|The Saint Paul Globe.
April 29, 1897
St. Paul, Minn. 1896-1905
DROWNED BY DOZENS.
West Guthrie Overwhelmed
LIST OF DEATHS
Numbers Thirty Lost
Place the Total as
No Accurate Estimate of the Damage Done in the
|GUTHRIE, Ok., April 28. – For miles
tonight the Canadian valley is a dreary
waste and the people are overcast with
gloom. At sunrise this morning a
mighty wall of water, from six to eight
feet high and a mile wide, broke upon
West Guthrie without warning, crushing
houses, sweeping away property
and drowning people by the score.
Every movable thing was swept before
the wave, which passed on into the
valley with resistless force, wreaking
terrible destruction to life and property
wherever it reached. Dozens of lives
are known to have been sacrificed,
how many may not be known for
weeks. Hundreds of houses were
wrecked; for miles farms were completely
ruined; bridges and tracks
washed out and railway traffic in every
direction is at a standstill. The most
complete chaos has prevailed all day.
The efforts of rescuing parties have in
many cases proved in vain Many people
floated down stream before they
could be reached and their fate is un
known; others will pass the night in
trees in mid-stream or perched on
house tops. It is impossible to estimate
the number of dead. The property
loss is placed at something near a
million dollars. Fully two-thirds of the
victims were colored people.
Business has been suspended all day in Guthrie, the stores and banks being closed. As thorough an organization for relief as is possible has been made, but all aid has been necessarily retarded by the confused condition of things. It will be impossible to explore the houses until the water subsides, as many of them are submerged. As darkness gathered over the scene many overturned houses could be seen far out in the flood, but it could not be learned whether their occupants escaped. The river is thirty feet above its ordinary level. A heavy rain began falling this afternoon. A threatening bank of clouds came up from the north west and many persons fled to their tornado cellars fearing that another disaster was upon them. Luckily, how ever, the damage was slight. The flood is supposed to have been caused by a cloudburst, supplemented by heavy rains.
The Cottonwood river, ordinarily a small stream that winds between steep banks in West Guthrie, was bank full from a heavy rain yesterday and last night, but no alarm had been felt, as the river had been rising gradually during the night. About 6 o'clock, how ever, waters from a cloudburst above was added to those already nearly up to the level of the high banks, and the flood was sweeping through West Guthrie, a section populated mostly by colored people. Persons who saw the first wall of water said that it was about eighteen feet high, spreading entirely across the valley. There was no water in front of it save that in the river's channels. The first wave was followed by others in quick succession until the whole settled into a bank of water from six to eight feet high. Many had already begun carrying their household goods to places of safety, but few had made more than one trip when they were forced to flea for their lives before a raging, resistless torrent that no power of man could hope to stay. The main supply pipe of the water works system burst where it crossed the Cottonwood, in the southern part of the city, and all the water in the reservoirs poured into the river.
In the southwestern part of the city a long arm of land is formed by the winding of the river. On the island lived hundreds of negroes. During the night the bridge leading across the river to the main section had been swept away. The people were absorbed in watching the rising waters this morning when the floods from the reservoirs came down in a solid wall and cut across the arm of land near the main land, cutting off the people from escape. They fled from their homes to the higher portions of the newly formed island. In half an hour the mountain of water had done its work and practically spent itself. The air be came hideous with the crashing of houses and the cries for help of the unfortunates. When the first shock of the disaster was over the more fortunate on the island immediately began to help those nearest them, while across in Guthrie proper prompt steps were taken at rescue. The houses, barns and other effects began to drift down stream, each freighted with one or more human beings. Boats or rafts shot out here and there from the shore, and desperate efforts were made to rescue the people. Improvised rafts were quickly thrown together and started out into the mad stream. Before many of them had been propelled a couple of yards from shore they were twisted and broken by the waters, and the would-be rescuers thrown into the stream. Half a dozen rescuers were drowned even before those they had tried to save had been reached.
Gus Platt, business manager of the Guthrie Leader, and George Willis, a merchant tailor, swam the river at the risk of their lives and secured a boat by which a number of persons were saved. A negro woman, with a babe in her arms, desperately tried to steady herself in a tree top, calling the while for help. She grew weak and the baby slipped into the water and was drowned. She was finally rescued and said her family of six had been lost. A woman wading from home with her baby on her head was seen to go under, and a man swimming the channel to reach four women and a baby in a tree was carried down stream. Two women and a child were carried away on a bridge further down stream, and one man and two women in plain sight of shore were on a house roof
|when it went to pieces. They all perished. An
old negro woman was seen clinging to
a house top. The building soon turned
over and she was gone. Three men,
Walter Olds, John Van Dusen and Eugene Gilla, sought to rescue an old
man from a tree. Their raft struck an
overhanging tree and they barely saved
themselves by clamboring into another
tree. They were finally rescued on a
rope sent to them by means of a shot
gun and cord.
Two men secured a small stern wheel pleasure boat and started to the rescue of a half dozen men and women lodged in a tree. The persons were rescued amid the cheers of the spectators. The cable holding the craft finally broke and it was carried down stream, but ultimately landed safely. Adjt. Gen. Jameson, of the territorial militia, narrowly escaped with his family. He was forced to wade and lead his horse with his family in the buggy. John Metz, aged fifty-five, was capsized while trying to save a woman, but managed to reach land. The wife and five children of Wesley McGill, colored, were drowned in their home. Tonight forty or fifty people could be seen clinging to trees and roofs of buildings, but could not be reached, and will have to spend the night where they are. The strength of many may fail them before morning. The fate of many others who are known to have been carried down stream will not be known till daybreak, and perhaps not then. It is impossible to get any definite news from the hundreds of rescued people on the bluffs west of the city. Those who escaped are rushing frantically about in search of missing ones. The river is going down rapidly tonight.
When darkness settled over the city tonight the wildest stories were afloat. Many were claiming that fifty lives had been lost and not infrequently men were heard claiming that 200 had perished. These wild estimates are unquestionably exaggerated, but lives were lost in the flood in ever direction, in plain view of the few who were heroically carrying on the work of rescue and of many who stood help less at the edge of the raging waters. Men, women and children struggled in the torrent side by side with horses, cattle and swine, one perishing here, another there, and in other places several disappeared together beneath the flood. At dark tonight but two bodies had been recovered. The bodies recovered are those of the following:
Anna Kaiser, school teacher.Others known to have been drowned are:
George Owens.It is believed that loss of life has also occurred south of Guthrie, along the Cottonwood river. Many farm houses in that district are reported to have been swept away. Seven miles south of here, at Seward, Hunt's store and the postoffice were swept away. Four thousand dollars was raised in Guthrie this afternoon for the relief of the sufferers.
J. H. Calhoun. wife and child.
Charles Rufner and wife.
Mrs. Wesley McGill and five children.
Mrs. James Montgomery,
H. H. Beckfinger.
Mrs. Sue Wilson.
Mrs. Frances Moore