Category Archives: 1937 Flood Stories

Flood Pictures of Louisville KY & the Ohio River

I thought I would share these photos with you. I found them in a photo album while going through some of my father’s belongings. I think some of the pictures were taken on River Road but not sure of the year or which flood this might have been. The boat in the second picture does look very old.

The Great Flood of 1937

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Rising waters, soaring spirits
An excellent account of the 1937 flood

For generations of Louisvillians, the 1937 flood was much more than a historical event. It was a watershed. And hundreds, maybe thousands, grew up on the stories of good humor, courage and endurance that marked the months of January and February 1937.

Rick Bell, who is overseeing the restoration of the Marine Hospital in Portland, has pulled all of these emotions, as well as many, many facts together, quite remarkably, in his new book, The Great Flood of 1937. For those who care about our city, and its history, this is an indispensable book.

(It is also the third significant contribution to local history in recent months by Butler Books of Louisville, which published Louisville Then and Now and Brandeis at 150 in 2006.)

In a comprehensive, yet breezy text, with an outstanding collection of photographs, Bell recreates the weeks of seemingly endless sacrifice. Remember, the flood came at one of the lowest points of the Great Depression. Louisville and other cities already were suffering; the rains of January 1937 only made matters much worse.

Those who lived through the flood, those whose families survived to tell the stories and those for whom it was merely a historical event will welcome The Great Flood of 1937.

(From the Courier-Journal)


Shippingport, Kentucky

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Shippingport, Kentucky was given to John Campbell in 1785 for his service in the French and Indian War. At that time it became known as Campbell Town. It was sold in 1803 and renamed Shippingport.

The population grew from 98 to over 500 and at one time challenged the 4th Street Wharf in downtown Louisville. At that time a warehouse and mill was built on Shippingport and soon began to export their goods. Elm Tree Garden became a popular spot for horse-racing and was well known. In 1817 a six-story flour mill built because how successful Shippingport had become.

In 1825 the building of the Louisville and Portland Canal and made Shippingport into an island. It soon became known as Shippingport Island and is locally known by that name today.

Over the years the Louisville and Portland Canal was gradually widened to keep up with the steamboats and later barges that carried products from one end of the country to another. A hydroelectric plant was also built on the island as time changed. Slowly residents and businesses began to close and leave.

The area was devastated by the flood of 1937 when most of Louisville was under water. It forced the island to evacuate until the river returned to it’s banks. Many people never returned because their homes were completely destroyed.

In 1958 the government acquired the property by eminent domain to widen the canal. They evicted many families that had lived there for over a 100 years.

STREET NAMES OF SHIPPINGPORT
TARASON AVE.
CHERRY STREET
PLUM STREET
MC HARRY STREET
HEMP STREET
CANAL STREET

1937 Flood Stories

Catherine Warer, interviewed by neighbor Georgia M. Denk- 2400 Block of Slevin Avenue

On Sunday, the police came to the house and made us leave. They took us to the tobacco factory at 24th and Main Street. People with dogs had to go to the fifth floor.

There was no heat, no place to wash up, and no way to flush the toilets. The smell got really bad. We slept on the floor and there were people everywhere. We had brought blankets, so we did have something to lie on and cover up with.

They brought food in skiffs, prepackaged, and coffee in washtubs. Sometimes Father Arnold from St. Cecelia’s would come to visit, and Father Hermes from St. Anthony’s (Church) took in people.

Sanitary conditions at the factory got so bad they started moving people out to the country in cattle cars, I think.

Mama was worried they’d ship us out, so Friday we left and came home the back way.

Mrs. F.L. (Theresa Cissell) Spalding, Rudd Avenue, Age 11

The firemen came knocking on our door in the middle of the night telling us we had to get out right away. My father worked for the W.T. Adams Broom Co. He borrowed a truck from them the next day and managed to get most of our possessions out of the house and took them to a house on Maple Street. Before we could get to this house the water starting coming up there and eventually got to the ceiling. We lost everything except for the clothes on our backs.

They took my mother to the old St. Mary & Elizabeth Hospital at 11th and Hill Streets, where she gave birth to my youngest brother on January 26, 1937.

St Cecilia

St Cecilia is located at 25th and Slevin Streets. During the 1937 flood the basement and the parish hall had about 2 1/2 feet of water standing in it. they were able to take in and care for 300 refugees. They gave Typhoid shots and medical care to many.

Jim Fulks Sr.

Jim Fulks Sr. decided to stay at this house at 1111 S. 28th Street. This remained above the flood crest. A neighbor, whose first name was Bob, was salvaging things from the water that flowed down the street, pulling out tanks of chemicals and oil drums. One day he showed Fulks his salvaged treasures, all the while looking at the dirty water for more.

Suddenly the neighbor stopped talking, Fulks turned and the two men stared into the water.

There among the boards and car tops was something that terrified them. Fulks remembered “the nude body of a woman floating face down in the slow-moving flood.”

They ran to the neighbor’s skiff and pushed it into the water. “I took the oars and started rowing toward the corpse while Bob reached out from the bow, seeking to get a handful of the woman’s hair. When he finally succeeded I quickly turned the skiff toward the shore and rowed with all my might.”

His heard was pounding, he felt weak and nauseated, and his arms numb from rowing. the boat nudged the ground and Fulks jumped out, grabbed the woman’s feet and pulled her ashore. Suddenly Bob was at his side. They turned the corpse over and looked into the staring eyes.

They two men looked at each other and began to laugh. “Our corpse,” said Fulks “was mannequin from the window of the nearby clothing store.”

Fontaine Ferry Amusement Park

Fifty people marooned in the Fontaine Ferry Park dance hall spent the flood playing the piano music while the kids scampered around the dance floor. A house brought from far upriver had come to rest against the roller coaster.

St. Ann’s Convent

The convent was located on Portland Avenue. It was used to house the Sisters of the Charity of Nazareth who taught in the Portland area. most had already left going to St. Joseph Infirmary or to the Motherhouse but eight nuns remained until forced to evacuate.

A boat made a dangerous journey up Bank Street rescued them. After the nuns were on the boat they continued down Bank Street and turning into 19th Street where the boat struck a light post and in half. Sisters and oarmens both went into the ice-cold water which was up to 10 feet deep.

They were rescued shortly and taken to the Convent of the Good Shepherd at 8th and Madison.

Not one of the Sisters became ill from the icy waters.

Kroger Store

The flood was over! As manager of the Kroger Store at 34th and Broadway, (which) had been covered with water, Jim Fulks was shocked to see that every shelf in the store had been overturned, and thousands of cans were in a jumble on the floor without a label on a single one. He had received instructions to load all the cans on trucks so they could be sent to a store in Jeffersonville. Ind.

When he arrived there he was told to sort all the label-missing cans by six. They would be offered to the customers at three for 25 cents and three for 10 cents. He suggested to his manager that he could open a can and if they found a real bargain they could buy them for themselves.

When he opened up one of the cans he asked his manager if he liked corned beef hash. He told him to put 48 cans aside for him and his family.

Six months later he was stocking shelves at another store when he saw the code on the can he had in his hand. It was the same as what was on the corned beef hash cans he gave to his manager. You can imagine how he felt when he realized he was holding a can of Dog Food.

(Research from the Courier Journal and other sources)
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