Great Dayton Flood: fire followed waters ‘second only to Noah’s’

Published: Monday, March 25, 2013 @ 5:38 PM
Updated: Monday, March 25, 2013 @ 5:38 PM

To learn more about the flood:


Watch WHIO-TV chief meteorologist Jamie Simpson and reporter Jim Otte’s special report on the Great Dayton Flood of 1913 at http://youtu.be/rFYH9xINZ_Y

Watch hour-long 2005 Think TV documentary, Goodbye, the Levee has broken, at http://video.thinktv.org/video/1434869494


“A Flood of Memories,” published by The Miami Conservancy District, with modern photography by Andy Snow, 2013

“Washed away:How the Great Flood of 1913, America’s Most Widespread Natural disaster, Terrorized a Nation and Changed it Forever,” by Geoffrey Williams, Pegasus Books, 2013

“The Great Dayton Flood of 1913,” by Trudy Bell, 2008, published as part of the Images of America Series

“Through Flood, Through Fire: Personal Stories From Survivors of the Dayton Flood of 1913,” by Curt Dalton, 2001

“A Time of Terror,” by Allan Eckert, 1965, Little Brown. A non-fiction retelling of the flood that is written like a novel.

“Promises in the Attic,” by Elisabeth Hamilton Friermood, 1960, a young adult novel about Ginger O’Neal and her family, who are stranded in the attic during the 1913.

Follow the series: 100 years after the Great Dayton Flood

Sunday: An overview of the causes and events surrounding the historic flood.

Monday: The Dayton Daily News follows the events of March 25 through the written accounts of survivors, including the story of 104-year-old Margaret Kender, now living in Florida.

Today: Flood survivors face new dangers as gas explosions rock the city.

Wednesday: Survivors remain stranded in their attics and on their rooftops, not knowing when rescue might come. Snowfall is a blessing because it extinguishes fires throughout the city.

Thursday: The water starts to recede and some victims are able to leave their homes and begin the massive task of rebuilding.

Timeline for the Great Dayton Flood

March 26, 1913:

2 a.m.: the Great Miami River crested at 29 feet.

9 a.m.: The Steele High School Tower at Monument and Main collapses into the water.

10:20 a.m.: The first telegraph lines open at NCR. The first telegram is sent to Gov. James M. Cox from his secretary, George Burba: “Situation in Dayton very bad.”

Noon: Ruptured gas lines spark fires across the city.

Midday: The river begins to drop slowly from its 29-foot crest.

6:55 p.m.: Col. Charles Zimmerman arrives at NCR with 100 National Guardsmen, the first of the 1,000 who will see duty under martial law.

In her own words

Dayton librarian Minnie Althoff described a sleepless first night in the library, plagued by “the intense cold, the boom and roar of the water, greater than Niagara it seemed.” Even less conducive to a good night’s sleep was the constant fear of fire, especially after the building was nearly struck by an immense oil tank Tuesday night. On Wednesday afternoon, Althoff wrote, “another terrific report shook our building, until it seemed every window must be broken. Another corner had collapsed, the drug store, and a tiny flame not larger than a candle light was noticed. Immediately we saw men rush to the edge of the adjoining tall building with ropes, which they threw over. Seven people scrambled from the fallen building, deftly caught the ropes and were hauled to the roof. The fire spread and waged wildly, burning its way for two blocks to the water’s edge. The contents of the wholesale liquor stores, paint stores and drug stores exploded, burned and sent the flames higher. Our second night was light as day.”

Daytonians spent a fearful first night after the flood only to face, the day after, a terrible new menace: fire.

On Wednesday, March 26, gas main leaks sparked fires all over the city, forcing hundreds of survivors to flee across rooftops.

“The flood was second only to Noah’s,” lamented Bishop Milton Wright, father of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville.

At 2 a.m., the Great Miami River crested at 29 feet. But the worst was far from over.

The gnawing hunger wasn’t the worst of it. The relentless cold and damp weren’t the worst of it. For survivors, the worst part was the waiting — not knowing when or if they would be rescued, or if a rescue attempt itself would prove fatal.

That was the tragic fate of 4-year-old Mary Bova, who lived with her parents at 626 East First Street, near Requarth Lumber. Just as her father, August Bova, attempted to place her in a rescue boat from the second-story window, a large piece of lumber floated by and knocked the child out of the boat. “She was dumped in the water, and they never saw her after that,” said Ray Brun of Kettering, who married little Mary’s younger sister, born 10 years after the flood. The heartbroken parents named their second daughter Mary in honor of her lost sister.

Again and again, the people of Dayton were traumatized by the sight of their fellow citizens struggling to reach safety, often only to disappear from sight. A family of six was wiped out when they left the rural lowlands seeking safety in Dayton. Jim and Ida Porter rode their wagon into Old North Dayton on Troy Street at the exact wrong moment on March 25, when the Steele dam broke, sending a huge foaming wave down Troy Street. The couple perished along with their children: Flossie, 17, Goldie, 12, Harold, 12, and Shirley, 8.

Irvin Bieser and his brother, Carl, sneaked away — against their parents’ strong admonitions — to watch the rising flood waters from the Monument Avenue bridge. “At one point, they saw two people clinging to what appeared to be a broken roof and saw them disappear under the bridge, never to be seen again,” said Irvin Bieser Jr., a Dayton attorney. “It was a horrible memory which remained with my father his entire life.”

Raising water and fears

In her detailed, daily journals, Sister Helen Foran wrote of another horrific scene: “A boat containing five persons was seen to capsize near the Emmanuel School. The chaplain gave them conditional absolution.”

Sister Helen, who was stranded at Notre Dame Academy at Franklin and Ludlow streets, had witnessed a litany of horrors: a gas explosion on Washington Street and the collapse of the 12-foot convent wall. “Water rose steadily until one o’clock but, contrary to expectation, when it stopped rising it did not begin to go down. Oh, the length of that awful night, all over the city intense darkness, with here and there the gleam of only a candle. Away over the hill the electric lights from St. Mary College and from the National Cash Register only made the darkness over the stricken city darker still. The rain poured, the wind blew, the cold intensified, and the weary hours wore away.”

Yet she also tells of spirituality rising above concerns of basic survival. Moving the Blessed Sacrament to safety seemed paramount, perhaps even more so than preserving the lives of the sisters. “Father Kassmann brought our dearest Lord to the senior classroom, and placed it into the little Tabernacle,” she wrote. “Father Kassmann advised the sisters to make an act of perfect resignation, as resignation to God’s will is the most perfect form of prayer. All the sisters made an oblation of their lives into the hands of God.”

Mary Louise Breen, 10, and her brother Eddie heard an elderly man on a nearby rooftop playing “Nearer My God to Thee” on his trumpet. Their father, John Breen, managed the Phillips House Hotel, which had been relatively empty because of the Easter holiday, but was soon packed by flood refugees. Mary Louise later wrote that her father hardly slept during the week of the flood. Fire was his greatest fear, and she never saw him angrier than when he found four men trying to heat water over some candles so they could boil eggs.

Fire was the greatest danger on this second day of the flood as gas lines ruptured over the city. Historical accounts differ about the reason that Dayton Power & Light left the gas on during the flood. It was widely reported that DP&L President Edward Hanley decided to leave on the gas so that Daytonians could have food and warmth. But local historian Leon Bey said it may not have been a decision at all. The flood waters may simply have risen too rapidly for anyone to turn off the gas.

Whatever the reason, the gas remained on, and gas main leaks fueled fires that destroyed whole city blocks. The two-block area between Jefferson and St. Clair streets and between Fourth and Second streets was hard hit, and was later designated by the National Register of Historic Places as the Fire Blocks Historic District. A spectacular explosion left the Lowe Paint Company ruin on the southeast corner of East Third and Jefferson streets.

There was a reason for John Breen’s vigilance, in other words, which only intensified when a guest raced toward him shouting, “The Beckel House is on fire!”

The children watched the blazing hotel at Third and Jefferson streets, only a couple of blocks away, as Breen stationed bell boys, armed with long poles, at every window to push flaming logs from the Beckel House away from his hotel.

NCR had already started to deliver food baskets to those stranded in their homes. A basket of sandwiches was given to Martin Kelly’s grandmother, Ida Louise Kelly, who was so grateful she preserved pieces of bread crusts as mementos. “They kept it in Thanksgiving for the first food they received,” said Kelly, who still lives in the same house on South Main Street built by his great-grandparents in 1876. When Kelly stripped the wallpaper in the parlor recently, he found that it still bears the black water mark from the flood.

Kelly’s father, Louis, and his siblings were ordered to stay in bed, but they jumped out of bed and rushed to the windows as soon as the adults left the room.

After the flood, his grandmother found a baby in the gutter across the street. “She never wanted to talk about the flood,” Kelly recalled. “If you asked her about it, she would get a solemn look on her face and just say, ‘That was a terrible time.’”

Moraine police shooting: What we know now about deadly encounter

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 11:43 AM
Updated: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 2:20 PM

Morraine Shooting Presser RECAP OF EVENTS

A 23-year-old Dayton man was killed Friday by Moraine police after an early morning standoff that began as officers were investigating a report of a suspicious vehicle on Pinnacle Park Drive.

Police said they shot Jamarco McShann after he pointed a loaded semi-automatic pistol at two officers and failed to heed their warnings. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has taken over the case at the request of the Moraine Police Division.

RELATED: Moraine police shooting: Suspect’s gun was loaded with high-capacity magazine

While the investigation is in its early stages, here’s what we know now:

-The man shot. McShann and some family members have either had criminal records or have been victims of crimes. He had been released from the Lebanon Correctional Institution on Aug. 2, 2016, after serving a three-year sentence stemming from three criminal cases.

RELATED: Moraine police shooting: Who is Jamarco McShann?

McShann’s brother, Jamal McShann, died in a shooting in October 2013 in Dayton. Another brother, Curtis McShann, was sentenced earlier this month to 60 years to life in prison in connection to the Oct. 25, 2016, shooting death of Brandon Lanier, 27, on Riverside Drive in Dayton.

-The officers. The two Moraine officers involved in the shooting were identified as John Howard, a 19-year veteran of the division, and Jerry Knight, who has worked for there for 19 months.

Both road patrol officers have been placed on administrative leave, which is protocol for such incidents. This news organization has requested copies of their personnel files.

RELATED: Moraine police shooting: Dayton man killed had life surrounded by violence

-The investigations. The state BCI will handle the criminal investigation and the city of Moraine will also conduct an internal-affairs investigation. BCI has said it is one of at least 17 officer-involved shootings that have been referred to the agency this year.

BCI officials said the probe will focus on whether there were any criminal violations during the incident. BCI will refer its findings to the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office. The city’s internal investigation will determine if the officers violated any division policies.

RELATED: Moraine police shooting: 5 questions we’re asking

Moraine cruisers are not equipped with cameras, and officers are not issued body cameras.

-McShann family’s response. McShann’s family said his “killing has presented more questions than answers,” according to a release it sent out. The family contacted the Rev. Jerome McCorry to represent it as a spokesman. McCorry founded of the Adams Project, a male re-entry program in Dayton.

“Unfortunately this nation has demonstrated a practice and pattern of shoot first ask questions later in too many of these cases!” McCorry stated in the release.

John McCain takes apparent jab at Trump during interview about Vietnam War

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 1:21 AM

John McCain Takes Apparent Shot At Trump

Sen. John McCain appeared to take a swipe at President Donald Trump during an interview about the Vietnam War on CSPAN-3 American History TV, criticizing people from “the highest income level” who avoided the military draft by finding a doctor who would say that “they had a bone spur,” CNN reported.

>> Read more trending news

Trump attended the New York Military Academy as a young man and received five military draft deferments during the Vietnam War, CNN reported. One was a medical deferment after he was diagnosed with bone spurs in his foot. 

It’s the latest war of words between the Arizona Republican and the president. During the early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump claimed McCain was not a was hero because he was captured during the Vietnam War. Trump never apologized for the remarks, and McCain has since been one of his most vocal Republican critics in Congress, CNN reported.

“One aspect of the conflict, by the way, that I will never ever countenance is that we drafted the lowest income level of America and the highest income level found a doctor that would say they had a bone spur,” McCain told C-SPAN3. “That is wrong. That is wrong. If we are going to ask every American to serve, every American should serve.”

McCain never mentions Trump by name in the interview, but the President's deferment because of a bone spur is widely known and his family was well off at the time.

Trump told The New York Times in 2016 that a doctor "gave me a letter -- a very strong letter -- on the heels."

"Over a period of time, it healed up," he said.

McCain spent five years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, declining to be released despite being the son of an admiral.

Letter dated day before Titanic sank sells for $166,000

Published: Monday, October 23, 2017 @ 2:19 PM

The ill-fated White Star liner RMS Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic.   (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)
Central Press/Getty Images
The ill-fated White Star liner RMS Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank on her maiden voyage across the Atlantic. (Photo by Central Press/Getty Images)(Central Press/Getty Images)

The letter is addressed to “Mother.”

“We had good weather while we were in Loudon (sic). It is quite green and nice in England now. This boat is a giant in size and fitted up like a palacial (sic) hotel.” 

>> Read more trending news

It is one of the last remaining letters to survive the doomed ship Titanic, and it recently sold at auction for a 120,000 pounds ($166,000) -- a record-price for a correspondence from the liner. 

The missive, penned by first-class passenger Alexander Oskar Holverson on the liner’s embossed stationery, is dated April 13, 1912 -- the day before the Titanic sank.

Auctioneers Henry Aldridge & Son predicted the item would go for 60,000 to 80,000 pounds ($79,000 to $106,000), according to CNN. The identity of the buyer wasn't disclosed. Iron keys from the ship also sold for 76,000 pounds ($100,000).

“The prices illustrate the continuing interest in the Titanic and her passengers and crew,” auctioneer Andrew Aldridge told Reuters. “I‘m delighted with the new world record for the Titanic letter. It reflects its status as the most important Titanic letter we have ever auctioned.”

The letter was sold by the Holverson family.

Alexander Oskar Holverson was a salesman who was traveling on the ocean liner’s maiden voyage with his wife, Mary Alice, who survived the sinking. The letter was found on his body a few days after the ship sank April 14, 1912. More than 1,500 people died. 

The letter ends with this line:

“It all goes well we will arrive in New York Wednesday A.M.”

Premier Health asks UnitedHealthcare policy holders to switch plans

Published: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 1:03 PM
Updated: Friday, October 20, 2017 @ 1:55 PM


Premier Health sent a letter this week to its patients saying “we strongly advise” those with UnitedHealthcare policies to consider switching plans, as both sides remain far from a deal that would let policy holders again get coverage at Premier doctors offices and hospitals.

The contract between UnitedHealthcare and Premier, the region’s largest health system, expired May 13 after negotiations fell apart. The two parties both said they are not close to a deal that would again bring Miami Valley Hospital, Atrium Medical Center and the rest of Premier Health’s affiliates back in network.

The dispute centers around the giant insurer’s plan to rank hospitals and doctors in tiers based on cost and quality, with the goal of incentivizing lower health care costs. Premier opposes the ranking system, which it says is already steering patients away from its hospitals and providers.

RELATED: Dayton Children’s Hospital adding its first inpatient mental health wing

There are 70,000 UnitedHealthcare members who have used Premier facilities or physicians in the last year prior to May’s contract expiration and 200,000 patients with UnitedHealthcare in the Dayton region.

A Premier spokesman said the letter speaks for itself and the health system didn’t have additional comment.

In an Oct. 16 letter signed by Premier CEO Mary Boosalis, she states Premier has contracts with other plans like with Anthe Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Medical Mutual, Aetna, Human and Cigna.

“If your employer hasn’t offered another plan option other than UHC, consider asking your human resources department to either switch health plans or to provide a plan option that includes Premier Health as “in-network.”

Some local hospitals that remain in UHC’s network include Dayton Children’s, Grandview, Greene Memorial, Kettering Medical Center, Medical Center at Elizabeth Place, Soin Medical Center, Southview, Springfield Regional, and Sycamore.

RELATED: Columbus firm picked to plan fairgrounds redevelopment

Premier has a large network of primary care doctors under its umbrella, along with Miami Valley Hospital with an additional site at Miami Valley Hospital South, Good Samaritan Hospital, Atrium Medical Center and Upper Valley Medical Center.

Premier said the last offer it put on a table was for no rate increase in 2017, a 3 percent increase in 2018, a 3 percent increase in 2019 and no increase in 2020. UnitedHealthcare’s last offer is a 10 percent rate decrease in 2017, a 5 percent decrease in 2018, and a 5 percent decrease in 2019.

RELATED: Premier Health networking event targets diverse suppliers

UnitedHealthcare has maintained none of Premier’s offers address the high cost of care that gets passed onto its customers. It said it is still open to conversation with Premier.

“Local employers are asking everyone to play a role in helping address the high cost of health care in Dayton, and we want to work with Premier on this goal, but to this point we have been unable to find a resolution that creates sustainable improvements.”

The insurer said it still has a broad network of physicians that its policy holders can see.