Rouarks Ranch, AZ Walnut Grove Dam Burst, Feb 1890

Only know photo of Walnut Grove Dam ARIZ.jpg

A Rush Of Waters.

A Dam Across the Hassayampa River Breaks.

Loss to Life and Wide Destruction to Property.

Prescott, A.T., Feb. 22.-The water in the Walnut Grove dam has burst its walls and has swept with relentless rage over the country, and many human beings are said to have perished. Following are some of those known to have perished: J. BAINES, wife and four children, B. BOONE, MISS BOONE, JOHN SILBY, JOSEPH REYNOLDS, MRS. MCCARTHY, T. MCMILLEN.

The fine large storage dam was built across the Hassayampa River by the Walnut Grove Water Storage Company, two years ago, at a cost of $300,000.

The service dam of the company is located fifteen miles below the reservoirs and fifteen miles of flume was just approaching completion.

It is estimated that the loss, including the enormous damage to property, will reach at least $2,000,000.

The company has spent over $8000, 000 on the new flume and on the enterprise of storing water for hydraulic mining and machinery had arrived and they expected to commence operations next week.

The dam which held the waters back was 110 feet long at the base and 400 feet at the top, and was 110 feet thick at the base and 10 feet a the top, forming a lake three miles wide and 110 feet deep.

Lieutenant Brodie, in charge of the works, was absent at Phoenix superintending the shipment of machinery to the works, and was saved.

The distance to the storage dam from Prescott by the shortest trail is forty miles, while the service dam, where the employees were located, is fifteen miles further down the stream. Immediately on the receipt of the news here Adjutant General O’Neil started for the scene of the disaster with two surgeons, to attend to the want of the sufferers and superintend the burial of the dead.

The courier came from the lower dam, and as the road down not come by the upper dam, it was only surmised that it had given way on account of the immense quantity of water.

A more hopeful feeling existed in the evening on account of the news being received direct, that the upper dam and reservoir was still intact and that the flood was caused by the opening of the gates to relieve it from the threatened danger, but the latest reports are that the big dam is gone.


Prescott, A.T., Feb. 23.-G. Arthur Allen, formerly interested in the Enterprise, and John Mcdonald, an owner of the Blue Dick Mine, have just returned from the Dozaris divide, fourteen miles south of town from where the view of the Walnut Grove Dam could be had, and report that it has gone without doubt. The wash waterway could be plainly seen with their powerful glasses, high up on the side of the cliff, while the break in the stonework of the dam was also plainly seen.

The break in the dam sloped to the eastward, leaving the impression that the main break was on the east side.

Daily Evening Bulletin, San Francisco, CA 24 Feb 1890


Many Persons Drowned

The Walnut Grove Dam Burst Proves to Be a Horrible Disaster.

Over Fifty Lives Lost in the Surging Flood-Happenings and Scenes of the Catastrophe.

Prescott, Ariz., Feb. 25.-[Special.}-A messenger arrived here late last night from the scene of the recent disaster at the Walnut Grove Dam with a list of the lost as far as known and a partial list of the survivors. Sheriff O’Neil, in a letter by this messenger says:

“ROUARK’S RANCH, Monday, Feb. 24.-The scene of desolation alone the Hassayampa below this below the sites of the dam is complete. A tornado could not have filled the bed of the creek with bodies and with enormous boulders, trees, and every other kind of debris. The following thirty-eight names are a partial list of the drowned: HANNAH MCCARTHY, maid to Miss Hanlon and Miss Vanburen; JOE REYNOLDS, miner; GEORGE ELSBETS, laborer; E. NICOTT, laborer; ALEXANDER MCMILLAN, coachman; FARMER VANBUREN; E.G. WHEELER, laborer; one Mexican, unknown; N. WHITE, laborer; JOHN [ILLEGIBLE], visitor; CHARLES KING, blacksmith; PATRICK SHAY, laborer; PATRICK BARRY, laborer; CHARLES BRACKEN, laborer; WILLIAM FLANAGAN, laborer; FREDERICK PALMER, laborer; CASPER [ILLEGIBLE], laborer; JOHN BROWN, engineer; ALEXANDER BROWN, engineer; S. BURTOGLE, laborer; L.D. HAYNES, laborer, and child; GEORGE RUMDELL, laborer, and eight Chinamen.

Among the survivors are Miss Mary Hanton, niece of H.S. Vanburen, president of the Walnut Grove water storage company; James Redington, hydraulic engineer; Paul Lansing, bookkeeper; Robert brow, merchant, and all his assistants. Edmund Silabee, H.S. Vanburen and his daughter, with Lieutenant A.N. Brodie, superintendent, were in Phoenix, having left for there on Tuesday preceding the disaster.

Besides these mentioned some twelve or fifteen miners, who were placed mining between the upper and lower dam with a number of ranches along the stream, are mining and when all the casualties are ascertained sixty lives. The bodies this far discovered number about a dozen, many of which were found twenty and thirty miles from the place where the flood overtook them all. The remains are more or less mutilated, while in several cases only fragments have been recovered as the force of the flood was so terrific than many bodies have doubtless been buried in the sand, others torn to pieces, and others carried far south. The impetus to the stream of water when turned loose can hardly be appreciated without going over the ground covered by it. Those who saw it say that it came down in almost a perpendicular wall ninety or 100 feet high, and apparently crushed down, instead of sweeping everything away before it. Immense boulders weighing tons were thrown around as a child might toss a ball. Enormous trees were broken in two or broken into shreds. Iron bars were broken or twisted out of shape and ordinarily flat iron was picked up and carried five miles and then embedded in the walls of the canon eighty feet above the present level of the stream. A large safe belonging to Robert Brown, containing in the neighborhood of $7,000, was swept away, and no trace has been found of it. Whatever the water struck went down. None of the victims were injured. All were drowned.

The flood struck the lower dam at 11:50 p.m. Five minutes later the headquarters five miles below were swept away. Several persons were at both points watching, but not withstanding this precaution the number of men drowned at the first point was over thirty, and those who escaped did so with only what they had on their backs, many only in their night shirts. Early on the evening of the 21st a courier, William Akard, was sent from the upper to the lower dam to warn the residents at the latter point that the former structure was in danger of breaking, but owing to the storm and darkness he could not keep ahead of the flood and lost his life in trying to cross the Hassayampa in view of the camp he was trying to save.

Charles Thompson, a courier, who arrived this afternoon from below Wickenberg and who lost his ranch above the lower dam, reports that nine bodes have been discovered at Wickenberg and three above, in addition to those already discovered. The old historic Brill ranch with all ranches along the river have been entirely swept away.
Omaha Daily World-Herald, Omaha, NE 26 Feb 1890

About sixty bodies have been recovered from the Walnut Grove; Arizona wreck. Coffins have been made at the lower dam and floated down to Wickenberg, where the bodies are buried as soon as found. All of the bodies are nude when found, and some are badly mutilated.

The Salt Lake Weekly Tribune, Salt Lake City, UT 7 Mar 1890