Hot Springs, AR flood, Jun 1871


Disastrous Freshet at Hot Springs, Ark.


Effects of the Extraordinary Freshet at Hot Springs - Bridges, Bath-Houses, and Dwelling-Houses Swept Away.

The Hot Springs (Arkansas) Courier, of June 1, contains full particulars of the extraordinary freshet which occurred there on Saturday week, and was mentioned in our telegrams a few days ago. Hot Springs Creek is formed by the union of two small creeks at the head of what is known as Hot Springs Valley - one coming from the north-east and the other from the north-west, the latter much the larger, but both rising within a short distance of the town of Hot Springs, and constantly fed by mountain springs. Throughout the day there had been an occasional slight mist and sprinkle of rain, but at about 3:40 o'clock in the evening rain began to fall in vast volume and continued for about twenty-five minutes, when it abated for about five minutes, and then commenced again as hard as before. It soon became appartent that the creek was rapidly rising, and that another hour's rain [illegible] that of the past half hour would send it high out of its usual bed. But the expectations of all in that respect were more than realized, for is a little over an hour after the heavy rain first began to fall, many of the homes in the valley were threatened with destruction. The Courier says:

The debris and rubbish left along the banks of the creek was swept down stream with the greatest velocity, until, meeting with some formidable obstruction, it was hurled up edgewise and perpendicular, forming a dam of no mean proportions or power. Before it ws quite dark, STAATS & LIBBEY's new bath-house was partially submerged, and the foot bridge to it moved. At about 8 1/2 o'clcok the attention of the citizens at the lower end of the valley was called to the threatening danger in which TERRY & HOFFMAN's new bath-house, WALSH's St. Nicholas saloon, and the east wing of the Hot Springs Hotel stood of being totally annihilated for the fierce and raging flood that was already sweeping down upon them, increasing in volume and fury every moment, and continually depositing large accessions to the already fearful jam of flood-wood, lumber, and wrecks of bridges and buildings from above. Lights were at once extinguished in the ell of the hotel, and in the bath-house and saloon, and preparations made for their being swept away, all of which proved to be true, and it was then expected that the Hale House, the Ellsworth Infirmary, WALLINGFORD's store, the saloon, bath-house and part of the Hot Springs Hotel would surely go; but as luck would have it, the elements expended their destructive wrath upon the property of those at the north end.

The first property which was swept away at the upper end of the town was the bridge crossing over to the Catholic Church; next was the billiard-saloon of WEST STEELE, then a couple of stables, then the Conley House, owned by MICHAEL CONLEY, and put up by him last year. The next was a house owned by Mrs. ELLIOTT, formerly a mill; then WARD's grocery-store, and next the California House, owned and kept by THOMAS BASS. Next to this was was a bridge, and then BELDEN & PRITCHARD's new law-office. This tremendous pile and wreck was furiously precipitated against the shade-trees along the banks at the north end of the Akin House, and the Akin House itself, tearing and breaking off some of the trees, which were nearly, if not quite, two feet in diameter, but the cluster of trees at the end of the house was too strong for the watery element, and the roofs of the wrecked buildings and other debris were shot high up into the air, or swept around to the east, down the street in front of the Methodist Church. The terrible crash of the wreck, and the roaring and surging of the waters at this point for a time was fearful to the extreme, and, had it not been for the large shade trees at the end of the Akin House, it too would have probably been swept away; and then, in all probability, every building in the valley that overhung the stream at all would have been washed away. Most of the wreck was either checked up at the end of the Akin House, or in front of it, the length of the house, along the creek, being about 500 feet, and around which the scene of that night and the next morning beggared description. This house lost its fine elevated steps spanning the creek, and had its "water-battery" and lower lattice-work seriously damaged. The flood-jam at the north end overtopped its roof, and the water was shoe-deep over the porch and upper parlor. The bridge at its lower angle was one of the first carried away. This struck the kitchen of the dwelling-house of Dr. G. W. LAWRENCE, which was occupied by Rev. Mr. RUTH, Episcopal minister of this place and swept it very rapidly down the stream. Next in its ravages it took away the two Rector Bridges, and the bridge to GOV. RECTOR's bath-house, more or less damaging the latter. Here its ravages somewhat abated, and little damage was done until it reached STAATS & LEEREY's bath-house and store-house, where it broke off a bridge, knocked out some posts and supports to both of the buildings, and piled them up against TERRY & HUFFMAN's bath-house and WALSH's St. Nicholas saloon, which are built against piers and supports of the porch and walk of the Hot Springs Hotel. TERRY's bath-house is built upon stone piers rising out of the creek, and WALSH's saloon upon posts. The bath-house suffered much the most from the flood, having five of its piers carried away, and the building somewhat twisted over, while the St. Nicholas saloon only lost two posts, and was but slightly damaged. The bridges below the Hot Springs House were carried away, and some lower floors of houses barely submerged.

Although the direct pecuniary loss incurred by the citizens of this place from this flood is not so great as might be supposed, yes it is a very serious loss to most of the parties, as it was their all, or nearly so. The greatest inconvenience, if fact, to all, is from being thrown out of house, home and business during the busy season. We understand that Father GARRATEY, the Catholic priest of this place, who was boarding and rooming at the Conley House, lost his library and wardrobe, and that the schoolmaster, SAMUEL NEWLIN, colored, met with like misfortune. One of the boarders at the California House lost a trunk containing $2,000, and found it again the next evening in the jam near the Akin House. It has been reported by parties living some five miles up the creek that this unprecedented rise was caused by the bursting of a water-spout or cloud along its banks in their vicinity, which story has gained creedence among some. It is looked upon as remarkable that no lives were lost, and no person by Mrs. CONLEY hurt, wtich [sic] occurred as the house was being crushed by the drift. The entire disaster is attributable to the popular folly which prevails in this highly romantic and lovely valley of spanning the creek, or in building out over it. Had it not been for the obstructions thus placed in it, and over it, no damage would have been done."

The New York Times, New York, NY 10 Jun 1871