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A View From The Attic

Week of 31 August 2009

Fremont County Historical Society

by Danette Hein-Snider

In 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 Fremont County.)

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.