The following is an excerpt from the two-time award-winning book "Calamity and Courage" available at virginalleypress.com
From the author: "It was 102 years ago this week that Ohio was rocked by the worst natural disaster in its history. Throughout the week I will be offering excerpts from my book about the horrific trials Tiffinites experienced — often in their own words — that fateful, deadly week."
The flood started Easter Sunday, March 23. Two days later, large sections of Tiffin were inundated by the floodwaters. Today’s excerpt from Lisa Swickard’s book “Calamity and Courage” reveals more tragic loss of life as well as the rise of the criminal element.
The flood reached its crest at 5 a.m. Wednesday morning (March 26) when the river measured 24 feet above normal. According to the Tribune, the water was a full 12 feet higher than it had been during any pervious flood.
No one needed to tell that to William and Addline Axline. They had spent a sleepless night in their relatively new home at 98 Water St. after they had opted to remain there despite repeated attempts to convince them to leave. The house sat near the river, on the east side of what is now Frost Parkway, and their front porch faced the home of Oscar and Mary Tunison, who lived just across the street at 99 Water St. Getting to the Tunison home would have meant safety for the couple, but by then, that structure might as well have been a million miles away. Water Street was aptly named. The roadway had been submerged since the previous morning. There was no way the Axlines could escape to the Tunison house amid the charging waters that, by now, carried along with it uprooted trees, fractured bits of barn siding and lumber, and an array of household goods and furniture from the Mechanicsburg area.
All through the night the Axline house “rocked unsteadily on its foundation, gradually becoming more unstable as the huge waves and pieces of debris battered the sides,” observed an Advertiser reporter.
Shortly after 5 a.m., those who had been watching the Axlines’ peril heard a series of loud cracks. That was followed by a heart-stopping crash as their home parted from its foundation and floated into the raging current. Oddly enough, the house remained upright as it moved rapidly downriver. It drifted beyond Washington Street and miraculously bobbed around the tangled remains of the Monroe Street bridge that had gone down at the mouth of Rock Creek.
Then the Axline home encountered the railroad bridge …
Author's Note: Throughout the day, nail-biting rescues were being conducted around the city. The Axline's were not so lucky. By then the rain had stopped. Even though it was a relief, it introduced a whole new set of problems.
Despite the fact that many people remained stranded, by late Wednesday afternoon the water finally began to slowly recede. The brutal reality of what was transpiring had set in, and many people wandered the streets along the Sandusky, weeping. Nearly 500 residents were homeless. And just when some of those poor unfortunates thought they couldn’t be violated further, they were subjected to another devastating blow — this time at the hands of their fellow Tiffinites.
With the ebb of the water came the vandals, the seamy opportunists who wasted no time looting some of the vacant houses …
The thieves had free reign primarily because members of the Tiffin branch — Co. I, Eighth Infantry — of the Ohio National Guard had been ordered to Zanesville to patrol that city’s flood ruins. On Wednesday night, the vandalism in Tiffin had become so serious that Mayor Keppel sent a telegram to Ohio Governor James M. Cox, requesting military aid.