Wheeling, WV and Vicinity, Terrible Flooding Disaster, July 1888




Wheeling, West Va., July 20. -- Never since the disastrous flood of August, 1866, has Wheeling been visited by such a tremendous rainfall as occurred last evening. The storm of 1866 commenced at 10 o'clock at night and ceased at 3 in the morning. There were a number of deaths from drowning and lightning at that time, but when communication is once more restored with the various places along the track of last night's deluge, it is thought the former flood will sink into insignificance. It is impossible to give a correct list of fatalities, but the best estimate to-night makes not less than 25 drowned. Of these 10 were lost in the Caldwell Run, 8 were drowned at or near Triadelphia and West Alexandria, in the eastern, part of the county, 1 near Bridgeport, on the Ohio side of the river, 1, Ex-Sheriff KEMP of Marshall County, near Benwood, W. Va., and two or more on Whisky Run on the Ohio side opposite the lower end of this city. The list of dead is being constantly added to. The destruction of property is not so great as in the storm of 10 days ago, but the loss will probably exceed half a million of dollars.
The list of dead as far as could be learned to-night is as follows:
BARBARA STENZEL, aged 65 years.
HERMAN STENZEL, her son, aged 35.
DAN RICHIE, aged 13.
MRS. THOMAS HOWLEY and four children.
JOHN HOHMAN, aged 40.
MRS. JOHN FAY, aged 60.
ALICE FAY, a daughter, aged 25.
ex-Sheriff KEMP of Marshall County.
Two brothers names GERMAN, ages not known. Total, 21.
The storm broke over the city about 6 o'clock, and rain came down in sheets. There was no let up until 7:30, fitful showers, however, coming up afterward. It was not long until the streets were like rivers and the cellars of dwellings and business houses flooded. After the storm was over it was one swelling tide of wrecks, and when the moon finally shone out about 10 o'clock it looked upon a terrible scene of disaster.
The most frightful effects of the storm were experienced of Caldwell's Run. The narrow channel of this stream made the rushing water an irresistible flood, sweeping everything before it. During the rush of the waters the Market street iron bridge and Main street stone bridge were crowded with people watching the creek running out. It was an appalling sight and at the same time fascinating. The Baltimore and Ohio wooden bridge, just below, soon became an object of interest as the sweeping flood was leaping against it with terrific force, and its timbers cracking beneath the strain. A large crowd gathered at this bridge, and in spite of warnings many persisted in getting out on the trestle, and all at once and without warning the bridge was swept away, and above the sullen roar of the water and the cracking of the timbers could be heard cries for help from those who were carried away with the bridge. A number who clung to pieces of timber were swept into the river in the twinkling of an eye, and residents of the island opposite the mouth of the creek plainly heard the cries of distress as they drifted down the Ohio. It is impossible to ascertain the exact number of those who were on the bridge, but more than 20 persons are still missing.
The greatest disaster occurred on Caldwell's Run, where 10 persons lost their lives and a large amount of property was destroyed. The run is very crooked, and the flood as it swept through the city toward the river was churned into foam. Two bridges were swept away and about five miles up the run six houses were washed away or rather were crushed into fragments by the terrible force of the current that suddenly swept down on them. No lives are reported lost in this part of the city.
This morning thousands visited the scene of destruction. Workmen were engaged in repairing the two bridges, but it will be some days before travel over them will be resumed. The terrible and sudden death that overtook the unfortunate persons who lived on the run near the city cannot be fittingly described. No one can tell the agony of those who stared certain death in the face, the horror being increased by the roar of the deluge and the cracking of the timbers as the houses parted by the beating of the water against them. MRS. BARBARA HENZEL, a widow aged 65 years, resided about one mile up the run. THere were in the house at the time it was swept away her son HERMAN, aged 20, and ALICE and ANNIE WINGERT, aged 10 and 21 years respectively, of Miltonsburg, Ohio, nieces of MRS. HENZEL, who were paying their aunt a visit. The house they were in was lifted from the foundation and floated down about 100 yards where it lodged. Both ends of the dwelling had been crushed in when the house stopped. The kitchen attached to the residence of JOHN HOMAN was torn away and MR. HOMAN, who was in the kitchen, at the time clambered to the roof and jumped into the HENZEL house, and a few minutes afterward another swell lifted it up and it went to pieces, and all were plunged into the raging torrent and were seen no more. The next house to go was the residence of THOMAS HOWLEY. The occupants of the house at the time it was swept away were MRS. HOWLEY and her five children, one boy and three girls. The house was torn to pieces and all five were drowned. MR. HOWLEY, who was in the yard feeding a cow, was swept down the run for a distance of 100 yards and managed to reach the bank without receiving serious injuries. MR. HOMAN'S wife and children were in the country visiting and MRS. HOMANS was notified of the death of her husband. This morning the body of ALICE WINGERT was recovered in the run at Eoff street last night, and MRS. HENSEL'S body was recovered early this morning. Parties were engaged in searching for the remaining bodies to-day in the debris that is piled up in heaps against the Ohio River Road.
At Triadelphia the damage was especially great. Search to-day resulted in the discovery of a number of bodies of those who lived at Triadelphia. Most of them were found among the drift which collected at Elm Grove, some distance below. WILLIAM GASTON, aged 60 years, a wealthy and prominent man who owned the famous GASTON Orchard was drowned, as was his wife. MRS. GASTON'S remains were found near Elm Grove, two miles below her ruined home, and were hanging over a barbed wire fence when discovered. The body of CHARLES CAULBELL, aged 50, was found among some driftwood. MRS. JANE FAY, wife of MOSES FAY, and her two daughters, ALICE and BELLE, both of whom were grown up, were found dead near Elm Grove. The bodies of two brothers named GORMAN, both young men, were recovered in a meadow where they had been hurled by the furious waters.
The whole farming country is denuded of crops, and in many cases the soil is washed away over large tracts. Hundreds of heads of live stock were drowned and the desolation is general over a total area of about 300 square miles. The railroads, the Baltimore and Ohio, Cleveland, Lorain and Wheeling, Ohio River, St. Clairsville and Northern St. Clairsville, Southern and Pittsburg, Wheeling and Kentucky, lose heavily. The Baltimore and Ohio between Wheeling and West Alexander, Penna., has nine bridges washed away and the line to Pittsburg will not be open for two weeks. Other roads are just as bad or nearly so.

The New York Times New York 1888-07-21