1926 Grand River Flood

On Sept. 26, 1926, the Grand River once again was causing damage in our part of the country. There had never been a flood in September in Daviess County’s history. It was near harvest time and corn prospects were looking favorable. However, flood waters rampaged through the county and destroyed them. Some said the crop loss wasn‘t a complete failure; corn which wasn‘t too ripe would make soft corn for feeding purposes. To show the prospect of the corn crop’s yield before the flood, one man displayed an ear of corn that had been in the water 48 hours. The tip of the ear pointed downward so that the water drained off, leaving the ear of corn undamaged.

On Sept. 26, 1926, the Grand River once again was causing damage in our part of the country. There had never been a flood in September in Daviess County’s history. It was near harvest time and corn prospects were looking favorable. However, flood waters rampaged through the county and destroyed them. Some said the crop loss wasn‘t a complete failure; corn which wasn‘t too ripe would make soft corn for feeding purposes. To show the prospect of the corn crop’s yield before the flood, one man displayed an ear of corn that had been in the water 48 hours. The tip of the ear pointed downward so that the water drained off, leaving the ear of corn undamaged.

From Gallatin to Brunswick thousands of acres of farm land were under water. In many places, as far as the eye could see, there was nothing but water. it lacked about two feet of being as high as the well known flood of 1909. Many contended it might be equal to or greater than the great flood except for the fact new drainage ditches had been constructed over the county in the latter years.

The continual rains and overflows played havoc with roads and bridges. Thousands of dollars worth of damage had occurred. The repair was going to be a financial challenge because our country was still in its Depression years. The County Court had condemned the bridge over Gallatin‘s Grand River as the waters had done much damage to it. One of the peers was also damaged making the bridge unsafe.

The Wabash railroad was hard hit by all the waters along its line from Maryville to Brunswick as much of its tracks went through bottom land. The O.K. train service had been greatly impaired in north Daviess County due to washouts causing trains to cancel their runs.

The train master of the Wabash railroad said the loss to the Wabash during the recent flood would probably run up to $200,000, but there wasn’t any precise check on the loss since there wasn‘t any accurate way to determine the loss of business. The lower parts of Pattonsburg were covered with four and five feet of flood water.

Mail service was also hindered by the railroads not being able to deliver the mail; however, some of it was to be delivered by automobiles. One carrier from Braymer who still delivered by horses came very close to losing his life as well as his horses. He’d reached a river where the water was hub deep, but he still wanted to cross and deliver the mail – As the team stepped from the bridge, the horse went down with a part of the load, pulled the other horse in together with the buggy and Mr. Moore the carrier. He soon spotted his team caught in the brush of another tree farther down the river and tangled in the harness and would soon drown. He swam to them, caught the reins, pulled them up over a tree and waited until help arrived.

This mass of water was also treacherous to many farm renters and buyers who’d already lost money in the bank closings of the depression days and were trying to get back on their feet. They were counting on a good crop year to pay their rent and their mortgages. Some of the farmers were worse off than when they’d started in the spring.

other factors related to the flood also occurred. Approximately 40 people were stranded and were staying in an abandoned church near Fountain Grove in Livingston county waiting for the river to recede so they could return to their homes in the Grand River bottoms. The sheriff notified the townspeople of their plight and collected donations of clothing, shoes, and $168.85 in cash. Some of the money was used to purchase $44 worth of groceries and another lady bought dress goods for the children. The people in the church were so crowded they had to sleep on the benches and the floor of the building. Ticking enough to make nine straw ticks was purchased.

One saying proved to be false: It was said the then new Highway 6 built through the Wabash bottom was flood proof. However, after the heavy rainfall, water ran across the highway in three places, getting more than a foot deep. Traffic across the bridge was stopped because the east approach was showing signs of not holding up. when the engineers were laying out and building the road several years earlier, the old timers who did the engineering with their naked eye, told the state men the road wouldn‘t stand the test like the 1909 flood. The engineers were sure it would; however, it didn‘t!

GRAND RIVER FLOOD TIDBITS
• 1917 – In addition to the flood waters, wind, hail, and heavy rains did great damage to growing crops. Some of the hailstones measured four inches in circumference

• 1919 – The Omaha & St. Louis train No. 14, due in al7atin about midnight was ditched about three miles southeast of Pattonsburg while trying to pull through flood waters at Cypress Creek. r ie train was mvvfiig slowly at be tinTe and only the engine and one car left the track. The road bed had been washed out by the the flood and the weight of the engine carried the track down.

• 1922 – A Gallatin farmer had a 180 wheat crop estimated to have made 35 bushel to the acre and it was all in shock and waiting for the threshers when the flood waters destroyed his crop.

— researched and written by Wilbur Bush, Gallatin