MY EXPERIENCE during the flood dates from the Sunday previous. I took an 8:40 car and went out to greet my mother and take dinner with her, little thinking that in so short a time we should pass through such hours of anguish and suffering. Before reaching my mother's home, it commenced to rain, and before night the creek running through the farm was overflowing its banks. The ditches along the road could not carry the water, and in many places the water was running over the road. By chance I got a ride back to Fremont with Mr. Ed Schwartz; when we reached the northwest corner of Spiegel Grove we found the water running over the street, covering a space four or five rods wide, to the depth of a foot. On Front Street we met Mr. Ed Kridler, who suggested we might get high water; he said we might get water in our cellars, no water yet in the river at the bridge to speak of, it being retained by the dam.
On Monday, March 24th, at noon, I observed the water had risen so much that at Ohio Avenue it lacked at least four feet of being even with the sidewalk crossing. At 7 p.m. it lacked about eighteen inches of being even with the walk at Mrs. Dunning's house. At 10 p.m., when I went home, it lacked only about twelve inches. This was now about twenty-four hours since the river commenced to rise, and under ordinary rains, it should have reached its highest point.
About 3:45 a.m. Tuesday, the 25th, Mrs. Sherrard called me and said the water was coming up fast. I got up and dressed and hunted a plumber to cap our sewer in the cellar. This done, I went to the store to relieve Mr. Womersley. I told him to go home and get a little sleep, and I would go home to breakfast as usual at 7:00.
Water rose so rapidly and he was kept so busy getting our chickens in the barn from the hen house, and helping the women get things in shape in our houses, that he did not return and consequently I did not get any breakfast.
Mr. F. Hepner, Mr. H. Gavitt and myself were busy getting out orders until about 10 o'clock; after this Mr. Gavitt went home to look after his home on East State Street, and was obliged to go around by the railroad bridge to get there, as the current was too strong at this time to cross at Sandusky Avenue in safety. Mr. Hepner and myself got busy trying to get goods up as high as counters supposing they would be safe.
About this time Mr. A. O. Flumerfelt came to the front of the store and finding he could not get over to the Kline Block where he lived, suggested he would come in and help us if he could do us any good; so he did good service, but to no avail, for we soon found we had not put goods high enough. Our heavier goods were in our wareroom, which is two and a half feet higher than the store room. We soon found that this was not high enough. At about 1 p.m. we were obliged to give up work in the store room, and, getting papers of value, and accounts, we retreated to the wareroom, but not without getting a five or six pound roll of butter and a box of bread containing 25 or 30 loaves.
Having had no breakfast and only two crackers with thin sliced ham for dinner, bread and butter was relished for supper. We found we must soon retreat to higher ground to be safe. We went up the wareroom stairs, taking with us the bread and butter; here we unlocked the door leading into living rooms over the store, occupied by Lester Billow and wife on one side and Earl Brockway and wife on the other. Now we were seven, with bread and butter enough to last a few days. Our boys were thoughtful enough to take with them on leaving the store, a bundle of gents' hose, so that we could change our wet ones, which we did gladly.
It was quite comfortable in our quarters with our new neighbors and friends, with gas and heat enough to dry our clothes, until about 9 p.m., when the gas went out. About 5 p.m. my friend, Mr. Brockway, noting that I was much exhausted, advised me to lie on the sofa and rest, thought I might sleep away and wake up in the morning and find the water gone. I may have slept an hour; hardly had I awoke, when bang went one of the plate glass windows below. Useless to say the sleep was all gone for the night. This same banging and breaking kept up all night until everything breakable on our store front and in the store, had gone.
At 10 p.m. it seemed that the water had reached its highest point. Very fortunately, perhaps, the electric lights burned all night. We could plainly see Henry Kline's steps on his block, and marked the height of water there, but when Mr. Billow arose at 4 a.m. Wednesday, we found the water had risen higher, and continued until about five or six o'clock. These were hours of anxiety and suspense. Gladly did we hail the morning light. Little did we think of the cold we were suffering, but were wondering how the folks were at home. I knew Mr. Womersley had an oil stove, but did not think they had any oil. I thought they must be suffering with cold and perhaps hunger.
Our boys got out on the East Side Implement Company's platform and fished out a gallon oil can full of oil from the water, and found an old Lake Shore Electric headlight lamp, and with this and two lanterns we kept from freezing.
During the night just past, we could hear cries for help on all sides; especially could we hear Mr. Gilson and Mrs. Long; when daylight came we could see Mrs. Long's flag of distress. During Wednesday forenoon our boys took a red scarf and tied it to a fishing pole, went to the roof through the skylight, and signaled parties from the west side on Heim and Barnum's store, and pointed to Mrs. Long. They recognized the signal and soon got her and her friend out. It was at this time that we could see the life saving crew unloading their boats and putting them into the water.
On Wednesday morning we could see the houses swept into the street. Mrs. Dunning's soon went to pieces and disappeared from view. I could see the big oil tank against the bridge; at first I thought it a piece of the steel tube from Ballville.
I saw the back part of Dr. Beaugrand's house float away and disappear across State Street. On Wednesday morning I saw a boat coming from the east overturned, with a man on it holding fast to the boat with one hand and in the other hand one oar. The current fortunately brought him to our corner and against a telephone pole; from this he worked his way along our hitching rail and was rescued by parties from the Kline Block, I believe. I think his name was DeMars. He certainly showed by his presence of mind that he was used to water. One other thing we saw on Tuesday afternoon was a battle on the water by two fellows whose names we withhold. They were in separate boats and used oars in place of fists.
I must not forget to mention a feat of throwing by Mr. Hepner. Mr. John Lyons and Mr. Grant Mayer were marooned in the Herbrand, with nothing to eat. Mr. Hepner took apples and canned goods from our wareroom, went to our roof again through the skylight, and then threw them across to the Herbrand roof, where they were caught or picked up by Mayer. This in part appeased their hunger until Thursday morning, when the relief boat came and gave them plenty.
Mr. Flumerfelt could stand on our porch and talk to his wife across the street, and say, "Thou art so near and yet so far." We could see our goods floating out of the store, yet we were powerless to save them.
On Wednesday, the 26th, I saw a quantity of wreckage floating down Howland Street, with an object on crosswise; it looked very much like a man. Mr. Brockway said he saw him move his hand.
On Thursday afternoon Mr. Keegan and Mr. Oris Tuckerman came and took Mr. Flumerfelt and myself out. He could only get to us from the rear of Rock Block, as the current on our corner was still too great. I was landed at the foot of Pine Street. It was then that I learned that my folks were out. I found them at the Croghansville school house. They were stopping with Mr. Fred Truman. Mr and Mrs. Womersley were stopping with Mr. Paul Strausbaugh and Mr. Mielke.
Not until Friday when I
got home and to the store on Saturday, did I realize how great our loss
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