A Historic Flood

The Herkimer County Historical Society's new exhibit on the 1910 Herkimer Flood.

As you may have guessed by now, I have decided to take yet another week off from producing another episode of my web series this week because once again, I believe in quality and it’s like some advice I got from a recent YouTube video from AngryAussie: “If you don’t have anything to say or do when you are getting ready to do a video, don’t do the video.” It’s clearly good advice. Plus I have a set rule regarding the series that each video I do for the series has to be no less than five minutes long, but again since I am not a YouTube partner, it still can’t be over ten minutes. That’s a rule I still think YouTube should change since not everyone uploads copyrighted content.

So for this week, I am going to do a little blog that might end up being a little history lesson about the history of the village of Herkimer in light of the fact that this past Wednesday, the Historical Society unveiled their latest exhibit commemorating the 100th anniversary of the great Herkimer Flood of 1910 that left one person dead and about a million dollars (by 1910 figures) in property damage.

It all started February 28, 1910 after the area had a fairly decent winter and the weather had started to melt some of the ice and snow. That combined with a heavy rain caused ice to jam up the West Canada Creek, causing water from there to flood into a Hydraulic Canal that existed in Herkimer at that time and was the source of the town’s power. As a result, the water overflowed from the canal into the town.

Many of the streets as well as the railroad tracks were buried under two to three feet of water which made the streets impassable except by boat or canoe. Basements of houses were buried under 6 to 7 feet of water. Many homes were destroyed. Businesses were flooded and the local newspaper, the Herkimer Telegram was shut down. The electric trolleys were shut down and replaced with horses. And as I said before, only one person was killed after being hit by a flying piece of ice while railroad workers were trying to use dynamite to blow up a huge chunk of ice that was blocking the railroad tracks.

A 1910 photo of a horse-drawn trolley that operated during the Herkimer flood.

The flood also attracted curious people from all around, even though the crowds that came for the flood were not as big as the crowds that came to Herkimer for Chester Gillette’s murder trial four years earlier in which the crowds contained people from as far as New York City. One man even made money by conducting tours of a house that was tipped on its side by the flood.

All in all, this is one of the big examples of how a community came together and overcame a natural disaster which is to date, the worst natural disaster ever to affect the village of Herkimer. The flood only lasted for five days and by March 5, the flood waters started to recede. Only 200 houses survived the flood and many of those houses are still here to this day. Of course Herkimer and its surrounding areas would go on to have many more floods, the most recent one being in Dolgeville four years ago. However none of them were as bad as the one in 1910.

And this centennial commemoration could not have come at a better time especially when another major disaster is affecting the country and of course I am talking about the BP oil spill in the Gulf.

Ironically, when I was going to a presentation on this at the Historical Society Wednesday night, it was starting to pour outside and I was caught in it. However, luckily I was right at the Historical Society when the rain really started coming down. Thankfully, there was no flooding.

So there you go. Another historic event that happened in Herkimer brought to you courtesy of your friendly neighborhood Blackcatloner.

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3 responses to “A Historic Flood

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