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Rushford Related Articles

The Flood of 1864 - Rushford, N.Y.

The following is excerpted from the book "Rushford and Rushford People", by Helen Josephine White Gilbert, 1910.


 

THE FLOOD OF AUGUST 16 AND 17, 1864

(Related to Helen White Gilbert by Dr. O. T. Stacy.)

IT commenced to rain at six o'clock in the afternoon and continued to rain in torrents through the night. About eleven o'clock William E. Kyes and Dr. Stacy were on their way home from the drug store which they had re- cently purchased. As they crossed the foot-bridge on Lower Street they observed that the water in the creek reached the top of the banks. Dr. Stacy lived in the house now owned by Mrs. W. H. Leavens. It then stood on the east side of Lower Street just south of the house belonging to the Masons. The Mason house was then owned by Mrs. Helen Laning; north of it was the Methodist parsonage occupied by the Rev. John McEuen. The next house but one beyond the parsonage was the home of Mrs. B. M. Gilley, a widow, sister of Columbus Ely.

Dr. and Mrs. Stacy were awakened in the night by a loud noise ; going to the door they saw a wall of water three feet high moving toward their house. The shade trees and the fence were as straws in its path. The water com- menced coming in at the windows, so they took up their carpets and fled to the chambers. The water kept rising until 't was five feet high. The lower part of the town was a lake covered with flood wood. All that night the logs and trees were beating against the house. A loud roaring was heard, first on the north, later on the south side of the house. They saw O. T. Higgins' front door with a window above and each side coming toward them. There was a strange light that night, and although there was a downpour of rain they could plainly see the people standing on the corner now owned by Howard Wood. The Rev. John McEuen was out on his porch swinging his lantern and calling for help. Dr. Stacy shouted to him, "You're not in danger. Don't you see that barricade in front of your house?" The logs had piled up against the large shade trees before the personage and Mrs. Laning's house, affording them protection and dividing the current, one current going north, the other south of their houses.

Mrs. Gilley was in her chamber praying, when J. C. Nobles with staff in hand waded toward her house. He rescued her by carrying her through the water on his back. In a short time he returned to rescue some of her possessions, but the house was gone. Since Dr. and Mrs. Stacy were thought to be in danger, Mr. Avery Washburn started for the Gordonville mill to get a cable, but finding the factory warehouse threatened, he stopped to help throw out the large quantity of wool there stored. In the meantime Mr. Nobles and DeWitt McDonald had waded to the house, and Mr. Nobles and the doctor had carried Mrs. Stacy to a safe place.

The morning revealed strange things. The upright part of Dr. Stacy's house was nearly undermined, and the clapboards were torn off for four or five feet from the ground ; the well and the cistern were gone ; near the wing was a deep hole and into this the doctor's office had tipped ; back of the house lay a large tree three feet in diameter; in front of the house was another tree as large as one could girdle with his arms; in the back yard, covered by a foot of earth, was the parlor carpet of Mrs. Higgins. That portion of the town would not have been recognized. It was a scene of desolation.

The next day, going to visit a patient in Freedom the doctor found the road obliterated and the bridges gone. If Titans had pulled up all the trees in Delzell Hill's sugar bush and scattered them it could not have been worse. He met Jacob VanDusen and his wife coming from Sandusky. Mr. VanDusen said, "You can't get through ; I have broken my reach," but he went on, visited his patient and returned home in the night in safety, thanks to his trusty and in- telligent horse.

Israel Thompson's barn containing a dairy of fifteen cows stanchioned was carried down the stream; although the stanchions went to pieces, only one cow perished.

A woman living in East Rushford, whose husband was connected with the sash and blind factory, wished to move to a larger place, so when their house was carried off by the flood, she remarked that she thought it was a Godsend. When Samuel Bellows of East Rushford saw that his house was moving, he climbed into a tree in an orchard near by. The tree commenced to move, so he swung himself into another tree where he remained till morning. He after- wards remarked that when that tree commenced to move he thought it was a "God-sender."

Several floods have visited Rushford, but no other has caused so great devastation as that of '64.

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