Heppner, OR Cloudburst Sweeps Away Towns, June 1903

Heppner Oregon Flood 1903 Heppner Oregon Flood Damage Heppner Oregon Flood Damage

CLOUDBURST SWEPT AWAY ATOWN OF HEPPNER, OREGON.

FULLY 250 PEOPLE DROWNED IN A TERRIBLE FLOOD -- 105 BODIES ARE RECOVERED -- ONRUSH OF THE WATER COULD NOT BE HEARD IN THE ROAR OF THE STORM -- SPECIAL TRAINS LEAVE FOR SCENE OF DEVASTATION.

Spokane, June 15. -- Special telephone advices to the Chronicle from Arlington, Ore., state that the town of Heppner was destroyed by a great flood of water which rushed down Willows Creek between 6 and 7 o'clock last evening. Reports from Ione state that from 350 to 500 people are believed to have been drowned. At 5 a.m. it was reported that 105 bodies had been found. WIres are down and only meagre reports of the disaster have been brought out by messengers.
Heppner is a town of about 1,200 inhabitants, the seat of Morrow county, Oregon, at the terminus of a branch of the Oregon Railway and Navigatioin company. Farming and stock raising are its chief industries.
Willows creek which is given as the cause of the disaster is ordinarily a small stream and early reports indicate the flood was caused by either one or two cloudbursts.

Portland, June 15. -- The general offices of the O. R. & N. received a report from Ione this morning that the company's depot at Heppner was washed away by a cloudburst last night and that many people of the town were drowned.

Portland, Ore., June 15. -- A telephone message from Arlington, Ore., a station on the main line of the O. R. & N., about forty miles from Heppner, says that a cloudburst occurred at Willow creek, above the town of Heppner, last evening between 6 and 7 o'clock. It is reported that between 300 and 500 people were drowned but the report cannot be veified as wires into the town are down.
Heppner is situated in a gulch and a cloudburst would cover a large part of the town. It is generally believed that the reports of loss of life are exaggerated, as the entire population of the town is only 1,200. The message from Ione says that among the drowned are DR. McSWARDS, and the family of G. A. ROY. It is also reported that the village of Lexington has been swept away. The O. & R. N. [sic] has sent a relief train from The Dalles.

Portland, June 15. -- The following dispatch was received from Heppner by the Oregonian at 1 p.m.: "Two-third of Heppner was swept away yesterday evening by a terrible flood. Fully 250 people were drowned. The weather is hot today and the bodies cannot be recovered on account of lack of men. The business portion of the town is left with small damage. Outside help is needed to bury the dead and clear the wreckage away."

Continued

Comments

I was born in Heppner nearly

I was born in Heppner nearly sixty-five years to the day after what is often referred to, in that area, simply as "The (Heppner) Flood." My paternal grandmother, a Heppner native who had just turned five years old, survived that day, along with her parents and two siblings. One well-known story regarding the Heppner Flood is that of the two men who rode a number of horses (to death in some cases) to neighboring Lexington and Ione to warn their citizens of the oncoming floodwaters. My paternal grandfather's family is from Ione, and I've been told that my great-grandfather helped in the recovery efforts in Heppner during the days after the flood (I would guess that my other great-grandfather did as well). That must have been an especially grim business for all who were involved.