When I moved to Athens, Ohio, in 1967, I sneered at the puny Hocking River: “You call that a river? Where I come from, on the banks of the Mighty Mississippi River, we’d call that a creek at best.”
A year later, the Hocking would flood a significant part of the campus, prompting a major re-routing of the river. In this 1970 aerial, the old channel meandered through the heart of the low part of the campus. A dike or plug kept the old river from flowing down the new, straighter, wider channel during construction. (You can click on the photos to make them larger.)
Muskingum River bridge
Malta was just down the road from Miners’ Memorial Park and Big Muskie’s bucket, so I paused to give Curator Jessica a chance to photograph this bridge over the Muskingum River because there was talk that it might be replaced. I left the motor running and stayed near the van.
Twin City Saloon
I was trying to make out what that blue line was on the red building when a guy came out, saw me and started pointing up at it. He walked over and struck up a conversation. He’s the owner of the Twin City Saloon, and that line represents how high the water got during the Flood of 1913.
We chatted a bit, then I mentioned that Curator Jessica worked at the Athens museum and that we were lollygagging around the state visiting interesting places. When she walked back to where we were, he said, “I have something you need to see.”
Jessica gets kidnapped
I didn’t want to leave the van unlocked and running, so I volunteered to move the van closer and lock it up. When I completed my task, I headed over to where I thought the couple had gone. No bar owner, no Jessica.
“That’s great,” I thought. “I’m going to have to go back to Athens to tell Hubby TJ that Wife Jessica has been sold down the Muskingum River for whatever curators are good for, and that it’s my fault for not keeping track of her.”
I decided to check the bar. It had a Closed sign up, but the door was unlocked. There was Jessica and the owner looking over some cool artifacts that had been in the building for more than 100 years.
The Great Flood of 1913
I can rattle off significant Mississippi River Floods: 1927, 1941, 1973, 1993, 2011, but I had never heard of the Great Flood of 1913. The History Channel said “It is estimated that the Great Flood of 1913 killed more than 1,000 Americans, making it the country’s second-deadliest deluge (behind only the 1889 Johnstown Flood, in which more than 2,200 lost their lives). The destruction cut across 14 states—reaching from Vermont to Michigan to Louisiana—making it the country’s most widespread natural disaster.
“The apocalyptic storm that caused the Great Flood of 1913 impacted more Americans than the San Francisco Earthquake and Fire of 1906, the Hurricane of 1938 and many other better-known natural disasters. So why has history largely forgotten it? Geoff Williams, author of a book on the Great Flood, said it’s because the impacted communities viewed the disaster as a local, rather than a national, calamity. ‘If you lived in Dayton, it was the Great Dayton Flood. If you lived in Indianapolis, it was the Great Indianapolis Flood. People thought of it in very local terms although it was a huge regional flood.‘”
Look at Marietta’s flood levels
When we got down to Marietta, Ohio, there are some wooden poles that indicate the height of various Ohio River floods over the years. The tall pole at the right shows the March 1913 crest of 58.7 feet. The city’s website said that flood “The flood swept 120 homes away, knocked 200 homes off their foundations and water was eight feet deep in the old Post Office.”
That’s pretty impressive.