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The Suburbanite
  • The Monday After: Flood of 1913 did deadly damage

  • Headlines in The Evening Repository in Canton detailed the death and destruction caused by the flood of 1913.

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  • Headlines in The Evening Repository in Canton detailed the death and destruction caused by the flood of 1913.
    “Ohio Floods Kill Scores; Property Loss Is Millions,” said the words over one Repository flood report.
    Locally, the effects of the flood were historic in proportions.
    “Canton Hit By Its Worst Flood,” reported the headline that boldly topped the Tuesday, March 25 edition of the city’s newspaper. The story was published two days after the rains came not only to Canton, but also to communities throughout the state and to a third of the country — a region that stretched from the nation’s southern coast to its northern border.
    “Massillon Loss Is Half A Million,” another headline estimated, before the story beneath it noted that the city was “suffering from the worst disaster it has ever experienced.”
    “No lives were lost but many thrilling rescues were made.”
    STORM BEGINS
    The weather was merely an inconvenient rain when the storm started March 23, canceling festivities for that Easter Sunday. “Easter Parade Is Stopped By Rain,” The Repository said on its front page the next day.
    “Many of those who were not daunted by the threatening weather were caught in the storm and returned home with their finery much the worse for the rain,” the article reported, adding a warning that “the creeks about the city are out of their banks in some places and if the rain continues it is feared that the low sections will be flooded.”
    The rain in Stark County had totaled two inches by that time. It didn’t stop until the water in the weatherman’s gauge had reached more than seven inches. By then the flood — considered the worst natural disaster in the history of the state — was raging.
    DESTRUCTION DONE
    “Massillon was in darkness Tuesday night, as the electric light plant is under water and the saloons are closed,” a Repository story said March 26. “Special policemen are patrolling the streets to prevent pillaging.”
    Train service to both Massillon and Canton had ceased.
    “Every line of communication, either by wire or rail, into the city (Canton) has either been paralyzed or seriously affected,” one newspaper story told its readers. “Between 5 o’clock Monday afternoon and noon Tuesday no mail was received at or sent from the Canton post office, say officials.”
    Other communities in Stark County and the surrounding area similarly were flooded. “Five North Industry families were forced to flee the rising waters in the night,” a news story reported. “At Sandyville, the waters are the highest in the memory of the oldest inhabitant. ... Rowboats were put in commission as a means of rapid transit at Brewster when the flood was at its height.”
    Page 2 of 3 - The Tuscarawas River was more than a mile wide as it rushed through Canal Fulton.
    “The force of the water threatens to tear the homes from their foundations as it has already torn several dozen sheds and small buildings, which have been carried swiftly down stream,” said the Repository story.
    Trains were derailed and railroad tracks destroyed in Massillon. The Ohio & Erie Canal was damaged so badly that it soon would die as a means of transportation.
    “Stark County villages, especially those on waterways, report devastation and loss through high water,” reported the newspaper. “Telegraph and telephone poles were washed away and wires torn down.”
    THROUGHOUT THE STATE
    The damage — certainly the loss of life — was even worse elsewhere in Ohio. More than 500 families were homeless in Akron. Two feet of water ran through the city of Mansfield. Half of the city of Dayton was under water at a depth of five to nine feet.
    A woman was marooned with her three children near the business district of Dayton — they were among hundreds who found safety in tall buildings — and she  called to men passing in a boat, according to an Associated Press account.
    “Oh, I know you can’t take me off, but for the love of humanity, please take this loaf of bread and jug of molasses to Sarah Pruyn, down the street. I know she’s starving.”
    Hundreds of deaths were reported in the days that followed — more than 1,000 nationwide. Canton and Massillon escaped fatalities, but almost 500 people died throughout Ohio — more than 120 in Dayton — more than 350 throughout the Dayton region — and almost 100 in Columbus.
    “Dayton tonight is nothing but a seething river, three miles wide in the heart of the city,” The Evening Repository said in large and bold type March 26. “Gloom reigns supreme.”
    Ohio Gov. James Cox Ohio asked communities to contribute assistance for those hardest hit by the flood. A Canton corporation, the Geiger-Jones Co., was reported to have made the first response — $1,000 — to the governor’s appeal.
    Thousands more dollars were raised in Stark County, and other aid included carloads of needed items. The city’s chapter of the Needlework Guild, for example pledged to sew garments for people who had lost their clothes in the flood.
    Canton even came to the aid of its traditional sports rival, which was harder hit by the flood, showing that neighboring communities become family in the face of adversity.
    “Canton went to the rescue of the flood victims of its sister city, Massillon, providing $5,000 for the general relief committee of that place,” reported the Canton newspaper. “The tender was made immediately following the decision of the Massillon committee to accept the gift.”  
    Reach Gary at 330-580-8303 or gary.brown@cantonrep.com.
    Page 3 of 3 - On Twitter: @gbrownREP