February 7, 2011
Batavia, Ohio. The flood of 1937 has left a lasting imprint on Clermont County; it was the worst natural disaster to ever strike this area. For 10 days, the Ohio River rose, spilling out of its banks and washing away entire communities. The flood claimed 385 lives in river communities from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Illinois. “We saw the water coming up and my husband and I packed up our household items and put them in the back of our Model-T pick-up truck to take them to the second floor of a friend’s house on higher ground,” said Margaret Fulton, who was 24 years-old, newly married, and living in New Richmond in 1937. “We moved in with my in-laws, but soon the water started coming up and we had to move again.” She is one of those interviewed by the Clermont County Office of Public Information for a video on the local impact of the flood. The video is airing on local cable television access channels and is also available on the website http://www.clermontcountyohio.gov/video1937flood.aspx.
“The flood of 1937 was our Katrina,” said Edna Burns with the Historic New Richmond organization. “People were scrambling just to survive and many lost everything. Many businesses closed because of the flood and never returned.” Historian Rick Crawford said that New Richmond fared better than many river towns. “We had so many vibrant communities along the Clermont riverfront in 1937 prior to the flood, communities like Palestine, Clermontville, Rural, Smith’s Landing, and Utopia. They were just about wiped away due to the flood,” he said. “Also, keep in mind this flood happened in the middle of the Great Depression, when families were already struggling to survive. The devastation was everywhere.”
“I remember riding in a john boat with some of my family and going down streets in New Richmond that we used to travel in by car,” reflected the 99 year-old Fulton, who eventually returned to New Richmond to start over, with her family and friends. Even though reservoirs such as East Fork and Stonelick State Park have been built to hold river waters back, could a flood like that ever happen again? “History has taught us never to say never,” said historian Crawford.
Pictured above: Edna Burns with Historic New Richmond looks at 1937 flood pictures
For additional information about this or other county news, contact Clermont County Communications Director Kathy Lehr at (513) 732-7597 or by e-mail, klehr@ clermontcountyohio.gov.