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Fremont Flood 1913 - looking south near Park Avenue

Feeding the Hungry
Irvin T. Fangboner

(Excerpted from "Historical Souvenir of the Fremont Flood, March 25-28, 1913" published by the Finch Studio, Fremont, Ohio; reprinted in 1988 by the Sandusky County Historical Society)

| Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 |

TUESDAY night of "flood" week, while the Executive Committee was arranging for a special train which was to bring to us those heroic life savers, our supply committee was 'phoning for food and clothing. Among the towns asked for relief, Bellevue, for instance, promised to send us 600 loaves of bread and other supplies, to reach us at 8:44 o'clock Wednesday morning on the Lake Shore. It will be remembered that this train could not cross the river bridge, and the express company would not accept the shipment at Bellevue. The citizens there hurriedly secured several motor trucks, and after a hard battle with bad roads and wash-outs, reached the east side late Wednesday afternoon. These supplies were badly needed and greatly relieved a serious situation.

Wednesday morning a prominent citizen of Lindsey, who was in Fremont, agreed to return at once and ask for supplies if a way were provided for him to reach Lindsey. A Fremont physician took him home in an auto; that afternoon we received word that a large food supply was ready, but on account of the flood there, it would be necessary for us to provide transportation. We sent an auto truck and the food was ferried across the creek. This was the first food received by the west side, and there would have been many hungry people if this splendid donation had not reached us that day, as markets could no longer supply cooked meats, and canned goods from the few groceries outside the flood zone; there was no way for the merchants to order more at this time, as there were no trains, no wires, and no 'phones.

Just before the last long distance telephone went out of commission, we had reached a number of surrounding towns through the kindness of long distance operators who gave our calls the preference when they were informed of the importance of our request for food and clothing. We told a Toledo long distance operator that our people would starve unless we could get our calls through, and she thereupon proceeded to ignore every call she had until our calls were answered, and but for her kindness our supply of food and clothing would not have arrived until about Friday, and much suffering would have resulted.

The New York Central Lines were exceedingly kind; no downtown wires were working, and for several days only one railway wire was in service. Part of the time this was out, and a railway long distance 'phone was available for use in reaching one or two stations. To get through our request for supplies, we would get one town by wire, but the wire was out beyond the town; the agent there would get the next town by 'phone, and his 'phone probably would be out beyond his station, but the railway telegraph wire would work, he would use that. So, after hours of work our C.Q.D. was flashed from town to town, and not a town disappointed us. Solid carloads of food and clothing were sent as soon as railway service was established.

Many of the towns sent us supplies each day. Frequently food from nearby towns was hot when it arrived. A trainman informed us that they at one time waited for a wagon of food which was late, owing to the desire on the part of the donors to have the food warm and exceptionally tempting when it reached Fremont. Shipments of food were not the final donations of any town, fraternal order, church or farmer; with the donation came the question, "When can we send more?"

A central supply station was opened Wednesday in the Elks' Block; all food, as it reached Fremont, was taken to this station; accurate accounts were kept of each article as it came in or was given out, and thus we knew at any time just how much of each article we had in stock. Our committee found it difficult to keep our food supplies evenly balanced; at times, we were short of coffee, again it might be salt; most frequently were without cooked meats, but later, as our ledger accounts indicated the need, we specified the articles principally desired. Sweet milk was often scarce, but newspaper bulletins brought quick results from our farm friends.

Free lunch rooms were established at once at the city hall building, Elks' reception rooms, Presbyterian Church, Croghansville school house, and Grace Lutheran parish house; these food stations were open day and night; hot coffee and sandwiches were the articles usually asked for, as the applicant was in too much of a hurry to wait, but at once returned to the edge of the flood zone, asking always the same question, "Has the water gone down?"

The afflicted ones all realized the importance of gaining access to their flooded properties at the earliest possible moment, to begin the work of salvage. It is sad to state that in many cases there was no salvage.

The ladies, as is always the case during an emergency, were tireless workers at the relief stations. They were on duty practically all the time during the first two days; after that, the work was divided into "shifts;" this required the workers to report at all hours; some were on duty all night, a new shift going to work at 5:30 a.m. A well-known chef was on duty almost continuously for four days and nights at the city hall, although his own place of business was in the water; he forgot his own loss, and his joyful manner brought smiles to the faces of many of the homeless.

As the different lunch rooms required supplies, a requisition was made on the central station. No supplies were given out without an order properly signed. These orders were all kept on file to be checked by the Executive Committee.

Early Wednesday the east side was organized by two of our business men. Supplies were taken care of at the Camelback bridge, if they arrived by train, and East State Street hill, if by wagon, and were at once conveyed to the Croghansville school. This station was nicely handled for several days independently of the Supply committee. Communication was had only by messenger over the railway trestle; these messengers had a difficult time of it, and risked their lives in crossing the river, as the bridge was icy and a fall meant death.

All clothing was at first taken to the city hall; then to the Presbyterian Church; later to the St. Joseph school building. The ladies in charge were busy every minute, sorting the clothing, arranging the kinds and sizes, and supplying the needs of the unfortunate.

The railway agent, operators, switch crews and others connected with the New York Central Lines told us to take or use anything they had. We did. The yard engine was in service almost constantly, at one time making a trip with only a box of yeast, thus keeping an east side bakery in operation. Until the water works pump station started, the yard engine was forced to go to Elmore for water. We asked the railway officials to send to Fremont five cars of coal; the cars were in the yards here three hours later.

Wednesday morning we were short of kerosene and gasoline; after a long search we located a carload in the railway yards. The car will check short at destination. Wednesday afternoon the east side was without fuel; two cars of soft coal were "discovered" in the railroad yards and were promptly abducted by a yard engine via the L. E. & W. trestle route. The empty cars were later recovered.

We noted particularly the cheerfulness of the flood sufferers. One man who had just completed a house and found it off its foundation and minus a porch, told us that "the three feet of space between the foundation wall and the house would ventilate the cellar nicely," and "he didn't care much for the architectural design of the porch and had expected to tear it down anyway."

The supplies of food and clothing arrived by freight, express and the electric lines; usually, we could not ascertain how the shipments would arrive, and auto trucks were on duty almost day and night.

Saturday night Troop A of Cleveland arrived at 9 o'clock. Our trucks had gone for the night; one of the volunteering truckmen was located; he brought his truck again, and at 10:15 o'clock the troop's equipment was hauled, the troop in quarters, and a squad had departed for duty on the east side.

While many of our citizens have suffered in various ways, I firmly believe that factional feelings, if any existed, have been obliterated and the people of Fremont are more closely united today than ever before. With a shoulder-to-shoulder effort, we can soon create a greater-than-ever Fremont.

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