The Flood. A Poem by Scott Cummins, Barber County, Kansas Barber County, Kansas.  

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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.

-- Cumminsford, Apr. 23, 1885

(The Pilgrim Bard was the nom de plume of Scott Cummins.)

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.)

Also see:

The Great Flood of April 21, 1885, Barber County, Kansas. A collection of news articles and a poem about the flood in which 18 people are known to have died. The above poem was inspired by that flood.

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 Mrs. Julia (Gibbs) Harris and her daughter, Ella Harris, died in the 1885 flood of Elm Creek the night before the scheduled court hearing.

A Christmas in the Wilderness, 1871 by Scott Cummins. A story about some buffalo hunters' Christmas dinner near where Medicine Lodge, Kansas, was later established.

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Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above poem from the Medicine Lodge Cresset to this web site!

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