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The Big Flood
of April 22, 1885

By Nellie B. (Brown) Jones
As told to her daughter Hazel Jones ca. 1931

See also "Great Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889;" "Chills, Fever, Friends and Good Times" and "The Run of 1889"

Note -- the following was told by my mother that happened in Kansas in the spring of 1885. 

It had been a warm day but toward evening black clouds bean to roll up in the northwest.  In the night there was a  cloudburst at the head of Medicine River and the water came down Elm Creek -- 5 feet -- in a roll sweeping everything before it.  The back water rose two feet in our house.  The first we knew of the flood was when the water was even with our beds when we woke up. 

One neighbor's family just one mile above us was all drowned and all that was left of the house was the floor.  We had to leave the house and climb a hill back of the house.  The hunt for the drowned began the next morning.  I helped find four of my classmates.  After hunting five days the father of these children was found buried in the sand, all except his hand.

Near Medicine Lodge, 18 people were drowned.  They were camped in a park.  Some of the people were found up in trees.  The water washed one girl up in a tree top and the water rolled beneath her.  It seemed as if the poor girl would die up there.  They offered $500 to anyone who would rescue her.  A cowboy with his pony swam beneath the tree and the girl dropped on the pony.  The cowboy would not take the money.

My father lost 40 head of fine cattle and his farm was ruined but we did not complain because we were thankful none of us had drowned.  April 22, 1885 will be remembered as a day of great sorrow.

Republished 2000 by Mark A. Miner

Medicine Lodge Cresset newspaper headlines courtesy of the Lincoln Library, Medicine Lodge, Kansas