It's been 100 since the legendary flood of 1913 struck Newcomerstown and surrounding areas. Nationally, the flood took 6,300 lives and caused millions of dollars of damage through the southern and central regions of Ohio, as well as several other neighboring states (Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois).
Locally, Tuscarawas County had two persons perish, one in Newcomerstown, and the other near Uhrichsville. Coshocton County lost four residents in an area known as Clowville, located south of Coshocton. The other persons that perished in the flood were from areas farther away, or in the other three states.
Newcomerstown experienced significant damage mainly to the south and west sides of town where there was reportedly depths of nearly sixteen to eighteen feet of water in some areas.
The middle span of the River Street bridge collapsed into the river, and a worker was killed several days later during the repair of the bridge.
The C&M railroad trestle (located east of the River Street bridge) was significantly damaged and required extensive repairs. Both the C&M and the Pennsylvania railroad tracks were damaged, and virtually stopped all railway activity until repairs could be completed.
This created inconvenience as the railroad was the main source for travel, ad the mode of delivery for supplies, and the U.S. mail.
The following personal diary entries are from 12-year old Frederic Zimmer, who resided at the corner of Pilling and State streets (the Zimmer home no longer exists and the former property is now part of Riverside Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center's parking lot) at the time of the flood.
Zimmer's sister, the late Lois (Zimmer) Craig, had previously provided the diary entries to The Newcomerstown News for a feature about the flood in 1983.
Monday, March 24, 1913:
"Rained all day yesterday (Easter Sunday), and again today. We went to see the Swiss Bell Ringers at the Opera House (now the site of the Newcomerstown Municipal building on Church Street) in the evening. The gutters, sidewalks, and streets are turning into a sea of mud. The river has started to rise."
Tuesday, March 25, 1913:
"Rained again today. River is still rising. Tonight it lacked a foot of filling the top of the arch way of the culvert (nearby his home, on State Street)."
Wednesday, March 26, 1913:
"The river was one foot deep over the road at the culvert this morning. It has rained almost all day. Papa came to get us after school ended this afternoon. (Frederic was in the sixth grade, Lois in the third grade, and David in the first grade. All attended the East School on College Street. A younger sister, Marian, was not yet born). In the morning, the river raised three inches an hour. This increased until when at noon it raised a foot an hour. The levee below Port Washington and Stark Patent have broken. At 3 o'clock, I walked to town for a lantern globe. The water from the river is now coming down Chestnut Street and pouring into the canal. I had to wade in, but got back home alright. We drove the cattle to the hill over by the sand bank, and carried the pigs and a calf into the barn. We carried out the fruit, sausage, lard, and other things stored in the cellar. By this time, we could scarcely get to the corn crib. Water was now rising three inches an hour. At 8 o'clock, it was washing over the bridge abutment (the East State Street bridge was formerly located just west of the current State Route 258 bridge). Our neighbors, the Smiths, who live in the old Nugen home (now the site of the David Barber Civic Center) have moved to their upstairs."
Thursday, March 27, 1913:
"This morning at 4 o'clock, the river stopped rising, having reached five to six inches over the bridge coping. Our cellar is full. The water is from hill to hill. The water floated whole tie piles from the railroad down the river. Smiths have been getting coal, milk, and bread from us by boat. Papa, Walter Sperling (the Smith's grandson), and I went to town along the hills. We got one film at Eagon's Drug Store (was located on Main Street next door to The Newcomerstown News building). We went back up on the hill (near Park Hill) and took pictures. The whole town was flooded. The river has fallen six or seven inches. I went to Walter Sperling's house and we helped rescue chickens.
Friday, March 28, 1913:
"The river is down now, so we can get to the barn without boots. Miss Sadie Cochran, my sixth grade teacher, and two of the high school teachers, Miss Price and Mr. Dye came over and they, Papa, Mama, David, and I walked up the railroad to the Glasgow curve (east of the current Interstate 77 interchange). The track was washed out and the rails with ties barely hanging to them. We met a motor boat up there with the civil engineer, Lyle Scott, and another man from Uhrichsville. They were checking the damage, being sent there by the railroad (officials). We came back home, had dinner, then walked to town, and to the lower west end of town, it was awful (condition)."
Saturday, March 29, 1913:
"The Smith's chimney fell in the dining room and smashed a hole in the floor. We saw the first of the culvert come back into sight (water was receding considerably by now). The ballast trains are working on the railroad (repairing the tracks)."
Sunday, March 30, 1913:
"The water is down now so people can drive. Mama and Ma Moore (his maternal grandmother) worked in the cellar this morning, cleaning it up. Papa and I made a new horse stable approach. Smiths and Sperlings were here for dinner. There was no Sunday school in town today.
Monday, March 31, 1913:
"David and I went to town for a sack of lime and saw the Dennison work train. Mr. West came to drain the wheat field. Uncle Alvin and his crew walked along the hills from Trinway and got home at Dennison at 7 o'clock tonight.
Tuesday, April 1, 1913:
"We got our first newspaper (The Plain Dealer) since the flood started. The people are out all over town trying to identify their out buildings (outhouses)."