Chippewa Valley, WI flood, Sept 1884



EAU CLAIRE, Wis., Sept. 12. - The terrible floods reached a climax last night, and the waters of the mad Chippewa River are slowly receding. There has been a fall of three and one-half feet since 10 o'clock last night. The entire Chippewa Valley presents a scene of devastation. From the northern limits of the city to the extreme southern part, wherever the ground is low, boats are moving about laden with household goods and furniture and people seeking places of safety. The east side of the city is one immense lake. Thousands of dollars' worth of damage has been done to sidewalks, fences, and cellars, to say nothing of the house carried away. From 34 miles above Chippewa Falls to the Mississippi River below devastation and ruin reign supreme.

First, $300,000 worth of bridges have been destroyed, and half that amount will not rebuild the dams and booms that have floated off. Next in order come the millions of feet of logs which have escaped from the booms and become scattered. No estimate of their value can as yet be made. The river has been running full of them for the past 24 hours. Along the banks of the Chippewa, from Chippewa Falls to Wabasha, scores of buildings have been carried away, many of them having been demolished by the huge wooden bridges as they swung with the current. Among the houses and business blocks to float away to-day were Bonell's Building, a new block just completed; Mayhew's mills, three saloons, the Eau Claire City Railway's large car barns and stables, and six or eight small tenement houses and residences. The baseball park has entirely disappeared, whith many other landmarks. Hundreds of farms are submerged between here and Beef Slough, and scores of farmers are in serious danger. Many of them have no possible way of escaping to higher ground and are powerless in trying to rescue their property and stock from the rushing waters. Three mileof the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railway track are washed out near Cedar Junction. This company's station in Eau Claire is now desterted, with a foot of water upon the floor. As to the damage no estimate can be given, and it is almost impossible to get specials over the wires. Everything is confusion, and business is at a standstill.

To-day has truly been a terrible black Friday. Hundreds of logs, pieces of buildings and bridges still float past. The water is doing terrible damage to real estate. It is reported that many small towns between here and Wabasha are entirely destroyed. Only two men are reported drowned so far. The Wisconsin Central trains are not running. Only the Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha trains reach the city. The Eau Claire Pump [sic] and Paper Company's mill is only slightly damaged. The Lafayette and Badger mills are safe. The gas works are now a total wreck. City financiers seem utterly discouraged. Relief committees have been organized and hundreds of people are being fed in the Court House and Gospel tent of the Young Men's Christian Association, while the most destitute are being taken care of in private houses. The east and west sides of the Chippewa, which divides the city, are entirely cut off from communication with each other, except by way of the Omaha Railway iron bridge, which admits of the passage of foot passengers. It is situated so far up the river that a walk of four miles is necessary in reaching the business portion of the east side from the Court House. The heaviest losses are suffered by the poor people, who have had their homes swept away. The lowest estimate of the losses in the Chippewa Valley is almost $2,000,000. As damage is still being done, and as a large section of the devastated area is be heard from, it is safe to put the total loss and destruction at from $3,500,000 to $4,000,000.

The New York Times, New York, NY 13 Sept 1884