Olden Time - Chapter Twenty-One
The Great Flood
Transcribed by Arlene Goodwin. From the book entitled, "Ye Olden Time, as compiled from the Coxsackie News of 1889" written by Robert Henry Van Bergen, together with notations by Rev. Delber W. Clark, and edited by Francis A. Hallenbeck, 1935
THE GREAT FLOOD
The Hudson on a Rampage—Extraordinary High Tides—Heavy Ice Moves—GreatGorge at 4-Mile-Point—The Whole River Front Flooded—Horses and Cattle Lost—Destruction Everywhere—Highest Water Ever Known—Buildings Destroyed—The Damage Inestimable.
February 17th was one of the coldest mornings on record, and the ice in the river was made heavy. A cold week followed, then came the remarkable soft day of Feb. 24th that caused quick suspension of the ice harvest. It immediately set in cold again and the great body of ice was solidly cemented and continued to fall heavily until near Sunday morning, all the water running off the surface of the frozen ground as off a duck’s back. The result could be naturally expected. Quiet streams became raging torrents, emptying their volumes into the Hudson until it was full to overflowing, and the ice completely loosened from both flats and shores. Saturday night’s tide was high, Sunday morning’s higher, and when the hour of high tide came Sunday night about 6 o’clock, all former records were broken by about six inches.
Excitement among the people was about as high as the tide, and all along the river front was a grand hustle to get out of the way of the water that began coming into the first floors of dwellings, principally at the Lower Landing. Water was on the floor of the Larabee house and all the docks were covered deep. A general removal of horses from the stables along the river was made and most of the animals removed to barns on higher ground, even as far as West Coxsackie, for want of nearer accommodations. Boats were brought into requisition to remove people and their effects from flooded places to dry ones, and gangs of men were busy endeavoring to get the ice house runs and aprons out of harm’s way, while hay and grain on the lower floors of the storehouses were being taken up higher.
At about 6 o’clock the climax came, and suddenly, almost without a moment’s warning the great body of heavy and solid ice, some of it a foot in thickness, commenced moving seaward, gaining momentum with each passing minute, until it shortly took on a ten-mile-an-hour gait.
With the first move of the ice the wholesale destruction of dock property commenced, and the first thing to go down like a crushed egg shell was the barn and storehouse of S. P. Hallock near the site of the old steam mill. With its downfall came a loss of stored salt and kerosene oil. Then ice slipped along the docks quickly making a wreck of Van Loan’s fish house and tearing an immense hole in Parker’s new storehouse. The ferry boat, just below the dock, had a narrow escape. Her hawser parted, and but for the fact that she drifted shoreward, she would have been caught in the rush and carried down the river to be smashed and ruined. The ice house dock came in for its share of injury, and aprons, runs, and derricks went down before the irresistable rush, together with heavy spiles along the dock front. The Hallenbeck & Banker storehouse was struck, and, although the structure shivered from floor to roof, it remained firm and was not injured.
The water continued to rise until in the evening when it was several inches deep on the floor of the Larabee House, reaching a point higher than had been ever known before, and in the opinion of many the worst was over.
But events were ripening which were to make a high water record very far above anything ever dreamed of. The immense body of ice ran up against a snag of some kind near the 4-Mile-Point light house and formed a gorge so high and deep as to completely dam the water in the river, and as natural result the torrent running seaward met with a rebuff which it could not overcome and set back into the town. That gorge was simply immense, and in a few hours extended from the light house to Fitch’s dock. During Sunday night the water came up so rapidly as to cause general consternation, and boats were brought out to transport goods to places of safety. The docks were not only deep under water, but the whole length of River street was impassible, except with boats, and the tide set up Main street so that boats could come as far as Hutching’s cigar store. Every cellar and basement up that far was full to the floors, and some floors were also covered.
During all the excitement a fire was started in Brown’s lumber yard from the lime barrels, and No. 2 hose cart was brought out, the hose attached to the hydrant on the corner of Main and River streets. With a boat the fire laddies carried the nozzle into the yard and the flames were quickly subdued, another example of the benefit of the water works, as no fire engine could have been brought into use under the circumstances with any degree of success, and the result would in all probability been very disastrous.
One of the most deplorable results of the high water was seen at the islands above. When the ice started Sunday afternoon it struck the National or Burns ice house, tearing off the elevator fronts, aprons, etc. The barn was shoved off of its foundation and turned over. Five horses and a cow drowned. The chip conveyor and the engine house was struck next, and completely carried away, and the engine and boiler floated down the river on the ice, and the latter is now lodged in the 4-Mile-Point gorge. The ice than went under the side of the dwelling house, lifting it and turning it over on its side. Twenty minutes before that catastrophy, the family of Mr. Simmons, consisting of himself, wife and oldest son, got out of the second story window and went up the elevator into the ice house loft, where they remained without anything to eat until rescued Monday night by boat. Boats also moved his furniture. The house is a wreck.
Coxsackie Island’s turn came next. On it is the Ridgewood ice house, Wm. Barlow, superintendent. The ice picked up the big boarding house, about 50x100, and moved it over 200 feet and jammed it against the ice house, a total wreck. The porch was knocked off of the dwelling house occupied by Charles Morris, wife, 17-year-old daughter and child, 4 years old. They were moved by boats at 3 o’clock in the morning to the loft of the barn. The house was completely wrecked and all the elevators and aprons are gone from the ice house. In the barn were 23 horses and a cow. The water came up around them until they were nearly covered, and while the cow and 6 horses were drowned, 17 of the horses stood 48 hours with the icy water most of the time over their backs and without anything to eat, and still lived until they reached and cared for by men in boats at about 3 o’clock Tuesday afternoon. The water was then about two feet deep in their stalls, and they were fed and blanketed, lumber was secured and they were raised out of the wet. It is heart rending to imagine the agonizing sufferings of those poor beasts submerged all but their heads so long in that ice cold water, and it is most remarkable that they lived through it. Among the horses dead is the Charley Van Wie white poney owned by Mr. Barlow. Will Keyes, Will Ham and Stephen Dolan stayed with the family from Sunday night to Monday afternoon, when they were taken to the main land by boats through the ice.
Before the flood commenced to subside the weather turned cold and ice an inch and more was formed on the water. As a result, when the water went down the streets were almost impassable from the ice left in heavy bodies and in all shapes, and people had to chop their way into their flooded houses only to fine the floors covered with ice.
The gorge below is a solid affair, and there is no telling what may happen before it is broken. It will be well for the people to be on the watch for more water.
The ice moved out of the river from Catskill down.
At Stuyvesant the ice houses suffered and Best’s coal sheds were torn away.
The brick yards along the river suffered heavy damages, largely in loss of wood.
At Stockport the ice made more havoc, principal among which was the almost total destruction of the freight house on the dock.
In Albany the water reached to the second stories along the river front, covering railroad tracks, etc., about as usual as high water times there.
The elevators and engine house of the Rogers ice house, the elevators of the 4-Mile-Point were carried away by the flood on Sunday.
At Hudson the creek carried away the South bay bridge. The water was three feet over the docks and considerable cotton in the steamboat freight house was damaged. The ice crushed through the Catskill and Albany freight house, making a big hole in the building. Lighthouse Keeper Best removed his family, and the ice gave the structure a close call.
The Hudson River Railroad suspended operations along here Sunday night. The big ice jam at Stuyvesant has sent both ice and water over the banks and under the tracks and the ties were floating. Trains were stalled between here and Stuyvesant, and all traffic since Sunday has had to pass around by way of the Harlem, and no business has been done at Coxsackie Station, therefore no ferry connection was necessary.
The Catskill creek broke up Saturday morning and the Leeds flats were covered with from two to four feet of water and the Cauterskill flats five or six feet under. Stock was endangered and some drowned. The Hop-o-nose mill engine fires were put out, also the kiln fires of the shale brick works. The long dock was covered and impassable, and residents of the Point were obliged to get into the second stories of their dwellings. Capt. Van Woert’s barge went out of the creek into the river with the ice and was lost, and a canal boat was lodged on the flats.
The ice harvest ended abruptly.
It was a gala day for the Rubber Boots brigade.
Lower Main street resembled rowboat regatta.
The ice moved—and so did the barn of S. P. Hallock.
The Parker freight house is a sight. It is about one-third gone.
Everybody that could lent a hand to those in need of assistance.
The river front has the appearance of an Arcade entertaining a cyclone.
Nick Wagoner had six inches of water on the back room floor of his candy store.
Jenne is some on fish but he doesn’t care to cast his line from a second story window.
A cow passed here on a cake of ice during Sunday night. She was bellowing pitifully.
Jordon Brothers had 6 feet of water in their cellar, and lost some dry paint, glue, etc.
The water reached the Eagle Hotel barn floor, and was over two feet deep under the sheds.
Peter Dolan’s cellar was full, and considerable sugar, butter, lard and potatoes damaged.
The water was four feet and one inch deep on the floor of J. C. Newbury’s foundry.
We shall not mention Cal. Lord’s trials, nor of his wish to be far away—at Roger William’s Park.
Johnny Out doesn’t mind "A Summer Shower", but an impromptu winter bath is not to his liking.
Peter Bedell was completely flooded out of his basement store, and his goods were damaged about $50.
Had it not been for the West Shore railroad Coxsackie would indeed have been isolated from the outside world.
Buyer of tobacco have no reason to complain of dryness of the weed, as considerably quantity of it got wet.
Richtmyer and Sax had five inches of water on the floor of their store, but by hard work moved all goods out of harm.
Will Edwards cut a hole in the floor of his barn on River street and hoisted his horses out of the water to the second story.
Row boats were extensively used in the streets and were the only means of getting about. Even high top boots were too low for use.
Landlord O"Connor and family of the Larabee House on Sunday were obliged to hastily pull up stakes and move to the upper story and to add to their discomfort the alarm of fire early Monday morning again obliged then to move, and this time to safer quarters.
All the ferry boats connected with the bank.
Tony says he felt just like home, Juse like Venice, you see.
"Water am grater dan de lan," Bruder Bailey still kept on de lan.’
H. J. Hahn tried to dough it, but the water made him un-dou-gh it.
All the cellars and floors of business places on River street were flooded.
The water at this point was about thirteen feet above normal high water mark.
Dry goods merchants suffered considerable loss and bargain hunters are reaping the benefit.
C. I. Collier had about six feet of water in his basement, and a large amount of goods damaged.
The buildings back of Backus’ store were damaged by ice and water, and wagons and sleighs suffered.
Most of the people thought at one time of the Bowery, that "they would never go there any more."
McClure had six feet of water in his cellar and several hundred dollars worth of stock was damaged.
The water was a foot deep on the top of the Larabee House bar, and the people had to leave the building.
Many enjoyed sailing about the streets, and numerous dimes found their way into the pockets of boatmen.
Those "little floating palaces" in the rear of the business blocks added very materially to the scenic effect.
J. C. McClure had 8 feet of water in the cellar of his drug store, which he tells you about in his advertisement.
It has been a great relief to the ferrymen that they have not been obliged to cross the river during all this flood.
Creek bridges were taken away in many places, and the one at Sickles’ creek is reported moved from its foundation.
Water was 3 feet, 5 inched deep in Casper Clough’s coal office, and considerable damage was done to the coal yard.
Free rides on the shoulders of strong and willing men were frequently indulged in, to the amusement of onlookers.
"Peter Hank" shakes hands with himself that he "set up" his new building, but his cellar was full to the floor at that.
Peter Bedell’s basement store was full to the ceiling with water, and all the stock not previously removed is a total loss.
The juvenile who was the owner of a pair of rubber boots got more fun out of it than a Christmas tree could have produced.
Owing to circumstances beyond the control of River street inhabitants, business on that thoroughfare was entirely suspended.
Their is no truth in the report that Thiers, the tailor felt alarmed and wished that the building was another story higher.
People at the Lower Landing were obliged to leave their homes via second story windows, and their furniture is badly wrecked.
The stock in the cigar manufactory of Dolan & Tighe on River street was damaged to the extent of several hundred dollars.
The ice remained firm in the east channel between here and Stuyvesant, and the channel above the light house was opened again.
At Brown’s lumber yard the scene is one of disaster. Everything is covered with ice, and considerable stock got away with the flood.
At Scott’s ice house the water was a foot deep in the engine room, and the ice carried away the aprons, bridge and some of the elevators.
Lew Stickles cared naught for the roilly water; but he would like to know who made the two holes in the bottoms of his rubber boots.
At Hutching’s cigar store the water was a foot and one-half deep on the floor and customers came in the double doors in row boats to trade.
John Van Wormer accommodated the public for a long time in the day by carrying the mail for individuals to and from the postoffice.
Roscoe Hallock did not care a picayune about those 40 barrels of oil, but that which troubled him most was the flagstone being left unfastened.
The tide of Sunday was several inches higher at Coxsackie than was ever known before, and Monday the water was four feet higher yet than that.
S. P. Hallock, the grocer, gave liberally of oil to still the troubled waters, and his 30 barrels were found Tuesday morning scattered promiscuously about.
Alcott’s barrel factory was hard hit. Some 50,000 staves and a large amount of heading were water-soaked and ruined. The loss will probably go above $550.
G. I. Fitchett is on record as an early riser, and it availed him much Monday morning, for he secured his office books just in time to save them from a wetting.
Business was entirely suspended at the down town coal yards, and, with the cold that followed, it will be some time before they can get things in clean working order.
Nearly all the ice in the river above and that of the Mohawk and other tributaries is lodged in the river between the 4-Mile-Point gorge and Stuyvesant, and is solidly frozen together.
The water was 18 inches deep in the back room of S. P. Hallock’s store. It is difficult to estimate his damage, but $400 worth of salt was lost. Probably $1500 won’t make him good.
Warren Thatcher never shirks duty at fires, and standing in water up to his armpits while fighting the fire at Brown’s lumber yard is commendable and he should receive special thanks.
The water completely filled Clark A. Hotaling’s cellar, putting out the furnace and damaging goods. They could not get to a hardware store for a stove and had to take the freeze without a fire.
At the Eagle hotel the water was three feet deep in the cellar, and the furnace first was out from Sunday night to Tuesday morning. Five big lamps kept the temperature up to 68 in the reading room.
At Alex Cumming’s hotel the furnace fire went out about 4 a. m, Sunday and could not be rebuilt until Wednesday. The water was even with the floor of his reading room, and 3 feet deep in the barns.
Julius Jerome always prepares himself for Spring freshets, but this one caught him napping. The steps and front door of his barber shop under the Cumming’s Hotel on Tuesday morning resembled an ice place.
At the bank the scene presented one that probably has never been experienced by the Bank of England, or the Chemical Bank of New York City. There we found the cashier, teller and bookkeeper at their posts of duty standing in seven inches of water waiting on customers, who sailed up to the teller’s desk in row boats. The only business transacted was looking after discounted and collection paper, and paying such checks as might be presented at the counter. Their loss amounts to nothing worthy of mention.
Walt. Mann’s house at Stockport was wrecked.
The dry goods stores have been having heavy sales of damaged goods this week.
Peter H. Hotaling of the Steamboat House must have anticipated this inundation when he erected his new building, for it was high and dry—outside, and he could look down upon his unfortunate neighbors with a sympathetic eye.
At one time it was thought the steam ferry boat moored at the south side of the Parker dock, had gone down stream with the ice, as it had parted its cables, but luckily the boat drifted in shore and later was securely fastened. She is now high and dry.
Hahn’s bakery was hurt badly. The ice came through his barn and wrecked it together with his light top wagon, the water was six feet deep in the bake shop and all work was suspended from Sunday night to Wednesday night. His damage will be $500.
The Hudson River railroad blockade was a serious one. At Stockport the ice was piled from 3 to 13 feet high on the track for a mile or more, and at Stuyvesant from 12 to 15 feet. Between Castleton and Stuyvesant the track was covered 6 feet deep with water followed by 10 feet of ice.