GALLIPOLIS — With flooding often taking place in the Ohio Valley in the early portions of the year, Ohio Valley Publishing takes a look back at historic photographs and stories run in the Gallipolis Daily Tribune during the time of Gallia’s worst period of flooding in 1937.
As reported in the Daily Tribune and written by The Associated Press, January 27, 1937, “Compulsory evacuation of millions — embracing all persons living within 50 miles of both sides of the Mississippi river from Cairo, Ill., to New Orleans — has been ordered by the United States Army high command as the mighty flood of the gorged Ohio river swept on to threaten new heights of disaster. Thirty-five thousand motor trucks were immediately mobilized to carry out the greatest exodus in history. Secretary of War Harry Woodring, acting swiftly in America’s greatest emergency since the World War, announced headquarters would be established at Jackson, Mississippi. With the army of homeless swelled to 750,000, the toll of known dead by drowning reached 137. Hundreds more are missing, and estimated property damage soared far beyond $300,000,000.”
The story further reported that it took four days for the waters to rise to record height in the Ohio River Valley.
J.R. Gwinn, then Gallipolis City Manager, requested the public use no more water than what was absolutely necessary. There were to be no boats of any kind in the streets for sight seeing, but only in cases of real necessity. Telephones were not to be used unless for emergency and individuals found on the streets late at night “unemployed” would be subject to the penalties of loitering ordinances. Businesses selling intoxicating liquor were closed and police were ordered to shoot anyone on sight seen looting.
The great flood of 1937 saw the highest recorded river crest in Gallipolis at 69.60 feet, narrowly beating the 1913 flood which saw a crest of 67.90 feet.
Local agencies were said to have been cooperating with the Red Cross Disaster Unit during the flood as reported in the paper: “Greater coordination and efficiency and less friction are expected to result from a conference held last night at the Lafayette Hotel. City and county officials, Chamber of Commerce leaders and perhaps others attended. At its conclusion, a spokesman issued the following statement: ‘Due to a misunderstanding, it has been thought by some that the Chamber of Commerce was operating as a relief unit. This impression is attributed to the fact that the Chamber’s offices and facilities were being used, and because of C. of C. officials were active in relief work. The set-up operating in this city is the regular Red Cross disaster unit and all local civic organizations, city and county officials are co-operating to met the emergency at hand to the best advantage.’”
Flood refugee Francis King died on lower Fourth Avenue.
The U.S. Congress was reported to have appropriated $790,000,000 to be allocated to flood relief to address the 1937 flood disaster.
Dean Wright is a staff reporter for Ohio Valley Publishing. Sarah Hawley contributed to this report.