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Fremont Flood 1913 - Homan House

Press Stories and Sketches
E. H. Hilt

(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 |

TRAGEDY and comedy, in all their varying phases, were abundant on every side. Novelists could have found rich material for thrilling situations and seekers after oddities ample store to satisfy the most striking.

When Fremont was cut off from its gas supply by the breaking of the pipe line, the cooking and heating problem became a serious one to the 80 per cent of Fremonters who depended upon gas alone. Some who were fortunate to be using coal furnaces, cooked in the furnaces, and lighted their home by candle as in the early days. Others hunted up coal-oil stoves, and even lamps to carry on their domestic duties. In the flooded section, some heated coffee on candles. Others, marooned for a few days, were forced to go to bed for warmth and subsist on cold food, and in some cases on nuts alone.

While the flood was at its height, and daring and thrilling rescues of humanity were being made on all sides, amusing spectacles were also witnessed, such as the rescue of live stock, chickens, pigs, cows and horses. The novel sight was witnessed, of Rev. Mr. Rose, pastor of St. John's Lutheran Church, saving the lives of six fowls, while Patrolman Heid and helpers were observed taking horses and cattle out of barns in various ways. An automobile balking in the middle of a street covered with water, added another spice of humor.

An odd sight greeted one at the Frank Danford home on North Front Street. The house was filled with about six feet of water. In the center of the room the kitchen table, containing the remains of the hastily deserted breakfast, was floating around covered with dishes. In the center of the table reposed a half-drowned rat greedily cleaning up the remains of the meal. On the wall a clock was still keeping time.

One family, upon returning home, found while their furniture had been submerged, a piece of lemon pie had braved the angry waters and was still safe and sound. Canned fruit had floated into parlors, and one can of coffee was found in perfect condition.

Another family which had been trying long to dispose of a certain article of furniture, found this article high and dry, while more valuable of their possessions had disappeared.

In one house, a big can of lard floated away, while a large jar of sauer kraut near, remained undisturbed. In another house, one of a new pair of slippers had floated away. Watches were found two and three blocks from the houses from which they had been swept, while spectacles were found in the yards and streets.

Below the town, in the lowlands, a motley collection of household articles and parts of buildings were strewn, telling fully their tale of the awful devastation wreaked at Fremont.

Victor Hugo never penned more awesome pictures than those furnished in the rescues of the marooned and the escape of others. I shall, in telling of them, leave the horrors to the imagination.

J. W. Herman, real estate man, Dr. C. N. Mowry, dentist, M. G. Thraves, attorney, and F. M. Emerson saved their lives by their fleetness. They were at the Ballville dam when the retaining wall broke. Led by M. G. Thraves, they just managed to get out of the way before the water rushed by. No men ever had narrower escapes. Frenchie DeMars crawled on top of his boat, which had overturned in the racing current near the Clauss Shear works, and in that manner floated to Sandusky Avenue corner, where he managed to save himself.

The body of Isaac Floro, one of the Port Clinton fishermen who rescued fully one thousand from the flood-stricken district, and who was drowned when his boat was demolished after striking a tree at the corner of Howland Street and Ohio Avenue, showed, when found, the awful struggle he had made to save himself. The body was tightly wedged in a tree; the boots and portions of his clothing had been removed, showing how desperately he had endeavored to free himself.

Trapped in a garret in her home on Allen Street, Mrs. Carter, colored, and her four children were almost driven to desperation. With a bottle of chloroform near, the mother threatened to take the lives of her children before she would allow them to drown. "I asked the good Lord for a sign as to whether or not their lives would be saved," she said, "and when I saw the water remain stationary, I knew my prayers had been answered."

George Howell was picked out of a tree on East State Street, after clinging there for more than one hour. Willis Sevitts was found hanging to a pile of refuse. Frank Homan was rescued by Roy Provonsha, of a Toledo crew, from a tree near the Lake Shore bridge on Front Street. When his house was demolished he was swept there by the raging current, on a pile of debris. The tree was swaying in the current and slowly gave way when Homan was taken off.

More on the Description of Homan House Tragedy

It would require columns to describe the scenes following the receding of the water. The muddy water left a trail of slimy mud varying from one to six inches deep.

Former well-paved streets and pretty lawns were strewn with debris, logs and trees, resembling a woodsman's camp. Especially so when men with crosscut saws began the work of clearing up. Traversing the flooded districts, one could see women dressed in trousers, overalls and hip boots doing the work usually performed by men.

The first Sunday following the flood, was not a day of rest. Armies of men and women were trying to restore order where havoc reigned. Front Street, through the business section, resembled a veritable ghetto, where merchants sell their wares in the open. Fremont's merchants had taken their water-soaked stocks to the sidewalks, some to dry, others to haul away, and others to sell them as best they could.

To the marooned before they were rescued, minutes seemed like hours. In the Front Street business blocks, F. B. Lesher, J. S. Henry, A. H. Pfisterer, Will Lytle and others, driven to the upper floor, kept warm by burning pieces of board in an abandoned stove, and subsisted on food procured from the Lesher bakery. In the Plagman & Sherrard block on the east side, another group of marooned people underwent similar experiences.

From the house-top of his home at 225 Wabash Avenue, Earl Gilson and George Hammer, half frozen, frantically waved and called for assistance. Each summed up his experience with the exclamation, "My, that was a dreadful night. I never thought we would live through it. The smacks of the battering debris against the house still resound in my ears. It seemed to us that every telephone pole, barn, and everything that came down the river, struck our house." The rumor was around that Earl, in desperation, had shot himself. After being rescued, and the people all began shaking his hand heartily, he exclaimed, "I feel just like a millionaire; people seem so anxious to greet me."

Trying to rescue a man and his child, John Walters, O. C. Norton, Walter Childs, Tommy Tuckerman and Harry N. Atwood upset their boat on Front street, and had as close calls to death as one may have and live.

A touching sight was that of a Roumanian whose wife was left helpless in the Klinck Block on East State Street. Standing on the bank with tears streaming down his face, he implored rescuers to save her. In his hands he held a hundred dollars which he offered anyone who would bring her to him.

The patrolling of the streets by soldiers gave the city a martial aspect it had never seen before. At the relief station the scenes were equally strange. Refugees streamed to the mayor's office where the good women of the city were serving coffee and eatables. Those who had lost articles of wearing apparel were outfitted nearby from a hastily assembled store of clothing, and in the police department room cots were arranged for sleeping quarters. Similar scenes could be observed at some of the churches.

Something Fremonters never saw before was the issue of a combination newspaper by the Messenger, News and Journal, under the direction of E. H. Hilt, general manager of the Messenger. The two daily newspaper presses had been submerged and the Journal press was the only one that could be used; consequently, the three issued a paper together.

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