It was four weeks ago that we first posted “1913 Flood Diaries & Letters: An Introduction,” the first in a series of several posts in which we’ve followed a handful of individual Daytonians through their 1913 flood ordeal, reading about their experiences in their own words.
It would have been easier (much easier) to limit these posts to one or two clustered directly around the centennial of the actual flood. After all, the city was physically flooded with water for just a few days in late March.
But seeing, reading, understanding how the flood affected everyone’s lives for days and weeks (months, really, but we had to cut it off somewhere!) afterwards should help to provide a much greater appreciation for the fact that the Dayton’s “Great 1913 Flood” was not just a few horrible days; its impact and after-effects were much, much greater. People were cleaning up their homes—those who still had homes to clean up—for literally weeks afterwards. Cars, furniture, dinner plates, clothing, all their belongings—were either destroyed or disgustingly dirty (sometimes both), and people had to pick up the pieces (sometimes literally) of their lives.
The diary and letter-writers in our series were really fairly lucky, compared to many others. The Wrights and the Schencks, though their homes and property were damaged, had the means to replace what they’d lost. The Smells survived the disaster and then returned to their home in Michigan, unharmed. And the Neukoms, whose Dayton View home was not flooded, suffered rather “minor” inconveniences (compared to some others): such as limitations in what they could eat or drink and interruptions to their utilities & mail.
Many Daytonians suffered much more permanent hardships as a result of the flood, such as the loss of their entire house (literally carried away or toppled over) or, even worse, the lost lives of family and friends.
Thankfully, one of the permanent results of the stemming from the 1913 flood is extremely positive: the creation of the Miami Conservancy District. After the 1913 flood, Miami Valley residents decided it was finally time to stop living in fear of floods on the Great Miami River or its tributaries. Instead, they raised money to construct a conservancy district, which would control the the rivers’ waters. And since its completion in 1922, the Miami Conservancy District has done just that! (Check out our Dayton Daily News Archive blog for more on the Miami Conservancy District, including photos through the years.)
So remember the stories of Margaret Smell, J.G.C. Schenck, Milton Wright, and Edward and Nellie Neukom in mind the next time we’ve had days on end of pouring rain in the Miami Valley. Remember that from such a great tragedy in 1913, followed by weeks (even months) of hardship, there arose a conviction that such a thing should never happen here again—and from that came a plan, followed by action. And now, we all enjoy the fruits of those sacrifices, knowing that even if it rains and pours, we don’t have to worry about another flood like the Great Flood of 1913.