Lawrenceburg, IN Flood, Feb 1884

1884. —The flood of February, 1884, was by far the greatest and most destructive known since white men took possession of the Ohio Valley. In December, of the winter of 1883-84, a great amount of snow fell; over this was spread several inches of fine hail, so that the amount of frozen water spread over the Ohio Valley was very great. Throughout January more snow fell, only a portion of which melted. Three feet of snow had fallen, and much of it was spread over the valley, or accumulated in drifts. At last came the warm storms from the southwest, and day after day there were heavy rains. All the conditions existed for a disastrous flood. Nowhere was it more destructive and frightful than at Lawrenceburgh. On Wednesday, February 6, 1884 at about noon of that day, the levee was still holding back the water between old Lawrenceburgh and Newtown and Hardintown; but along High Street, between Elm and St. Clair Streets, the waters from the Ohio began to pour into the city. Up to 10 o’clock at night but a very small part of the city had been visited by the waters, but at about this hour the levee at the locks, just below Hardintown, gave way, and the rushing element came with all its fury, spreading in wild confusion over the fields beyond, and in a few hours extending with rapidity all over the city, but, unlike 1882, it met the water from the Ohio, and thus the force of the current was broken, and but little damage was done to property on account of the rush of waters.

By 1 o’clock Thursday morning, the waters covered High Street, with the exception of that part of the street between Charlotte Street and the railroad crossing at the Miami Valley Furniture Factory. This point, the highest on High Street, was the last to become submerged. From this hour (Thursday morning at 6 o’clock) at which time there was about twelve inches on High Street, the rise was gradual until Thursday, the 14th; at 5:45 P. M., it came to a stand-still, and then remained apparently stationary for nearly five hours, when it began slowly to recede, until on Thursday morning, 21st inst., the most of High Street was again visible, after being beneath the flood of waters for two weeks.

The water rose to such height that the force of its lifting power alone was sufficient to upturn buildings and break them in two; but to this force was added a boisterous wind-storm that shook the buildings to their bases and lashed them with the furious waves until hundreds of buildings of various kinds left their foundations to be tossed upon the waters, broken to pieces or carried bodily into the river and lost forever to their owners.

On Thursday morning, February 15th, at 6 o’clock, the waters reached their highest point, being two feet eight inches higher at Lawrenceburgh than ever before known. The heights at various places in the city are here given:
Ferris’ drug store, 8 feet 4 inches; Jordan’s drug store, 8 feet 7 inches;
Indiana House, 22 inches on second floor; Hillman's store, 10 feet 5 inches;
Kieffer’s store, 5 inches on second floor; postoffice, 9 feet 5 inches;
court house, 4 feet 6 inches; People’s Bank, 8 feet 10 inches;
Methodist Church, 1 inch on second floor.

The entire village of Hardintown was under water for twelve days, and its inhabitants took refuge in the Bellview Church and with friends.

Relief committees were organized and contributions were promptly sent from all parts of the country. The Lawrenceburgh Relief Committee received and disbursed over $20,000.

Large quantities of provisions were bought, and liberal donations of bedding, clothing, food and coal were received from various parts of the country to relieve the distresses of the 3,000 persons driven from their homes by the flood. When the waters subsided many houses were found wrecked, which the owners were unable to repair. A blank form of application for relief was prepared and the owner was required to show, under oath, his or her inability to repair the damages. One hundred and eighty-seven of these were filed, of which 160 were granted.

Eleven houses were completely swept away, fifty-four were off the foundation, some of them several hundred feet, and fourteen of them turned over. An efficient force of movers, carpenters, stone and brick masons, plasterers, and laborers were engaged to repair the damages.

History of Dearborn and Ohio Counties, Indiana, 1885, Pages 197-198

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News from Lawrenceburg, Ind., is that the levee is yet intact, but the water covers the town from the river front. All business is given up and thousands of people have left the town, the remainder occupying houses on high ground, or the third stories of their buildings in water, and are provisioned for several days and are also provided with boats.

The Atchison Globe, Atchison, KS 7 Feb 1884

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Cincinnati, February 7 -- News from Lawrenceburg indicates much fright but not much damage. When the levee broke this morning the water from Ohio had already entered so that when the Miami water came in there was not such a current as had been feared. The chief dangers now is the underlying of foundations and high winds. Many frame house [sic] will be moved from their foundations. The people well provisioned and cheerful

Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN 8 Feb 1884

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The following has been received from Governor Porter, who is at Lawrenceburg:

The condition of Lawrenceburg is pitiable in the extreme. More houses have been removed from their foundations than last year. Relief should have reference now not only to food but for enabling the poor people to replace and repair their houses.

Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN 14 Feb 1884

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Cincinnati February 18 -- At Lawrenceburg 30,000 rations were issued to 3,000 people besides thirty mattresses, five hundred comforts and a large quantity of women's clothing. By Wednesday the water will be off the greater part of the town. Relief is coming in liberally. The damage cannot be less than $200,000.

Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, Fort Wayne, IN 15 Feb 1884