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1913 Flood in Tiffin Revisited: Part 4

Flood south washington.jpg

The following is an excerpt from the two-time award-winning book "Calamity and Courage" available at

From the author: "It was 102 years ago this week that Ohio was rocked by the worst natural disaster in its history. This is the final installment of 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. By March 27, rescue and recovery efforts were well underway. It would be months, even years, before Tiffin returned to normal. Although "Calamity and Courage" delves into that in great detail, today’s final excerpt focuses on the immediate aftermath.

March 27

Although the floodwaters continued to recede, dozens of people — who had been without water, heat and electric since Tuesday — remained trapped in dwellings that sat along the river.

Clara Creeger recalled her joy when a boat finally reached the Van Nette apartment building at 8 Liberty St. Thursday afternoon:

“I was wrapped in a quilt and put into a boat. Mrs. Adair Van Nette held my (newborn) baby for me. Another woman was with us and she kept putting the quilt over my face. I’m sure that if I had been able to see the horrible sights around me, I would have been a terribly frightened girl.”

… The last person known to be rescued in the city was Mrs. Lena Letterhos, a widow, who lived at 58 St. Clair St., across from the Beck family. According to the Advertiser, the woman was marooned in her home “from Tuesday morning until late Thursday evening. She was revived with difficulty.”

At least she was still alive. Nineteen Tiffinites weren’t so fortunate.

Throughout the day, the grief-stricken families whose loved ones were still unaccounted for waited helplessly as search teams began to comb the riverbanks from Washington Street northward.

The first of the 19 victims found was John Canty Jr. The body of the ill-fated rescuer was discovered Thursday afternoon by Samuel Crawford and Edward “Red” Cameron, who worked for the B. & O. Railroad. As they searched through the debris, the men spied Canty’s left hand sticking out of a pile of rubbish …

… In the days ahead, the search would take the recovery teams all the way to Abbott’s Island, a tiny piece of land in the middle of the Sandusky River north of Tiffin, about a mile south of Fort Seneca. The sight there was almost overwhelming. Tons and tons of debris covered more than an acre of ground with household goods, lumber and sections of demolished structures …

Concealed beneath that mountain of rubbish were the bodies of several victims, their cries finally silenced by the river’s will. They would be discovered in time by the diligent recovery teams, and taken home at last.

© 2015 Virgin Alley Press. No part of this text can be reproduced without permission from the author.

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