The 1913 Great Flood


In twelve (12) states from North Carolina to Vermont Hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee left massive and devastating flooding, power outages, and damage behind. People’s lives will take months and maybe even years to get back to any degree of normalcy.

As terrible and devastating as the loss of life and damage left behind by Irene and Lee it pales some what in comparison to the Great Floods of 1913. In Ohio this  flood is considered the greatest natural disaster in Ohio’s history.

According to Wikipedia:

The Great Dayton Flood of 1913 flooded Dayton, Ohio, and the surrounding area, with water from the Great Miami River, causing the greatest natural disaster in Ohio history.

In response, Ohio passed the Vonderheide Act to allow the Ohio state government to form the Miami Conservancy District, one of the first major flood control districts in Ohio and the United States.

It was not a hurricane that caused flooding in Dayton. It was rain that came at the tail end of winter. The ground was still frozen and rain water could not seep into the land.

Again from Wiki:

The flood was created by a series of three winter storms that hit

Main St. Dayton 1913 Flood Source Wikipedia

the region in March 1913.

Within three days, 8-11 inches of rain fell throughout the Great Miami River watershed on frozen ground, resulting in more than 90% runoff that caused the river and its tributaries to overflow.

The existing series of levees failed, and downtown Dayton experienced flooding up to 20 feet (6.1 m) deep.

This flood is still the flood of record for the Great Miami River watershed, and the amount of water that passed through the river channel during this storm equals the flow over Niagara Falls each month.

Many cities in Ohio expereinced severe flooding that spring. But none as extensive as Dayton, Piqua, Troy, and Hamilton, Ohio all of which lie on the banks of the Great Miami River.


Again from Wikipedia:

Dayton was founded along the Great Miami River at the convergence of its three tributaries, the Stillwater River, the Mad River, and Wolf Creek.

The four rivers converge within 1 mile (1.6 km) along the river channel near the city’s central business district.

City Leaders Were Warned

When Israel Ludlow laid out Dayton in 1795, the local Native Americans warned him about the recurring flooding.

Prior to the 1913  flood, the Dayton area experienced major floods nearly every decade, with major water flows in 1805, 1828, 1847, 1866, and 1898. Most of downtown Dayton lies in the Great Miami River’s natural flood plain.


There are few public domain or copyright free photos of the flood. I have included 1 in this narrative.

So at the end of this post I provide direct links to sites with many pictures so you can see for yourself the terrible destruction this flood left behind, including one site with a very early moving picture, today known as video.

They are devastating to look at. There is one picture of dead horses lying on the streets of  downtown Dayton, victims of the flood.

The Numbers

According to Wikipedia in the Dayton area alone:

More than 360 people died.

Nearly 65,000 people were displaced.

Approximately 20,000 homes were destroyed.

Buildings were moved off their foundations, and debris in the moving water damaged other structures.

Property damage to homes and businesses, including factories and railroads, were over $100,000,000  (in 1913 dollars or over $2,000,000,000 in today’s dollars).

Nearly 1,400 horses and 2,000 other domestic animals died.

Clean Up

It took one year to clean up the city from the flood damage. It took another decade to recover from the economic damage of the flood.

Leading the State and the Nation

Again from Wikipedia:

The Ohio Governor James M. Cox sent Ohio National Guard troops to protect property and life, and support the recovery efforts.

The ONG was not able to reach the city for several days because of the high water conditions throughout the state. They built refugee camps using tents for people permanently or temporarily displaced from their homes.

During this time, John H. Patterson, a local businessman who ran the National Cash Register (NCR) company, led the recovery efforts.

NCR employees built nearly 300 flat-bottomed boats* and Patterson organized rescue teams to save the thousands of people stranded on roofs and the upper stories of buildings.

He turned the NCR factory on Stewart Street into an emergency shelter providing food and lodging, and he organized local doctors and nurses to provide medical care.

*I wrote about those flat-bottomed boats mentioned above in a previous MTTD post, The Kossuth Colony:

It was the Dayton Flood of 1913 that eventually brought the Colony to a close. While the Colony itself was not damaged, much of the fence was torn down by people needing rafts in rescue work. Life was never the same in the Colony after that. 

Creation of the Miami Conservancy District Creation

What happened after the flood is the real story here. And some good did come from it all. And that good helped to insure that the floods this fall were not as bad as in 1913.

Again from Wikipedia:

Rather than accept defeat from the flood, the people of the Dayton area were determined to prevent a future disaster of this magnitude.

Led by Patterson’s vision for a managed watershed district, on March 27, 1913, Governor Cox appointed people to the Dayton Citizens Relief Commission. In May, the commission conducted a 10-day fundraiser which collected over $2,000,000 (in 1913 dollars) to fund the flood control effort. They hired hydrological engineer Arthur Morgan from St. Cloud, Minnesota who later worked on flood plain projects in Pueblo, Colorado and the Tennessee Valley Authority, to come up with an extensive plan to protect Dayton from future floods.

The plan eventually chosen was, according to Wiki, based

……….. on the flood control system in the Loire Valley in France, consisting of five earthen dams and modifications to the river channel through Dayton. The dams would have conduits to release a limited amount of water, and a wider river channel would use larger levees supported by a series of training levees. In addition, flood storage areas behind the dams would be used as farmland between floods. Morgan’s goal was to develop a flood plan that would handle 140% of the water from the 1913 flood

Unlike most such systems the Dayton project was mostly paid for by local tax initiatives.

As a child I remember when we got heavy rains and flood conditions we would all pile in my dad’s car and we would drive to one of the dams to see the swollen river and watch the flood waters pass through the conduits. It was exciting to watch all that water gush forward.

Some of the dams have recreational park associated with them and I and family and friends have had dozens of picnics at them.

There has not been a flood any where near the scope of the 1913 floods in The Miami River Water Shed area. That system of dams has continued to work for nearly 100 years.


As I wrote above,  the Miami Conservancy District was one of the first major flood control districts in Ohio and the United States. Many states and communities built similar levees and dams similar to this one, some funded by the Great Depression area work programs.

I was reminded of all this about a week ago when I was watching a live report on the Weather Channel from Wilkes Barre, PA in the aftermath of Irene and tropical storm Lee.

The Susquehanna River had swollen and the levees built during the Great Depression were under strain. The waters went over the levees in several locations, some leaks occurred, and flooding occurred in some cities, but the levee system prety much held back the waters.

Fortunately the river receded and further flooding and damage was averted.

Things were and continue to be bad in the aftermath of Irene and Lee.

But they could have been far, far worse if our forefathers and mothers had not had the prescience and the will to spend the money to build flood prevention systems so that never again would there be a 1913 style flood.

Some times government gets it right. These levees and dams are our tax dollars at work. I don’t know about the rest of you,  but I for one am grateful for them all.

The following links are to sites that contain copyrighted photos of the Ohio 1913 flood:

This first site is also  interesting for the list of severe weather over the years in Ohio along the left-hand side of the site. Lots of storms; which only goes to show the earth has always been stormy.

This next site has a short movie/video of rescue efforts as well as a few still photos.

The 1913 Flood in Ohio

Family Old Photos

Featured Recipe        Corn Casserole and Tortilla Chips

This is a fun recipe.

After the taste, the best part of this dish is how quick and easy it is. It goes well with any meat entree, but is especially good with pork chops.

I based this recipe on one in Cooking For One Is Fun by Henry Lewis Creel. I have shared several of his recipes here at More Thyme. This book  is currently out of print, but some times can be found by doing an internet search.

Although it is a vegetable side dish in Mr. Creel’s cookbook. I have also made it as a dip for tortilla chips for parties.

I have always like creamed corn, but Mr. Creel’s use of the crushed tortila chips gives the corn an extra dimension and  tastiness not to mention a crunch that is simply wonderful.

The original recipe calls for adding a layer of diced green peppers before adding the tortilla chip topping. But I find the peppers over power the sweet deliciousness of the corn. So I just use the creamed corn and the crushed tortilla chips for both a side dish and as a party dip.

BUT………………and this is a big but, I add sliced green onions and crumbled bacon on top of the dish.

Oh Yes!!!!!!!
This is what you will need for 4-6 people as a side dish:

1-3 tablespoons butter softened*

2 14 ounce cans creamed corn

3-4 green onions

3-4 slices of bacon

2/3 cup tortilla chips crushed

Optional: Salt and pepper to taste

* Depends upon how big your baking dish is.

Here is what you do:

Fry or microwave the bacon until crisp. Let cool, drain on paper towels, and crumble. Set aside.

Clean and slice the green onions as thin as you can. Set aside.

Put the tortilla chips in a large plastic bag and close. Crush the chips with your hands, a rolling pin, or other suitable crusher until you have 2/3 cup of crushed chips.

Butter the bottom and sides of a casserole large enough to hold the creamed corn. If you can stand the calories, be generous with the butter.

Add the corn, the salt and pepper if using, and top with the crushed tortilla chips. I add no salt as the crushed chips are salty enough. But I do add some pepper. Mix well.

You could also add red pepper flakes or tobasco sauce if you want to kick it up a notch. Add what ever you like.

Now top the corn with the crushed tortilla chips and spread evenly over the to of the corn.

Place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Hot and bubbly right out of the oven.

How you add the green onions and the bacon depends on whether you are serving this as aside dish or as a dip for tortilla chips.

If this is a side dish you could add them to the casserole and take to the table.

Or you can add the green onions and bacon to each individual’s side as pictured below.

If you are using this as a dip for tortilla chips, place the corn in a bowl and place in the center of a dish with tortilla chips. Scatter the green onions and bacon over the corn in the bowl, as pictured below.

A tortilla chip with corn dip.

This dish is best served hot.

Bon appétit!!!


2-3 tablespoons butter softened        $0.24

2 14 ounce cans creamed corn         $2.00

3-4 green onions                             $0.32

3-4 slices of bacon                           $2.00

2/3 cup tortilla chips crushed            $0.95

Optional: Salt and pepper to taste

Total cost = $5.51
Cost per person (6) = $0.91

Quote of the Day

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

Napoleon Hill


Print Friendly

3 comments to The 1913 Great Flood

  • Kris

    I love your blog. I hope to try your creamed corn/tortilla recipe this week. This would be great to serve at a tailgate. No fuss is the way to go!

    • Roberta

      Kristen – That is a great idea…..serve this at a tailgate party. I never even thought of that. Thanks for sharing such a fabulous idea. 🙂

  • Ivy

    This looks fantastic! I am so going to try this! When I first read the recipe, I thought it said to mix the tortilla chips in with the corn, and then top with additional crushed chips. I have no idea why I read it that way, I am wondering if it would make a difference?