone service- the wires were down and we couldn’t get through to them so as few days later, my uncle and Dr. Schinn started out to walk. They walked to the top of Boone’s Hill below the city and caught a street car from there to Stop Three, then got out and walked out again to Riverdale. They found my sister’s family- they’d been taken out, too and taken up on high ground to Dayton View. They got by very luckily, of course they lost a lot of furniture but all in all the flood was quite an experience, one I won’t forget.

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