Flood of 1885, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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The Great Flood of 1885

The Medicine Lodge Cresset, Thursday, April 23, 1885.



A Wall of Rushing Water Overwhelms the Slumbering Inhabitants.
Causing Death and Desolation.

Probably never in their lives did the people who live in the beautiful valleys of the Elm and Medicine go to slumber with a feeling of greater security or mote general happiness than on last Monday evening. Only the day before a gentle and copious shower had brightened the hills and valleys and nature was replacing the rough, russet garments of winter with the emerald robe of spring. As usual a large number of emigrants, weary with the day's hard journey, had built their camp-fires in the beautiful grove between Elm and Spring creeks, eaten their evening meal and lain down to rest, entirely unconscious of the calamity so soon to overtake them.

About half-past three or four o'clock the people living in the valley between Spring creek and Elm creek were roused by the sound of an approaching storm and almost instantly, and, before they had time to dress they found themselves surrounded by a seething, rushing torrent of waters. Houses were swept from their foundations and whirled away on the mad billows as if they had been chips or pasteboard, and they themselves utterly powerless to resist the rushing waters. Of the immigrants some were so fortunate as to catch on trees and clamber to a place of comparative safety among the branches, and in this uncomfortable position, the most of them with no clothing on except their undergarments, chilled to the marrow and weak from fatigue were obliged to remain for more than six hours until relief could be brought them.

At daybreak the people of the town had been aroused and gathered by the hundred on the banks, anxious to relieve the sufferers, but almost powerless to stem the mad current, which filled with brushwood and the wrecks of shattered houses, would have been a perilous for the strongest boats and in which such frail structures as could be manufactured on the spur moment, were almost utterly helpless. Nevertheless several brave fellows manned such boats as could be built in an hour or two, and without rudders to guide and with such boards and poles as they could pick up for oars, started out to find and rescue the survivors of the awful catastrophe.

Several of the boys also with strong horses, managed with the greatest difficulty to make a crossing of Spring creek, and reached some of the houses on the flat. The first wreck visited was the residence of Frank Rigg and family. This was the small gypsum house, not far from the timber on 2nd avenue east, the street leading east from the M. E. church. To the surprise and joy of the searchers they found the family still alive, though terribly chilled and exhausted. The swift rising waters had given the family the first warning by washing out the foundation. Fortunately the heavy blocks of which the house was built did not wash entirely away, and the roof settling down on these furnished a sort of protection to the family. Here, with nothing on but their night clothes they waited for succor. When found Mrs. Rigg and the children were so benumbed with cold that they were scarcely able to stand, but with the assistance of Geo. Horney and others they were transported to a place of safety.

Others were not so fortunate. The house occupied by Uncle Jerry Gibbs, his daughter Mrs. Harris and granddaughter Ella Harris, a little girl of eight or nine years, which stood on Kansas avenue east some distance east of the Spring creek bridge, seems to have been swept away by the first dash of water and dashed to pieces among the timber. The bodies of Mrs. Harris and little Ella were found after the waters began to subside, near the point of the grove where Spring creek empties into Elm creek. Up to the present writing the body of Uncle Jerry Gibbs has not been recovered, though it is supposed that he is certainly drowned.

The new house of Frank Shepler standing near the house before mentioned was also swept from its foundation and dashed to pieces. Mr. Shepler whose life was saved, tells the brief story of his terrible experience. He was awakened by the roar of waters, and, almost the next instant, felt the house giving away. He and wife and child had gone into the upstairs of the main part of the building when the crash came that separated the roof from the house and swept them out from under it. Frank says he had the child in one arm as he was swept out and, catching the roof with his free hand, managed to get his wife and baby on the roof, when he himself was knocked away, probably by the roof striking some obstruction, and thrown under the water. When he came to the surface his wife and child were gone he knew not whither. He managed to catch a floating timber and finally landed out in the Medicine about one and a half miles from town, and managed to reach the house of John Ramsey on the west side of the river. Up to this time no report has been received of the whereabouts of Mrs. Shepler or the child.

During a catastrophe of this kind there are always some remarkable escapes. In this case probably the most remarkable was that of Bunk Ward and family. The house was swept away at about the same time as Mr. Shepler's, but remained intact and floated for probably thirty or forty rods down Spring creek, where it was caught by a projecting bank and, turning round, was swept by a cross current out of the channel of the stream and grounded well upon Mr. Durst's place south of town. Not only were the family saved, but the house itself was but little injured. The house of George Ellis was moved from its foundation and tilted over, but fortunately held, and thus saved the lives of the family. The houses of James Hale, John Singer, Hilory Weidner, J. M. Bush, and McSmith also stood the rush, probably on account of their being on slightly higher ground than their neighbors.

Leaving the houses of the flat we only begun the tale of horror. The grove along Elm creek has always been a favorite camping place, on account of the abundance of water and fuel. Probably it will never be known exactly how many immigrants lay down to slumber in Elm creek bottom that fateful night of Monday. We are informed that there were certainly fourteen wagons altogether. We have also heard the estimate that there was an average of five persons to the wagon, but think the estimate much to high. But at best the loss of life was terrible enough, and the particulars so far as we have been able to gather them truly heartrendering.

Among the campers was the family of Samuel Maddox from Chautauqua county, Kansas. The family consisted of Mr. Maddox, wife and seven children, one daughter about 10 years of age, one about 11 and one about 9 years of age; one son nearly grown, one probably 12 years of age and two bright boys aged respectively 7 and 5. Of this family the mother, a lady of perhaps forty-four, the two daughters aged respectively 11 and 9, and the little boys aged 7 and 5, fell victims to the waters. Mr. Maddox, his eldest daughter, his eldest son and second eldest sons, and also his brother-in-law, Mr. Poage, were rescued. The family were on their way to Montana Territory, and seem to have been in fair circumstances. Mr. Maddox had with him in a trunk about $1500 in currency, which he was fortunate enough to recover. The old gentleman, as may be supposed, is nearly heartbroken.

Another wagon was occupied by three young men from Cowley county; P. Seacot, G. Barriclaw and a young man by the name of Smith. Of these Seacot and Barriclaw managed to get into trees, but Smith was washed away and drowned. His body was found yesterday morning below the juncture of the two rivers. Mr. Smith was a robust, fine-looking young man of about 23 years of age, light-complexted and smooth-faced with the exception of a light mustache.

Two other wagons were occupied by a gentleman by the name of Johnson, his two sons and their wives and two children. They were also from Cowley county, on their way west to take homesteads. When the dash of water came they were fortunate enough to get into trees and so saved all of their lives, and suffered only the loss of a wagon and a team of mules.

Another wagon was occupied by four young men from Comanche county, John Clifford, James Spofford, Chas. Young and Christain Thurman. The boys managed to find safety in a neighboring tree and got out safely with the loss of a wagon and one horse.

We think the parties we have mentioned had all eight wagons, which would leave six still to be accounted for. There is every probability that several bodies have been covered with the drifting sand and may never be recovered, or possibly may have been washed for miles down the Medicine.

From up Elm creek valley also comes a dismal story of loss of life and property.

The family of G. W. Paddock, who resided some eight miles up the creek, were overtaken by the flood and have no doubt all perished. The bodies of Mrs. Paddock and the three children have already been recovered, but the body of Mr. Paddock is still missing.

Down the river great damage was done property and many persons narrowly escaped with their lives, but so far we have heard of no cases of drowning.

W. W. Standiford's ranch house was carried away while he and the family living there were in it, but they managed to catch some trees and were saved. Up the river we have not heard of any actual loss of life, but as it is customary for immigrants to camp at or near the various fords there may be persons drowned, whose bodies have not yet been recovered. We also learn that the house west of Lake City, on the Hunter and Evans ranch is swept away and no word is yet heard from the inmates. The house was occupied by a family whose name we have not learned, and an old gentleman of Parker.

The efforts made to rescue the sufferers was attended with great difficulty, and those engaged deserve great credit for their daring. Dr. Rigg and Will Van Slyke, who went out to the first boat were wrecked among the timbers and were obligated to take to the trees. E. Z. La Rash, a carpenter, who attempted to go out in a single boat, had scarcely got across Spring creek until his boat was dashed against a tree and broken to pieces. Mr. La Rash was thrown into the water and drawn under, but managed with the greatest difficulty to climb on a bush nearby, before he got out, however, he was nearly overcome by the exhaustion and exposure, which brought on a congestive chill, which came near proving fatal. Geo. Horney had his horse thrown by the swift current, while trying to cross Spring creek, and was his himself drawn under water. J. S. Kyman attempted three times to swim Spring creek, but was unable to make the crossing and was at one time in serious danger.

In addition to the loss of life, in comparison with which, of course, all other losses seem trivial, there has been an immense loss of property. Sam Furguson, on Elm creek, had nearly all his household goods swept away and some stock. J. R. Brown lost some fifty head of cattle out of sixty-five head which he had been feeding near the creek.

Dr.Brattain had about sixty head of cattle swept away and barely managed to save his own life and the lives of his family.

Space will not permit us to give in detail all the loss of property, as we have said before, as compared with the loss of life sinks into comparative insignificance. The horrors of this occasion will not soon be forgotten; the sorrows of those who have been so heavily afflicted, even though they be strangers, has touched the sympathies of a kindly and generous people, who have done all in their power to comfort the weary and grief-stricken survivors, but no amount of kindness could relieve the dismal features of the calamity. Death is at best unwelcome, though it comes when the victim is among friends who are hourly waiting the time of dissolution and smoothing the dying-pillow, but when death comes with the roaring storm, when among strangers, when perhaps the body is left torn and beaten by the fury of the waves, and buried by the drifting sands, his approach is doubly terrible.

We cannot close this account without complimenting the spirit of kindness and good Samaritanship displayed by our people. We say, with pardonable pride that we have never seen a more liberal and kindly people than here at Medicine Lodge. A number of the ladies gave their entire time for two days in caring for the bodies of the dead and ministering to the wants of the living.

A subscription paper was also circulated and in a few hours over $1000 had been subscribed to help the sufferers. There are so many who have shown their liberality in this case that we have not space to enumerate them all, but we do firmly believe that he who deals kindly with his neighbors in distress, or who lifts with tender hand the stranger who may have fallen at his gate will sooner or later receive a just reward.

Since writing the first of this article the body of Jerry Gibbs has been recovered, and the old man, whom a hard fate has cheated out of a few years, perhaps, of life, has been laid in a quiet burying ground by his daughter and grandchild.

Uncle Charley Chadwick lost 10 head of cattle and three head of horses in the flood.

N. S. Davis, of Elm Mills, had his house moved some two or three rods by the flood, but it fortunately caught on some trees and was saved.

M. Thomas, of Elm Mills, had the foundation of his house swept out.

Mr. Gaither, of Elm Mills, lost from $25 to $50 worth of chickens and pigs.

Johnson & Denton's mill race was damaged to the extent of $75 or $100.

J. R. Means, of Elm Mills, had his house blown down. Himself and wife considerably injured.

(Also see: News Items, The Cresset, April 23, 1885.)

The Kansas Prairie Dog, Lake City, Kansas, April 23, 1885


Loss of Life at Medicine Lodge.

Twenty-one Bodies Found up to 8 o'clock Yesterday morning.

On Tuesday Mr. T.S. Updyke brought the news of a terrible loss of life at the Lodge. We, in company with Riley Lake and H.A. Noah, was not long in reaching the scene of destruction. The scene beggars description. All along the road destruction was written plainly, fences gone, lands overflowed and the country lying along the river was a perfect sea of water, while the roar of the rushing waters was terrific. We passed Dr. Bond's place and found the family alive, the house however, was surrounded with water. We arrived at the Lodge about 6 o'clock p.m., and found the people working like heroes to rescue the people in tree tops, on drifts, etc. where they had clung when the flood poured down on them. The loss is variously estimated from 30 to 50, and may reach more than the latter figure, as many emigrants were camped in the bottom that night, and no estimate can be formed of the number or who they were, as their teams, wagons and themselves were swept away by the rush of waters.

Frank Shepler's account as received from him is substantially as follows: At about two or half past two o'clock Tuesday morning he was awakened by a roar of rushing water, and on getting up discovered his house surrounded, which soon began to move, he undertook to place his wife and child on the roof, and then after they were up tried to climb up himself when he was struck by a tree passing and was knocked into the water, he clutched the tree and was landed about 1 mile below, where he was found during the day. Mrs. Shepler and child have not been heard from. The house was found yesterday which tells that they found a watery grave.

A Mr. Maddox and family, consisting of wife and eight children, is reduced to only three members, Mrs. Maddox and four children were drowned. The bodies have been recovered.

Jerry Gibbs' body was recovered yesterday morning. Mrs. Harris and daughter were also taken from the creek Tuesday.

Squire Paddock's family were all drowned with the exception of himself. Dolly Espey is reported missing.

The most heart rendering scene was the pitiful cries for help from the poor unfortunates in the tree tops, along the creek, women and children were clinging to the trees, chilled by the cold winds, their night clothes saturated with the cruel water and there in the blackness of the night, with the roar of the torrent and death staring them in the face they uttered such heart piercing shrieks that would have melted the heart of the hardest wretch on earth. The citizens of the Lodge did everything in their power to save them and when daylight came brave men stemed the current and plunged in regardless of their own lives, and rescued the poor sufferers.

The court room presents a sad spectacle as the bodies lay in the coffins, preparatory to interment. The following is a list of persons known to be lost:

Paddock's family 9,

Maddox family 5,

Mrs. Shepler and child

Jerry Gibbs

Mrs. Harris and daughter

Dolly Espey reported missing; some of Bullington's family are drowned and a family on Elm Creek are reported gone.

The men employed on Hunter and Evans' ranches are all right, the flood rose to the top of the barn doors, but they climbed up in the hay mow and were saved.

Owing to the disaster at the Lodge Hon. Geo. Orner adjourned court until July. His speech was one to make his enemies admire him and cause his friends to swear renewed fidelity.

Owing to the rain Monday night no meeting of the Building and Loan association was held.

"It never rains but it pours" was illustrated Monday night. The elements were turned loose to flood the earth, at about dark the rain began falling in torrents and continued until nearly daylight, when on looking out the whole earth appeared to be under water, the Medicine river had crept out of its banks and was rushing pell mell over the bottoms south of town, it was higher than ever before known. As many cattle were in the low lands, it is feared a heavy loss will be the result to follow. The waters have abated since and dry land has appeared as it did in Noah's time. Frank Gordon's corralls are all one out, as is also Capt. Rowley's; Mr. Andrews lost one mile of fence and a number of cattle. During the storm the lightening struck the mill tower of the City Mills, but very little damage was done.

The Barber County Index, April 24, 1885.




It Sweeps Down on Ranches, Farms, Camps, Villages.


Houses Swept Away and Families Obliterated.
Pitiful Havoc Among Campers in the Bottoms!
The Work of Relief in Medicine Lodge!
Care of the Living and Search for the Dead.


A fearful and terrible flood visited Barber county last Tuesday morning April 21, 1885, and the valleys of Elm creek and Medicine river are marked with the effects of its ravages. Monday evening at dusk, murky clouds were seen hovering over the north and west, and as darkness came the vivid flashes of lightning were witnessed, playing in the restless rolling banks. At that time the hardest rain ever witnessed in this or any other country, commenced to pour down and continued without interruption for five hours, over a space of country in the northwestern part of Barber from 12 to 20 miles in width. So far as can be learned, the heaviest rain fall, however, was through the country west on the Barber county line, commencing north of Elm Mills. All of the country on either side of the Medicine river and Elm creek is high rolling prairie interspersed with the hundreds of canyons and small streams dry most of the year. Down these ravines, the water poured as if from the roof of a house and soon the streams were bank-full and the bottoms and low-lands were covered to a depth of from four to eight feet, and the work of destruction was fairly commenced.

People had lived on these streams for years, and had taken care to build their houses and corrals far above the high water marks, never for a moment believing that any flood would reach their places, but in this they were sadly mistaken. A trip through the fertile and lovely valleys of these two streams to-day will bring to view the workings of a small deluge, and the spectator will be convinced that with the Almighty, nothing is impossible; that at His word the floods beat down the strongest barriers erected by man; that human habitations are made desolate; that the strongest trees are uprooted, and the work of scientist and mechanics all go for naught; that His dumb creatures are dashed to death along with the intelligent beings of His creation, and that everything animals or inanimate can be destroyed. His workings are indeed wonderful. Why our peaceful and God fearing people should be subjected to tortures and even death; why family ties should be sundered is not for us to know; but these things have happened.

There are different theories as to clear and beautiful spring branch, not two miles long. Between Elm creek and Spring creek, directly east of town, is a level flat bottom, interspersed with an occasional low place, through which water must have run in ages past. This flat was laid outside town lots, and last Monday fifteen occupied residences were standing there, neat and tasty, surrounded by fences and gardens. Four of those residences have disappeared and nearly all the outbuildings and fences that surrounded them. Below that flat is one continuous grove of beautiful elm trees, with wide reaching and overlapping branches, the most beautiful spot in the county, a natural picnic or camping ground, and much used for both purposes when the trees have assumed their summer attire.

Last Monday several families of movers were camped in this grove, and the story as told further on will tell their fate.

At 3 o'clock Tuesday morning all of the bottom above described was above high water mark, the residents and movers supposed. An hour later and a swift current had engulfed it, and the marks on the tree show that the destructive element reached from three to ten feet higher than ever before known.

The screams of the persons floating down the turbulent stream could be plainly heard up in the city, and these plaintive appeals for help from the drowning, intermingled with the lowing of cattle, the neighing of horses the braying of mules and the squealing of hogs, with the terrible rush and roar of the waters, the crashing of timbers were heart-rending and sickening. The cries were taken up by those on shore and soon the whole population was alarmed. The church bells were rung, and the rain and darkness confusion was everywhere. Everyone knew that there was a flood; but none could even guess at what damage to life and property was occurring. The relatives of those who lived in the bottom were to be seen running up and down the bank of Spring creek, appealing for the rescue of their dear ones.

It was not until daylight that the crowd on shore realized about what the damage was. The survivors soon made known their good fortune and told who was missing. As soon as parties could venture into the timber, many who were supposed to be dead were rescued from trees.


Before daylight, Sheriff Rigg, Postmaster VanSlyke and Boardman Smith launched a hastily-made boat into Spring creek, near Mrs. Payne's fence, and attempted to make their way to the houses on the east bottom. It was soon a wreck and the occupants were floundering in water ten feet deep, hunting for something to hold to. Smith struck a high point of ground and remained there; Rigg and VanSlyke were carried a quarter of a mile down below and saved themselves by climbing into trees, where they remained, thoroughly chilled, for several hours. As the water receded they were able to wade around and administer comfort to the distressed.


Hillory Weidner and family were living in a frame house near Elm creek, northeast of town, and Green Harris was stopping with him. The water came rushing down as if in a solid body against structure, and in a moment the house was floating. It was carried about a hundred yards and lodged against two elm trees. Weidner and Harris made their way to the stables to cut their fine horses loose, but saw that though their heads only were out of water, that they would not drown and so let them remain. A horse on the outside of the stable floated down the river a mile and then got out, only slightly injured. For several hours the report was that Weidner's family were all drowned; but that fortunately the rumor was erroneous.


From town could be seen the ruins of gypsum house, near Elm creek, in which Frank Rigg and family lived. Every one supposed they were surely drowned; but a search revealed that thought the building had melted down as if made of sand, Frank, his wife and child were safe on the roof of the house. Then They had climbed up there when the water commenced to pour in on them, and kept their position with great difficulty. His team was saved, and his delivery wagon was carried half a mile down the river.


Bunk Ward, his wife and child, were living in a new house on Kansas avenue, two blocks from Spring creek. They heard the rush of waters, and on getting out of bed, he stepped into water six inches deep. A door was then blown open and a lot of furniture and drift floated in. He put his wife and child in the attic, climbed there himself and awaited results. Suddenly he felt his building moving, and punching a hole in the shingles, he could see from the lights in surrounding houses that he was moving rapidly. At the same time he could hear the piercing shrieks of those near by, and he passed into the timber, the deafening noise of human cries, the low of drowning cattle, the crash of timbers and rushing off the maddening waters, were appalling. His house would crash through tree tops, dip from side to side, and at last appeared to strike some solid obstruction, spin around on the water, and suddenly stop. He thought he had landed about Sherpy's place, but when daylight came it was found he was two hundred yards below, in Durst's field, and that the water around his house was not then a foot deep. It was carried nearly a half mile, and now stands high and dry at least 15 feet from the bed of Spring creek. The window glass were not even broken, and only one door was knocked from its hinges. A miraculous escape.


J. W. Hale was living in a new house east of Spring creek, near Kansas avenue, a one story frame. At 3 o'clock he was up, and looking out could plainly see the ground when the lightning would flash. Ten minutes later he heard the waves splashing against the floor, and on stepping to the door and opening it, a wave rolled in covering the floor to the depth of six inches. Mrs. Hale jumped out of bed and rushed out of the house, so frightened was she, and declared her intention of running to the hills. Her husband caught her, carried her into the house, locked the door, and placed a trunk on top of a table placed her on the pyramid. He then watched the progress of the water and says that in ten minutes it had climbed 19 inches, then it appeared to remain stationary awhile and slowly receded. He lost his fence and a lot of lumber he had bought the day before.


The saddest experiences felt by any flood suffer came to an old man named Samuel Maddox, of Chautauqua county, who was on his way to Montana Territory. With him was his entire family of wife and 8 children, those being a grown son, 25 years of age, a grown daughter, 20 years old, a son 13 years old, 2 smaller girls 9 and 11 years old and two boys, aged respectively 5 and 7 years. With this party was Robert Poag, of Clinton county, Missouri, brother of Mrs. Maddox. Of this entire party, six drowned, these being the wife, the son of 18, two sons of 5 and 7 years and two daughters of 9 and 11 years. Mr. Maddox and his family were camped in the grove west of the bridge, midway between Elm and Spring creeks. They had a tent and were sleeping in this. They had 9 head of horses and mules, 2 wagons, and a lot of household furniture. When they noticed the water collecting in their tents, the party attempted to get in the wagons, and the younger ones did. The older members attempted to turn the wagons against the trees, but the heavy waves dashed against them so strong that they were compelled to climb into the nearest tree, while the wagons were swept away with the flood. One wagon lodged in the grove while the other floated down the stream directly south of town, where it overturned and threw the occupants out. The oldest daughter a young lady of 18 caught on a stump and afterwards left it for a tree nearby, into which she climbed and remained. It was this lady with the long flowing golden hair, standing in the foliage of the tree and rendering shrieks that could be heard for a mile, that attracted hundreds of people to the opposite bank. "Hurry up! I can't stand it any longer! Help me! Come quick!" were heard every instant. The crowd said she had a baby in her arms; others said they saw her drop the child, and everyone was excited. The crowd offered $500 to any one who could rescue her; but no one would venture into the surging stream. Below her not a hundred yards, was her brother, 13 years old, clinging to the branches of a tree, and he, too, was crying piteously for help, and none could be rendered. From 4 o'clock in the morning until 10 these two held their positions. Then it was P. B. Cole, Frank McAlister and Sam Cole appeared on the east bank, swimming their horses through the overflow and sloughs and much to the delight of the crowd, rescued the suffering people. P. B. Cole was on a small horse, but he bravely rode under the tree and dismounting in water waist deep, he carefully helped the lady from the tree, placed her behind his saddle and mounting safely carried her to terra firma. Frank McAlister rescued the boy in a similar manner, and when the crowd saw how nicely the work was done, it drew a long breath, and yelled in tones to be heard miles away.

These, then were all living of the Maddox family. The father, his grown son and daughter and the boy rescued. Later in the day the poor mother was found, embedded in driftwood and sand, half a mile below where her daughter and son were rescued; not far from her were her two youngest sons. Wednesday morning two daughters were found near the same place and the 18-year-old boy was found at the Kiowa ford, directly across the road that leads into the water. It was nearly covered with sand and mud.

The bodies of the mother and two boys found Tuesday were brought to town, dressed and buried Wednesday morning. The other son and two daughters were buried Wednesday afternoon. All were fully identified by the remaining members of the family.

Mr. Maddox had with him over $1,500 in money. This was in a trunk in one of the wagons. The wagon bed was discovered and accompanied by Sam Cole, the oldest boy secured the money and turned it over to his father Wednesday.

The surviving daughter and son, rescued from the trees, were taken care of at Uncle Johnny Roe's, east of Elm. W. W. Cook, and family cared for the other members.


"I first noticed the water in my house on Kansas avenue two squares east of Spring creek about 4 o'clock in the morning," said Frank Shepler, to the INDEX Wednesday. "I got out of bed and stepped into water more than a foot deep. I awoke my wife and told her to take the baby and go up stairs. We were sleeping in the north wing, on the first floor. I lighted a band torch, and went up stairs, and soon afterwards felt the house move and the walls spreading, and the floor giving down. About that time the house appeared too swing around towards the west and a heavy wave knocked the east gable in. I grabbed my wife under one arm and our two-year-old child under the other and going to the opening made in the end told my wife to climb on the roof, which she did and I handed her the child. I then attempted to swing on to the roof but by this time the house was in a swift channel and a floating timber or log struck me in the side and knocked me off. It appeared that I went into water 40 feet deep and remained under ten minutes, but of course it was not that long. I knew when I struck into the timber, and frequently I was dashed against trees and limbs, and when the lightning flashed I could see about where I was. Then it appeared that I got into the middle of the main channel of Elm creek, and was carried rapidly down, catching all the time at the drift. When south of town I caught two pieces of scantling nailed together, and held on to these until they became fastened in limbs of a tree, and there I remained until day light. Then I saw that I was in the timber on the old Tuttle place, not far from Dal Morris' house. I saw it was freeze or drown, and I preferred the latter, and so I let go my hold and struck out for land, about fifty yards away, and I made it, tough exhausted when I got there, and had to lay down for some time. Up to the time of this experience I never knew I could swim; but now it appears that I can. After resting I went to Morris' house and I was well cared for. I never saw nor heard anything of my family after I was knocked off in attempting to get on the roof with them."

Frank was terribly bruised and cut about the body, and Dr. Moore thinks one rib was fractured, and is treating him. He was brought in town, crossing the angry Medicine in a rough boat, Tuesday evening.

The house was separated and the front part lodged on Standiford's ranch, 8 miles south of here.


Jerry Gibbs and his daughter, Mrs. Julia Harris, and her daughter, Ella, aged 12, were living in a new house in the bottom nearly opposite Frank Sheplers', and this was one of the first houses to go as it was directly in the swiftest channel that flowed through the bottom. All three of these people were lost, and their bodies were recovered. They must have been taken unawares, for no lights were seen there and no cries for help were heard from there by neighbors. Not a vestige of the house has been found as yet. Mrs. Harris' body was the first one discovered Tuesday morning about 9 o'clock by the crowd on the bank at W. H. Kinkead's house. Her body was lodged against a tree and partly wrapped around it, and it was nearly nude. Soon after the body of her daughter was discovered near the same spot; but neither was identified until nearly noon. The body of Jerry Gibbs, a man over 60 years of age, was found Wednesday morning southwest of town and near the old saw mill. It was slightly disfigured; but when washed and laid out, looked as natural as in life. Another daughter of Mrs. Harris was working at the Medicine Lodge house or she, too, might have perished. The bodies of the three in this family were buried Wednesday afternoon - all in one grave.


Porter Secat, G. W. Baricklow and Charley Smith, who had been out to Clark county to take up claims, were returning to their Homes in Cowley county, near Winfield. They were in a wagon with two horses attached, and had camped in the ill-fated bottom between Elm and Spring creeks. They heard the rush of waters and noticed that the wagon tongue was covered. Secat and Baricklow remained in the wagon until they saw it would be washed away; but Smith said he would risk getting out on a horse, and accordingly mounted one, and that was the last seen of him alive. His body was discovered in the timber south of town, on the other side of Elm creek. He was a young man 23 years old and his folks lived in Cowley county. His body was neatly attired Wednesday, placed in a coffin and buried in the city cemetery.


E. Z. Larash, better known as "Curley," a carpenter who works for Cook & Hoffman, made a frail boat and at 8 o'clock started in Spring creek, at Bob Simpson's place, with the intention of rescuing some of the many who were clinging to the branches of trees, His craft was too weak, and after being carried several hundred yards, it struck a tree amidship, and was dashed to pieces. "Curley" grasped a bending willow, where he remained some time, and when he could he waded back to his starting point, arriving there exhausted. He was attacked with a congestive chill, and but for the timely arrival of Dr. Moore, would have passed in his checks. He is now all right.


Geo. W. Ellis had fitted up a comfortable home in the bottom at the foot of Washington avenue, and had planted out valuable trees, shrubs and flowers. All that is there now is the house, which is partly washed from its foundation and the post-holes where the fence stood. The fruit trees may be growing in the Territory, and the flowers may yet bloom on the Arkansas river. The family escaped from serious inconvenience, by climbing into the attic of the house. The water was four feet deep in the house.


A. Johnson, his son, J. A., wife and two children and his son E. S., with his wife, were on their way from Arkansas City to the great west, they having tired of waiting on Oklahoma. They, like all other unfortunates were camped near Elm creek, in the bottom. Their wagons began to move, and they concluded to take to the trees, and they did it and were saved. They were severely chilled and but for assistance arriving when it did, some of the family must have dropped into the water and drowned.


He heard the terrible noise caused by the approaching flood and arose and made a light. Soon the waves struck the house and he supposed it was gone; but remembering that it should be weighted down, he carefully let in enough water to fill the room to the depth of three feet and closed the door securely, and no more water came in. In the mean time his wife was safe on the top of the furniture he had piled up on the bed, and so beyond the loss of his fences, fruit and ornamental trees, Mr. Singer's loss is not great.


Only a few persons dared go over Spring creek into the timber, and those that did go were not provided with food and dry clothes. So a rope was thrown over the stream at Kinkaid's and fastened, and over this was passed food and clothing for the half-clad, shivering and hungry flood-victims. Hardly an individual rescued had on any but night clothes, and many were entirely naked.

A stout cable was also stretched at this place, and rigged with a pulley and ropes, a seat was attached, and soon a number of persons had made the trip over and engaged in the search. Those rescued were also sent to this side and taken to temporary homes.

The bodies of Mrs. Harris and her daughter, the only two bodies found on the peninsula, between Elm and Spring creeks, were also hauled over on the cable to the western bank.

Another cable was put over Elm creek at the bridge, which was broken, and this made the connecting link with the country east of Elm creek.


Tuesday before noon when hundreds of people were assembled on the banks of the terrible Elm, it was suggested that a public meeting should be called that the work of discovering the dead and rescuing the living might be proceeded with an order. Mayor Stone concurred in the idea, and Sheriff Rigg notified the people to be at the district court room, the Gobellis building, at 10 o'clock. At the hour named the large room was filled with willing workers. W. W. Cook called the meeting to order. Judge Orner was called on and explained its object, and made remarks appropriate to the occasion. He stated that he would not hold district court while such excitement existed, and when litigants, attorneys, jurors and everyone should be engaged in aiding suffering humanity in this deplorable calamity. On motion of E. Sample the mayor, city council, W. W. Cook and Nick Sherlock were requested to act as a relief committee. It was also requested that the council meet that night.

Volunteers to aid in the work of rescuing and hunting for victims of the flood were called for, and it turned out that every man in the crowd was willing to go. Sheriff Rigg was elected captain, and the crowd ordered to meet at the Kinkaid place, south of town, and it met there, to the number of several hundred, at once, on horseback, in buggies, on foot-everyway. A delegation of a dozen or more, under the captaincy of Marshal Forbes, were dispatched up the Medicine river. The others were sent up and down Elm and Spring creeks, on both sides. The result of the labor of the searching parties is given elsewhere.


The district court room was turned into a morgue, and as soon as a body was recovered it was taken there and properly cared for and dressed. A party of ladies, so many that their names even cannot be mentioned, tenderly cared for the dead women and children, while a willing lot of men attended to the bodies of the males. Nice coffins were furnished by John Higgins, and neatly trimmed, and into these the bodies were laid as fast as prepared for burial. During the day, ten bodies in coffins were laying in the room, and these were looked at by hundreds of visitors during the day. Not a body appeared free of scratches, though the tender and careful handling of the ladies nearly succeeded in aiding these unpleasant sights from view.

The first lot of these bodies were started to the cemetery at 11 o'clock Wednesday; but not until Rev. Gillam had offered fervent and feeling prayers for the deceased. The ladies present engaged in a song service.

Mrs. Maddox and her two little sons were first buried; then in the afternoon her two daughters, and grown son, and Jerry Gibbs and his daughter and grand daughter, and about sundown, Charles Smith, the last body recovered, was laid to rest.

John Upperman was the captain of the grave digging force, and saw that the resting places of every body was properly marked.


The general opinion now is that the wife of Frank Shepler and their two year old boy met their death in the flood. Nothing has been heard of them since Frank placed them on the roof, and it is now known that the house was dashed to pieces before or soon after it reached the medicine river. Most of the wreck of this house has been discovered, but part of the roof has not, and there is a faint hope that Mrs. Shepler and her child may have clung to this, and that it may have gone down the river. These are the only two persons now unaccounted for, and they may be found. Mrs. Shepler is a daughter of Mr. J. V. Fishburn, of Sun City, and her brother is here assisting in the search. Her husband and his folks are terribly distressed over her absence.


The people on Elm creek, even as far up as 20 miles, felt the full force of the flood. A tremendous rain commenced falling early in the evening and continued until long after midnight. At 2 o'clock the village of Elm Mills, on the north side of the stream, was inundated, the water reaching several feet higher than ever before known. No lives were lost at that place, and the only damage reported is the loss of fencing, shrubbery and loose timber. Johnson & Denton's mill was not damaged, though their mill-race and dam were cut up considerably. Their damage will not exceed $100.

The house of Mr. Davis, the head miller, was moved off the foundation, and the family considerably shaken up.

Coming down on the north side of Elm creek, and the damage may be reported as follows:

Chas. Chadwick lost 3 horses, 15 cattle, a lot of hogs, all of his fences and corrals on the stream, and his house was badly torn up.

Below him, Robert Hamiliton lives, and he lost fencing, corrals and 40 head of fine hogs.

Pleasant Valley school house, district No. 27, was washed entirely away, though it was securely built and an embankment thrown against it.

Philip Butcher, the next place below, lost a long string of fencing and several head of stock.

Mr. Sherlock lost a lot of corn and his fencing.

Amber was not damaged, though the water was over the entire bottom in front of there. Warren, who lives below Amber, only lost fence. Ike Malrose, nearby, lost fencing and perhaps a few head of stock. His house was up high and dry.

At Henry Bleckhabus' place, four miles north, a family named Merrick, consisting of man and wife and three children were living. Two campers were near by and first noticed the flood coming and awoke the people in the house. The husband and father went to the window and saw that the water was up half way on the lower sash, and so he lowered the top one and climbed out with his oldest child on his back and the baby in his arms, his wife followed with the other child on her back, and the party started to a tree nearby. The husband started his wife up and then followed with a child clinging to his back and holding the other with his teeth! All were saved.

Below this place is Mort Strong's. His loss is confined by fence torn out and a part of his meadow land covered with drift. he considers himself fortunate.

P. H. Chapin is south of Strong, and his damages will foot up considerably. His fences and corrals are badly torn up. No more houses are on that side of Elm, near the stream.

VanSlyke's pasture was covered with water, and his fencing washed out however.

And now, returning to Elm Mills and crossing over on the south side, the damage may be reported in order:

P. J. Stewart lost 15 head of cattle and his fencing. Nothing more of interest occurred on that side until the Paddock place was reached.

George W. Paddock, with his wife and four children lived in the Elm creek bottom, in a heavy log house, supposed to be four feet above high water marks. Every one of the family was drowned, and only two logs remain to mark where the house stood. The bodies of Mrs. Paddock and the children, three boys ranging from 3 to 7 years, and a girl baby aged 10 months, were found near Samuel Ferguson's, who lived a mile below, and who is a brother of Mrs. Paddock. The bodies were buried Wednesday afternoon in the Ferguson cemetery. The body of 'Squire Paddock had not been found up to yesterday evening; but he is undoubtedly drowned, and perhaps buried under tons of drift and sand. Mr. Paddock was justice of the peace in this township for quite a while, and was well known and generally liked.

Next to the Paddock place lived Sam Ferguson and family. He, his wife and four children barely escaped death by climbing into the attic of their house. It is built of cottonwood and concrete, and was not washed away, though badly wrecked. Mr. Ferguson lost his fencing and several head of cattle.

John Wheat, wife and three children saved themselves by climbing into the loft of their house. The water was several feet deep below them and the building was damaged.

J. R. Brown's house was surrounded by water and driftwood, and the water came nearly on a level with the tops of the beds. He lost 50 head of cattle, a large young orchard and his entire garden spot. He made a business of raising vegetables.

N. S. Priest lost several head of cattle and 2 1/2 miles of fence.

Dr. Brattan lost a number of head of cattle and fencing and Robert Warren fared in a similar manner.

S. K. W. Fields was damaged by loss of fences and several head of cattle.

Charlie Currie lost a number of calves, a fine young colt and any amount of fencing. His orchard is badly damaged. Elm creek cut through his place into Spring creek, and unless this break is repaired great damage must ultimately follow.

Elm creek bridge, at Curry's place as not seriously damaged though the approaches to it are gone. The bridge across Spring creek at Curry's place, is still standing.

John Beebs lost a number of cattle and his bottom fencing.

Eli Smith's and Mr. Payne's pastures were also damaged and cut up, and the bottom fences torn out.

This, then, brings us to town, on the south side of Elm and Spring creeks.


As far west as we have heard from, destruction and devastation visited the farms and ranches on the Medicine river. The oldest in inhabitant had never heard of the water being so high by four feet, and houses that were supposed to be above the highest water marks were surrounded by water, moved great distances and even destroyed .

Louis Lockart's house, just above Sun City, had water a foot deep in it; and in fact all the houses in the bottom. Jake Bibb lost several head of cattle. Turkey and Mulberry creeks were as high as the Medicine, and in every direction from Sun City fences, stock and crops were destroyed.

The Evans ranch, above Lake City was badly damaged, and several head of stock lost. It went through a similar experience last year.

All of the bottom south and east of Lake City was covered, though the town escaped. The heavy rain flooded the streets, but did no particular damage. Sand creek, east of Lake City was very high. Frank Gordon above Lake City lost his corrals, feeding troughs and any amount of fencing. His fine Hereford bulls had been taken from the feeding lots the day before.

Lake's pasture was damaged by the fences being taken away.

R. L. Carter, who owns the Carl place lost a number of cattle and a large amount of fencing.

J. A. Andrews lost several head of cattle in the Medicine river flood and thinks that many of his cattle on Elm creek will be found dead.

Dolly Espey's and Dr. Bond's places were entirely surrounded, their houses considerably wrecked, and their families barely escaped. The same can be said of several other places south of the river. At G. W. Ebersole's the water ran into the house, and he saved his horses by taking them out of the top of the stable. A party of movers camped there lost their wagons and outfits and barely escaped with their lives.

The water extended over the bottoms on both sides of the Medicine in one solid sea, two miles wide all the way down past the Knight place, the Hooker place, the Hayes place, Vanslyke's farm occupied by R. F. Little and tore up miles of fences. A family camped in a tent near Little's saved themselves but lost a lot of furniture, bedding and household goods. And on to town this same story is told, on both sides of the river. The bottoms are covered with drifts and dead stock of every description; barbed wire is wrapped around trees and stumps, posts are everywhere, and the work of the flood can be seen for years to come.


Where the Medicine river and Elm creek come together a half mile southwest of town, was to be seen a grand though terrible sight, both streams being spread to their utmost capacity with floating houses timbers, dumb brutes and debris generally. The two volumes combined made a formable gulf, indeed, and life nor property could withstand its terrible ravages. It was in this abyss that more than one person was thrown never to raise again alive.

The McCoil property was badly cut up, and a strong current of water ploughed holes and furrows through it.

The Jacob Horn place was surrounded, the water was 44 inches deep in the house. He and family escaped by getting into the loft. His splendid orchard destroyed.

The water was four feet deep in Frank McAlister's house, and he and his family escaped by wading to a sand hill near by where they remained until the water receded.

The widow Moore's four children were in her house not far from McAlister's. The house was carried down the stream half a mile, and landed on a high point near Snodderley's.

Coon Scott's house was washed entirely away and the place badly damaged. The occupants were saved by climbing a tree.

D. J. Bullington and his daughter were living in a house which was nearly wrecked. They were not rescued until after noon.

Robt. Bullington's house was torn loose from its moorings, and floated down the river several miles and lodged on the Standiford's ranch. His family and himself saved themselves by clinging to trees and stumps.

At Standiford, Youman & Co's. ranch, 8 miles south of town a party had a narrow escape. W. W. Standiford, Charlie Wilder, his wife and a boy, 11 years old were in the ranch house, but did not hear the rush of waters until it had gathered in the room several feet deep. They then made for trees near by and climbed them. Wilder was afraid of his position and to better it, grabbed to a large floating log and went down river about a mile and lodged on a drift. Mrs. Wilder remained on a swinging branch for five hours, all the time holding to her little boy. The house and everything in it was entirely lost, including Mr. Standiford's trunk and all his valuables and keep-sakes. The fences on the ranch were generally washed out.

At John Spark's place the usual damaged was done-everything was inundated.

And so it went, as far down the river as has been heard from; live stock was floating away, fences destroyed, houses melted down and destruction is to be seen everywhere.


No hacks or stages left here for the north, east or south Tuesday, and no mail came in from those directions. Elm creek could not be forded on the north Spring and Elm creeks were barriers on the east, and the Medicine on the south and west could not be forded. The Lake and Sun City mails went out as usual. Tuesday evening the hacks came in from Attica, but few of the passengers were willing to risk crossing on the cables. Two or three did cross, however. Wednesday morning, under great difficulties, the hacks and stages left here for the east. Joe, the driver of one of the Concord's, made the first trip. Everything came in on time Wednesday night.


Hanging around every scene of disaster or misfortunate are to be found a class of harpies anxious to profit by the misfortune of others. Along the course taken by the devastating waters was strewn household goods, meat, furniture, wearing apparel, farming machinery, wagons, harness, lumber, posts, and in fact nearly everything to eat or wear or use. Much of this property is valuable, and some of it could be used in identifying missing persons, should there be any. Instead of leaving these articles to be cared for by the proper authorities, a while gang of people were engaged until yesterday in stealing from the drifts. Boxes and trunks were broken open and rifled, and the pockets of every garment turned inside out. One sufferer found his vest hanging on a limb, but a $20 bill had been taken from its pocket. Great loads of lumber have already been hauled away, and the officers think it will be necessary to issue warrants to recover the stolen property. It is now requested that every article found be turned over to Sheriff Rigg, or left at the barn, whether it is valuable or not.


It has been decided to have a general church service at the Presbyterian church Sunday afternoon, April 27th, at 3 o'clock, in which all of the ministers of the city will engage. At that time a general funeral service will be preached, prayer offered and appropriate hymns sung. It is hoped that the general public will be present. The house will accommodate more than 500.


From G. W. Sexton, who was there Monday night, we learn that Deerhead, a small place in the western part of the county, suffered from a small cyclone at that time. A. Field's store was considerably torn up; Charley Martin's house was slightly wrecked, and Edgar Leeper's house was removed some distance. A heavy rain visited that section and raised all the streams higher than they have been for years. No lives were lost as far as heard from.


Alex. McKinney attempted to swim Spring creek on a horse and came near being drowned.

Phillips and Lockwood lost 25 fine hogs they were fattening in their feed lots near the Durst place.

Mrs. Harris, the lady drowned, was plaintiff in a divorce case, docketed for the present term of court. Death removed the case from the docket.

Judge Samuel Berry of Wellington, arrived here Monday night, and was an interested spectator during the exciting events.

Riley Lake came near being drowned Wednesday morning in attempting to find a ford across Elm for the stages.

J. A. Williams, editor of the Prairie Dog, H. A. Noah, Riley Lake, Charlie Rankin and others from Lake City came down Tuesday to witness the sights.

George Horney was the first man to ford the raging Spring creek. At 7 o'clock Tuesday morning he swam his pony over, and then made his way down from Payne's pasture, assisting the flood-sufferers in all he could.

Cook & Hoffman's shop was blown off its foundation and moved two feet east. They were sleeping in the building and were considerably shaken up.

The school bell was tolled early and aroused many people who hastened to the scene only to be appalled, as they were unable to render any assistance to those in distress, owing to the turbulent flood.

With characteristic generosity our people supplied food and clothing to those who were rescued.

A cow and her calf attempted to cross Spring creek near Second avenue and both were drowned by the rushing streams.

Payne's eight head of horses were huddled together on a little knoll, the entire pasture being under water.

The window and door frames, lumber, shingles, etc., belonging to Ben Woodard's new house in course of construction Kansas avenue, were gently swept away.

One man, who is the representative of an estate with valuable property in this county, flatly refused to contribute a cent to the relief fund, claiming that as he did not live here he should not be asked to pay. His dead brother was a different man.

Not a horse or saddle could be hired, borrowed or stolen in this city Tuesday or Wednesday. The relief parties pressed everything into service.

Mayor Stone, Marshal Forbes and councilmen Bothwell, Ingraham, McKinney and Blickham and Treasurer Fleming were all active in rendering assistance. Councilman Ewart was out of town, and Police Judge McCandless was sick, or the entire city government would have been engaged in the good work.

Ness Cliff rode Charlie Tallaferro's Indian pony over among the sufferers early in the day and managed to lift several sufferers from their perches.

J. M. Sherpy is a heavy loser. His splendid garden and valuable orchard was ruined, but he is thankful that his house remained.

Bob Tallaferro had just spent several hundred dollars on his place, and lost all of his fences and shrubbery.

Freeman & Winter did splendid work with their men in building boats. So did Cook & Hoffman, and in fact all of the carpenters.

The busiest man, and the one who did the most ordering and the least work, was a cigar drummer, named March or April, or something of that kind.

The banks on either side of Spring creek were cut away by the swift current until it is twice its usual width.

Mrs. Beaver, on north Elm, lost 12 head of cattle.

Dr. Stout and wife went up Elm creek Tuesday to afford all the relief possible to their old neighbors who suffered by the flood. To them the INDEX is indebted for valuable information from that section.

The severe wind Monday night blew down Robert Means house, a mile and a half north of Elm Mills.

The brief subscription paper was headed by Standiford, Youmans & Eldred with a $100 donation; W. W. Cook and the First National Bank followed with like amounts, and other firms, and citizens were liberal in proportion.

Farmers L. M. Axline, Sam Northcraft and A. L. Noble, temporarily stopping in this city, all learned of their homes north and west of here being destroyed by the wind Monday night.

Hon. F. E. Gill__ts of Kingman, did not get here until Wednesday night. He started from home before the flood reached there, and first heard the news here.

The great crowd of strangers who were detained by the flood, and visitors who came in to satisfy their curiosity, have kept the Grand packed, even the halls being full of sleepers every night.

Charley Masten was one of the first to get over Spring creek, and render help to the sufferers.

J. S. Hyman attempted to swim the raging Spring creek, Tuesday, and was only prevented from drowning by being pulled to shore with a rope that was thrown to him.

George Ellis' hair and beard have turned grey since his hair-breadth escape.

Hansen & Welsh's brick-yard was not seriously damaged.

Uncle John Ramsey and Bill Young are given up to be the best boatmen in this section. Their craft did more solid work than any other on the river.

The Badger Lumber company gave away a large lot of lumber for boats and rafts. Our lumber men are all white.

It is now reported that Pratt Centre and Saratoga suffered extensively.

Sun City, Lake City and in fact all the neighboring towns sent delegations here to render assistance if necessary in caring for the living and dead.

Where so many did good in rescuing the living and caring for the dead it is impossible to mention every one, but in general terms we will say - that not a citizen, man, or woman shrank from duty last Tuesday.

The calvary brigade have not tired of searching yet, that a crowd is away town the Medicine river today looking for bodies.

W. L. Irish & Co. turned their lumber yards over to any one who wanted to make boats, and never charged a cent.

The stores in town were very generous in donating supplies to the sufferers.

Wm. Young, Vernon Lytle, Tom Dorna and Alpha Updegraft went down the river Wednesday as far as New Kiowa. They found where the roof from the Shepler house was torn to pieces, about 18 miles below here. Several persons thought they saw a woman and child on a floating roof, but the general opinion is that Mrs. Shepler and child are lost. Another party will leave here today to search the river banks and drifts even to Kiowa.

Frank Shepler's tool chest was found at the Blackstone ford, near Old Kiowa. Part of Bill Young's chest was found there.

There are three bay horses, stays at Dal Morris's place.

The dam at Turkey creek mills was washed away. Turkey creek did a vast amount of damage.

J. A. McSmith lived in the bottom in an exposed house, but he was not seriously damaged, though badly scared.

Wm. Wadkins' family sustained considerable loss in the way of clothing, furniture and household goods.

LATEST: Mrs. Shipley's body was discovered last night at dark, in a field, four miles below Kiowa.


A special to the Wichita Eagle, dated Tuesday says: The bursting of a supposed waterspout somewhere west of Kingman last night or early this morning caused death, destitution and destruction to the inhabitants of Kingman. About 9 o'clock this morning the Ninnescah river at the point began to rise at a tremendously rapid rate, but no attention was paid to it as there had been very heavy rains the proceeding night, and more or less since last Saturday. The morning and day had been bright and clear. The river rose five feet in thirty minutes and soon passed out of its banks, and even then the people did not fear any danger as it was generally believed from the riley condition of the water that the small mill dam above town had given away and that the water could not rise much more. But on it came and soon small out buildings, hog pens, sheds, boxes, wagons, etc., began to move and in an instant, seemingly, the whole of south Main street was a rush of seething, boiling waters, which tore houses from their foundations and sent them drifting. They crossed Main street on their way down the made river with families still in them, screaming and imploring succor. The water soon reached the bridge and began to pour into the Riverside hotel. The inmates were carried out in wagons across the north side, while the water had well nigh filled the streets on that side. Fully fifteen dwellings were carried down the Niagara current with men, women and children in them. The number drowned is unknown; certainly four women and one man are known to have lost their lives, and perhaps more, besides children. No names can be given in this dispatch, nor estimate of loss. At 3 p.m. the water began to fall. The city is taking care of the destitute. Meetings of citizens are to be held this afternoon.

The above dispatch was partially confirmed in the Eagle of yesterday, though only one woman was lost.

District court met and adjourned from day to day this week without transacting any business of importance.It is understood that Judge Orner will get down to hard work next week, and endeavor to get the Shipman case off the docket, and if possible, other criminal cases. An adjourned term of the court will likely be held some time during the summer.

(See: Court in the Old Days, The Barber County Index, February 4, 1937. This is an article about a divorce petition which was withdrawn because a Mrs. Harris and her daughter died in the 1885 flood of Elm Creek.)

Sharon News, April 29, 1885

Last week when the News went to press, we were unable to get any reliable information concerning the deluge that swept over the valleys of the Medicine River and Elm Creek. The story is reliably told in the following dispatch to the Wichita Eagle:

Medicine Lodge, Kas. Apr. 21. Special Dispatch to the Daily Eagle.

Some time during the latter part of last night a terrific rain storm broke over this section, and a devastating flood came sweeping down Elm creek, the principal tributary of Medicine river, which creek heads up near the line of Pratt county and falls into the river just east of this city. It is supposed that something like a cloudburst occurred near Elm Mills, or otherwise an unprecedented rainfall, as the waters came rushing down over the bottoms and valley of Elm in a perpendicular wave from five to twelve fee high, tearing out and carrying everything before it, houses, stock, trees, everything, leaving death and desolation in its wake.

Several entire families are known to have drowned without a moment’s warning . . . Mothers and sisters, fathers and sons, have gathered here uncertain of the fate of loved ones. Your correspondent went to the scene of disaster early this morning, and spent the entire day, and this dispatch is being prepared and will be sent the first opportunity to the nearest telegraph station. I saw and helped to rescue several people who were clinging to trees with nothing to protect their persons but night clothing, and some entirely nude. Their cries could be heard as early as 4 o’clock above the roar of the flood, and before day broke. The water began receding early and rapidly.

Three attempts were made to rescue parties beyond the river by boats hastily made. The occupants of the first one were thrown out, and only saved themselves by clinging to trees. The second boat was crushed like an egg shell against a tree, and the occupants left floundering in the water. The third boat met the same fate, and its occupants, three young men, lodged in a tree top, from which perilous position they were not rescued until evening. The other people who were rescued from trees and drifts were covered with spare clothing picked up and conducted to houses near by.

Five bodies have been recovered up to this writing and at 8 o’clock p.m. another was discovered but cannot be reached before morning, or until the water recedes farther. There were eight movers or emigrant wagons encamped in the bottom and all have disappeared. What became of the people is not known although one of these, an old man, recognized among the recovered bodies three of his own family, his wife and two little boys, aged respectively five and seven years.

Jerry Gibbs, his daughter and niece, living together, with their horse have all disappeared. The bodies of Mrs. Harris and her daughter aged eleven years, have been recovered. G.W. Paddock and family, consisting of his wife and four children have all disappeared and are supposed to be among the victims of the awful calamity.

Frank Shepler finding no means of escape, placed his wife, child and himself on top of the roof of this house as it sank down into the flood. He was knocked from the roof by a projecting limb and swam ashore in the darkness but the fate of his dear ones is unknown at this hour.

I have got all of the most distracting features of this awful calamity, but fearing the developments of to-morrow, I send you this by first opportunity which will least give your readers some idea of the heart-rendering situation until all the facts can be gleaned and sent.

The Medicine Lodge Cresset, April 30, 1885.

The only death outside of Barber county last week on account of the flood, was that of John McDaniel, engineer of engine No. 3, on the Fort Scott and Wichita road. In company the fireman and a brakeman he ran his engine down to the Ninescah bridge to get water. When in the center of the bridge it gave way, precipitating the engine and men into the raging stream. The fireman and brakeman succeeded in getting out alive, but the engineer perished.

The Medicine Lodge Cresset, Thursday, April 30, 1885.


Owing to the fact that we were compelled to go to press before the Medicine river or Elm creek became fordable, we were unable to obtain full particulars from the neighborhoods, either up or down the streams. Since our last issue the body of Mrs. Frank Shepler was recovered near the old Blackstone crossing, below Kiowa. She had been carried a distance of probably forty miles by the windings of the river. The body was brought to the Lodge and buried on Saturday afternoon. The body of her child has not yet been recovered. It seems probable that Mrs. Shepler lived for a considerable time after being swept out in the stream, and no doubt held bravely to her child until, so benumbed and exhausted that she could hold it no longer, and she and her child were both swept off the roof and under the angry waters.

The body of Squire Paddock was found on Friday near John Wheat's place, a little over a mile from where the house was swept away. The body was perfectly nude when discovered, which could indicate that the Squire had probably taken off his night-clothes, in the hopes, perhaps, of being able to swim out. There were several cuts and bruises on the face and body when found, and it may be that he was so stunned by these injuries as to be unable to help himself, but even if he had retained all of his strength and faculties, it would have been next to an impossibility for him to have escaped from the boiling torrent. In this connection we desire to correct a mistake made in our account of last week. Squire Paddock had four children instead of three, as stated. The father, mother and their four little ones have all been laid side by side in the quiet burying ground on Elm creek.

In addition to losses of property enumerated last week, we ascertain that Jake Bibb, who resides on Mulberry, south of Sun City, was a considerable loser, both in the way of stock and fences swept away.

Dolly Epsy, who resides near the mouth of Red creek, lost some 27 head of cattle out of a herd of 40, while himself and family barely escaped with their lives. As Dolly was just getting a nice little start in the stock business, the blow seems decidedly tough.

Geo. Ebersole barely succeeded in getting his horses out of the stable before it as completely under water. The last trip he made to save property was through water up to his armpits.

Wm. Horn had a large amount of wood and posts swept away, also a large amount of fence. A fine young orchard which he has been cultivating with great care was also ruined by the flood. He estimates his damages at about four hundred dollars.

Mr. Hooker lost some stock, though we have not been able to learn what amount.

Mrs. H. C. Rice, living down the river, lost all, or nearly all of his cattle.

Mrs. Moore's house was swept from its foundation and carried nearly a mile while the family were occupying it. None of them were injured, but Mrs. M. is out several head of stock.

Ben. Phillips is temporarily out of the hog business, having lost all of his porkers in the flood.

J. M. Sherpey's very handsome garden, which cost him an almost infinite amount of labor and care is almost ruined.

Herm Bailey and Charley Butman, had been feeding some 60 or 70 head of cattle on the bottom of the Landis place, but were fortunate enough to move them out on Monday night. If they had waited until Tuesday probably they and the cattle would have all been gone.

Frank Howe started on Monday evening with a heavy load and light team to the ranch on Dry creek, 11 miles east of town. By the help of another team he managed to get across the river at the Mart Updegraff ford about night fall. As the team was weak, the road to claim long and rough, Frank concluded to camp just beyond the river, but after he had gone into camp the sky looked so threatening that he concluded he would hitch to a buggy which he was hauling behind the wagon and pull out for the ranch. The conclusion was exceedingly fortunate, as a few hours afterwards the place where he had camped was under eight or ten feet of water. The wagon which Frank left at the camping place has not all been found. Under circumstances, however, the family do not seem to grieve over the loss of their wagon.

Since our last issue we have also learned of three other immigrants who were saved by taking to a tree near the Elm creek bridge. The party consisted of a gentleman by the name of Jones and his two sons, from Kentucky. They had taken claims, however, near Nescatunga, Comanche county.

Frank McAllister seems to be the only man along the river who seems to be in even tolerable luck. The flood swept out a pond near his house about five or six rods long by three or four wide and seven or eight feet deep. Frank has concluded that this will make an elegant fish pond and intends to stock it up with some choice varieties of the finny tribe.

Coon Scoot tells us that he had to roost for several hours in the loft, where he could let his feet hang down in the water below, but he comes up cheerful neverless.

Probably the longest swim ever made by a man in Barber county, was made by a man below Kiowa on Tuesday morning of last week. He was caught in the flood and took refuge in a small elm tree near the bank of the river. The water ran higher and higher until he concluded his perch would soon be submerged, and, stripping himself of what little clothing he had on, and fastening it as well as he could in the top of the tree, he plunged into the boiling current and struck out for the shore. The rushing water carried him down for about two miles, but he finally made it safely across.

The report reaches us that several persons were drowned on Salt Fork, but we have no information that we consider authentic, and have hopes that the report is greatly exaggerated.

Judge Vickers, who was in the city on Tuesday of this week informs us that a violent wind storm which almost reached the proportions of a cyclone, passed through Comanche county in the vicinity of Coldwater and did considerable damage to property, but no lives seem to have been lost.

N. S. Davis, of Elm Mills, whose house was so nearly carried away by the flood, has since been prostrated as a result of his exposure, and is suffering from hemorrhages of the lungs. His condition is considered critical.

Uncle John Beebe estimates his loss of cattle at about 20 head. His place also is considerably damaged. We think that $1000 would not more than cover his loss.

Geo. Henderickson lost a considerable number of cattle. The exact number is not known.

J. W. Magill, living 2 1/2 miles south of town, lost some 16 or 17 head of cattle and narrowly escaped with his own life.

Bob Bullington thinks he is out about 30 head of cattle. His house containing himself, wife and two children were carried half a mile. They managed to get out on the roof and there remained all day before they were rescued.

Mr. Stewart, on upper Elm, lost 15 cows.

Nath Priest lost between 50 and 75 head of cattle.

Ed Williams, who runs the Sparks headquarter ranch, reports the loss of two cows and about four miles of wire fence.

Mr. Wysong, living near Elm Mills, had a pony killed by lightning.

Coon Scott is out 16 or 17 head of cattle.

Lon Frame lost the roof of his house. It was blown off by the wind.

The Medicine Lodge Cresset, May 7, 1885.

The body of Frank Shepler's little child was recovered on the river's edge, near Standiford's ranch on Monday, and on Tuesday the remains of the little one were carried to the cemetery and buried by the side if its mother. This is the eighteenth and we think last victim of the awful catastrophe, which is yet vivid in the minds of our people.

The Medicine Lodge Cresset, May 7, 1885.



Sing, warbler, from the green-decked groves
Of canyon, creek and river,
Sing sadly, now, in accents low,
A kindred wail, for friends beloved
Will haunt these shores forever,

Twilight had deepened o'er the town
Upon that fatal even',
The moon, half gone, looked calmly down,
Mortals to sweet repose had gone
The issue was with Heaven.

Down in the grove, along the streams,
The camp-fires dimly smolder,
On grassy bed each weary head
Is slumbering in unconscious dreams-
At once the wind grew colder.

At once the rain in torrents fell-
Heaven's windows all were open-
Like fiend escaped the bounds of hell,
Rushed on - the spell was broken.

Like chaff before a mighty wind
Down went each cottage dwelling,
Respecting none, the waves swept on,
Grim death before - a sea behind
Still high and higher swelling.

Day had dawned at last, oh, direful scene,
Night's fading folds uncover-
As dawns the day, far, far away,
Where late were valleys robed in green,
Dark waves are sweeping over.

"Help! Help!" is heard on every hand,
But all in vain their calling:
Frail craft of wood not long withstood,
For mixed with drift and mud and sand,
The waters were appalling.

A voice came o'er the watery waste,
From out an elm tree, crying-
To stem the tide brave horsemen tried-
Still came the plaintiff call, "make haste,
Of terror, I am dying.

Five hundred dollars we will give
To him who will deliver
This maiden fair with golden hair;
Thus spake the crowd, but none could live
Who stemmed that roaring river.

Half clad, and chilled, did many wait,
Though wounded, torn and bleeding,
In friendly bough the hours drag slow;
At last they thank the hand of fate-
The waters are receding.

For many hours a lady held
Her grasp on sapling slender;
Above the tide, close to her side,
Though swift and dark the waters swelled,
She held her infant tender.

One more, the saddest of the scene,
Of one out-vied another,
Mother and child, mile after mile,
Drifted; at last the turbid stream
Engulfed both child and mother.

"Tis said that 'round her darling child
She wrapped her only cover,
Unheeding pain through wind and rain;
But useless all, the waters wild
Were soon to sweep above her.

Death is unwelcome, though he comes
Where friends smoothe dying pillow
And bid goodbye with tear and sigh,
Amid the pleasant scenes at home,
Safe from the raging billow;

But, ah, how dreadful, while they slept
The dark and seething river-
Unlooked for doom came all too soon,
The cold, cold billows o'er them swept
And stilled each pulse forever.

Farewell, and be a requiem said
For one and all who perished:
Sweet by your sleep though buried deep
'Neath sand, or in the church-yard laid,
Your memory shall be cherished.

(Written at Cumminsford, Apr. 23, 1885, by Scott Cummins, whose nom de plume was "The Pilgrim Bard". For a printer-friendly copy of this poem, see: The Flood.)

List of the Victims of the Flood

1. Jerry Gibbs

2. Mrs. Julia (Gibbs) Harris, daughter of Jerry Gibbs.

3. Ella Harris, daughter of Mrs. Harris, granddaughter of Jerry Gibbs.

4. Sharlotty (Fishburn) Shepler, wife of Frank Shepler.

5. Robert Shepler, son of Frank and Sharlotty Shepler.

6. Mrs. Samuel Maddox

7. Maddox daughter, age 11.

8. Maddox daughter, age 9.

9. Maddox son, age 7.

10. Maddox son, age 5.

11. Mr. Smith of Cowley County.

12. Mr. G. W. Paddock

13. S. R. Paddock (Mrs. G. W. Paddock)

14. Thomas R. Paddock, son of G.W. & S.R. Paddock

15. Charles O. Paddock, son of G.W. & S.R. Paddock

16. Joseph Paddock, son of G.W. & S.R. Paddock

17. Clara Paddock, daughter of G.W. & S.R. Paddock

18. Paddock infant, child of G.W. & S.R. Paddock

19. John McDaniell, railroad engineer, outside of Barber county.

(List compiled by Shirley Brier.)

"April, 1889 (sic - should be 1885), the Axtell family arrived in Medicine Lodge, Kansas, at the time of the terrible flood. Working with his team Will helped clean up the debris of the flood." -- Biography of William Allison Axtell, The Chosen Land: History of Barber County, Kansas, page 414.

"My grandfather, Henry H. Hardy, was discharged from the Union Army before the end of the Civil War because of illness contracted from severe exposure. He returned to his home at Shelbyville, Ill., where he married Theressa Lockwood, a teacher, after promising her that her mother and sister, Abigail Lockwood, might share their home. Abigail taught in the Shelbyville schools until the family decided to come to Kansas, hoping to benefit Henry's health. They arrived in Barber County in March, 1880, and first lived on a farm on Cedar Creek, west of Medicine Lodge, where their half-dugout home was damaged in the flood of 1885." - -- Biography of Henry H. Hardy, The Chosen Land: History of Barber County, Kansas, page 219.

"Our parents were old timers in Barber County. Our father, known as G.R. or Green Harris, was born at Independence, Missouri, on January 24, 1854. The son of Alexander R. Harris and Eliza Harris, he first came to Barber County in 1883 for a short time. In 1884 he returned to make his home here. Our mother, Sarah D. Weidner, was born January 4, 1867, at Salina, Kansas, the daughter of William Hillory Weidner and Sarah Jane Weidner. The family moved to Wichita and lived there for some time. Our mother was twelve years old when the family moved to Medicine Lodge to make their home. They were living in Medicine Lodge at the time of the flood, and their house was swept from its foundation by the water and lodged between trees." -- Biography of Green Harris, The Chosen Land: History of Barber County, Kansas, page 219.

"George W. Horney was 30 years old and a haberdasher in Springfield, Ohio, in 1878, when he decided to come to Medicine Lodge, Kansas, to be a cowboy. George, the youngest of eight children born to Jeffrey and Catherine Janes Horney of Jeffersonville, Ohio, was a big man, referred to in an early Medicine Lodge newspaper as "the biggest and best natured man on the range." George rode for the Eagle Chief Pool, the T5, and the Comanche Pool. He was in the barber shop north of the bank on the day of the robbery, heard the shots, picked up his gun to run out the back door of the shop, had the wrong size ammunition so went back. This probably savd his life because he would have been within easy range of the gunmen. He had been in cow camp many times with Billy Smith, one of the robbers. During the flood of April, 1885, George performed heroically in rescuing the family of Frank Rigg, marooned in their gypsum house on Spring Creek, east of the Methodist Church. The house did not wash away, but the family was trapped in waist deep water. George rode his horse across the swollen stream several times until he had carried out all members of the family. Once his horse fell in the rushing waters, but recovered its footing, and they continued the rescue." -- Biography of George W. Horney, The Chosen Land: History of Barber County, Kansas, page 238.

"Upon his arrival in Kansas, John Luallen entered in the restaurant business. During the flood of 1886 (sic) he helped make boats and rescued several families from the high water." -- Biography of John Luallen, The Chosen Land: History of Barber County, Kansas, page 284.

"On April 6, 1892, Nute Martin married Elizabeth (Root), who was also from a pioneer family. Jacob H. and Susanna (Large) Root brought their children to Barber County in 1885. The family was living west of Medicine Lodge at the time of the big flood of 1885. The flood drove them from their home at night. Seven feet of water stood in their home, soaking their entire belongings. The Root family soon moved to a claim on higher ground." -- Biography of Nute Martin, The Chosen Land: History of Barber County, Kansas, page 317.

"The McColls sold that place and moved to a farm 1/2 mile south of Medicine Lodge on the Elm Creek bottoms where they lived when the big flood came on April 21, 1885. One of the Maddox boys' body was kept in the house all day as they could not get a wagon in or out until evening." -- -- Biography of William Hugh McColl, The Chosen Land: History of Barber County, Kansas, page 293.

"Frank Shepler and Sharlotty Fishburn were married November 26, 1879 at Sun City by W.E. VanTrees, Justice of the Peace. They had one son, Robert. Mrs. Shepler and Robert were among those drowned in the flood of April 20, 1885. The family was living north of Medicine Lodge on Elm Creek at the time. A total of 18 lives were lost. It was two weeks before Robert's body was found. Frank Shepler and Mary Wennet were married June 30, 1889 at Medicine Lodge. They lived in Medicine Lodge for a time, later moving to Oklahoma, finally settling in Alva, where they lived until their deaths." -- Biography of Samuel Jefferson Shepler, The Chosen Land: History of Barber County, Kansas, page 414.

The Great Flood of 1885

Excerpt from Perils of the Plains

by Hattie (Pierce) Wimmer

When spring came we started work on a good, big sod house. It was a big job to cut and haul and lay up the walls, but by all of us working we soon had it up. While Daddy and brother Rube had gone to the railroad 64 miles away we had our first experience with frontier life. The Great Flood of 1885. The next morning after they had left we could see great thunderheads in the southwest and north. Such lightening and thunder we had never experienced. By noon it had almost turned day into night. Soon the water began to fall in great sheets until nightfall. We stayed in our dugout which leaked very bad. Most of the dirt had washed from the roof. The canyon north of us had turned into creeks and the valley began to fill. By midnight it was a great tumbling river. It backed into our dugout until it was waist deep. Mother told us we must flee or we would drown. We made our way out and up the bank to the flat lands, but it seemed we must drown standing there. So we made our way to the east wall of our new sod house wall, which made protection from the wind, and there we stayed most chilled to death until day break came. Then we went to the west side of the wall and there viewed a dreadful sight. The valley was a tumbling river. We could see large bunches of cattle that had been trapped in the timbered canyons to the north and washed out in the flood. Most of them were floating on their side, dead, but many of them swimming high as they went by. We could see their long horns clip together as they would turn their heads and look our way, as if to say, "Would you please throw us a line?".

-- Perils of the Plains by Hattie (Pierce) Wimmer. An account of pioneer life as experienced by Will and Hattie Wimmer, how they met, married, and lived within the boundaries of the vast Comanche Cattle Pool of South Central Kansas in the late nineteenth century.

"Elloise Leffler related the following to me many years ago: Lillie Hoagland, later Mrs. Henry Sollers, and Ida Hoagland, later Mrs. Lundy Hawkins (both of whom were sisters to Frank Hoagland, my 2nd great grandfather), were working at the Grand Hotel during the flood. They recall hearing the shrieks and cries of the people being washed away." - E-mail from Kim (Hoagland) Fowles to Jerry Ferrin, 9 March 2007.

The Medicine Lodge Cresset, May 27, 1886.


At the residence of Frank LaFebre in this city, on Sunday, May 23rd, 1886, Arthur Hart was married to Mary M. Harris by Probate Judge H.H. Hardy. It will be remembered that Mary Harris' mother, sister and grandfather were drowned in the flood over a year ago. Uncle Jerry Gibbs was her grandfather.

Also see:

Lines, a poem from Musings of the Pilgrim Bard by Scott Cummins, "Rehearsed at the "Old Settler's Picnic in Paddock's Grove on Upper Elm Creek, Barber County, Kansas, September 16, 1886, on the grounds where Esq. Paddock and his entire family drowned in the flood of 1885."

Paddock Cemetery, (also known as Haas Cemetery) - 8 miles north of Medicine Lodge. The Paddock Cemetery is named for the 7 family members who were washed away in the Elm Creek flood of April 21, 1885, and are buried in the cemetery. Photos courtesy of Nathan Lee.

Court in the Old Days, The Barber County Index, February 4, 1937. This is an article about a divorce petition which was withdrawn because a woman and her child died in the 1885 flood of Elm Creek.

Pfc. Chester Hagerman, U.S. Army - This page in honor of World War I casualty Chester Hagerman includes two pre-1918 photos he took of Elm Creek and the Medicine River during a flood.

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Thanks to Kim Fowles for finding, transcribing and contributing the above Sharon Times and The Kansas Prairie Dog news articles to this web site! Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above Barber County Index and Medicine Lodge Cresset news articles to this web site!

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