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Flooding in Bellevue

Bellevue's 1883 Flood

[from the Bellevue Local News, February 10, 1883]

The village of Bellevue has had one experience, during the past week, entirely new in its history. The oldest inhabitant, covering the period of 60 years, remembers nothing of the kind so extensive and disastrous as the flood that submerged a good part of town on Saturday night. Indeed the town is so situated, on the divide, between Huron and Sandusky rivers and 200 feet above the lake, as to make it appear almost a physical impossibility for anything of the kind to occur, in any amount, at least to be a disaster. But the storm of Friday night and Saturday was peculiar as in all its features. Saturday morning the whole country was one glare of ice. Trees were laden and many, especially peach trees, broke down under their load. The scene was grand and beautiful, even if mischievous. It began thawing toward noon, and, the rain falling in a steady pour upon ground impervious to a single drop, it ran off with great rapidity into sink-holes, our only sewerage, already choked by frost and snow. These rapidly filled leaving the surplus to seek other outlets in lower levels. Then, too, in 1877 an insignificant ditch was enlarged draining the Woodward tract, Morey and Hayward farms, a broad extent of prairie south of town, into the sink-hole on the Kinney farm, contiguous to the corporation line on the south. Kinney and DeYo objected to this, because it would flood their land. They also tried to enlist the town in the fight, because a surplus over the capacity of the sink there, must necessarily come into the village. The details of this we give in another place. Suffice it to say here the ditch was opened and although for five years no mischief, to us, resulted from it, now it came with an amount and disaster which the pen can but feebly depict.

Those people, several of them at any rate, residing in the low lying districts, were warned of its coming, but who could believe it? At least, no one did. After flooding the Kinney sink the water came, a rushing torrent, across the Kilborne road and Josiah Matz's place, the Gardner road and so around the valley, back of the Reformed church, down to the Lake Shore R'y embankment which served as a dam, or levee, making the whole district south of that road, from the Hilbish farm, on the west, to Woodward street, on the east, and Gardner St. on the south, a low lying place occupied by many residences, that began rapidly to fill Saturday evening. The night was dark, foggy and dismal. The alarm was given by young Furlong, who waded out in water waist deep. The fire bell rang, and men and boys with lanterns, rushed to the rescue. People in the submerging district were alarmed and crying for help. Nothing like a boat was to be had. Lumber was accumulated, fences torn down, men waded in the ice cold flood to construct a raft, or rescue those near at hand. Mrs. Kehoe was sick abed and had to be carried out of a window, bed and all, by men waist deep in water. A portion of sidewalk was found afloat, and Marshal Mayne, using it as a raft, went to the relief of Coony Sinning and family, who had water knee deep on first floor, at that time, and it finally arose to half the height of the lower story. They next went to the rescue of Mrs. Furlong, who had become so nervous from excitement as to lose her wits, while getting her on the raft, she threw up her hands exclaiming "Howly [sic] Mary!" and tumbled into the water. They fished her out and took her to a place of safety. Chris Free's family got on their second floor, with water the full height of first floor. They were rescued through the upper windows. Fritz Liebold was "full" in his upper story and shouted, "Help! Help!" His wife and family had waded out and the rescuers left him to do the same. Peter Pixley and wife waded out, while some young men carried out their child.

Mr. R. G. Hartman had heeded the warning and was somewhat prepared for the flood, at least, had more time to save goods. The water rose some eight inches on his first floor. By this time, nearly midnight, the water had risen not quite up to the platform of the Lake Shore station house, and was rushing a perfect torrent across the track down each side of York street, thence across Kilbourne into the valley back of David Moore's residence and the Riddell House, where the water would have gone, at first, had it not been obstructed by the Lake Shore R'y embankment. Nearly all this region is back lots, with barns and out houses. It soon became a lake scarcely allowing time to remove horses, cows and pigs; while wood, lumber and every loose thing floatable was being mixed in inextricable confusion.

Water filled the dining room of the Riddell House to the height of 5 feet, with all its contents. Murray & Rushton, furniture dealers, occupying part of the building, only got part of their furniture out of the basement.

T. C. Wood got up in the morning to find his horses floating around in the barn. Rev. Hamilton's cows were in the same predicament, and so nearly chilled to death as to require the utmost care to save them.

The flood crossed West Main street, to the depth of 3 or 4 feet, flooding Mrs. Brewer's house, the Bitzer building, occupied by Meyer, Tschumy & Co., Dennis Calligan's residence and just over the floor of Wm. Leiber's. Dehe & Relling's carriage works, on North West St., were flooded in the basement, the part used for blacksmith shop. Here the water crossed Castalia street and filled the hollow beyond, which being back lots resulted in no particular mischief.

During the night, previous to finding its way across the R'y track, the water rushed along the track east across South West street, into Harkness' vacant lot, and so under the track flooding Patterson's tannery. This, with overflow from the big ditch on the Drury farm, running down beside the W. & L. E. R'y, combined to fill the Monroe street hollow. Martin Hauff's grocery was flooded half way up its lower windows, and the family for their lives. A family occupying a small house on Broad street, near Hauff's, were nearly drowned before people became aware of their situation and could take measures to save them.

The overflow from here took its usual course and filled the section of town north of East Main street, between High street and Nickel Plate R'y, thence over into Dan Harkness' field, opposite the round house, making it a young lake.

This, as near as we can describe it, is the extent of the flood. Many cellars were filled and damage done that we cannot enumerate.

By Sunday morning the rain had ceased, and the weather becoming colder arrested many a little rivelet, and thus water gradually sank away. It was visited by hundreds of people on Sunday. Monday morning it had nearly all gone leaving beautiful frost and ice work on trees, fences, and buildings, etc., where the water had congealed as it fell. All except south of the Lake Shore R'y, where only one small sink is known. This section became frozen over and the young people found it a beautiful skating park, but far from beautiful to those with property still under water. It will take some time yet for this to drain away. In the meantime people are cleaning up and repairing damages, which, at a rough estimate, will mount up into the thousands.

This is certainly a peculiar experience for Bellevue, and while it may not occur again in a life time, the bare possibility of it should compel the adoption of such measures as will prevent, or if not prevent, at least, provide for such another calamity.

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