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Gouverneur Tribune Press - Wednesday, Feb 10, 1937


Rev. Judson Washburn, son of Macomb Residents, Writes from Ohio Flood Area

(Editors note: This first hand description of flood conditions in the Ohio river valley, is printed through the courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. S. J. Washburn of the Town of Macomb, who were kind enough to forward their son’s letter to our correspondent, Mrs. Ed Evans.  The writer, Rev. Judson Washburn, is a former resident of Macomb.  He now has pastorate at Barnesville, Ohio, near the scene of the catastrophe.)


Barnesville, Ohio – January 24, 1937

Dear Father and Mother –

Another Sunday rolls upon us, and we are all well here in Barnesville, where we are high and dry, even though we have constant rain and snow.  But down below it is just awful.  I presume the house I lived in when I was in Bellaire is now half way to the ceiling with water.  And the water is dirty and muddy beyond description.


I was down there Friday to look things over, just as the water was coming up over banks and getting out of control.  So well can the good people *** … *** each flood will reach, people know in advance just what houses will be submerged and which will not.  They even know just how high up it will come on each house within the flood area; so people move accordingly.


It was a pitiful sight to see the thousands of people fleeing from the rising waters.  Of course, I had been through one such flood in ’33, but we knew it would not get high enough so we should have to move – therefore we were spared its agonies as well as its experience.  But this time, thousands are fleeing – some in carts, some in wagons, some in automobiles, some in trucks, some on foot.  People with arms full of stuff; children with big heavy loads, through the rain, wet and cold, fleeing before the rising waters.  Great blocks of houses had not a soul in them.  They had moved and those who could afford trucks had moved their furniture to higher grounds.


Of course, the sight cannot be described nor pictured to give any one else an idea as to what it means.  One must see it, must feel the awful cold, must get wet through the hide and have no dry clothes to put on, nor a place to go to change if you had them.  You must smell the stench of rising waters.  You must sense and feel the alarm that is in the air.  You must see people wild with terror, because they know not what to do.  You must feel the very air surcharged with that awful feeling that disaster is upon us and that there is nothing that can be done except leave all and flee.  Then you know what it is for people to flee before rising waters. 


I called on some of my people who live not ten feet from the waters, and so will be submerged just as soon as it gets out of banks.  Their house is built way up on stilts as it were to keep it above the high waters.  Normally it does.  For twenty years or more no waters have gotten into the house, till last spring … the ceiling.  The cleaning up of this mess has taken all summer.  They just got the walls papered last week, about seven days before this unprecedented flood came again.  They had moved everything they could to the top floors, and there they are waiting, waiting for the waters to rise and they would come in and out by boats.  Their condition was pitiful indeed – and the worst thing about it, you couldn’t do a thing to help them, not a thing, not one.  Nothing could stop that sea of water from rising slowly, inch by inch, hour by hour, day after day, till it should reach its crest, and then start down just as slowly as it had come up.  They had been through it before, they would go through it again and mayhap again. 


I mentioned to one young fellow, a teacher in the high school here in Barnesville, how sorry I felt for the hundreds of thousands who were thus distressed by the floods.  He said, “I don’t feel the least bit sorry for them, let them move out and stay out.”  I answered him that once I had heard a man say he had no pity for the Irish, they should have known better than to have been born Irish – and so it is with these poor people – they were born there.  Their fathers moved into the valley a hundred years ago when floods like these were not heard of in the valley.  Move out. Fifty Thousand people right within my own vicinity – sell their homes and move to higher grounds?  Who will buy their old property?  Where will they build anew?  Who will pay the cost?  Where shall they get a job?  It is easy for folks whose lot was cast above the calamity line to talk that way, but it’s a different thing when you have been born in it, and do what you will you can’t get out.


Just below me is the City of Portsmouth, of some 43,000 people.  They built a big sea wall, sixty feet high to keep the waters out.  Flood never came anywhere near.  ….they have been as safe as Holland within its dikes, but this time the waters went right up over the top of the sixty foot wall.  Can you imagine how high a sixty foot sea wall is? Probably not.  But it might just as well as not have been there for all the good it did.  The waters in a river miles wide kept on rising until they went right over top and buried the wall so deep that it cannot even been seen.  They have dams in the river to hold back the water, but the waters have come right up over them all so that the dams are twenty to forty feet under water.  What good are they when the floods came?


(And today, it is raining in one terrible downpour after snowing all night ling.  The water is deep on the hill tops.  In the valley it will go higher still, probably an all time record – and this right after the disaster of last spring.)

Sincerely yours,

Rev. Judson S. Washburn


East Pitcairn

·        Nelson Bishop left Friday for Watertown where he will spend some time with his brother-in-law.

·        Mrs. Ephraim Fenton and son Wilford, and daughter Marguerite of Copenhagen were guests of relatives in town Monday.  Marguerite will remain for a week to visit relatives.

·        Mr. and Mrs. James Wray went to Edwards Saturday where they will be guests of friends and relatives for a week.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Harry Watson of Fine and Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Stevens and daughter Monica were guests of Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Watson Sunday.

·        Mrs. Harry Graham has been quite ill the past week with the grippe and neuritis.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Graham of Canton were guests Sunday of his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Graham.  Mr. Graham is engineer and fireman at the jail.

·        Floyd Watson returned home on Tuesday from Hepburn hospital where he had been for the past 1* days recovering from … an auto accident in the village of Canton on January 15th.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Ingraham of Edwards were Sunday guests of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Peabody.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Pasco Whitford of Waddington were recent guests of Mrs. Whitford’s father, R. R. Thompson.


Edwards –

·        Mr. and Mrs. Anderson and son Bobby, and daughter of Ogdensburg were guests of their daughter, Mrs. Neil Brown and family Sunday.

·        Gervia Boulet has rented the Eliot house that had been empty since the death of Mrs. Eliot last summer.

·        Mrs. Hazel Clark and Mrs. Lillian Webb gave a 4-table auction bridge party Thursday afternoon.  Mrs. G. O’Neil had high score.

·        Mrs. Eleanor Lenox entertained the 3-table bridge club Thursday evening.

·        Charles Monroe, *3, who has only one leg, having had one amputated some years ago, fell and broke his hip Wednesday morning.  He has been living alone and gets about in a wheel chair.  He was alone when he was hurt, but a boy passing by heard him groan and summoned help.  Dr. Owen was called and he was put to bed and made as comfortable as possible.  Grover Barnes was called to care for im.  His advanced age and physical condition makes it a sad case.  On Friday morning he was taken to the Van Duzee hospital.

·        Miss Jannice Randall, a student at Russell Sage college, who is recovering from an operation for appendicitis, was brought home Friday for a short vacation until able to return to her school duties.

·        Robert Brown, a high school boy, is desolate because his black hound dog, called “Smoky” has disappeared, and he has not been heard from since Friday morning.  Robert is willing to reward anyone who returns his dog.

·        Mrs. Ruth Caye is ill.

·        The Misses Mildred and Idella Ward of Ogdensburg are guests of their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Ward.


South Edwards –

·        Mrs. Elam Hall and Miss Nellie Yerdon were callers at Mrs. John Wood’s Tuesday evening.

·        Mr. and Mrs. George Hall were in Gouverneur Saturday on business.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Rice of Fine moved to South Edwards last Saturday in Mrs. Addie VanOrnum’s house, and Mr. and Mrs. John Wood moved out to their new home at Pond Settlement.

·        Mrs. Abner Rice and children are spending a few weeks with her parents.  They expect to return home in a few days.

·        Mrs. Clarence Paro is ill.

·        Mr. and Mrs. George Hall and children spent one evening last week at Mr. and Mrs. John Woods.

·        Mrs. Bell Rexford spent the past weekend with her daughter, Mrs. Lillian Lamphear.

·        Mrs. Ralph Whitford of Fowler, Mr. and Mrs. James Church of Fullerville, and Tressa Arlene and Sarah Whitford were Sunday visitors at Mr. and Mrs. John Woods.


Bigelow –

·        Reginald Smith attended the ice carnival at Potsdam Saturday.

·        Mr. and Mrs. John Hamilton and family visited their daughters, Miss Hellen Mills and Miss Margaret Reynolds at Potsdam Sunday.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Archie Casaw attended a pedro party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert Fuller on Battle Hill Thursday night.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Owen Jones received a box of citrus fruit Tuesday from their daughter, Mrs. Anna Dickerson, who is spending some time in St. Petersburg, Fla.

·        Edward Scalfe and daughter Lefa visited Mr. and Mrs. Howard Greenwood on the River road Saturday.

·        Leon Colon and Miss Blanche Weir of Dana Hill spent Sunday evening at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Parker.

·        Miss Dorothy Fleming and Mr. Jack Newvine are ill with mumps.

·        Those on the sick list the past week are Mrs. Jessie Sheldon, Mrs. Reetha McCarty, and William Parker.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Roy Balcom of Navarino and Miss Evelyn Earl who has been spending time as their guest, arrived Thursday afternoon at the home of Mr. and Mrs. William Earl.  They returned to their home Sunday.  Miss Evelyn Earl returned with them.

·        Miss Ellen Newvine was the guest of Miss Louise Reynolds over the weekend.


Fowler –

·        Mrs. Bess Davis will entertain the Mission Circle Thursday evening at her home.

·        The Boys’ 4-H club met at the school house Friday evening with their leader, Clifford Bowhall.  The meeting was called to order by Fredric Cole as the president was absent.  Eugene Lindsley gave the flag salute.  Roy D. Gibbs of Gouverneur was the guest speaker of the evening.  Our 4-H club of Fowler sent a large amount of food and vegetables to Canton to be sent to the relief of the sufferers in the flood zone.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Fred Call were visitors in Watertown Saturday.

·        Mr. and Mrs. Robert McIntosh and Mr. and Mrs. Tom McTurk of Hailesboro were visitors at Elmer Bickford’s Sunday.