Fremont County Iowa

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A View From The Attic

Week of July 11, 2011

Fremont County Historical Society

Floods Past - Part two

By Jerry Birkby

The last View told of the events leading to the flood of 1952, the story continues...

The break came on April 19, 1952 when the levee at Plum Creek failed. I was at school because the trucks (to take us to sand bagging) had not come that day; perhaps a safety issue was involved or our guardian angels were at work. My cousin Pete Gardner and his wife Cleo were here at the house visiting. They got word of the break and walked up the Bluff back of the house to watch the water. They were awed at seeing a wall of water sweeping down from the north inundating the valley before them within minutes.

When the flooding began, Alfred and Lynn Bobbitt and Basil and Bob Golden were on the Base Line Road near No. 6 ditch. Using their bulldozer they tried to push a dam across the Baseline Road to the higher ground of their basin to the north. What is now the Golden Wetlands and Knox Creek Basin was, at that time, a large 240 acre field planted to wheat, which they were trying to save.

They turned the water at the Baseline Road, but then it went roaring on three-quarters of a mile to the south, broke through a levee and started coming up behind them. They start to move their bulldozer to higher ground. At about this point two fellows flying over in a light airplane saw the drama and began to circle around to see what developed. Suddenly their carburetor iced up and they made a forced landing in the water. Neither of them was seriously hurt so they waded out of the water and join the exodus. The plane stayed where it was until the waters receded.
The flood stayed high for a week to 10 days. The first order of business was the houses. Most of them were structurally okay, but they usually had up to three inches of silt. This was flushed out with a hose connected to a pump situated near a puddle.

After about three weeks farmers were able to get back into their fields although the roads were in terrible shape making it hard to get to fields. The gravel was scoured off the roads and many had large washouts. The fields were littered with logs that appeared to have been buried in the bottom of the river for a hundred years. Fences had been torn loose with fence wire and fence posts strung across the fields. Telephone wire was also a problem as nearly every phone line was torn down.

In some cases, fields were covered with sand up to a depth of 4 feet. Sometimes this proved to be beneficial where large plows pulled by large track tractors deep plowed and mix the underlying gumbo with the sand to make a great improvement in the soil. In other places, the sand was just too deep.

Despite the late start, most crops in this area were planted and the weather that year was nearly ideal. Maybe nature really does try to make amends for her excesses. At any rate everyone managed to raise a fairly good crop.