by Danette Hein-Snider
April of 1881 the Missouri River, fed by melting ice of the
Yellowstone and other tributaries, swelled by spring rains,
began to surge and fret the banks, spreading over the Iowa
bottoms. Stealthily undermining the railroad tracks and wagon
roads on both sides of the river, threatening destruction to
life and property. On the 8th, the river in the vicinity of
Nebraska City, at its narrowest point was over a mile wide and
at its widest over two miles.
On April 20, the river reached the unprecedented height of 23
feet 6 inches above high water, forming a vast lake, fully 8
miles in width; Eastport and Percival, on the Iowa side, were
entirely surrounded, the elevated location of Nebraska City
saving that city from serious damage.
The destruction from this section of the river is properly a
matter of Iowa more than of Nebraska, Otoe County having few
low tracts on the river's edge and escaping almost altogether
the ravages of the flood. Otoe County's principal interest in
the matter, was sympathy for the Iowa sufferers, hundreds of
whom sought refuge within Nebraska borders.
Perhaps because of the pests that thrive in the stagnant water
left by floods, several residents in the county became ill.
Ezekiel Chambers, of Sidney, was one of the unfortunate
citizens. In fact he became so sick his son, who lived in
eastern Iowa, came for a visit and sent this postcard-note
home to his wife.
|1882 Feb 2
Well I got here last night and found Father better. I am
in hopes that he will get about again. He looks worse
than I ever seen him. I had to walk from Hamburg (to
Sidney, where Mr. Chambers was residing) and I feel some
sore today other ways I feel all right. Aunt Polly is
not very stout. Father says he would like to see you
awful well and I wish you could come down.
I will write soon George
Ezekiel Chambers died at Sidney of typhoid fever on March 14,
1882 and was laid to rest in Chambers' Cemetery, named for him
when he donated a portion of his farm for a 'public burying
ground.' (The Chambers cemetery is located in northeast
The most striking part of this story is the fact that George
had to walk from Hamburg to Sidney. Transportation in the
1880s was not easy. Perhaps horses or a carriage could be
rented, perhaps not. It is possible the cost of a conveyance
was prohibitive. It should make us appreciate the ease we move
today from place to place.