Among the thousands of the victims of the recent flood disaster in Pueblo, Colo., were Mr. and Mrs. Victor E. Rockefeller and their daughter, Marguerette, who are well known here. Mrs. Rockefeller was formerly Miss Cora Ferrin, and is a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Ferrin of Wilmore and a sister of Mrs. Elza Holmes of this city. Mr. Rockefeller was employed for some time as a civil engineer in the construction of the Coldwater municipal water and light plant. Mrs. Rockefeller in a letter to her parents a week or so after the flood, gives a graphic description of conditions in and around Pueblo, the letter being printed in the Wilmore News of last week. We take the liberty of reproducing the letter herewith for the benefit of Western Star readers.
Mrs. Rockefeller writes:
Pueblo, Colo., June 9th.
Dear Folks: You no doubt have received word of our safety before this. Mama R. was probably most worried knowing of our location near the Fountain river and that Victor often worked nights at the power house. We couldn't get word to you before. The first few days, of course, the lines were cut off and when they did get one line through to Denver, it meant that I had to walk down town and back 10 blocks and stand in line for hours or Victor had to lay off to send the message. The need for men was so urgent that he couldn't do that, so we just had to let it go. Of course we are all stunned by what has happened. We have been through the ruins together three times and Victor of course every day and even now I cannot believe it more than a horrible dream.
Read the worst you can and believe it. I shall not try to describe it except to say the stricken district is utter dissolution. The newspaper writers with their facts cannot give you half the picture. No one can say with certainty whether 500 or 5000 lost their lives. It probably never will be known. Bodies are being brought in everyday from miles down the river. The rush of water was so terrific that hundreds must have been washed down stream and never will be found.
White and Davis, clothiers, and Pryor, Calkins, White and Dean, Creel, Crews and Beggs, in fact, every house or business of any size in town are heavy losers, if not total loses. White and Davis loss is total. They had a perfectly beautiful store and are one of the oldest houses here. Even Pryor's building is wrecked. The Santa Fe loading platform struck the corner. They are the oldest furniture store here. Dead horses and cows are found among the finery of the department stores. It's gotten on my nerves until I'm nearly crazy and we didn't suffer at all except from anxiety. We are four or five blocks from Wood Croft hospital and the Stearns Rouge foundry which were heavy losers in the Fountain flood. All the people in this section were ordered out on the street about 6 p.m. Saturday. Most of them went, but we stuck all ready to go until 9:30 and Victor went out on the street and learned that the crest of the Fountain flood had passed and we were safe and we went to bed but not to sleep. We were alone in the neighborhood. I helped the girl next door get her bedfast aunt up and out. Most of the people went to the Somerlid school house. Many went again Sunday night and through it all, rain and mist, with not a ray of sunshine - enough to break the spirit even in normal times.
Mr. Phythian, the construction superintendent on the new power house and Harry Wilcox, night man on Victor's gang, were in the flood all night. They hung to the steel work of the new building until they were rescued 15 hours from the time the flood struck. Wires were thrown to them from the second story of a building and they walked out and were dragged over a bridge, mind you, in water up to their chins, both almost exhausted and teeth locked from the cold. The night's happenings are seared on their brains for life. Fires lit up the scene. The roar of waters and crashing of timbers, and cries of people for aid, with lightning flashing and thunder rolling, it's no wonder people thought the end of the world had come. They saw men shoot their families and then themselves. Water was 15 feet deep in the Union depot and down town in the heart of the business section it was up to the second story floor.
They are hauling the dead animals out two blocks from us, truck after truck. We've no milk because our milk man is in East Pueblo and bridges are all gone. Other dairies have lost all their horses and wagons. We have no ice because horses and wagons are wiped out. We've no telephone because while the plant might be put in shape, wires all over town are in a tangle of debris which will take days and days to untangle, poles down, wires crossed, everything chaos. We have water and lights, which we were without for several days - lights from the steel works. The men are working night and day to get the power plant in shape, forgetting all about new work. Victor went to work yesterday afternoon and got back at 8 o'clock this morning. He will go out at 5 tonight and get back some time in the night. He has a military pass which enables him to come and go any time and anywhere, but believe me, I am nervous at night. No one is allowed in the area at all after 7 p.m. without a good sound pass and there's always the fear that some guard will get excited and not wait for a man to show his reason for being out at night.
There is a soldier camp two blocks from us and a detention camp for contagious diseases and an aviation camp at Fairmount Park not far from us - airplanes flying over us continually. It's all very serious and warlike. A detachment of soldiers just marched out on Greenwood - one block west. I don't know where they were going - guns and all. We are told there are Missouri troops here.
You probably know more about what is going on than we do. The Pueblo Chieftain (without power) is getting out a little two sheet paper each day and we got a Denver paper for the first time yesterday. Pueblo has asked for Federal aid, for rebuilding and flood protection. With thousands homeless and the town at the mercy of the rivers we've got to have it or we might as well move out. Pueblo single handed could never even clean up, let alone rebuild. It is incredible the stuff that will have to be cleaned out - millions of tons of mud and debris - not to speak of animal and human bodies. We're worrying about epidemics now. It has turned hot, disinfectants and serums are scarce and the work of cleaning up the dead bodies is so slow, it seems it would be a miracle if we escape a terrible pestilence.
We have a girl staying with Marguerette occasionally, one of a family of five children. Their home was washed away and they saved only a few clothes. She came yesterday and stayed with M. while we went down and viewed the ruins. It has a terrible fascination for everybody.
There is a taxi running from 24th and Grand now. Victor has been lucky to catch rides to and from his work or it would be hard on him.
Across the corner they are washing and drying goods from the Crews-Beggs store. I don't know what it's good for - a flood sale I suppose. The clean part of town is full of stuff from the stores farmed out to be cleaned and dried. Many stores did not have anything left to be washed even. They were just flooded out from front to back swept clean. Just place a wood box bottom up and knock out both ends and you have the condition that exists down on Union avenue in the stores. It really can't be exaggerated. For several days we didn't have fire protection and now without telephone word could not be gotten to the fire department so that there have been several destructive fires to add to the loss. A big lumber yard burned up the night of the first flood in a downpour of rain. Burning timbers floated all over the flood, endangering the whole business section. Victor saw a big two story rooming house burn just before dawn this morning.
Marguerette celebrated her first birthday in a hilarious manner. Had a little party for lunch, fell off the bed for the first time and ended up with a flood. We shall not soon forget her first birthday.
We were at the majestic theater the night of the flood. Lights went out about 8:30 and they tried to go on with the show with candles and flashlights. About nine o'clock they announced there was no use to continue. The manager came out and said, "The water is two blocks down the street, but if you go out quietly there is no danger." the crowd was quiet and were controlled. When we got out the water was rushing into the alley between 3rd and 4th on Main already to the officers' knees with White and Davis already under water at 3rd and Main. We were at 4th between Main and Santa Fe. An hour later the place where we sat in the theater was six feet under water. The water rose until it was between 6th and 7th on Main so that there was not a single business of any importance in Pueblo that wasn't injured from a few hundred to a quarter of a million dollars. All the wholesale houses, packing houses, freight and express offices, commission houses, every single thing you can name except the steel works out in Bessemer and the Baker steam motor plant out northwest. I don't see how the property damage can be overestimated. Victor and Marguerette are both asleep. We aren't suffering in the least - have plenty of good food. M. is taking canned milk. We are afraid to use what is available and cannot keep it without ice anyway. We even have fresh strawberries from one of the neighbors.
Love to all,
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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