New Castle News


March 26, 2013

Photo Gallery, Story: Homes, bridges — and two lives — were lost in 1913 flood



Though there wasn’t anything that could be done for the bridges, various groups and organizations sprang into action to assist those who had to flee – or be plucked from – their homes.  “Several churches were thrown open,” The News reported. “The school houses were open and the city hall, together with several moving picture theatres.

“Food was supplied at the Second United Presbyterian Church, and many of the homeless were cared for at private homes throughout the city.”

Local author and historian Anita Devivo is impressed by the way in which “foreigners,” as The News called them, were assisted at the Lawrence School at the west end of Mahoning Avenue.

“The principal of the school, she went over on the day they set it up for the ‘foreigners’ and she knew so many languages she decided she’d stay through the flood,” Devivo related. “So they had the boss there the whole time. I thought that was a nice thing for her to do. We don’t really know who the ‘foreigners’ were, but maybe they’d been in the country a short time and didn’t speak English at all.”

Ultimately, New Castle wasn’t the only Lawrence County community ravaged by floods in March 1913.

“Volant was hit pretty hard, Wampum was hit pretty hard,” Presnar said. “It affected all of our water systems, from the Mahoning to the Beaver; the Little Neshannock, the Big Neshannock and the Connoquenessing, too.”

The March 26 News reported that Clyde Elder of Ellwood City experienced a close call when he “fell into the rushing waters of the Connoquenessing and was swept away.” Elder, though, was able to grab a tree root and pull himself to safety

Even residents of New Castle’s West Side, unaffected by the flood waters per se, “were suffering for lack of gas, and food” because their section of town had been cut off from the rest of the city.

Finally, on Friday morning, the town awoke to sunny skies and the initial receding of flood waters. However, the nightmare still wasn’t over.

“Then there was the awesome job of rebuilding and just cleaning up,” Presnar noted. “It would be a pretty stinky town.”

(Tomorrow: Aftermath and reaction.)

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