Flood Time again Along the Ohio

As Ohio River floods go this first round one, now receding until the next course of rainfall, is a humdrum one for most of us, though it has caused misery for businesses and homeowners too near its reach.

Backwater got over the roads in three places that impact our movements in the lower Cabin Creek vicinity: between Owl Hollow and the Camp Spring bridge at the former John Boyd house, the junction of Owl Hollow Road and Ky. 984 (Cabin Creek Road), and Cabin Creek Road just above the Bethany Church. It seemed that only the one at the Boyd place totally blocked some people from bulling through. Today the backwater at Owl Hollow and above Bethany are gone from the roadways. I have seen folks attempt to cross the Bethany site and get stalled out so I did not challenge it. I went to my farm to dump walnuts in the woods this morning for the first time since Monday.

The only interesting note about this little flood has been the waterfowl I could see just by strolling down Owl Hollow to my Rows Grove of walnut and other nut trees growing at the junction. Geese and mallards have been enjoying the excess of swimming space.

Most notable in history was the Great Flood of 1937. My mother’s family were victims of that flood because it destroyed their home, which was at the site of the first house after turning onto the Springdale Road. In ’37 her current house, which was moved to Owl Hollow in 1974 in the dissolution of Springdale, was in the center of that village on a little knoll surprisingly high enough to save it and the Bruce Cox—later Lavetta Burton—house next door to it on the east, from inundation. This house also is still extant, but near Plumville on the headwaters of Camp Spring. Considering what eyewitnesses have told me about where the water reached in Springdale, I have always found it hard to believe how these two houses escaped.

The Great Flood did get in my grandparent’s house where we now live but they got by with only the mess and aggravation. They owned another house just up the road where the old chimney still stands and they took refuge there. The backwater creeped into the road ditch in front of that house.

We are situated on Owl Hollow so that backwater cannot trap us, but such was not the case in Springdale. I cannot find the date, but my first memory of an impactful flood is from sometime in the 1950’s, and I am guessing that it was in the winter/spring of 1958 when I was in the 5th Grade at Rectorville, but the following year is also a possibility. Backwater covered the road long and deep in the little valley between what we called Sycamore Hill and the knoll where the Degman/Sam Rash house stood, and it cut the road off again just below Harry Blythe’s and Pleasant Hill, where the Elliott’s lived and where there is a small cemetery.

We weathered that flood in Springdale. There was no reason to leave. My mother was Postmaster and the Post Office was in a front room of our house. The rural carrier, whose route extended through Rectorville and out the Bridgeport Road, got in by rowboat. Daddy, who had finished with his tobacco crop for the season, had the job of meeting the trains that brought mail.

We village kids—all four of us—got a holiday from school. I loved that flood and looked forward to having one every season after that glorious parole from the educational jailhouse. I never got a perfect attendance award and never aspired to one.

I forget how long we were rivered-in, but it was for several days and when supplies ran low the folks and I hiked down the railroad to the old Lock and Dam 33 site. We had someone at the dam to call us a taxi from Wick’s Cab on lower Market Street, and Johnny Hawkins came to drive us on into town. He also took us back to the dam with our groceries. I remember on the hike back that we walked a woods road at the base of the river bluffs as far as the first holler at the Duncan Place. People had once lived along the railroad between Springdale and the dam, but by then it was an uninhabited wilderness. Ida Poole, who lived on the east side of Cabin above Springdale, sharecropped the tobacco on the Duncan Place, and a few years later as a teenager I would walk once down to the Duncan Place with her to help her pull tobacco plants. In my Springdale ground hog hunting years I often hunted along the railroad as far west as the second holler, Cruey Holler. That trip to Maysville was a great adventure, but it came as the water was beginning to fall and the end of my happy liberty loomed darkly near.

My next flood memory is from 1964 when I was a junior in high school. The Springdale post office was gone by then and my mother worked at the Maysville post office and needed to get to work. It was also undesirable then for me to miss so much school. When I was a freshman I made a remark to some other students that “I never liked school but this (Mason County High) is the best one I’ve ever been in.” The principal, Elza Whalen, overheard this remark and quoted it in a speech at the FFA Father and Son banquet: “I guess we are doing something right,” he said.

My grandmother Lutie Bette was still living then and her house here on Owl Holler was suitable as a refuge. That was a lengthy flood and once we walked in to Springdale around the flooded spots. I enjoyed that period of “camping” at what has now been my home for many more years than was Springdale. At least once after Daddy was gone and while I was in college, my mother had to stay at Owl Holler alone because of flood. We had Junior then, my first hunting dog, a fierce and formidable animal. She sometimes arrived here in the dark after work and was confident that all was safe when she saw Junior alive and peaceful.

Besides 1937, most internet mention of Ohio River floods is of the Flood of 1997, which was the highest I have seen. It covered our lower bottom Garden Grove and park area and lapped at the lower edge of the walnut grove at the Uncle George and Aunt Mag home site. In 2012 the backwater flooded my Rows Grove along the corner of Owl Hollow and the Cabin Creek Road.

Floods usually bring inconvenience, misery, and loss for someone, but as a child enjoying an unscheduled holiday from school and even as a teenager experiencing the novelty of a “roughing it” interlude, I was insensitive to this. Now we are into the flood issue again and can only pray that its impact is not too severe. I cannot recall a winter that the creek bottoms here have not been under some backwater, a circumstance to which my grandfather Lee Weaver, when he owned and farmed some of them, attributed their fertility. But no backwater flood in my lifetime has been any more than an annoyance to people here in the old Springdale area. I am thankful that so much of our neighborhood is in a flood plain hostile to building and development because this serves to preserve the wild and rural character of our neighborhood