Marseilles, LaSalle County Illinois Disasters



The Flood of 1883

Taken From The Marseilles Plaindealer, Friday July 27, 1883.
courtesy Leo Ingmanson


Monday's Flood Leaves Ruin and Desolation In its Track

Mrs. Philip Bates and Little Daughter Drowned



Last Tuesday morning's sun rose bright and beautiful upon a scene of destruction greater than ever before witnessed in Marseilles. With the coming light, while the actual terrors of the night wherein hosts of households had been awakened from peaceful slumber to find their yards and houses rapidly being submerged, to look out upon a wild waste of muddy, angry waters, as now and then the darkness, appalling in the great fear of the moment, and the added anxiety of a fast falling rain, was lit by the pierce glare of the lurid lightning, while startling cries for "Help" rose above the noisy elements, the furious rush and crash of sidewalks, fences and falling buildings, lights flashed in every direction to aid those rescuing household goods and inmates; while all this, we say, had subsided, the morning revealed, in all its enormity, the wide spread desolation wrought by the waters.

On the afternoon previous a very large amount of rain fell, filling and overflowing ditches, creeks, etc.; as if this storm was but a prelude, on that night the rain came down in torrents for hours, and citizens of thirty years standing looked out upon a volume of water than ever before.

Gum's creek, in East Marseilles, was shortly on the rampage, overran its banks and from Phi Butterfield's home on Union street, near Pearl, to T. W. Pitcher's near the schoolhouse, about three blocks, the water coursed rapidly, bearing upon its bosom almost everything loose from several premises within that territory, embracing fences, sidewalks, out buildings, barns, etc., as well. On Bluff street, at Gum's wagon shop, the bridge remained, although badly wrecked and impassable by teams. Patrick Burk's barn, just below and on the East bank of said creek was undermined and fell with a crash, and much of it was carried away by the angry current. Almost opposite the barn and with the water lapping its sides, stood the home of Mr. Philip Bates. Alarmed by the rapid rise of the water, the natural terror was greatly increased by the falling barn, and with the water and all its floating debris now surrounding the house, with ever increasing depth, Mrs. Bates became excited to frenzy, and against her husband's entreaties, determined to leave the house and strive to reach a neighbors and safety. The family comprising, Philip Bates, his wife, formerly Miss Alice Haslem, and the year old daughter she carried in her arms, started out, Mr. Bates carrying a lantern and holding and guiding his wife. When near the Bluff street crossing Mrs. Bates lost her footing, fell, and Mr. Bates fell over her, extinguishing the lantern's light. Regaining his feet, a flash of lightning showed him his wife and baby whirling away from him, the mother holding her child , with heroic effort, at arms length above her. Bates sprang to the rescue, tripped, fell, and regained his feet at last in the mad swirl. But alas! too late. Wife and child were gone! An immediate alarm was given and search made for the bodies , as death was at once regarded as certain for both.

The Union street bridge was gone, the abutment on the East side alone standing. David Penoyer's house at this point was turned around and the inmates rescued through water nearly breast high. H. W. Allen's carpenter shop was taken off and left near the railroad culvert, as also the Washington street bridge, the abutments of which were left nearly intact. On the north side of said shop, at its resting place, Mrs. Bates was found and on the opposite side, her babe, who were sorrowfully removed. --------------

(the article goes on to tell of more damage from the storm).

TAken From The Ottawa Free Trader, Saturday July 28, 1883:

(under column,titled) From Marseilles.

On Monday night Marseilles received the heaviest rain storm known to the oldest inhabitants. It began about half past five in the evening with a very heavy shower from the northwest. The rain ceased sufficiently for all to get home to tea. About seven the wind had veered from one point of the compass to another ever since the first shower, and it began to rain again, and continued to do so untill eleven o'clock. There was one continued flash of lightning and one continued sheet of water during the time specified, the reverberations of thunder being almost constant. Fully twelve inches of water fell. The principal damage was along the Gum creek in East Marseilles, which lost every bridge, and the majority of them the abutements. About thirty rods east of the street that runs north and south by the brick block the creek goes under the railroad. Both east and west of this place the track was undermined by the water, in some places leaving the track three or four feet from the ground. This extended west as far as Pearl street, or near the residence of Mrs. Kate Butterfield.

When the water first came up it was like a tidal wave, and sweeping past the bridge a StevenGum's shop it tore down the barn of Mr. Burk, who lives east of the creek. .

Mr. and Mrs. Bates, the latter the daughter of James Haslam, were very much frightened, Mrs. Bates especially so. She was determined to leave the house where they lived, being the first one west of the creek. She heard the falling barn and was extremely frightened. Mr. Bates tried to keep her back, but could not. So he lit the lantern and she took their child (about a year old) and they started out. When they reached the middle of the street, west of their house, the water was waist high and running very rapidly. They could not go straight across and aimed to strike Joe Hill's, who lives diagonally down the street from them. Mr. Bates says that his wife slipped on something, and in helping her slipped and put out his lantern. Then she threw up her hands and that was the last he saw of her. He saved himself by clinging to the grass until the water went away. She was found near the railroad bridge about 1 o'clock by a party of searchers, partially under a little building that had floated down there. A little ways west of her was found the body of .... [five words illegible].... estimable lady and very much respected by those who knew her.

The cause of all this trouble was the fact that the culvert under the canal was lamentably inadequate to carry off the water when it was first built,and the canal commissioners made it eight inches smaller. They are the ones at fault in the matter. Mrs. Bates and child were buried yesterday from the M. E. church, a large concourse of people attending.


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