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Residents of today still fascinated with events of 1913

March 29, 2013
The Marietta Times

Events like floods are a topic of interest for the Sons and Daughters of the Pioneer Rivermen, the national riverboat historical society based in Marietta.

The 1913 flood is of particular interest to the group's president, Jeff Spear, a Marietta resident whose own South Second Street home was likely filled nearly to the ceiling of the second floor with water 100 years ago.

Question: What was the biggest challenge facing Marietta residents as the floodwaters began to recede?

Answer: Just getting it cleaned up because if you don't get on it right away, that stuff sets up like concrete. A friend of ours here in town, she told us they lived on Front Street and her mother kept a big stick by the staircase (and she would stir the water every morning). In doing that, it kept the silt from settling, it kept it stirred up so that when the river went down ... you didn't have as much mud.

Q: What was the atmosphere like in town? Were people upset or cooperative, divided or united?

A: Oh, it was very much so a united front. People in this town, when faced with adverse situations like that, the town has always pulled together like that. The people up in the highlands ... were giving all their support, helping people with lodging and keeping them out of the water when the water was the highest. ... It was a concerted effort to get the town cleaned up and put back in business. They put politics aside in those days.

Fact Box

Jeff Spear

Age: 50.

Residence: Marietta.

Family: Father, John Spear.

Occupation: Manager, River View Antiques.

President, Sons and Daughters of the Pioneer Rivermen.

Q: At one point, martial law was declared. Was this because there was looting and other problems or simply as a precaution?

A: It was simply a precaution as far as I know. I've never read anything about it having to be really enforced. ... A lot of the windows get broken in a situation like that.

Q: I understand there was an order to shoot looters on sight.

A: You can't blame them. People's livelihoods were at stake. But as far as I know there was never any need for that.

Q: How did the flooding affect residents' food and water supplies?

A: I'm sure food was being brought in from all over the place. ... You were kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place because with the water up, that not only stopped river traffic, it stopped rail traffic. ... That was another big deal during that flood because it knocked out the railroad bridge and the Putnam Street Bridge. They got that pontoon bridge up. ... They had to figure out a way to break that so you could get traffic through. But there really wasn't a lot going up the river anyhow. Because I think a lot of the Putnam Street Bridge landed around Lock 1 (on the Muskingum) and they had to get all that junk out of there.

Q: What effect did the flooding have on river traffic?

A: It played the devil with the locks and dams on the Muskingum River because it filled them up with silt. ... They tried to get a little boat by the name of the Admiral Dewey up to Zanesville. They got partially there because they were jumping the dams; the water was that high. (When the water started to come down), they had to turn back around so they could jump the dams and get out.

Q: How did the rail and river delays impact life in the city?

A: It sure made it the dickens getting in and out of here because you couldn't bring the trains over the railroad bridge in town to the station. I assume once they got the rail lines up and running again you had to cross the river and get on the train over in Harmar.

As far as anything coming in to Marietta proper, it didn't happen for quite a while.

You think of the logistics of that. Anybody that wanted to ship anything out of here by rail had to go over to Williamstown or get it across the Muskingum River.

Q: How long did it take for life to get "back to normal?"

A: My guess is that since this happened at the end of March it was well into June before you're over all that and people are restocked and up and running again.

Evan Bevins conducted this interview.



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