The Flood of 1913 Ohio's Greatest Natural Disaster
Although Waterville suffered no loss of life, only property damage, the southwest part of Ohio was hardest hit with hundreds dead and thousands of buildings destroyed in the apocalyptic storm of 1913. It began days before with tornadoes in the western states and moved east to flood 14 states, Indiana and Ohio getting the worst of it. On Easter Sunday, March 23rd, the near biblical deluge began and lasted for four days, more than four months normal rainfall for Ohio. Even large factories, office buildings, bridges and barns were toppled. Streetcars and trains were knocked over and moved great distances. Gas lines ruptured and sparked raging fires. An estimated 20,000 homes were destroyed and much fertile farmland washed away.
In Waterville the Maumee River surrounded the River Road school and kept rising. The canal also ran over its banks and downhill to worsen the situation. Midge Campbell wrote in Watervillore: "At 5 a.m., on March 25, the canal floodgates near the Waterville quarry were opened to stop the overflowing and relieve the pressure on the banks - pouring still more water into the flooded river. The people in the lower part of town had been in a precarious position, sandwiched as they were, between two over-flowing bodies of water." Residents living along River Road moved to higher ground, and some Farnsworth Road and Second Street homeowners moved their furniture to their second floors.
The Ohio National Guard was called out and spent weeks helping to restore order in the devastated southern Ohio cities. Dayton suffered the most destruction and it was said dead horses littered the streets. Midge Campbell also reported that she heard the horses kept on Granger Island behind the school had to be shot as a humane decision before they drowned in the icy water. It was impossible to remove them.
Eventually, both state and national flood control measures were taken as a result of the storm. Dayton erected five dams and has never suffered a major flood since.
Opel Marlowe Witte, born in 1898, recalled in a 1987 oral history that she and her future husband Harry canoed around Waterville's flooded streets to view the incredible scene and check on their neighbors.