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Histories > Eau Claire Co. Historical Accounts

"History of Northern Wisconsin, 1881"

River Floods

(-as transcribed from page  312)

Since the white occupation of the valley there have been several destructive floods. The first one recorded was in 1838. The river rose fifteen feet. As there were few improvements on its course little damage was done. The next freshet was in June, 1847, which has already been described. In 1855, on the 7th of July, after a thirty hour rain, the Chippewa had a sudden and destructive rise. Booms and logs at the Falls were carried down. Eau Claire suffered but little. The last week in May, 1859, there was also quite a freshet. On the 22d of August, 1870, there was another sudden and destructive rise in the river. Twenty million feet of lumber was lost. On Monday morning of the 22d, it commenced raining simultaneously along the entire length of the river. More rain fell than in the same length of time since the June freshet of 1847. At Eau Claire the river rose fifteen feet and higher at narrower points. Several booms at the Falls were open and without logs, but The Union Lumber Company at the Falls were completely "scooped," and others were sufferers. Nelson Hunter & Co., Ingram & Kennedy, C. F. Mayhew, Smith & Buffington, Porter & Moon, Gaston Bros. and several other booms were broken. And in some of them all the logs were swept away by the remorseless flood. The, only booms that stood the pressure were the Williams & Barron, at the Blue Mill, Wilkins Island Booming Co., and Hugh McLeagh. Twenty million feet of logs were lost in addition to the other damage.

But the most disastrous flood known at Eau Claire was in the first week in June, 1880. The river went up twenty-two feet. The water swept through the lower part of the city on both sides of the river. One hundred and fifty families were driven from their dwellings and many others into their upper stories. The city was flooded; the logs seemed inexhaustible; they came down in frightful quantities. Buildings were washed from their foundations, bridges destroyed, and goods swept away. The city lost the Chippewa and one other bridge. The whole country was left covered with logs. The calamity was a most profound shock to the city, the losses being very heavy, but with the receding of the water and drying of the mud the city soon recovered. It seems that once in about ten years a river flood may be expected.

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