Friday, May 15, 2009

Floods ----- a part of Rich Hill History

The blog tonight was taken from the January 29, 1987 Wagon Wheels insert of the Rich Hill Mining Review.

Two topics of recent discussion have been the flood of '86 and the Rich Hill water. Neither of these are new subjects as both presented problems to the early settlers of Rich Hill.
In 1882 Rich Hill was a new town, but there had been settlers in old Rich Hill and the surrounding area for several years. These settlers had seen the MaraisDes Cygnes overflow its banks and flood the lowlands but nothing to equal the flood of 1882. Most of the land was covered with prairie grasses; and as the waters subsided, there had been little evidence of damage.
In the winter of 1882 the heavy rains came and the Marais Des Cygnes River and all the creeks and branches overflowed their banks and flooded the lowlands, and the waters rose higher than any previous records indicated. The water came within three miles southwest of Rich Hill where mine No. 14 was located. Miners who lived in Rich Hill and worked in the mines were unable to get to work. Families living in the mining camp were unable to get to town to buy food. The Gulf Railroad did have a commissary that could supply food until the supply became exhausted. The water northeast of town was also raging with such force that it caused a suspended cable bridge (five miles northeast of town) to be entirely submerged. All kinds of debris was carried downstream by the rushing water. Rich Hill was completely surrounded by water. The only method of transportation was riding horseback in the zero weather.
After three weeks the waters began to recede, and the only remaining evidence of the flood was the mile after mile of shimmering ice. The twenty below zero weather had frozen the water to a depth of twenty-four inches. As the water below began to fall, a vacuum resulted between the frozen top water and the water soaked ground. Skating was a favorite past time, also a method of transportation. This unique situation created a different kind of experience as the sound of the metal skates glided across the ice-covered vacuum.
This information came from a newspaper clipping that appeared in the Rich Hill Review in January, 1882. Flooding has been a part of the history of this area since before men kept records, but the lowlands have been productive for farmers to the extent that many believe the risk is worth taking. Man's attempt to control flood waters has been effective to a large extent; but when the volume of water is as great as the flood of 1986, levys and dams have been inadequate.
During the first two years of Rich Hill history the only water supply came from nearby springs. Water was hauled in barrels and sold to the inhabitants. During this two-year period Mr. Charles Woolsey began to drill wells using a span of miles to power his drill rig. He was kept busy drilling these wells. He had found an ample water supply at sixty feet, but the water was so hard that housewives found it difficult to use for washing or cooking.
Until about thirty years ago there was one of these drilled wells on the Clovis Sivils property. These wells had a small casing perhaps eight or ten inches in diameter. A small bucket that looked like a stove pipe had a flexible bottom. When the bucket was lowered into the well, it filled with water; and as it was pulled up, the weight of the water held the bottom of the bucket down and prevented the water from running out. Sometimes these wells had a small wooden frame and a pulley used to draw the water up.
Water for the ever increasing popula­tion was a major problem. In the spring of 1883 the City of Rich Hill granted a franchise to the Garrison Brothers who represented a St. Louis syndicate. The franchise gave them the right to start construction of a water works system. First a pumping station was built on the bank of the Marais Des Cygnes River about 2'/2 miles northeast of Rich Hill. Next large cast iron pipes or mains were laid throughout the original town and fifty-five hydrants were placed at regular intervals. This was adequate for the time. As additions were added to the town, supplemental water lines were laid. Sometimes they were private waterlines hooked on to a main a few blocks away. . .
Water that was pumped from the Marais Des Cygne was of poor quality especially during times of high water. Frequently the water was muddy; and when used to extinguish a fire, mud damage was worse than water damage. Other kinds of debris also came through the water lines, but the inhabitants had no alternative but to use it.
The St. Louis syndicate spent more than $90,000 on the water system.
Several years later the City of Rich Hill voted bonds and bought the property, dismantled the pumping station and took up the main from the pumping station to the east corporate limit of the town. A site was selected for a power plant on Maple Street just east of the railroad tracks. Drilling was started and a sub­terranean water vein was found at 800 feet.

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