Do you ever get an urge to jump in your car and go someplace on a moment’s notice? Well, that happened last year when our daughter and son-in-law were having supper with us, and we were discussing floods in Ohio, mostly ones in Delaware County. (One flood being back in 1913, and another happening in 1959.) And it just so happened that George knew of a presentation being given on that subject within the half hour. So, within a matter of minutes, we were in our son-in-law’s car heading for the Barn in Stratford to hear said presentation. It was to be given by Mr. Brent Carson, who knows more about the history of Delaware County than anyone else we know.
We arrived just in time to sit down in the available chairs and hear about the very subject we had just been discussing. First, he spoke about the flood of 1913. I found some good statistics about it in the 100th Anniversary Delaware Area Chamber Booklet: “Eighteen lives are lost and 500 people lost all or part of their possessions in the 1913 flood. Twenty-three homes were washed away or destroyed — 34 more ruined, 40 bridges washed away, 60 businesses suffered sizable loss and $1.5 million estimated total damage. The Delaware Garment Co., formerly the Delaware Underwear Co., had to spread 20,000 yards of cloth and 500 dozen gowns on OWU’s campus to dry. A score of horses gradually climbed the steps of the Delaware Ice Co. plant to avoid the rapidly rising water.”
Mr. Carson had a lot of interesting things to say, but because of our leaving in such a flash, I forgot to take something along to use to take notes. But, I do remember what he asked about the 1959 flood. Sometime in the middle of his talk, he asked if anyone in the audience knew what day in January the flood hit here in Ohio. I knew when it was, but I hesitated to speak. But when no one else said anything, I put my hand up and said, “It happened on Sunday, Jan. 25, of 1959.” Surprised, he asked a question about how I knew that was the correct date. So, I said, “That’s the day I got married.” I could have added that it was a very warm day for January, and there was so much water everywhere in Ohio that my oldest sister, living in Paulding County, was unable to come to my wedding. She couldn’t go anywhere that day, unless she wore boots and wanted to walk through the fields to a distant neighbor’s house.
Also, another sister, who lived in Marion, had to take Route 23 from Marion to Delaware, then take Route 42 north to Ashley, to get to the wedding. When the wedding was over, George and I left to go on our honeymoon. As we drove away, we realized that about 10 tin cans had been tied to our bumper. (I haven’t seen that custom observed for a very long time.) We headed to Sunbury and then on east to Zanesville. From there, we went south to Marietta, because that was where the only bridge was open to cross the Ohio River. At that point, the water headed west and would eventually run into the Mississippi River. So with that happening, we were able to proceed on south to Orlando, Florida, where we spent our honeymoon. Back in 1959, there were only 2-lane highways all the way to Orlando. (The interstates came much later.)
Another quote from the same edition of the Delaware Area Chamber booklet about the 1959 flood was: “A flood in January of the Delaware Run is the worst since 1913, with stores on Sandusky and West William streets flooded. Many families evacuate their homes along the Run and in the north section of the city and about 27 businesses suffer major damage.” Ever since then, people have talked about the water that ran in the back door of Benton’s Furniture Store, through the whole store, and out the front door to go on across S. Sandusky St. to the Delaware Run that runs along the OWU campus. What a mess that must have been! But the Delaware Dam was doing a good job of holding the water back from flooding Columbus. There’s no doubt that the 1913 flood was many times worse than the flood of 1959, so, if you are interested in seeing some pictures of either flood, the Delaware County District Library has a collection of photographs of each one.
Who knew when we were planning our wedding that we would choose the same day as one of the two biggest floods this area had ever seen? As a matter of fact, it’s almost impossible for George and me to believe that we will be celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary this coming Jan. 25. We have a lot of good memories of that important day, but one thing we can’t remember is whatever happened to all those tin cans?
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.