Wheeling Intelligencer, Feb. 8, 1883:
The big “flowing river” is the one topic of conversation all over the city. Very few talk of anything else and everywhere the INTELLIGENCER representatives went yesterday, they were assailed with the question, what is the river doing and what is it going to do? The heavy rains that set in Tuesday afternoon, continued with unabated force until yesterday morning. Island people went to bed Tuesday night feeling a little uneasy as they listened to the steady pour, but when they arose yesterday morning and found the rain had not ceased, they, and the citizens on this side who lived in low parts, became very apprehensive, and hurried to the telegraph offices. The dispatches were not reassuring by any means. They indicated that the storm had extended to the mountains, and had also been severe, and that the Monongahela was humping itself in a manner that boded no good. A large number were not satisfied with the bulletins and sent for private information, but the answers were in every case exaggerated.
The river was found to be slightly rising at 8 A.M., and continued to come up slowly until about 10 o'clock, when the waters became stationary. As near as could be calculated, the depth in the channel was then 37 feet. The city came in for the unusual anathematizing as the marks were looked for and found not. If the new Wharf committee wants to immortalize itself, it will as soon as possible cause a new wharf to be made. If it is unable to do that, it can have the satisfaction of knowing that it will ever be held in grateful remembrance by the populace if it will have reliable marks put down that will indicate up to 45 feet.
The levee was crowded all day yesterday by people who braved the raw, biting wind that blew up after the rain ceased about 9 A.M., all anxious to know what height the river would attain at this point. The river was about clear of ice and debris; it was a vast rolling stream, sullen and turbid in appearance and yet possessing a strange fascination for all. Men stood and gazed at it by the half house. While the river was not as large as Wheeling has had before, the wonderful part about it was the length of time it has remained at this stage. The volume of water that has swept by is something immense and not to be estimated.
At 4 P. M. the river had fallen to 36 feet, and at midnight last night it was estimated that there was a depth of 35 feet and that the river was stationary. All old steamboatmen conceded that there would be a little over 40 feet, about 41 feet they put it, of water at this point sometime to-day. They made this calculation on the reports from Pittsburgh, the manner in which Wheeling creek ran out and past experiences. The table printed in the INTELLIGENCER Tuesday morning, showing the depths of the water at Pittsburgh and this point during floods in the past, was often referred to in making these calculations.
The rain that fell did not soak into the ground, as that was frozen hard. The water all ran into the creeks and rivers and helped to swell the flood. The sight of Wheeling Creek running out like a mill race yesterday morning with such a high river as there was, made the gray heads look grave and talk seriously. The creek has played considerable damage out in the country. There came sweeping down yesterday, fences, lumber, outhouses, etc., that formed a solid mass at the stone bridge. The arches were all under water, which was within eight feet of the parapet.
The mass of refuse and ice extended almost up to the Market street bridge, and was wedged together so tightly that men walked all over it, fishing out lumber and barrels with long hooks. The low lands about Caldwell's Run and along the river front still remained submerged, also the low parts of the Island. The Island people were very much alarmed and many a skiff was taken over and scow improvised to be used in case of emergency.
The foot bridge over the creek at the Crescent mill was loosed at one end last evening, and swung around. Efforts were made to save it, but failed. Tow shanties about eight feet by ten, one having a stove and other household furniture in it, floated down the creek upright until they came to the Market street bridge where they struck and capsized.
Hubbard's saw mill, at the Creek bank east of Main street, is flooded. Colonel Hubbard last evening constructed a boom of logs on Sixteenth and Main streets to prevent his lumber from washing out in case of a further rise. This is a good sign that a bigger river yet is coming, as the Colonel has the intuitive skill of a veteran observer in foretelling the future actions of the river.
The railroads are very much inconvenienced. The Hempfield bridge at Triadelphia is said to be somewhat ticklish. The Hempfield bridge at Main street and the depot bridges of the B. & O. were laden down with cinder cars early in the day, and none too soon, for by noon the water was touching the rails. The P. W. & Ky folks sent for a force of track-layers and by 4 o'clock had rails to and across their new bridge which was held down by a train of cars. The wash of the waters has undermined the earth so about the ends of the P. W. & Ky freight depot's platform that they have sunk a few inches. A train of cars was left on the trestle approach to the depot last night.
The profanity that went up, along Main and south streets yesterday afternoon from the wholesale clerks, was strongly provoked. The dispatches were such as to cause alarm early in the day and were corroborated by others later on. Then it was known for sure that a big river was inevitable and the cellars were emptied of their contents. Barrel after barrel was hauled up and rolled into the street. Last one could scarcely get along either street and red lights were shown in great numbers, to warn drivers.
About half-past nine o'clock last night the Andes arrived with a big trip. She was detained about six miles below Matamoras from Monday afternoon till yesterday morning, by the ice and drift. The passengers found the delay somewhat tedious, but the officers of the boat did all that could be done to relieve the tedium of the wait. Gentlemen who came up on the boat say that in nearly all the little towns along the river the high water has caused a practical suspension of business. At New Martinsville the boat could not land. The water had reached the top of the bluff, and the lands and town were largely submerged. At Clarington, Powhatan and other towns the same state of affairs exist. At Moundsville the water was within two feet of the B. & O. railroad and much of the Grave Creek bottom was converted into a lake.
The river was too high for boats to move about and make comfortable landings. The Princess made a trip to Bellaire twice and then gave it up. The N. J. Bigley No. 2 passed up with empties, and the B. D. Wood passed up light. The G. V. Lucas came up from Powhatan after a hard trip, and proceeded to the Sister Islands to assist the family living on the lower Island in getting off its stock. The Islands are covered with water.
A number of families were driven to the second stories of their houses and others living in one-story buildings were compelled to move out.
Mr. Doty, who lives just south of town is completely surrounded by water, and his wife and son, both sick with consumption, had to be moved to the second floor of the house.
A large number of very fine saw logs were captured here during the present flood.
The water came up about a foot on Mr. Gallagher's storeroom floor. As soon as the water had fallen sufficiently men were put to work scrubbing out, but the second rise rendered the work useless.
Soon after dark Tuesday evening, the gorge of heavy ice that had kept its place below Indian Run, gave way and swung out into the stream. It tore the upper wharfboat loose at its upper end, and passing below the bridge swept under the engine house of the B., Z. & C. railroad, which is partly supported on piles. It knocked many of the supports out, and one-half of the building is a wreck, being torn down now to save the timber. The engines had been removed, or building and all would have been lost. The planing mill and glass factories had to shut down yesterday on account of the stopping of the water works. Watch was kept all night and [4 unreadable lines]