"Mill Creek overflows its banks and carries death and destruction in its wake"
"Greatest Calamity in History of Louisville"
"Terrific Flood Visits Louisville Last Friday Night Taking the Lives of 12 People"
"Damage to property is also very heavy"
"Heroic Work of Rescuers Who Risk Their Lives in Effort to Save Women and Children Trapped in Their Homes by Rapidly Rising Waters"
These were the headlines on the October 5th paper in 1923, when 12 people lost their lives in a flood which came down Mill Creek at about 7 p.m. on September 28.
The flood came as a culmination of a terrific rain which had continued throughout the afternoon. The creek had risen gradually for more than an hour before it reached a danger point, and debris had lodged against the pile bridge of the Missouri Pacific at the south end of town until a complete dam was formed, which caused the creek to overflow its banks and spread out over the town. it was believed by many, who witnessed the flood, and who viewed the dam at the bridge, that had it not been for the stoppage at that point the creek would have remained in its banks.
The dead were: Robert McCarver, 31; Mrs. William McCarver; William McCarver, 29; Pearl Brunkow; Pauline Brunkow; Mrs. Alfred Laird, 25; Alfred Laird, 32; Herbert Laird, 7; Leonard Laird; Mrs. J. W. Morgan, 42; Clarence Morgan (was never found); and Mrs. Lou Smith, 48, of Rock Falls, (never found).
Susie McCarver, (mother of Robert and William McCarver, and Mrs. Alfred Laird and a sister of Mrs. Smith of Ill.), had been buried the day of the flood and the family had returned to the home. The McCarver house was along the creek west of 701 Walnut. Mrs. Morgan lived at 712 Main. The first warning the occupants of the house had was when the waters began to surround the house and come in through the doors. When the water became knee deep William McCarver and Alfred Laird took their children to the neighbors, M. L. Williams, 17 Walnut. Williams saw the men enter the house and tried to follow them to help, but on account of the rapid rise of the water in a few seconds, he was unable to walk against the stream. About that time he heard cries and shrieks for just a few seconds and house began to move off its foundation.
When morning came and everyone could be reached it was learned that 12 people were lost. The creek banks were lined with searches and by Saturday afternoon nine bodies were found. The body of Mrs. William McCarver was found on Tuesday afternoon by the Papillion searches. the body was in waist deep water and covered with a flood of mud.
J. M. Hoover, the "oldest inhabitant," stated, "Last Friday's flood was the greatest since white men came to inhabit this part of the country. In February, 1865, there was a flood which covered the present site of Louisville, but the water on September 28 was six feet higher."
Mr. Schoeman was 85 and his wife 75, and they hardly felt able to tackle and wade in the deep water. Mr. and Mrs. Fred Shelhorn had reached higher ground and Mr. Shelhorn decided to go back and get the Schoemans. The water rose higher and higher in the Schoeman home until it was up to the neck of Mr. Schoeman. Mrs. Schoeman had climbed on the top of the furniture and had the wonderful presence of mind to take some matches with her in her climb and she lighted those and waved them at the window to show people they were in the house until they were rescued. Just as they left, the house started moving down the stream but was stopped by a large tree.
The worst loser was Mrs. C. G. Clifford whose home was swept away, leaving not a trace of it (her house was where the tennis courts are now).
Almost every business house on Main Street was flooded to a depth of from one to four feet and when the waters subsided it left a coating of mud of from four inches to a foot in depth.
The storm demonstrated the helplessness of men against the unconquerable elements of wind and water. At almost the identical time Louisville being inundated, a tornado and cloudburst at Council Bluffs was causing a heavy life and property loss, the reports placing the number of dead at twenty and a property damage fully as heavy as that suffered here. The hand of man may erect gigantic buildings, towering bridges, etc., but ever must he reckon with unconquerable elements.
Miss Marjorie Twiss and Miss Lydia Pautsch were telephone operators, who remained at their posts nearly all night. (The telephone office was on the north section of River City Antiques - 221 Main).