WORK OF FLOOD & THE DAMAGE IT DID. New High-water Mark – Havoc Wrought at New– Warwick Village Escapes Serious Loss – Lehigh & Hudson More Fortunate Than Other Railroads – Bridge at Sanfordville Gone – Town Bridges Damaged – High Water in Other Sections.
Transcribed by Amy Feldner Lawlor from The Warwick Valley Dispatch, Wednesday, October 14, 1903, VOL. XIX, NO. 16
The rain storm of last week will pass as a record breaker. Certainly the damage from flood is greater in this valley than anything we have previously known, not excepting the heavy freshet of two years ago, when the two feet of snow on the mountains suddenly slushed down into the valley.
The storm began Thursday afternoon & got in its fine work while most of us were sleeping Thursday night. Light sleepers noted during the night that the rain was steadily falling in torrents & on Friday morning all the meadows were covered & the streams from the mountains were tearing down with steadily increasing volume. The creek was a turbid swirling river, rank with mud & full of the first small debris that always betokens more to come. And there was more to come. More water, swifter flowing, rising higher & higher, & the rain still coming down. As early as eight in the morning the water was within a few inches of highest freshet record, & by noon it had surged above the marks on bridges & buildings that had served for years as the danger line & was steadily climbing upward.
An endless amount of driftwood came down the streams & the bridges were full of sightseers watching the flood. Cord wood, railroad ties, fences, chicken coops, wagon seats, window sash, bags of feed, onions, & all sorts of litter was swept thro the village. The whole of railroad square in the village was like a lake, the railroad park being submerged, & the sidewalk on railroad avenue knee-deep under water from Ogden’s corner to Hynard’s store. The flood poured across from the Daniel Wood meadows over the railroad tracks & finally dug big gullies each side of the Ten Eyck building, covering the sidewalk in front of Ermann’s cigar store, & endangering his stock of tobacco, which was hastily set up out of the way.
The narrow throat of the railroad bridge, just back of Ermann’s store, choked back the water, and it was feared that the bridge would go down. Supt. Bally kept an engine on this bridge all the time during the flood to hold it. This precaution alone saved it.
The narrow throats of the town bridges and the railroad bridges east of the village, particularly the railroad bridge just back of the school house, on High street, also choked the stream back and caused it to spread out wider and make new channels and courses. The railroad company is preparing to enlarge all their bridges and the town should do the same.
Viewed from the corner of High and Lake street, the meadows were flooded wide, clear to and beyond Servin’s woods, the water stretching across till it nearly touched the porch of the Daniel Wood farm house. All the store cellars on Main street below Hunter’s shoe store had several feet of water in them, including that of the First National Bank, which has heretofore escaped with a small wetting. Of course, this meant a much deeper flood at Van Saun’s and Ogden’s, where the water was four feet deep and damaged a lot of tin plate and other material which had been put, it was thought, above the danger line. The flood poured thro the stables of the Valley House, and the horses there and on the ground floor of Vanness’ stable were removed to dryer quarters.
A big pile of ties and railroad timber on the railroad grounds back of the Dispatch office and Anderson’s store, began to move when the flood was nearly at the highest and a lot of this timber was lost. When the big sticks hit the iron girders of the Bank street bridge, the boom could be heard for a block. Men were stationed there to save what they could and quite a lot of ties and timber were snaked out and piled up on the bridge. Mr. Thomas Burt and a gang of men raised one end of the Dispatch foot bridge and guyed it to trees. If the water had raised six inches or a foot more, it is likely that one or two of the village bridges would have been swept away.
The rain kept falling until late Friday afternoon and quit reluctantly at that, as if old Jupiter Pluvious, thought somebody was still dry. The water was 12 inches higher than ever before known in the village.
All the cellars on lower West street – including Lazear’s shop – were flooded worse than ever before, and many of the cellars on the hillsides off Oakland avenue were in bad shape, water being pumped out for several days after the rain was over.
THE NEW HIGH WATER MARK
The water lapped over the stores of the Bank street bridge and covered the entire lower sash of the rear basement windows of the First National Bank. It also spilled over the flag stones on the Main street bridge. Those who remembered the building of this bridge, blessed the memory of the late G.W. Sayer for building such a substantial structure.
BRIDGES DAMAGED AND WASHED AWAY
The Iron bridge at Sanfordville went down, and although it may not be a total loss, it will take at least a thousand dollars to replace it.
A number of the larger town bridges are badly damaged, and one is completely washed away while several of the smaller bridges are gone.
The Iron bridge at Bellvale, in the lower part of the village, was badly crippled, one end of the supporting abutments being entirely torn away. Teams go thro the lots back of the Brooks place, coming out on the mountain road, above the post office.
The bridge at Sayerville went down stream. Teams go thro the lots and orchard above the distillery.
While many of the bridges were weakened and numerous culverts broken down in the western end of the town, the damage there was not so great as it was in the Warwick Valley, particularly at New Milford.
Havoc Wrought by the Double Kill at New Milford
New Milford lies in the path of the Double Kill, and ordinarily it seems a harmless stream. It comes down thro gorges and ravines from Double Pond or Wawayanda Lake, and when the stream dries up in the summer time, it is replenished by raising the gate at the dam of Double Pond so that the water will turn the wheels of Ferguson’s mill.
Friday, there was a foot of water running over the dam-at-the-lake and about the same quantity pouring over Leeper’s landing and finding its way cross lots of the Double Kill. There must have been four or five feet of water going over the wing dam, too. All this volume of water, with numberless accessions gained on the way, came down thro the gorges and ravines to New Milford. It came with an indescribable roar, hurling great rocks along together with irresistible force, crashing and grinding and booming like the noise of ten thousand big guns in battle. Mr. Barhman, who served thro the war of the Rebellion, says he never heard anything like the guns of the Double Kill Friday. Great trees were hurled along, turning over and over, and going down stream thro the village.
Sloan’s blacksmith’s shop was swept away, Stanaback’s barn partially undermined, and the bridge over the kill near Kelly’s hotel was cut off from the road entirely on the upper side for just above it the water turned, filling up the old channel with rocks and dug a course just east of the bridge, leaving the channel under it as dry as a bone, except for the rain. The abutments of this bridge seem to be sound, but it will take a lot of money to change the course of the stream back again, and fill up the newly-made channel. Great gullies are torn in the roadway thro the village. A temporary footway was made over the kill Monday by felling a big tree across it. The family of Charles Utter, living in Bahrmann’s tenant house, had to move out on account of the flood, and were taken into Mr. Bahrmann’s home. A little child of Mr. Utter’s, ill with typhoid fever, was wrapped in blankets and carried to the other house.
The dam at the mill pond of Conkling & strong, near the L. & H. station, had a mighty close call. It would surely have gone out had not the water eaten its way round the building occupied by Hotaling, the butcher, who was obliged to move out. Friday afternoon, as it was feared the building was unsafe…
The water formed a new outlet, some thirty feet wide and twenty feet deep, stripping clean the dirt and filling from behind the north end of the abutment of the iron bridge there, and tearing out some thirty feet of the flume, near to the mill. Mr. G.H. Strong had a gang of men there Monday, under carpenter John Green mending the side of the dam that had broken down. It will cost at least $500 to repair the damage done at this bridge. The water had begun to eat thro on the other side, but when the pressure was relieved, the other abutment was saved, and also, the hotel of James McCann, which stood directly in the way.
The bridge below Kelly’s hotel at New Milford is also cut off from the roadway, being entirely useless for travel.
Scores of sightseers came down to New Milford from Warwick Sunday and Monday to see the work of the flood. Mrs. Ferguson, who is in charge of the mill during the absence of her husband in the West, has a great task before her to restore the property to former condition. But she goes about it, cheerily and already has a gang of men making repairs under the supervision of her son Russell. It will probably cost a thousand dollars to repair the damage there.
COURSE OF KILL HAS BEEN CHANGED
At the head of the raceway, some distance above Ferguson’s mill, the kill broke over the banks and soon tilled up the raceway with stones and boulders. Then it swept thro the orchard, going both sides of the little pond and dam, and sweeping round the mill into the road, where it ran six or seven feet deep tearing out great gullies, and threatening the mill and all other buildings in its path. Suddenly the course of the kill changed again, and in an hour or so the raceway and the pond was dry, while the water made a new course and swept round Albert Phillip’s barn and ice house, carrying the latter away, and undermining the barn foundations. The trees and logs bettered in one end of the barn, and smashed in splinters several wagons and other property housed there. Mr. Phillips says he will lose the savings of years.
Florida Flood the Worst Ever Known – No Train Service For Several Days
The predicted rainstorm beginning on Thursday continued almost incessantly to Sunday evening, causing the worst flood that has been known in Florida. The brooks flowed thro the village at an unprecedented heights, surging with tremendous force against the bridges.
Friday morning found many cellars flooded. The Quaker Creek brook which flows by Green’s blacksmith shop, had raised to a great height, surging with tremendous force over the arched bridge and throwing up fantastic sprays, then taking a new course, washing out the high stone wall of W.B. Ramage on one side, coming within three inches of entering his house and ploughing deep furrows in Mrs. Seward’s garden on the other side, tearing great holes here and there in its course down the entire stream, carrying everything before it.
There has been no train service since Friday morning, and then only as far as Vernon’s brick yard; passengers and mail being brought up on a hand car to the depot, hence in wagons.
By Friday afternoon things looked serious enough, and about fifty men from Florida went equipped to fix the dam at Glenmere, which threatened any moment to break. Loads of sod and gravel were drawn and timber used to sustain the roaring weight of water behind it, which was pressing with unabated energy against the dam. The passageway being too small on this occasion to carry off the water fast enough it overflowed the banks of the lake, running deep gullies across the road, submerging adjoining property below the glen, and all but three families of Randalltown took refuge in the village on Friday night.
At 5 o’clock Friday night the arch bridge at Hoffman’s blacksmith shop washed out; Randall’s bridges, both at grist and saw mills, were swept away, and one of the abutments of the latter mill was washed out and carried down the stream. Sturr’s dam, though not washed away, shows five different breaks.
Pumpkin Swamp meadows were a miniature sea. Families were compelled to move out, wading through water up to their waist.
Many onions floated away. John Kelly lost about 2,000 crates and Mr. Bull lost his entire crop of onions which were under the brick yard shed.
Storm News From Pine Island
Last Thursday and Friday this section was visited by the heaviest fall of rain ever experienced by the oldest inhabitants, causing considerable damage to the town property ad completely blocking railroad traffic. The largest washout was on the main road from Deckertown to Goshen. On the farm of George W. Christie the road was washed 5 feet deep for a distance of 200 feet. The roads from Newport Bridge to Amity were almost impassable form sink holes. At one time on Saturday it was feared the Newport Bridge would go out, the pressure being strong enough to remove stones from the foundation weighing several hundred pounds.
The Lehigh & New England Railroad will not be able to run trains under a week. On the mainline from Deckertown to Pine Island the track is washed away from the bridge which crosses the Pochuck almost to Pine Island Junction, and only by the vigorous efforts of the section gang working day and night, were the bridges which cross the stream, saved from being carried away. The Glenwood branch, which runs through several cities, is completely blocked by heavy landslides…
The Flood at Greenwood Lake
Greenwood Lake has experienced the highest water known to the oldest inhabitants. The main body of the lake raised three feet above high water mark. The roads which lay along the lake at this altitude were inundated, bridges moved from their foundations, cellars filled with water, the Windermere Hotel stood on a peninsula, the little barns which stood on the flat were surrounded by water, so that the livestock had to be removed. All the docks were underwater.
Mr. E.T. Waterstone rowed to and from his front porch Mr. TenEyck’s and LaForte’s steam launches anchored at their docks filled with water and sank. Mr. Courter’s barroom at Sterling Forest was filled with water.
The cranberry marsh islands, on which there were houses moved down the lake. Telegraph communication between here and New York city was stopped. The train which left Sterling Forest for New York Friday morning lies between here and that city. Washouts are reported along the railroad. Mr. S.J. Garrison and Mr. Frank Hall, who went from here to Mt. Arlington, N.J., Thursday morning expecting to return Friday are detained by the washouts on the railroads.
At this writing it is impossible to estimate the damage done to roads and bridges in this vicinity. Mr. Blunt and Leawman of New York came up to Suffern on the Erie and walked from Suffern to Greenwood Lake Saturday afternoon.
We consider ourselves very fortunate here, when we learn of the damage done to the neighboring towns.
Damage to the Lehigh and Hudson
The damage to the L. & H. consists mainly in small washouts at the approaches to the iron bridges crossing the Wawayanda, within three or four miles east and west of this village, and a small washout at the embankment at Ryerson’s, below New Milford. They are troubled with high water over the track in the Pequest Valley near Buttsville, and had to transfer passengers and mail around that point on Monday. There are some washouts on that portion of the line east of Greycourt, but the company has been putting in their efforts to get the main line in good shape first. The tracks around the mines and zinc works at Franklin have been damaged by landslides, which stopped all work at the mines Sunday and Monday. The railroad was fortunate in not losing a single bridge, and the officials all consider they are very lucky.
At DeKay’s the railroad track was washed out for about 30 feet between the iron bridge and the station. The railroad bridge was moved down the stream about two feet. The iron bridge was bent in the middle, being bowed out by the pressure of the water. The abutments are all right. The tracks this side of the bridge is badly washed for about 150 feet.
The bridge at DeKay’s was jacked up and set in place again Monday, so that trains crossed safely.
Owing to the very rapid and extreme rise in the Delaware River, the yard at Phillipsburgh was flooded about a foot. A short switch on made ground was washed out, and a pump house was carried away by the flood. The river fell over six feet Saturday morning and it was found that no damage had been done to the bridge across the Delaware, owned by the L. & H., although the other railroad bridges there have been reported as badly damaged, that at Martin’s Creek having been carried away, as well as the old covered wooden wagon bridge at Belvidere.
JOE ASHLEY REPORTS FROM WAWAYANDA LAKE
Joe Ashley was in town yesterday morning and made a report from Wawayanda Lake. The water went over the main dam in a sheet about a foot thick. Same over Leeper’s landing. Over the wing dam, Joe says it was at least five feet high, and there must be some damage there. Thousands of pounds of fish, Joe says, must have gone out of the lake. His boy killed a four pound bass in the road, near the old furnace after the water went. Several small bridges over the kill near the mule barn are gone. A colt stood on this bridge when it was carried away, but escaped, alive. John Green cannot drive from his home, as the road is destroyed. The only way one can drive to the lake now is by the Ryan road and thro the lots.
L.&H. MAKE QUICK REPAIRS – ENTIRE LINE OPEN MONDAY
The L. & H. sent out a milk train of some six cars Sunday evening, and the early train (6:45) left on time Monday morning for Greycourt Connection was made for New York via Goshen and Kingston, Erie trains using the West Shore tracks from Kingston to New York. Under the energetic supervision of General Supt. Baily and Supt. Of Tracks and Bridges, John E. Barrett, the entire line was open for business Monday afternoon, and on Tuesday all principal trains were running on regular time. This is the best record in quick repairs that we know of, and the L. & H. is to be complimented on their good work.
The Orange County Railroad was damaged more than the L. & H. At West Craigville 240 feet of track was washed away, the washouts being from 12 to 40 feet deep.
EPWORTH LEAGUERS DETAINED AT MIDDLETOWN
A number of people attending the convention of the Epworth League at Middletown Thursday and Friday were detained a day longer by the flood, not being able to return home until Saturday. The delegates and others attending from Warwick, E.S. Colwell, Miss Mande Vanness, Miss Anna M. Bronson, Mrs. Colvin Bradner, Miss Alice M. Lawrence, and Miss Jennie Baird had to walk the Erie track from Greycourt to Chester, where they telephoned for a conveyance to bring them home, arriving here Saturday evening.
Additional information provided by Marty Feldner: “Mrs. Rounsevall, who printed the postcards, had a stationary store in the Odd Fellows Building. Van Saun’s pharmacy was one of the storefronts where Eddie’s Roadhouse is now. It was later Armstrong’s Pharmacy, bought by George Opper in 1950. Dayton’s Five and Dime replaced two wood buildings on the corner of Main Street and Bank Street. The one at Bank Street was Hunter’s Shoe Store. The other is where the Warwick Valley Dispatch was located at the time.”