Monthly Archives: October 2012

1937 Cincinnati Flood Letter

Here is a copy of a letter my mother, Mary Estes Moore, a resident of Cincinnati in 1937, wrote to her sister Ann in Anderson, Indiana, on “Black Sunday”, January 24, but never mailed. My mother saved it over the years…

Sunday Afternoon
My dear Sister:
I guess you are worried about us so I will try to write you a little bit and tell you what is going on here. I can’t begin to describe it, but I will tell you that we are alright.

The water is only two streets from where we live, it is on both sides of us. I don’t think it will get to us, though.

You know where I lived in Northside–Well, it is up to the third floors there–There are just thousands and thousands that are homeless. I have all of Bob’s brothers and sisters here with me. They have lost everything, even their clothes. The water is off all except two hours a day, and we are looking for the gas and electric to go any minute. It is not only the flooded districts, but the whole city will be without gas and electric.

We have plenty of coal tho, and they think there will be enough to eat to last for a while. Yesterday we had about six inches of snow.
The city is on a “Sunday Basis”. All industries are shut down, all stores are closed, and all cafe and such–only drug and groceries (sic) stores are open, this to preserve power. The schools are closed too, and are all being used by the Red Cross to house refugees. Most of the churches are too.

There have not been many drowned, but I think that was because everybody in the city has worked together.

Nobody is allowed on the street downtown, and there is no street car service, only buses. It is all just like a nightmare. The radio is continually calling for boats and volunteers to rescue marooned families.

To add to all this misery there is a big fire on the water caused by a big tank of gasoline bursting, and somehow it has caught fire. It has been burning most all day, and has destroyed about ten big factories including one of Crosley’s factories. A number of houses have burned but they got the people out. They say the fire covers about four miles.

It has poured down rain here all day long, and has melted the snow and the slush is about six inches deep in the streets. They have all the street lights turned off and all of the electric signs. All we can do is just sit and wait–for we don’t know what.

Well, Mother and Dad are alright. Of course Helen and Earl are not working. Both of their places are under water. Dad and George are working tho, but they both have an awful time getting to and from work. Well, I could sit here and write all night about this terrible catastrophe that we are all in the midst of, but I guess you hear about it over the radio.

Well, it is morning, and our lights are gone. They went out about six o’clock this morning. I don’t mind so much myself, but the hospitals and telephones are needed so very badly at a time like this. Thank God the sun is shining a little tho, that makes people feel a little better even tho the river is still rising.

Bob and Howard (his brother) have gone out to see if they can do some rescue work. Every man they can get is on the job, and all the boys from the colleges are out. Believe me, it is a tough job. We thought the flood in 1913 was bad, but it was mild compared to this. I heard this morning they had the fire out, but I don’t know how true it is. 32 buildings have burned. Well, I will write again soon. Love to everybody. Kiss the kiddies, bless their hearts. Maybe this will reach you as most of the train service is cut off.

Love, Mary

Mary Estes came to Cincinnati in 1927 with her family, from Bourbon County, Kentucky, where she had graduated high school the year before. The family consisted of her parents, John Will and Lillie Belle Emmett Estes, and her siblings, Ann (Ethel Belle). Mose, Helen, and George. Ann soon returned to Kentucky to marry Frank Boaz, and later move to Indiana. Helen married Earl Mitchell in 1935, later divorced him, and married Estil McNew, with whom she would form The Kentucky Briarhoppers square dance team, which performed for many years on the Midwestern Hayride on WLW radio and television. Ironically, George was killed in an automobile accident shortly after this letter was written. He was returning from clean up work where he worked in the early morning hours of February 4th, when his car hit an oily spot in the street (oil left from the rupture and fire mentioned above) and crashed into a telephone pole, killing him instantly.

My mother was 29 years old when she wrote this letter and had been married to my father, Robert Lee Moore, for seven and a half years. My brother, Jack, was 6 years old. I was not even thought of yet. She and my father lived in a house on Colerain Avenue that was later torn down to make way for I75. It was the one they rented from Mr. Hummel and a few blocks from the Colerain house where Mamaw and Papaw Estes lived for so long. She was correct; the water never got to them, and they were able to have some electricity and water because they were on the lines that went up the hill to the hospitals.
Bob’s brothers and sisters would be Ollie, Margaret, Tommy, Ruby, Howard, and Carl, my Moore aunts and uncles.


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