The 1924 Flood of Marshall County, Illinois

Taken From the Henry News Republican Newspaper
August 21, 1924

Henry Is Isolated: Railroad and Wagon Bridges Out North, South
Heavy Property, Livestock and Crop Loss In Worst Local Rains and Flood in 22 years.

Henry suffered no material loss in the storm which cased so much damage elsewhere. The greatest loss in the immediate vicinity was to the Rock Island railroad four miles north of Henry where the overflow waters from Crow Creek coursed down through Dry Hollow and washed out more than two hundred feet of 15-foot embankment and undermined the concrete abutment under the south end of a 60-foot span steel bridge.

Crow Creek was unable to hold the torrents of storm waters that raged down from its water shed extending back through Putnam county and into Bureau county. It broke out somewhere along near the HARNEY and CASE farms north of the Quinn School house and found its way out through Dry Hollow.

Reaching the hard road bridge just north of the sand pit it was too much for the opening to take care of and the low lands extending back for several miles were flooded, ruining hundreds of acres of wheat, oats and corn. About 2 o'clock it started over-flowing the hard road but this did not continue for long.

As the road and railroad bridges are about 200 feet apart, the waters soon cut the railroad grade between the two. By six o'clock about 210 feet of the high embankment at this point had been entirely washed away, and the south pier of the bridge dangerously undermined, causing it to tip south. It settled so that the end of the 60-foot steel girders had only about a two inch support.

During the night one rail broke letting down one side of the long span of trackage suspended in mid air. The water had greatly receded this morning and the railroad had a work train and men on the job. The hard road was undermined to half its width for about 300 feet.

HENRY KAPRANN lost about 20 acres of wheat with loats of oats and corn under water. It is reported that HARRY GREEN lost 15 acres of oats and that MRS. HORREM, RAY SNYDER and ELMER QUINN lost heavily.

The QUINN yard was flooded with about two feet of water and the current of the waters at the farm entrance was too strong for a man to stand up in. Water came up in the yard but did not flood the cellar or the well.

At the Quinn school house this morning there was a bundle of oats in a tree five feet above the ground and in the field north of it the water was shirt pocket deep on ROY RANSOM when he went to save what he could of his oats. The WM. WHEELER wheat crop at Putnam was destroyed.

The south approach to the bridge at the CASE farm where the RANSOMS live was partly washed out but would have been passable with extreme care, this morning. West of the bridge two wide swaths of corn had been laid low where the flood waters had converged before reaching the bridge. East of the bridge where the over-flow waters had raced to Dry Hollow, there is probably more than a hundred foot wide pathway of corn laid low.

On and against the bridge big logs are lodged, indicating that there was without doubt, two feet of water. The bridge provides a channel of 7x20 feet but this was not able to take car of all the water that came down. All roads leading west of Henry were flooded and passage made impassible.

Merrit's slough was way out of its banks and reached from the railroad to Crow Creek on the west. The water line on the weeds indicates that there was about three feet of water over the hard road.

Wednesday morning the unusual sight of a river flowing backwards was witnessed by hundreds here. The storm waters pouring into the river south of here caused it to back up and the current was up-stream. The lock gates were opened, the upper ones being nearly two-thirds open at five o'clock, Wednesday morning. Three hours later the current had slowed down so that the gates were only about a foot apart.

The almost steady downpour of rain Tuesday afternoon and night caused the river to rise fourteen inches here that night. It is reported that at Lacon the rise was four feet from 4 to 10 a.m. The road bridge over the canal at Bureau was washed completely out, shutting off traffic from the north. At Mossville, 600 feet of 15-foot railroad embankment was washed out with numerous smaller washouts all along to Henry.

The waterfall here was 2.59 inches Tuesday afternoon and 1.9 inches Tuesday night. The predicted stage of the river is 14 ½ feet for tomorrow. It seems doubtful if Sparland people will realize on their insurance which doesn't seem to cover such losses.

At Undercliff resort the water raised considerably, though doing little damage but causing the people at the lunch counter to move out and making it impossible to rent several cottages for some time.

At the WOODS home in Dry Hollow the cellar was filled with water and the concrete crossing at the foot of Dry Hollow hill was more than overflowing with the rushing water and was filled in by sand and mud.

In Saratoga three bridges were swept away that will require about $25,000 to replace, Road Commissioner JOHN ELLIOTT estimates. A similar storm 22 years ago swept away the same railroad bridge north of Henry and caused a like damage to crops and property.

Homes, Bridges and R.R. Tracks Washed Away In Sparland Flood
Several Hundred Thousand Dollars Loss In Worst Storm and Flood In County's History
Unprecedented Rain and Electric Storm Sends Sparland Creeks Out of Banks; Thrilling Rescues With Boats and Swimmers

What was probably the worst storm damage ever to befall Marshall and Putnam counties, occurred early Wednesday morning when at least several hundred thousand dollars in loss was occasioned by torrents of water in creeks unable to hold it.

The worst damage was at Sparland where the creeks on each side of the village were raging whirlpools of such volume and strength as to take out heavy concrete and steel bridges, railroad tracks, demolish buildings and twist and tear apart others.

In the wake of unprecedented avalanches of mud and silt-laden waters rolling and roaring down Gimlet Creek in the village of Sparland, there stands such a scene of ruin and loss as has never before been witnessed there. Though there were many narrow escapes from death and perilous rescues, the disaster wrought no loss of life.

There were a number of instances where folks there came dangerously near drowning, among which stands out the house of C. C. MCLAUGHLIN, two blocks up Gimlet Hollow from the hard road, in which there were 17 people marooned in by five feet of swirling waters surrounding the house and three feet of it inside. With the house, a two-story frame building, shaking on its foundation, with the front wall torn outward from the bottom leaving the upper story floor in which were huddled the 17 people, the youngest a babe in arms, perilously near to being dropped into the murky waters, and the floor in the parlor settling nearly two feet in one corner, their experiences of a few hours was indeed a nerve-racking one.

Added to the terribleness of the flood which swept down the little valley were those of the storm – vivid flashes of lightning, the crashing peals of thunder and downpour of rain, all in the blackness and stillness of the hours before dawn when all is said to be the blackest.

A thrilling rescue by a man, no one seems to know who, was effected when Mr. and Mrs. CHRIS OLSON were plunged into fifteen feet of swirling waters while attempting to get to Sparland by crossing the rails and ties suspended across the creek north of that village.

They live on the ISAAC WAUGHOP farm along the hills southwest of Henry and had gotten as far on their way to Sparland Wednesday afternoon as this creek. There the heavy concrete bridge had gone out that morning.

As they stepped onto a tie fastened to the rails with spikes, their weight was sufficient to break it loose and down they went to what came near to being death for Mrs. OLSON. A Mr. MASH; who seems to get the most credence for being the heroic rescuer, swam out to where the OLSONS were battling for their lives and brought them to shore. Mrs. OLSON was probably as near drowning as a person can get and required medical attention.

Mr. and Mrs. CHARLES JARRAD who live next door to MOORE'S garage along the hard road, were forced to flee from their home inundated by three and one-half feet of water and find safety in a cherry tree in the front yard from which they were rescued by MILFORD MARSHALL in a boat. Mr. JARRAD stated this morning that their furniture was practically new but was worth little now from the mud and water. In their little home there is from four to eight inches of horrible mud on the floors.

Miss JANET PRINGLE hastened to her neighbors, Miss EDNA THOMAS when the waters began seething through the cracks in the house. There she stood on a chair in water up to her waist holding onto a clock shelf for two hours before she was rescued by men in a boat. Miss THOMAS' father on a chair on a bed for the same length of time before rescuers could get to him.

Eight inches of oozy mud covers the floors in Miss PRINGLE'S home where she lived alone. It is a sorry sight.

PAT DEVANNEY had a unique experience that satisfies him for all time. When his home began to fill up he sought refuge in a shed and when it began to meander along with the current he took French leave and hied himself to an elm tree. He got to the tree but could not get into the fork of the branches because of the racing waters which held him tight against the tree trunk. There he was compelled to remain with the waters up to his neck for more than three hours, hopelessly helpless until rescued.

In the MCLAUGHLIN house with Mr. and Mrs. MCLAUGHLIN and their six boys and six girls were Mrs. JOHN BECK and two children. Mr. BECK was up in a tree in the yard and saw the house in which his family had sought supposed safety rocking in the wild torrents of otherwise peaceful Gimlet Creek, unable to help them. OLLIE CUMMINGS attempted a rescue of the seventeen victims marooned there by trying to swim out from the hill back of the house and stretch a rope between the two. His strength was as nothing against the fast current and he was forced to turn back after going only a little ways to a tree.

Nearly all outside buildings except the barn on this place were washed away or broken up. A six-inch floor of mud was added to that already in the barn. He had just finished paying for his home, he said, but now feels that it is hardly worth salvaging. From two to four feet of mud has been deposited in the yards of Miss PRINGLE and PAT DEVANNEY. The MCLAUGHLIN blacksmith shop, the red building that stood on the southwest corner of the cement bridge across Gimlet Creek was swept away and hasn't been found.

The Rock Island railroad was a heavy loser. Its bridges there and north of town were both badly washed out. Just south of Sparland about a thousand feet of roadbed was badly washed out, leaving a greatly twisted and shifted track.

MOORE'S garage was a third to a fourth under water, there being five feet of storm waters surging through it. Many things in the office were upset, records destroyed and damaged. About a hundred dollars worth of empty oil barrels floated away. Their loss will go to $300 or better. With others they are busy scraping, shoveling and washing out the half a foot of mud deposited all over the floor.

Among the stores, GEHR'S hardware store was the heaviest loser. The rear end of the building was torn asunder and its contents of stock, plumbing and tinner tools washed down with the debris into the river. Fifty kegs of nails was one of the items lost. Mr. GEHR could place no estimate on the amount of loss he sustained.

A shed in the rear of CAMPBELL'S grocery went along with other things and contents means a loss of about two to three hundred dollars. FLEMING'S restaurant sustained a loss of several hundred dollars by flooding. E. J. AITCHISON'S clothing and furnishings store has only a slight loss due to flooding the store with six inches of water and mud. Small buildings in the rear were swept away.

The SEIBOLT bridge at the rear of their store and the SCHOAF bridge a block below were both swept from their foundations as was the first bridge up Gimlet Hollow above the hard road. GEORGE DUNCAN, a one-legged gentleman, living next to the AITCHISON store, was carried out by WILLIAM AITCHISON and others. He was sitting on a table when rescued from the waters then almost hip deep. The SEIBOLT yard and farm south of the store was badly washed over and was loaded with debris.

The W. E. FRISBEY home up Gimlet Hollow was only slightly damaged. Mr. FRISBEY, wife and six children hied themselves to the hills when the water reached an 8-inch level over their floors. His garden, fences and machinery were all carried away. In front of their home cement sidewalks are torn up and great blocks of it scattered over the yards and street.

A $400 loss was occasioned in the YARGER restaurant from flooding. Only early arrival of Mr. YARGER prevented greater loss as they set up off the floor many perishables. The lower buffet drawer was flooded with muddy water. It contained menus and is a loss. The fine OSCAR PEINTNER home across from MOORE'S garage got a few inches of water over the floor.

The huge concrete bridge just north of Sparland is a total wreck and loss. All that is left and visible is the north pier. The railroad bridge just to the east was about half swept away, with practically none of the embankment washed out. On the east side of the hard road to the north about 300 feet of the shoulder was washed out, but none from under the concrete.

In the farm yard on the west side of the road and just north of the creek there is probably more than a foot of mud. The water was up to the house. As the old wagon road bridge east of the railroad bridge was washed out several weeks ago, there is no direct connection with Sparland.

It is reported that there are five bridges out between Henry and Peoria, three of which are the first bridges south of Sparland, the Barrville bridge and the big steel bridge north of the Santa Fe tracks at Chillicothe. This could not be continued due to telephone and telegraph wires being down.


We ask as a special favor that all who suffered storm damage and loss to send us a good report of it for next week's issue. Please do this as soon as possible, don't wait until Wednesday. Tell us what the damage was and the money loss with estimated cost of repairing. Road commissioners can give us some good news about the damage to the roads in their townships.