The Parkersburg News

Sunday, September 19, 1965

Morristown Flood Is Recalled

Rainfall Said One of World's Records
By Helen M. White, Of the News Staff

I have almost quit talking about the Morristown flood because folks just hardly believe me," T. F. Gant of Lowell, Washington county, O., said, referring to the time it rained 19 inches in two hours and 19 minutes, one of the world's records, according to the Charleston Weather Bureau Records.

The rain came so hard and the creeks rose so fast that the waters shot the covered bridge, which was across the mouth of Tuckers Creek clear across the Little Kanawha River with such force, that it stuck in the bank until it was removed, Gant related.

Gant, born in Noble county, O., in 1871, moved to the top of Limestone Hill south of Parkersburg when he was four months old where his father, Samuel Gant, ran a grocery store.

Several years later, when Gant was around 14, the family moved to Morristown, a then thriving village on Tucker Creek located seven miles from Elizabeth and four miles from Rockport where his father again operated a general store.

"The storm came early in the night of July 18, 1889," Gant related. "The electrical display was something fierce and the clouds were heavy and black. The rain came down so hard that it bent umbrellas down over our heads like a sack," he said in describing the almost unbelievably hard deluge.

Morristown, built on the level valley along both sides of Tucker Creek, was not far from where the right and left forks of the creek joined and it wasn't long before the water began to raise in the village.

Came Up Mighty Fast

"The water came up mighty fast," Gant related. "We boys sloshed over to the store in the downpour to put things on higher shelves. We worked as fast as we could but in no time we were in water to our waist.

"Our house was up the hillside a little and about 150 feet from the store. We had just got home when we saw the store building raise up like a cork, and bob down the creek."

At this time, Morristown had a population of between 300 and 400, according to Gant, with three general stores, a tobacco packing house, a flouring mill, a millinery shop, three or four saw mills in the near vicinity, a blacksmith shop, school and a church.

When the terror of that July night was spent, all that remained of Morristown was four or five houses, one them being the Gant home, the school house and flouring mill both of which also stood on higher ground.

Gant, who will be 94 on Nov. 21, recalled the details of that night as clearly as though they had happened yesterday instead of 76 years ago.

"Orvil West had a big, two-story house on the lot behind our store, and in a few minutes it followed the store down the creek," he said.

The West family had gone upstairs and the house floated past Gant with all the lights lighted on the second floor presenting an eerie appearance bobbing and turning in the blackness. As Gant and his brothers stood watching, the house slammed into something and broke up in the churning waters.

Three members of the family managed to hang on to tree branches but Mrs. West was drowned.

Escape Via Clothesline

"Another family which had retired for the night was awakened by a trunk floating in the swiftly raising water and banging against their bed. They managed to get hold of their clothesline and pull themselves to higher ground just before their house was swept away," Gant told.

The Oscar Kiger family of five living in a log house near Morristown on a branch of the creek which was ordinarily no more than a tiny rill, were all drowned when the trickling little stream was transformed into a raging torrent.

Gant related that he and a friend found one of the Kiger children near-by the next morning and that another was found later in the Little Kanawha River below Elizabeth.

A man, whose name he could not recall, was drowned near the mouth of Tucker Creek, making a total of seven lives claimed by the storm.

The thriving little village of Morristown was another casualty as most of those who lost their homes and all their possessions in the flood never rebuilt there, but went elsewhere to live.

This page last modified 14 January 2002.