This is an article by Alice Bondurant Scott from the Woodspoint Newsletter, January 1997.
Looking down Main Street toward the river. Enlarged images available on request: firstname.lastname@example.org .
RECORD FLOOD IN 1937
Sixty years ago this month, the Ohio River Valley was inundated by the 1937 Flood. This flood, the most devastating on record in the U.S., affected the lives of all of us. The following excerpts from Mama Bondurant's 1937 Diary are of interest. My explanations are in brackets.
January 6 [Brandenburg, Ky.] Cleaned the house and ironed. Went down in town. Mailed some letters---I went to prayer meeting. Only a few there---rainy night. Jim, [Papa Bondurant], with the Governor and other State officials, is attending a quail supper at Columbia tonight.
January 7---The weather is mild. Just like spring. Went to see Ruth Scott [Jack's mother] after dinner---Mrs. Ben Wilson, Mabel [Fontaine], and Mrs. Walton were there, too. Ruth is sick. Annie Grinnell [Papa B's sister from Texas] came on train. Jas. Willie [Granddaddy Bondurant] met her....
January 9---Gloomy rainy day. Jim, Lewis and I went to Hardinsburg, Cloverport, and Hawesville. Jim had business. Ate lunch at Hardinsburg. Stopped at Emily's on way back [Grandmother B's sister, Emily Powell Roberts]...Rained all day...
January 13---Martha [Granddaddy B's sister] cut her a brown linen dress. I made button holes for her. Martha made chili for dinner. I made cocoanut pie. I went to prayer meeting. It rained hard...
January 14---...letter from Mildred [Granddaddy B's sister in Bardstown]. She had mumps on both sides.
January 17---Raining again. The river is nearly to the water trough. [Public place to water horses] We went to SS and church. Had roast beef, potatoes, lettuce, hot rolls for dinner. Virgil Bennett [political friend], Irby and Rachel [friends] were here most of the afternoon. We played rook. Still raining hard and we didn't go to church.
January 18---Jas W...and Zula [Granmother B.] brought Mary and Joe over to stay with me while they went to Zula's aunt's funeral. [Aunt Rebecca Clark of Grahamton].
January 19--Richard has the mumps [Granddaddy's brother in Virginia]...I wrote them and took it to the post office...walked down to see the river while down there...went to see Maud Hicks and Mrs. Doran. Mrs. Doran's mind is off.
January 20---Today President Roosevelt was inaugurated...Zula and Jas. W came. We enjoyed it a lot [on radio]. It was an awfully bad day. Warm and rainy, but radio announced cold rain with sleet and snow in Washington. Annie Grinnell came for me to go with her to see the river. It is rising fast---nearly to Henry Allen's store.
January 21---This is a terrible rainy day. The river is rising fast and everybody down the street is moving out. [Main Street]
January 22---This is another terrible day. The water is still rising and we hear distress cries everywhere. I have tired all day to get West Point, but it is still under water. Jim came home for a little while but went back to Camp Knox to assist in placing flood sufferers from West Point. It is so bad outside. Rain has turned to sleet. Electricity is gone. No lights or radio.
January 23---Sister [Lula Cowley], Henry [Cowley], Myrtice and Louise came last night. Got here about 9:30. Jim came with them in car from Camp Knoxx. The flood is terrible. They had an awful time getting out of West Point. [Uncle Henry had offered soldiers $100 each to take them from second story windows in boats to safety]. Mama is at Brother's. [Uncle Willie Bland], Hays [Cowley] family went to Vine Grove. The ground is covered with ice and snow.
SUNDAY, JANUARY 24---"Black Sunday"-Raining again. Flood conditions worse all time. The radio [battery] yesterday and today is constantly giving out calls for help. [Most from Louisville] River rise so far 52.5 feet. [On this Sunday, Jas W and a friend Rodney McGill, moved the cows on the Downhome Farm to the chicken houses on the hill. They brought the horses and mules to our barns at the Board Place, leading them carefully over the ice for several miles around the flooded areas. Our Grandfather Powell refused to leave the house Downhome, and Edward Shrewsbury, his companion, stayed with him. The water came to the edge of the yard.]
January 25---The flood continues. Water still rising. [Our dog Bobby arrived at our door with a note on his collar from Edward, saying they were well Downhome. We sent a note back. Bobby had to travel about five miles to skirt the flood in that area.]
[No diary entries from this day until February 6.]
[At the peak of the flood, Zula took her older children and walked over the hills to the Downhome farm. Her father again refused to have a boat come for him, so we walked the miles home, marveling and dismayed at the awful water. She wanted us to remember seeing the flood.]
February 6---Jim sent Wathen Tobin with car and took us to West Point. We drove as far as Howard and walked up the railroad toward Mama's and on to Myrtice's. Things were terrible...
February 7---Jim was going down toward Bloverport to see about Highways and flood sufferers... Wathen Tobin Drove him. Lewiss and I went along...
February 8---West Point is quarantined and we had a hard time getting permission to go in...
February 9---They threw away all Sister's furniture. It just dropped to pieces. Mr. Allie Burch took little yellow Highway truck and brought Mama's things [clothing and linens] down here- then threw them in the yard- they were frozen and looked terrible.
February 10---Sister and Mama are both working with their things. Have fences and yard full. Several doing washing for them.
Sunday February 14---I went to SS and church, the first time I had been since the flood. There are refugees in the basement of the church from Kosmosdale...Hays, Beulah, children and Mrs. Brown came by... Beulah's jaws are still big from mumps. Hay's Jr' has whooping cough real bad.
February 17---Beulah, Hays, children and nurse came...Children and nurse stayed here. Nurse was taking mumps.
February 19---Sister came over-went down in town with her to get typhoid shot.
February 22---Lewis' birthday-He is 14...
February 23---...went to Mr. Coleman's funeral...
February 24---I went to Club at Mrs. Wilson's-sang song with Earl Baskett. Had nice meeting. Annie and Mottie went...
[Diary material is courtesy of Emily Humpries, in whose possession are the Diaries of Minnie Alice Bland Bondurant].
[Jack Scott recalls helping move the pews from the Methodist Church sanctuary to make space for refugees. He and his brother Jim helped move the stock of goods in Miss Eliska Youtsler's shop to the third floor---ladies' garments, hats, corsets, etc. from the turn of the century which Miss Eliska had still in stock. Her shop was on Main Street in Brandenburg.]
[Mr. Walter L. Scott, Jack's father, Deputy Sheriff, became quite ill and died on March 12, at Baptist Hospital in Louisville, as a result of exposure and fatigue from many days and nights of working with refugees.]
[Since this part of Kentucky is so very hilly, many of us were safe throughout this period, and the land that is Woodspoint, being nearly 300 feet about the river in normal times, was not covered. However the land across the river from Woodspoint was covered all the way back to the foot of the big hills. The difficulty for everyone was in traveling, since all the low places were covered. Grocery shelves could not be restocked, because trucks could not travel from one town to another. People shared food supplies. School was not in session for several weeks because of refugees staying in the schools. It is impossible to describe the difficulties in rebuilding and restoring residences, barns, business places, and fences. The mud was deep everywhere, even in buildings that did not wash away. Since most places did not have running water systems, there were not hoses to use for washing out the buildings. Cleaning up was a laborious process by hand. Many cattle and horses were drowned, to say nothing of poultry. In most instances, cooperation was an important factor in the rehabilitation process.]