Lawrenceburg, IN Flood, Feb 1882

1882.—The flood of February, 1882 …. was disastrous and appalling at Lawrenceburgh. We copy from the newspapers of that city:
“For several weeks the Ohio River, at this city, had been rising gradually, until Monday evening, February 20, it had reached a point at the junction of the fill in the fair grounds and the “Big Four” Railroad, when it became necessary, on account of the depression in the fair ground embankment, to raise the bank at least two feet in order to keep the waters which had been accumulating from flowing over the bank into the city. Mayor Roberts promptly secured a force and went to work with energy and determination to do all that could be done to keep back if possible the waters, and up to midnight Monday had succeeded admirably in holding them in check. Bat the continued rains for the past few days had swollen the White Water and Miami Rivers to such an extent that it was soon evident that it would be impossible to keep up the embankment of the “Big Four” Railroad from this city to Hardintown, and the most that could be expected was to hold the waters back until morning or daylight. But at about 4 o’clock Tuesday morning, the 21st, the waters from the Miami were thrown against the “Big Four” Railroad track with excessive pressure, on account of the barrier formed by the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, which would not permit the accumulated waters to pass into the Ohio River, when at a point just below the locks, at Hardintown, and a point opposite the Trough Pond, near Nicholas Fox’s, the water broke through, and it was not long until it was rushing with fearful velocity, and in vast volumes through the upper end of the city, carrying terrible destruction in its wide and rapidly extending pathway. The screams of the people in the lower parts of the town, when they were aroused to the fact that they were surrounded by the flood of waters, were distressing in the extreme. The Mayor had arranged for giving a signal of alarm by the ringing of the church bells, and when it was known that the flood was coming the bells pealed out their terrible warning, and at the same time the flood gates at the lower end of the city were opened, and the torrent of waters came rushing from both directions with equal destructive force until they met at Walnut Street, like two mighty giant monsters of the deep amid its angry waves struggling for the supremacy of the sea, until both ended their existence in death, and thus the waters ceased their angry flow.

“Although it was generally known that it would be impossible to keep the waters out of the city, and that many of the houses were ten feet or more below the surface of the water in the river, yet comparatively few persons were prepared when the rush of waters came. The result was the loss of individual property has been very great. Not so much in the aggregate of dollars and cents, however, as that it came to a class of people not able to lose anything—yet in many cases it took all they had, even to their houses. Both in the upper and lower end of the city quite a number of small houses could be seen overturned, while others had floated away from their foundations. It is surprising how many families were driven so hastily from their homes, on account of the sudden rise of the water within the city limits, which in its mad career seemed to wash, upturn and drive everything before it. Hardly two hours had elapsed from the time the water broke its barriers until it was in every part of the city doing its work of devastation, and yet we have -heard of but one death.

“The men employed in their skiffs and hastily provided boats did noble work in rescuing the people from the great peril in which they were so suddenly found. Large numbers of families took shelter in the public school buildings, in the court house, in the stove works, in the lodge rooms and other large rooms on High Street, as well as with private families, and it may be said that over a thousand persons were made homeless for the night at least. It was but a short time after getting housed until they were provided with food and made as comfortable as it was possible to make them under such unforeseen circumstances and the short time which was given to work.

“The waters continued to rise until about 4 o’clock Tuesday after noon, and from that time until midnight there was but little change, when it began to fall. In the afternoon it had covered High Street, with the exception of here and there a small portion of the center of the street could be seen as dark spots above the water. High Street being the highest street in old Lawrenceburgh, this part of the city therefore was entirely submerged. The store houses, with floors even with the pavements, had a few inches of water on their first floor. On all streets besides High the buildings were more or less filled with water, ranging from one foot to fifteen feet”

History of Dearborn and Ohio Counties, Indiana, 1885, Pages 194-196



Recalling a flood of 55 years ago, W. C. Randel of Indianola sends his contribution with this letter. "Enclosed find check for $5 which you will please add to your list of subscriptions to the distressed flood sufferers so sorely in need of help. I know how to sympathize with these unfortunate people. In the year 1882 I saw the town of Lawrenceburg, Ind, sitting in water. Many, many houses were under water showing only the combs of their roofs. People were riding the principal streets in boats. Many were taken to higher buildings, the court house was full, and the high school building and churches. This is why I have a tender feeling for those poor unfortunates..."

Evening State Journal, Lincoln, NE 26 Jan 1937