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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Revisiting Henderson's Past: 1937 Flood

It's time to take another peek into the archives ...

Beyond the Swelling Flood

Over the past week, Henderson County has seen its share of flood waters. With the river cresting at nearly 44 feet on March 23rd, 2008, several county residents experienced property damage, as well as personal grief. However, there are some Henderson occupants who remember a flood far more stirring and far more destructive than the one we saw this week.

In January 1937, much of the Ohio River Valley was struck by the “Great Flood.” After eighteen days of wintry precipitation and two days of unrelenting rain, the Ohio River crested at just under 54 feet, submerging much of the Henderson wharf and indiscriminately disquieting Henderson Countians. The city of Henderson was relatively fortunate. Located on some of the highest land in the tri-state, it was during the 1937 flood that the town acquired the motto, “on the Ohio, but not in it.” Though the city of Henderson was undamaged by flood waters, several towns within the county’s lowlands found themselves in desperate need. Approximately 1,200 houses were flooded, 6,150 livestock were lost, and 3,000 acres of land were dramatically eroded.

It was at this time that relief agencies such as the Red Cross, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Work Projects Administration, and the National Youth Administration began to establish care centers in buildings throughout the city of Henderson. Churches, schoolhouses, fire barns, and lodges became shelters and distribution stations for food, cots, and blankets. Ships from various parts of the country brought food, supplies, and clothing to an estimated 6,000 evacuees.

Since the Great Flood of 1937, Henderson has not seen a comparable flood. The event is marked forever as one of the most tragic episodes in the history of the tri-state.

To read more about the 1937 flood or other floods in Henderson’s history, come visit us at the library. You can read 1937 Flood of Henderson County by Juliet Alves Johnston, newspaper articles on the flood, or view any one of our many other resources. You may also want to visit our genealogy page or read previous “Revisiting Henderson’s Past” entries.

Photo is of Henderson’s wharf during the 1937 flood. The long brick building visible near the left side of the photograph was the Imperial Tobacco Company. The structure is still located on Third and Water Streets.

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