Heavy Loss of Life in 1943 Flood


Transcribed by Norma Knotts Shaffer from microfilm of the Calhoun Chronicle dated 8/12/1943.

Calhoun's Worst Flood Disaster In Years Strikes Last Thursday

Mother and 6-Months-Old Daughter Are Drowned in Calhoun County When Waters Sweep Home Into Stream; 5 Die in Wirt, and 16 in Braxton

Place Estimated Damage at $2,000,000; OCD, Red Cross Join in Helping Stricken

Death and destruction followed in the wake of the worst flood to hit this section in many years last Thursday following the torrential rains of Wednesday night, cutting a 120-mile swath over five Central West Virginia Counties, costing the lives of 23 persons and causing damages estimated at more than $2,000,000.

Calhoun County reported the death of two (illegible).  Seven drowned in Wirt County, and 16 were killed by the storm in Braxton County.  Although Gilmer and Ritchie counties escaped fatalities, damages to roads, homes, livestock, and farms ran high.

The deluge, lifting creeks and small rivers out of their banks within a few moments, swept away homes.  The speed of its destruction was so great that families had no chance to escape.  Most of the occupants, whose bodies were later found when streams subsided, were asleep at the time their homes were enveloped by onrushing waters.

Mrs. Howard Bee, 25 years old, and her 6-months-old daughter, Lily Mae Bee, were found some distance away from their Calhoun home on Tanner's run.  The body of Mrs. Bee - her nightgown entangled in a barbed wire fence - was located a mile below Tanner on Trace Fork.

Her child's body, which was not discovered until Monday, was found across the county line in Gilmer County.  When their home was swept away by the high waters, Mr. Bee and Mrs. Bee's father managed to get ashore.  Both suffered injuries.

At least nine persons were rendered homeless in the White Pine area.  The Huffman dairy at Leafbank was destroyed.  Two bridges, valued at $20,000, were dumped into the swollen streams, and a 75-foot gorge was on State Route 35 near Big Springs.

The Little Kanawha River at Grantsville rose to 36 feet, with damage unestimated along its course.

All but two members of the Floyd Nelson family on Big Island Run, Wirt County, were drowned when their house was swept away by the swollen stream.  In addition to the father, four children, Willard, 17; Ruth, 16; Virginia, 8; and Edna May Nelson, 5, died.  The body of one of the children was found more than 12 miles away from the disaster scene.

Mrs. Nelson and her oldest son, James, 17 years old, who were visiting in Elizabeth at the time of the storm, escaped.

Braxton County appeared o be the storm's center, with Burnsville and a 20-mile radius suffering most.  At Marple's store, O'Brien Creek was measured at 20 feet deep.

The dead in that county, with one small child unfound to yesterday, included the following:

Mrs. Lydia Queen, 38 years old; Martin, 12, Phyllis, 8; Peggy, 2; and Alan Queen, 1, who lived at Rollins, near Heaters; Mrs. Tom Daughtery, 50; and her son, Gaylor Daughtery, 22; visitors at the Queen home; Mr. and Mrs. George Yeager, Copen; and Mr. and Mrs. C.B. Simons, their three thildren, Moneta, 23; Maxine, 16, and Robert, 6 and their grandchildren.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A 2008 correction to the Simon death from Norma J. Simon Stern - " have read the article on your website "Heavy Loss of Life in 1943 Flood" and have a correction. www.hurherald.com/cgi-sys/db_scripts/articles/articles Action=user_view&db=articles_hurherald&id=141 My grandparents were Mr. & Mrs. C. B. Simon (not Simons) and were drown in the flood, but they had no children or grandchildren drown in the flood. Their two sons did not live at home; one lived in the Clarksburg area and the other in Michigan. I don't know whose family the three, children Moneta, 23; Maxine, 16; and Robert, 6 and their grandchildren mentioned in the article belonged to, but they certainly weren't my grandparents' relatives."

Gov. M.M. Neely at Charleston placed the storm damage at over $2,000,000 with the State Road Commission suffering losses estimated above $200,000.  Red Cross representatives and Civilian Defense Corps were immediately dispatched to the disaster zones to assist in rehabilitation.

The Charleston OCD gave the loan of a portable (illegible) to the five counties in helping (illegible) debris left by receding streams.

It was estimated Tuesday that approximately 400 families in the 5-county area were affected by the storm.

The flood in the Bull River, White Pine, Yellow Creek, Leafbank, Simmons Run and Big Spring communities was the worst flood in their history.  The White Pine community was in the more disastrous condition as thirty people had been left homeless and without food and clothing.  Red Cross workers were sent to different flood districts and reported the greatest necessities.  Food and clothing was taken to the White Pine community by Thursday noon.  Other flooded communities reported that no immediate aid was necessary as friends and neighbors took care of the homeless for the day.  Miss Margaret Arbuckle, Calhoun County nurse, with local Red Cross aid, is holding free typhoid clinics in the flooded area but immunization was not made compulsory.

Local Red Cross workers are still aiding the ones whose homes were washed away and plans are being made for the future.  State Red Cross workers in Grantsville Monday and Tuesday, visited the flooded communities where Lieut. Col. James P. Easley, U.S. Army liaison officer for the OCD headquarters, and Walter R. Mitchell, deputy executive director, Miss Mary Chesney and Miss Mildred Widen of the rehabilitation division of Washington, D.C.

Those in the flooded districts in Calhoun County with their homes washed away or damaged were Bill Johnson on Bull River, the entire lower floor flooded, bedding and floor covering ruined, dishes broken and all canning sugar ruined.  Lost some crops.

Mike Richards, of Yellow Creek, water four feet in house, furniture saved.  Crops damaged.

Dural Fluharty, home washed from foundation, household furniture and crops damaged.

Wellington Rogers, home washed away, furniture, clothing, food and money lost.

John Yoak, water four feet in house, washed out grist mill, garden, truck and 5,000 feet of lumber and most all crops.

Henderson Richards, water ran three feet in home, all bedding and furniture ruined.

White Pine district, Leonard Burrows home washed away, garden crops totally destroyed.

Francis Kelley, home and outbuildings washed away.  Lost all chickens and three pigs, canned food ruined.

Mrs. W.H. Ayers, home washed away, lost all household furnishings, chickens and canned foods.

Homer Kendall, home washed away, furnishings, food and clothing lost.

Dale Kight, home washed thirty feet from foundation, small amount of furnishings saved, lost one hundred chickens and crops, canned food saved.

Callie Simmons, two feet of water in home, did not receive much damage.

Gilbert Haddox, home and furnishings completely ruined by the rushing water running through the house.  Lost over one hundred chickens.

Leafbank community:  Art Huffman operates a dairy, grade A milk, washed away milk house and all dairy equipment,  moved barn 12 feet, water in home.  Household furnishings damaged.

Jack Carpenter, water one foot in home, barn washed away, two hogs lost, crops damaged.

Simmons Run:  George Kelley, barn washed from foundation, the water was in several homes but no serious damage done.

The town of Grantsville suffered no losses except gardens and crops in the lowlands.

The Parkersburg post of the American Legion Friday night offered its aid to communities ravaged by flash floods in Calhoun, Ritchie and Wirt counties.

Roy Hale, post commander, said offers were made to the Grantsville community by telephone after action was authorized at their weekly meeting of the Legionnaires.  He reported the post's personnel is prepared to stand by as an emergency unit to send whatever supplies can be offered to the flood-stricken areas.

Commander Hale recalled that in Parkersburg's flood in 1937, the Grantsville Legion post "sent us truckload after truckload of food and clothes as well as $100 in cash, to help us during the emergency" and aid is now being offered in return.