River Voices: A Portrait of an         
           American River Community

Portsmouth January 1937

Connie Ackerman and Roger Roberts are bringing another film to Big Walnut Area Historical Society at 7:30 Tuesday, January 9th in the Myers Inn Museum Meeting Room. "River Voices: A Portrait of an American River Community" tells the story of the January 1937 Flood in Portsmouth and the impact on its people. This film predates the painting of the flood wall which we watched at another program.

Programs of the historical society are free and open to the public.

After the March 1913 flood which killed 467 people, cities along the Ohio River built flood walls to protect them in case such an event should happen again. Portsmouth built a wall 10 foot higher than flood stage. Surely the people felt safe as the rains of January 1937 continued day after day. All along the Ohio river, the water kept rising.

What will happen if the water goes over the wall? Following the depression, there is no extra money for repairs.  Officials made the tough call which flooded the business district with 8 to 10 feet of water.

Delaware County natives have heard of the devastation of the 1913 flood in Delaware. Many of us in Sunbury chuckle when we see FLOOD PLANE on plans for new buildings. Just below Community Library down to Prairie Run is flood plane. I am not sure of the exact date but I believe it was in 1959 I was riding the train from Lake Forest College north of Chicago to Marion, Ohio at the end of January for semester break. While we waited for our train in Union Station there was talk about the high water in the east. I watched out the train windows as the rails slowly disappeared below fields of water. My fear was for the tracks not Sunbury.

When my parents met the train at 2:30 a.m. in Marion, they asked about the high water and devastation I had seen and then told the flooding in Sunbury. Just a few days earlier, Prairie Run was out of its banks so far that people were riding in rowboats over Columbus Street. My Uncle’s family lived in one of the houses needing evacuation. Mother found herself with a houseful of people needing food and water. In the kitchen was a forgotten Civil Defense Cupboard with water, canned goods and first aid supplies we had collected as Girls Scouts and stored there. While the water tasted flat, it was still good. Within 24 hours the water dropped out of the village. It was only a taste of what folks in Portsmouth and other Ohio River towns go through.

In case of bad weather, check the website or call 740-965-3582 before 7 p.m. to see if the meeting is cancelled.

Myers Inn Museum and Gift Shop are open 12-3 on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays and 10-3 on Saturdays. Learn more about the museum and the historical society on the website at www.BigWalnutHistory.org.

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