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The
Flood
of 1951


Saline River Rampages After Torrential Rains

Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, June 14, 1951

Following torrential rains on Wednesday afternoon and night, the Saline river went out of its banks Wednesday night, Thursday and Friday, flooding the lower land along the river and doing an amount of damage to crops, roads, homes and other property that cannot be estimated.

The official rainfall for Lincoln on Wednesday afternoon and night was 4.76 inches. Since the ground was already saturated with other rains of the last week it could not absorb much more moisture, and the rain was so heavy that it would have run off anyway. Sylvan Grove received about 6.00 inches, and the water from the Lincoln area did not have time to get away before the Sylvan water reached here. The large area affected make this one of the worst floods ever recorded on the Salina.

At Sylvan Grove, approximiately six inches of water fell during the 24 hour period beginning Wednesday afternoon. The Saline was 18 inches below the 1935 level, but Wolf Creek, south of Sylvan, was higher than in that year. On the Henry Mueller farm east of Sylvan the water was also higher than in ’35. The Albert Walker and Don Osterman families left their homes as a safety move, but the water did not rise into any houses in Sylvan. Raymond Mueller lost his hogs and poultry, and Ed Meyer his hogs.

At Vesper nearly every home suffered some water damage and most basements were filled. By Friday afternoon the water had receded enough so that the work of cleaning up could begin. Pumps were taken to the town and the task of pumping the water from the basements was started.

Mrs. Kleinschmidt, Red Cross nurse, reported that there was no drinking water at Vesper since all the wells had been filled with the flood waters. George Medcraft furnished a pump and Mrs. Ethel Ryan an electric motor, which were used for the purpose of pumping out the wells and basements. On Sunday, Tont Morrison went to the town with his big pumps, and the work of pumping out the muddy waters out was hastened considerably.

The dyke west of Barnard justified the expense of building it Wednesday and Thursday when it held the high water out of the town. The flood toward Milo was worse, however, and the roads in that area were closed to traffic. The wheat in his district was damaged extensively and cannot be estimated in dollars and cents.

Mail service, although impaired, has been good in Lincoln since the star route has been able to run nearly all the time. No mail came in by train for several days.

Rural carriers had considerable difficulty in covering their routes. V.E. Bloyd got only to the river bridge and served just 13 boxes during the flood period. Clayton Lewick covered most of his route on Thursday. He crossed the mill bridge at noon, and when he came back at 2 o’clock the water had raised six inches. By Friday morning the water was partially over the bridge and was running deep across the highway south of the bridge. Ray Musselman found his route not bad except for the vicinity around Spillman creek.

The rains came so hard that they packed the roads, and unless they were washed out or under water, travel in most places was not hampered after the first few hours. However, much gravel and surfacing were totally destroyed and it is impossible at this time to estimate the cost to the county in road repairs.

Nearly all of the oil companies in town lost some of their 50 gallon oil drums, which floated away on the high water. One of Guy Stegman’s Socony-Vacuum tanks was carried away but was later rescued.

Some of the big tanks around the Santa Fe station were leaning before the water went down, but no one had any big loss. Around the Phillips 66 tanks the water about about 18 inches deep, somewhat less than it was in 1935.

The water entered a number of box cars standing on the Santa Fe side tracks, and it was across the road just west of the Phillips 66 station. Boats were used in some instances to take people from their homes that were entirely surrounded by the water.

Bill Storrs, Red Cross Disaster Chairman, was kept busy Wednesday assisting transients who were stalled in Lincoln because of the high water. He helped many of them to find lodging places. On Thursday he was busy all day aiding local residents who had been forced out of their homes on account of the flood. Many other local residents were mindful of those in need and came to their rescue, displaying a splendid community spirit.

Phil Houston, committee member, also worked full time, assisting the families who were forced from their homes. F.G. Reinert and Charles Teach responded to a call for teams and racks, and Bud Hansen was on hand with a large truck to assist in moving household goods. Bill Anderson worked diligently and received fine cooperation from the people of the community.

Armin Tiemann, southeast of town, reports that they were surrounded by water, but it did not get into their house or basement. It was about six inches deeper at their place than it was in 1935. As far as a person could see west of Lincoln there was nothing but water.

So far as known no loss of life resulted from the flood along the Saline, but there was some loss of livestock, since the water came up at night and came so quickly that farmers could not get their stock out. Mr. and Mrs. Orval Meyer, living southeast of town, lost two hogs and 12 pigs, in addition to about 300 little chicks. The water filled the basement and rose in their house to a depth of six inches, and they think that the basement caved in, but they are unable, as yet, to get into the house to judge the extent of the damage. Their car and tractors were filled with water and are damaged considerably. Orval fractured his spine a year ago and this new tragedy makes things a bit more difficult for him and Mrs. Meyer.

At least 16 families had to leave their homes because of the rising water. The Keith Wests, Dean Hendricksons, Ed Smiths, Orval Meyers, Walter Sheldons [?], Mrs. Paulsen, Simon Pescador, Mrs. Burris, William Squires, Mrs. Agnes Heins and Fred, Dale Kingans, Vernon Andersons, Mrs. Francisco, Elmer Howards, Mrs. Valley Strange. Probably there were others, but their names have not reached this office.

Farmers who had wheat and other crops in the low grounds have suffered untold damage, the extent of which cannot be estimated. Milo and other crops have been drowned out, and since fields will be too muddy to work for some time, it is doubtful whether or not these crops can be replanted.

Not all families affected by the flood will need assistance, but anyone who is in need of Red Cross is asked to contact Bill Storrs. John McCurdy, chapter chairman, states that the Red Cross is sending a representative from the area office in St. Louis to assist in determining the amount of aid to be given. It is believed that clothing will not be needed, but if anyone has bedding or furniture in good condition and is willing to donate it, please notify Mr. Storrs.

A comparison of the flood of 1951 with former high water marks at the mill bridge indicates that the crest was approximately the same as in 1935 when the crest measured 35 feet. This was 22 inches higher than the flood of 1903, and 24 inches higher than in 1928. However, persons who recall the flood of 48 years ago say that it was worse that year since it went as far south as the Simpson hill. Others say that because of the high road beds and other changes in the contour of the land, the course of the water is directed away from the hill.

The flood threat to Lincoln and surrounding communities has passed at this time, and the water has reached the eastern part of the state where further flooding is in progress. This year’s flood ranks with the great all time floods on the Saline.


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