Chatham, ON Flood, Apr 1947


Chatham Is Under Water

Peak Anxiously Awaited as Thames River Carries Boiling Waters to Lake St. Clair--River 19 2-3 Feet Above Normal and Millions of Dollars in Devastation Results.

(By George Ronald, Canadian Press Staff Writer)

CHATHAM, April 8--(C.P.)--The rampaging Thames river, running its flood-swollen course into Lake St. Clair, rose today to 19 2-3 feet above its normal level in this western Ontario city of 17,000 and threatened to spill still further over its low banks. The flood waters have claimed six lives over Ontario in the past few days.

Fed by rain and melting snow from rich farmlands of Ontario's western peninsula, the river maintained a steady one-inch-an-hour climb and at 12:30 p.m. was eight inches below the peak of 20 feet, four inches it reached in 1937 in the most disastrous flood in the city's history. City Manager T. M. Kingston predicted it would surpass the 1927 level by mid-afternoon.


It rose three inches in the hour between 5 and 6 a.m. and city waterworks officials said they believed this was the so-called "crest" of the flood which brought an evacuation order for some 4,000 residents of the western section of London, Ont., two days ago and drove residents of the nearby village of Thamesville from their homes yesterday.

William Jubenville, 17-year-old farm boy of nearby Dover township was the first flood victim in the immediate area, the sixth in all Ontario. Many of those streams had produced damage and devastation costing perhaps millions of dollars in the past few days.

Jubenville was drowned when the tractor he was driving struck a washout on a township road and overturned.


In Chatham many persons worked all night taking precautions against property damage. In downtown stores staffs moved stocks to upper floors, and where was only one floor raised stocks two or three feet above street floor level. Basements of stores on King Street, the city's main thoroughfare, had as much as three feet of water late last night.

Eight dwellings were evacuated last night on the south side of Dover Street, the second street north of the river in the downtown section.

About midnight the water lapped over the top of a sign on the edge of Collins Memorial Park. The sign says; "Bathing Prohibited."


Chatham was expecting the worst at a time when the flood menace has eased everywhere else in western and southern Ontario. The same river, the Thames, has borne its flood crest through London, 70 miles upriver, in the early hours Sunday with a few inches to spare on the breakwaters.

The Sydenham river running north of here, after flooding the streets of Dresden, was subsiding. Thamesville, immediately up-river, was cut off by highway as the crest paused there a few hours before reaching Chatham.


Isolation also faced some 200 homes in Ottawa's suburban Eastview, although only one family had to be evacuated. Most serious flood damage reported so far in eastern Ontario was at Embrun, 25 miles southeast of Ottawa where a 100-foot steel bridge was washed away by the flood swollen Castor river. Loss of the bridge cut the town in half.

Flood trouble also hit the north, one Timmins family being forced to flee from a basement apartment and about 15 cellars being flooded by heavy rainfall and melting snow. At North Bay residents of one block spent the weekend without heat after a sewer back up and flooded their cellars.


Among the deaths were those of William Oldridge, 78, drowned in a foot of water in his home at London after suffering a seizure; Willis Bowers, 50, who feel[sic] from a punt in flood waters at Wallaceburg, and Mrs. Jeanette Mack, 65, and Mrs. Margaret Rulett, 64, who were swept from a makeshift bridge over the Oshawa creek and drowned.

The Lethbridge Herald, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada 8 Apr 1947


Flood Threat Diminishes In Chatham

Farmers and Nearby Communities Work on Dykes Along Thames


(Canadian Press Staff Writer)

CHATHAM, April 9--(C.P.)--This city near the southwestern tip of Ontario today breathed relief that the flood threat had passed its maximum with comparatively little damage. But farmers and residents of small communities between here and Lake St. Clair--18 miles to the west--frantically worked to build up dykes along the course of the turbulent River Thames.


Thousands of acres of rich farmlands had been inundated for stretches far north and south of the tortuous course of the river, from northeast of London, 70 miles east, to its mouth in Lake St. Clair. And these crop and property losses from the Thames waters were only part of the damage inflicted by other streams, swollen by melting snows and recent heavy rains, which broke their banks in wide areas of the province.

No one could accurately assay the over-all loss but it would top $1,000,000, a figure well below the damage caused by the great floods of 1937.


Residents here awaited an opportunity to start the job of cleaning up. Late last night, as a handful of citizens stood by at the river banks in the downtown district, the Thames surged beyond the peak level of the flood of 1937. That mark was 20 feet, four inches above summer normal. The Thames equalled this mark at midnight, and crept slightly higher. But the rate of increase was progressively slower and the worst was over.

At noon today the river still was 20 feet three inches above normal. Damage did not appear to be extensive.

As the flood established a new river peak only about 24 families were forced from their dwellings. Many others clung stubbornly to homes in low-lying badly flooded areas.


With water flooding many basements of business establishments and homes, electric fuses were put out of business at many places, leaving hundreds of buildings out of order, heating systems cold. Candles and oil lamps were used in one telegraph office.

The Lethbridge Herald, Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada 9 Apr 1947