Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Fresno Flood

You all know what happened to me the last time Fresno flooded, right? (San Francisco Smugglers) Instead of getting a holiday, I was railroaded into attending Miss Whitaker's Academy while everybody back home cleaned up the mess and got the schoolhouse ready. I thought maybe you would like to read the REAL account of the flood and see some real pictures of when this happened. (pictures courtesy Fresno Co. library, history and geneology room.)
Levee at the RR depot

This first picture is the railroad depot. See the freight cars? Cory and I were going to watch the flood from the top of the SPRR terminal, but as you know we never made it that far. Do you see the wall of dirt with the men and some horses? That is a levee they built. Chad and Mitch helped out and boy did they get muddy!

 Look at the flooded street in the picture on the right. You can float a boat down that street, and that's what we did to escape the flood waters.

And now . . . the actual account of the flood from 1884 (I tweaked the date for the San Francisco Smugglers book).
Quiz: can you find the actual parts of this newspaper article I used in the story?

Fresno Flooded

Fresno Expositor—February 20, 1884

         Sunday about noon word was bruited about town that a flood of water was coming which would probably envelope the greater part of town. By the time our reporter reached Kern street the flood had already begun to pour into the easterly limit of town. A survey of the field made it apparent to all that some means must be found to convey the water through town or the main portion of it would soon be flooded. 
         Fortunately a low swale was found and men and teams procured and work commenced in earnest. A levee was thrown up commencing at the intersection of J and Kern street to the alley between J and I streets, and then diagonally across the vacant lots to I street, and from thence to H street, and opening was cut though I street and this permitted the surging waters to pass on to the railroad reservation. By this course the major part of the business portion of town was saved from the waters flowing in from the east, but it was done at a sacrifice to those located south and west of Tulare and I street. 
         Thos. E. Hughes and Sons had a heavy force of men building levees to protect their stable from the flood, and succeeded for a time but about ten o’clock the water began flowing down Kern street and made its way through the stable and drove the men from their position. This caused Madary’s Planing Mill, the Starr Hotel, the Stanislaus Brewery, Depot, Frank Rolle’s saloon and other property in that portion of town to be flooded—the water standing from three to five feet over that part of town.         
        H street and the railroad reservation east of the track was transformed into a huge river which rushed along in a northerly direction until it met the waters of Big Dry Creek, and those flowing through Mill ditch. This caused the water to backup Canal Street and flood a large portion of the town lying north of it, in which is located most of the family dwellings, and it also began to flow southerly down J street toward Mariposa in a strong stream.
         Although a break had occurred in the railroad north of the station the roadbed served as an embankment to throw the water back against town. Communication was had with Mr. Swayne, the station agent and he communicated with the Division Superintendent at Tulare and instructions were sent to have the Section Master, Luke Shelly, cut the track north of the water tank, and this caused an easement and the waters soon began to recede. 
         Chinatown turned out in force when the great flood of water began to make its way through the railroad, and built a levee around their quarter, and saved their property from destruction and injury. The water reached its highest point about half-past 12 o’ clock, at which time it formed a compact stream, where it passed Hughes’ Stables, fully two hundred feet wide and an average of four feet deep, running with a rapid current.         
Can you see the courthouse in the upper left?
        Thos. E. Hughes & Sons are probably the heaviest losers, next to the railroad company, but the injury to furniture, carpets, etc., in private houses will run up to a pretty round figure.
A man who was probably very full of bug juice was fished up in Donahoo’s lumberyard in a drowning condition. He had evidently gone to sleep in the yard, and woke up afloat. Dr. Pedlar took charge of the man and rolled the water out of him and got him in navigating condition again.
Women and children were carried out of several houses that were standing in the water, and several narrow escapes from drowning occurred.
         S.W. Henry and John Funk, and the Bentley brothers were out early with teams, and did yeoman’s service in the water ditch and levee building. They were subsequently reinforced by M. L. Williams, who with team and plow assisted to the extent of his power. Many men, without a dollar’s worth of property at stake, worked manfully on, in the mud and slush, to keep the water off the large brick houses in town, as so soon as it broke through J street, Mariposa street would have been the outlet for the turbulent waters. 
         In contradistinction of those noble fellows were a number of heavy property holders, who stood by with their hands in their pockets and never even offered to hire a man or share the expense of protecting the whole town from flood. 
         The flood was caused by the overflow of Big Dry Creek, Fancher, and Dog Creek. It has taught the people a lesson, though, and that is that the streets of town must all be graded sufficiently high to force the water by the town. 
          Today the water has stood at about the same point, and it is probable that the worst will be over by midnight tonight. In the meantime, however, great attention must be paid to the levees that have been built, seeing that they are properly strengthened so as to prevent a break, as the banks are very soft, and seeping a considerable water. 
         Rasmussen’s big adobe building, in the southern limit of town, is surrounded by water, and will very probably be irreparably damaged. Reports at the hour of our going to press state that the water is falling slightly to the east of Fresno.



  1. Hey! do you know who owned the Starr hotel???? I am related to a Starr. Awesome the is interesting!!!

  2. I meant this not the

  3. Cool! Thanks for the facts behind the fun Mrs. Marlow. I love hearing about what really happened. :)


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