Thursday, September 22, 2016

Russellville and the Flood of 1904

Have you been into the History Center to see the flood wall display?   John King with the help of Flossie Price and Kevin Borden did  all that research and his wife Nancy created the giant bar graph to explain flooding in Lawrence County. 

Vincennes Commercial April 2, 1904

Russellville which has been isolated from the world for several days, because of the flood which has surrounded the little town, and because of the fact that the telephone wires and poles are down, was heard from Friday morning, and while there has been no fatalities as a result of the flood, yet the condition of the three or 400 people hemmed in by water at that point is growing decidedly serious.

The food supply of the town is almost entirely exhausted and unless supplies are taken to them soon, much suffering will result. Realizing the situation two Russellville man John Hill and Allen Callender, volunteered to make the trip to the city in a skiff and arrange for taking a steamboat load of supplies to the besieged town. They set out at 6 AM Friday morning arriving two hours later, and they immediately set about securing a large supply of flour, meats, canned goods, potatoes and the like, after which they made arrangements for the goods to be taken to Russellville by the steamer Belmont. At one o'clock in the afternoon the two men set out in their boat for the long hard pull back to Russellville.

To Mr. Trombley, the grocery, the men stated that at Russellville store, when they left Friday morning, there were but four sacks of flour left  and orders had been placed for these. They also spoke of the break in the Belgrade levee, which they passed on the way to the Vincennes saying that it was located between the Coughran and the Wathen farm, about 8 miles above the city, about 300 yards of the levee had been washed out and the water was still pouring through the opening. They reported that the home of JJ James built on a mound was the only house along the river that was not flooded. Seven or 8 families are occupying ii at present.

The steamer Belmont, with a large load of provisions, will get away for Russellville at the earliest opportunity, but it may be Monday before they can make the trip.

The B&O railroad has been fighting hard to save their embankments in Lawrence County and with liberal use of sandbags and constant track walking have so far succeeded. The water however, has made deep inroads on the road bed which will necessitate expensive repairs after the floods of sides.

The Big Four cannot run trains between St. Francisville and Lawrenceville as the track is washed out a quarter of a mile from the Embarras overflow. Favorable indications existed Friday at St. Francisville, where up to 6 PM the Wabash River had fallen one fourth of an inch.

The situation throughout Lawrence County, while somewhat better than yesterday, is still serious. To those who are water bound and on the second floor of their homes the confinement is beginning to tell upon them and numerous appeals are being made for rescuers. Editor Maxwell, who has been foremost in the work of rescuing the people and  stock, was out all day today and succeeded in rescuing the family of William Webb and a part of the livestock of Jessie Mathias. At the latter place four more horses are confined in the dwelling. Tomorrow the women at Sam McCleaves will be taken out. Mr. Maxwell reports that the situation in the flooded territory is decidedly desperate. The water bound people are becoming discouraged and he thinks that an effort ought to be made by Vincennes people to get some of the people and stock out with the aid of a raft and some of the gasoline launches at Vincennes.


Several thousand sacks were shipped to St. Francisville Wednesday from Vincennes and points along the Cairo division to be used in sandbagging the railroad track between St. Francisville and Vincennes, which of the water continues to rise, shows signs of washing out. The sand will be secured at St. Francisville. As this is the only way the Cairo division can get from St. Francisville to Lawrenceville every effort is being made to save the track.

The Lawrence County Historical Society is pleased to present Steamboats on the Wabash by Robert Swenson and John King September 26 at 7 PM at the Lawrence public library. Admission is free.