Folks living along the Ohio River are seldom surprised by the river spilling over its banks onto farm land, roads and houses. It happens just about every year. 2008 has been an especially hard year with high water damaging homes and occasionally closing schools because of roads under water. The river levels have been much higher, though.
Four of the greatest floods of the Ohio River valley occurred in 1884, 1913, 1937 and 1997. In 1884, it was reported in the Evansville Daily Courier that the towns of Smithland in Kentucky and Golconda, Elizabethtown, New Liberty and Shawneetown in Illinois were partly underwater.
The flood of 1913 almost destroyed the town of Caseyville in Union County. The town hall floated off and when a livery stable started floating away, it was caught and tied to a tree.
The Great Flood of 1937 is still fresh in the minds of many. I can remember my parents talking about people who were displaced by the flood moving in with friends and relatives who lived on higher ground. This flood would also play a part in the demise of the little river town of Weston in Crittenden County, Kentucky.
Since the earliest settlement, Weston has had problems when the river was on the rise. In 1886 the Ohio River high water played havoc with the business of John S. James at Weston. The following details are taken from Crittenden Circuit Court case file #446, which can be found at the Kentucky Dept for Libraries and Archives, Frankfort, Kentucky.
John S. James, plaintiff, against The Evansville & Cairo Packet Co., Defendants.
The plaintiff states that the defendants are an incorporated Company owning and running a line of steamers between the cities of Evansville Ind. and Cairo Ill. on the Ohio River, and is known as the Evansville & Cairo Packet Co.
He states that he is the owner of a steam saw mill situated on the Ohio River at Weston, Crittenden County and that he had at great expense built a logway extending from his mill down into the River for the purpose of hauling sawlogs from the river up to his mill, which is situated on the bank of the river. He states that he also had a log float attached to his logway and that the defendants while navigating the Ohio River with their steamer Hopkins on or about the [blank] day of [blank] 1886 carelessly and recklessly ran their steamer Hopkins into and over the logway and float thereby tearing down and destroying the same and rendering it unfit for use and the log float was a total loss.
That in order to repair the logway so as to render it of use to the plainfff for the purposes intended, he was compelled to and did expend the sum of $115.13 in repairs. In addition, he was deprived of the use of the logway for 10 days to his damage in the sum of $15per day. He says by reason of the destruction of the logway & float, he was been damaged in the sum of $265.13. Wherefore he prays for judgment against the defendants. [signed] John S. James by Blue & Blue (attorneys).