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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Lebanon's Greatest Flood Occurred In July, 1882

Dallas Bogan on 26 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

The Warren County Canal was constructed from the intersection of Verity Parkway and Central Avenue in Middletown to the town of Lebanon. The water supply for the canal in the Lebanon area was in the form of a reservoir.
The earthen dam was located behind the present donut shop on north Broadway. The most visible section of the reservoir bed can be seen in the rather large dip located on Monroe Road.
On Monday afternoon, July 10, 1882, Lebanon experienced two violent rain storms. It had been many a day since the sky had poured down its great torrents in this manner.
Lebanon residents spontaneously became concerned with the sudden filling of the reservoir. An alarm regarding its breakage was not realized until about 4 o'clock, when anxieties began to stir.
Soon warnings rang out, "The reservoir is breaking." Shortly thereafter people by the hundreds gathered at the dam. This earthen marvel was thought to be able to withstand any and all natural occurrences, regardless of conditions.
Water had been pouring over the sides for about an hour before the initial break, washing away several trees, logs, driftwood and debris of all kinds. It partly filled some of the houses near the branch on Mulberry Street, and in some places, water stood from two to five feet deep.
Two breaks were made simultaneously in the same area. Streams of water began pouring over the high embankment, thus causing the dirt between the breaks to wash away. The water poured through in a violent manner, sweeping everything before it.
The main break was some sixty or seventy feet wide and about as many yards from Broadway. The iron bridge on Broadway was hit so hard by the surge that it was hurled onto higher ground across the stream. The south bridge abutment was entirely washed out.
Everything in its path was destroyed, which included fences, stables, dwellings, bridges and any property that was not secured. Five bridges, including the temporary railroad structure, and four houses on the north side of Mulberry, were torn to pieces. The horrendous overflow had marked its path of destruction.
Fortunately the horses and stables were spared at the property of Job Lackey and John D. Steddom. The roof caving in on them saved an omnibus and several other vehicles.
No lives were lost. The only person who was at risk of being drowned was the little Negro boy, Bob Robinson, who worked in the barbershop of Lew Richardson. When he was first seen in the water, it was on the roof of one of the houses moving down stream. Young Bob spotted a willow tree that stood near the railroad track and quickly swung into it.
The gas station was dislodged, and when it began moving, it struck the tree and sent both tree and boy gyrating through the water and out of sight. The boy was given up for lost. He had been washed away for a half-mile, but, in his hapless condition, he somehow managed to swim ashore.
Bridges that were washed away were the iron bridge on Broadway, the Main Street Bridge, the Mulberry Street Bridge, and part of the abutments on the Silver Street Bridge, which was under construction at the time. The County Commissioners at $5,000 estimated total structural loss.
The deluge did not follow the corridor of the north fork, but channeled through the yards of all the residences to the rear of Broadway and Sycamore Streets.
Dwellings that were washed away on Mulberry were those of Otis Smith, Mrs. Liverpool, and Mrs. Sawyer. Most all their furnishings were destroyed, along with Rev. Girfen's.
The Otho James family suffered the greatest loss. Their dwelling was demolished, along with a loss of most of their household goods.
Wilson Greathouse's blacksmith shop suffered a loss of $100. The Star Mills saw little damage. The gas works suffered the highest single monetary loss, damage placed at $5,000.
Turtle Creek's channel ran very high. Many hundreds of sheaves of grain were carried past Lebanon. Damage estimates below town were not given.
Damage to the Cincinnati Northern track was estimated at $500. Train crews worked Monday and Tuesday nights to repair the tracks; service was run as usual on Wednesday.
The Toledo freight was put on hold for several hours on Monday night. No message could reach them telling of the tragedy, as the northbound train did not pass as usual. The former proceeded seventeen miles at the speed made by the conductor, who walked ahead with a red lantern.
The engineer expected to see any minute the opposite train derailed somewhere. There was no signal until it reached Raysville (Lytle).
The Town Hall was without lights and the gas supply was cut off at The Western Star. Sellers and Evans sawmill was badly damaged, with a great deal of lumber being carried off.
The Auditor estimated total losses due to flood damage between $10,000 and $15,000.
Families who unfortunately were washed out found temporary housing among their neighbors. Lebanon residents pulled together, gathered their resources, and quickly unified as they always have.

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This page created 26 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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