This article relates some of the horror stories of the 1843 flood. This flood and its path of destruction along several creeks in Delaware County is covered in far more detail in a report made the following year, which can be accessed by clicking here.
Where this article and the 1844 report on the flood differ--especially regarding damage estimates, which were likely to be exaggerated in the immediate aftermath of the disaster--I would trust the information in the 1844 report over the newspaper
The History of Philadelphia's Watersheds and Sewers
Compiled by Adam Levine
Philadelphia Water Department
GREAT FLOOD--TORNADO--DESTRUCTION OF LIFE
AND PROPERTY IN DELAWARE COUNTY.
Our county was visited on Saturday evening last, by the most destructive and afflicting storm that was ever known. It rained for several hours most tremendously, and although a rise in the creeks might have been expected, a flood could not be apprehended. In the upper sections of the county, the rain was accompanied by a tornado, which leveled to the earth, the largest trees, tore away fences, and scattered everything within its range. The small streams were swollen immediately, and horses drowned in attempting to pass them. At about six o'clock in the evening, the several creeks in the county, rose to an unprecedented height, and the waters rushed with an impetuosity that knew no restraint, onward to the Delaware, carrying everything before it. Houses, vessels, machinery, timber, boats, dams, mills, factories, bridges, stacks of hay, trees, carriages, carts, furniture, in fact everything gave way before the mighty torrent. The water rose in this borough in about one hour, twenty three feet--the rise was greater on the several creeks, higher up the stream.
We will instance as many particulars of the loss by this great flood, as our limited means will allow, as we are almost entirely cut off from information for many parts of our county, by reason of the destruction of bridges:
The lumber Yard of Mr. William Eyre, Jr. together with his wharf on Chester
creek, was swept off and entirely destroyed. Loss $2000.
The stable and sheds belonging to Mrs. Engle, are destroyed. Loss $500.
The stone kitchen of Mr. Kerlin, with other outbuildings, and the portico of his mansion house was carried off and are entirely lost, and with the damage done to the meadow of Mr. Kerlin, and the loss of a tenant house, he has sustained injury to the amount of $5000. Mr. William Benton, who occupied the tenant house, a poor but industrious man, lost all that he possessed in this flood, except the clothes which covered his back at the time.
The Tan Yard of Mr. William Brobson, is entirely lost. His loss is $5000.
A large amount of goods in the store house and cellars of Mr. Jesse M. Eyre, were covered with water and destroyed. His loss must exceed $1500.
The Pattern Shop of Mr. Jacob G. Kitts, was carried away by the flood, and patterns worth over $5000, lost.
The wharves belonging to the heirs of Mr. Hart, and to the heirs of Mr. Ephraim Pearson, were swept away. Loss $300.
The stable and slaughter house of Mrs. Mary Richards, were carried off and lodged in the street some distance below, in a ruined condition.
The cellars of Mr. Deshong, Mrs. Eyre, Mr. Rulon, Mr. Long, Mr. Ladomus, and many others, were filled and much property injured and destroyed.
One of the piers belonging to the United States, has been very much injured, the large coping stone on the western side being displaced and the earth much washed. It will require an outlay of $300 to repair the pier.
The railroad bridge over Chester creek, and a portion of the embankment, was washed away. Loss $5000.
The old chain bridge over Chester creek, the western abutment and a considerable portion of the road, were swept away by the flood. Damage $4000.
Fences, gardens, furniture, goods, and a vast quantity of property, other than the above, has been destroyed.
The dam and saw mill at Flower, the factories and dams of Mr. Crozer, Mr. Dixon, Mr. Riddle, Mr. Thatcher are all swept away, and the offices and outbuildings of Mr. Lammot, with his books and papers, and many valuable goods are all lost. Mr. Crozer, whose lost must be $50,000, has lost many goods together with all his machinery, the other manufacturers have likewise lost machinery and many manufactured goods. Their loss is great but cannot be estimated certainly.
The bridge at Dutton, his grist mill, saw mill, and everything save his dwelling house were destroyed, and Mr. Jonathan P. Dutton barely escaped with his life, he leaping upon the angry flood from the roof of his mill, as it was about being swept from under him.
Beatty and edge tool manufactory, with many manufactured tools, are entirely destroyed. Mr. Beatty's loss cannot be less than $15,000.
The paper mill of Mr. Palmer on Darby creek is materially injured. A portion of the machinery and manufactured goods in Kelly factory were swept off and a partial loss is sustained.
Lewis paper mill has been swept away with the flood, also his dam; he has suffered very considerable.
The mill and dam of John M. Sharpless have been destroyed, with great loss of dye wood which has been swept away.
The blacksmith shop and two dwelling houses near the bridge over Ridley creek, with the bridge itself have all been destroyed. The shop and houses belonged to the heirs of R.P. Crosby, deceased.
The dams and other property to the value of $5000 belonging to the Messrs. Leiper have been lost.
The mill of Mr. Samuel Riddle with much valuable machinery in it was destroyed. Loss about $3000.
R.S. Smith lost a stone dwelling house - one of his dams was swept away, his banks and a kiln are much injured. The bridge at Rockdale was swept off with the flood, and the loss of property at this place is enormously great.
The dam and other property of Mr. James M. Wilcox were considerably injured.
The lumber of Mr. Edward R. Crosby was carried off, and his mill sustained some injury.
Mr. James Riddle's dam was destroyed and his loss including cotton, goods, and machinery is not less than $5000.
Mr. Samuel Bancroft and Mr. Crooks have met with serious loss--dams carried away, and many bales of flannel have been swept off.
The mill and race of Parke Shee, Esq. were much injured.
Most of the bridges on Chester, Ridley, Crum and Darby creeks, numbering 52, have been swept away, and the loss to the county will not be less than $80,000. The county had just finished building bridges; we boasted of the best bridges in the State, and the finances of the county were in a flourishing condition, and next year there would have been a great reduction of taxes for county purposes. This dispensation of Providence will cause a large expenditure of money to rebuild our bridges, and consequently the taxes will be necessarily high.
The loss to individuals in this county is enormous--at the least calculation it will exceed half a million of dollars. Many of our enterprising manufacturers are losers to a vast amount, our farmers, our mechanics, millers, lumber merchants, in fact all are heavy sufferers who resided on the borders of the principal creeks in the county. The loss of property is great, but patience and industry will retrieve that loss, but what will compensate for the loss of many valuable lives.
Mr. John Rhodes and five of his family were swept away with their dwelling at Rockdale, and all of them lost. A women and child who arrived from Philadelphia the same evening, named McGuigan, were drowned at the same place.
At Flower mill a colored woman named Ellen Jackson, whom in attempting to save the life and property of Mr. William G. Flower, lost her own. The sudden rise of the water swept her away, and Mr. Flower's life was saved by his clinging to a tree.
At Kelly Mills on Darby creek, a house was carried away by the torrent, and
Mrs. Julia Knowlin and her four children were drowned. Their bodies have been
The large stone bridge over Darby creek, at the village of Darby, was swept away, and Mr. Josiah Bunting, Jr. and Russell Flounders who were upon it at the time, sunk with it, and lost their lives. They were both worthy young men, and their premature death is most afflictive to their relatives and friends. The body of Mr. Flounders was found about two miles and a half down the creek, that of Mr. Bunting has not yet been recovered.
On Ridley creek, Mr. Hargraves and four children were swept out of their house and drowned. His wife and infant child were miraculously saved, they standing upon a small portion of the house which remained.
Judge Leiper had drowned a pair of valuable carriage horses, and Samuel Bell
lost a team of five fine horses.
INCIDENTS ATTENDING THE STORM
We have heard of many escapes and rescues from danger by the late storm, but the following instance of daring bravery, from the United States Gazette, deserves especial mention:
"On a curve of Ridley creek immediately adjoining Groves' cotton factory, now in the occupancy of Samuel Bancroft, Esq., is a stone building about seventy feet long, formerly used as a paper mill, but until Saturday inhabited by three families, the middle portion being occupied by a family named Hargraves. Swelled by the heavy fall of rain the creek on Saturday leaped over its banks and rushed in a direct line forward, sweeping out entirely the center part of the building, and carrying with it Mr. Hargraves and four of his children who were setting upon a bed, and leaving on only one side a small piece of the floor about a foot wide, where Mrs. Hargraves and her infant child barely found a footing -while directly opposite her on the other side of the rushing torrent were a man and four children clustered upon a small piece of the floor, which had not been carried away from its fastenings. In this pitiable position they remained for some time, seemingly beyond the reach of aid, until a gallant fellow named Holt--who lived in one of the outer portions of the building, and who had fled in safety when the danger became evident-tied the two ends of a rope around his body, and made his way across to his part of the house, where cutting a hole through the dividing wall he brought the man and four children into a more secure position. With considerable difficulty, Holt then contrived to get a ladder across to where the unfortunate Mrs. Hargraves and her child stood, and succeeded in bringing them across in safety. The rope with which he had crossed the swollen stream had been fastened by him on his landing, and by means of it, he succeeded with the aid of the people on the opposite shore in passing every one of the rescued sufferers in safety across--himself going last.
"Of a nature equally worthy of praise was the act of a brave man named Abner Wood, who at the imminent risk of his life rescued from death Mr. William G. Flowers. Mr. Flowers was, it appears, driving some of his cows in the vicinity of his mill on Chester creek, when the flood overtook and carried him away. A small tree to which he clung stopped his course for a short time, but being uprooted by the strength of the current he was again carried off, and the roof of a house having been seen to pass over him, it was supposed that he had perished, but shortly afterwards he was observed to be clinging to a buttonwood tree, which still stood up against the flood. Immediately Abner Wood procured a rope and having fastened both ends of it securely about his body, he ventured into the troubled waters and succeeded in reaching Mr. Flowers, who was very much exhausted. Fastening the rope around him in such a manner as still to retain a hold upon it himself, he made a signal to the people and Mr. F. was drawn in safety to the shore--he following afterwards in the same manner."