The 1883 Flood

The City of Newport, on the East bank of the Licking River, opposite Cincinnati, contains 20,000 inhabitants.  A great number of working people live there.  It is estimated that there are 1,000 dwelling-houses which the water has invaded to a sufficient extent to drive the inmates from the first floor.  Numbers of houses are submerged to the eaves.  Several cottages have floated away.  The Griffith Jones mansion started from its foundations, but has been secured by cables.  At the Newport bridge steps, the water to-day was 14-feet deep, and at the street car track leading on to the bridge the water was 7 feet in depth. The only way of reaching Cincinnati is by the Short Line railroad bridge trestle work.  Business is, of course, entirely suspended; merchants and others who have escaped the flood have turned out to assist those in distress. 

The scenes at the various landing places to-day were indescribable.  The sick in many instances who had been removed to the second stories had to be taken out to-day and lowered into boats. St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is crowded with homeless people.  This afternoon a sick child was taken there.  The story was started that it was suffering from the small-pox, and a stampede ensued.  A physician examined the child and reported that it had recently had the small-pox, but he thought the case to be too far advanced to be contagious.  The people, in the absence of other shelter, then slowly returned to the church.  A most pitiable case was discovered by Chief of Police Smith in a house at the lower end of Chestnut-street, where a woman named Mary Hall had lost her mind and was wading around on the floor in several feet of water.  She stubbornly refused any assistance and her family were compelled to desert her the night before and seek safe quarters.  It required the united strength of four men to take her out and hold her fast in the boat. 

An aged woman named Hamilton, who lived on Elm-street, while being lowered into a boat, fell and dislocated her hip.  She was taken to the Episcopal Church.  A woman in the last stages of consumption was rescued from a second-story window on Bellevue-street.  A family named Applegate, living at Bellevue-street and Central-avenue, the father and mother being prostrated with sickness, were taken out of a window this morning.  An old woman at the lower end of Walnut-street was found frantically engaged in baling out the flood through a window.  She was fast losing her mind.  A four-year-old child, both deaf and dumb, was found deserted at Lizzie Wagoner’s house, No. 117 Elm-street.  The child was benumbed with the cold when taken out of the water.  The funeral of Joseph Hilton’s little daughter occurred on Elm-street.  The coffin was placed in a skiff and followed by a dozen boats carrying friends and relatives.  Three families named Hart, Lalley, and Brady were found huddled together in the garrets of a low cottage on Moss-street.  A woman named Margaret Hamilton, nursing an infant 4 days old, was rescued from a shanty near the Licking bridge. 

The Common council committee is doing everything possible to relieve those in distress. Messrs. Limerick and Weber started out early this morning in one of the relief boats with 500 loaves of bread, coffee done up in pound packages, sugar, cans of milk, and other articles.  This was only one of the many boats thus employed, but the supply of boats and provisions is ridiculously inadequate.  Coal is being distributed by barges which are propelled through the streets with long poles.  A public meeting of citizens was called for this evening at the Court-house to devise means for relieving the distressed. 

The trestle-work on the Short Line Road at Finchtown is held fast by cables.  Trains cannot pass this point, and passengers and baggage are transferred in wagons to Newport, and thence by skiff to the Cincinnati bridge. 

In Bellevue 

In Bellevue, a town of 2000 inhabitants a mile above Newport, the situation is not quite so bad.  All the houses on Front-street are completely submerged, the water being up in some of them higher than the windows.  The residents of the lower side of Rhensford-street have all moved except two or three,  If the water comes up much higher some of the houses on Front-street will float away.  Two small houses are turned over.  Another house floated from its moorings and is fastened to a tree. 

In Dayton 

Dayton, Ky., is situated two miles above Bellevue.  All day yesterday the expresses and grocery wagons, as well s coal carts and wheelbarrows, were brought into requisition to convey furniture from the inundated districts.  It is estimated that in this town of only 2,800 inhabitants, over 100 families have been forced to flee from their homes to places of safety.  On account of the Dayton bakeries being all situated in the submerged district, the bakers were unable to furnish the citizens with bread, and before 9 o’clock Saturday night all the groceries in town had sold out their entire stock of breadstuffs, and the people in some instances were compelled to go hungry.  All day to-day, people could be seen carrying baskets of provisions to the captives in skiffs.  Those driven from their homes are quartered in the Baptist church and the different public halls.  The citizens nobly opened their doors to their unfortunate neighbors, and all available means were brought in to save the property.  Telephone communication is entirely cut off, and the only means of getting to Newport is by skiffs


From the New York Times, February 13, 1883