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‘Read all about’ Warren flood before exhibit closes

Our Heritage Trumbull County history

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part of a weekly series on our region’s history coordinated by the Trumbull County Historical Society.

On Aug. 18, the Trumbull County Historical Society will host an Exhibit Farewell, a final viewing reception for our latest exhibit, “Read All About It! Trumbull County in the News.”

This exhibit, comprised of eight vignettes highlighting the biggest news stories throughout time, will soon be deinstalled to make way for “Keeping It Personal,” curated by intern Katrina Anderson and Sarah Moell, TCHS’s curator of collections and research.

It is always bittersweet when an exhibit comes down. After months of research, design, formatting and layout, artifacts are taken back into storage and the galleries are freshly painted and ready for the next show. In thinking back on “Read All About It” though, I know that we at TCHS will always associate one topic with this particular show: natural disasters, particularly the 1913 flood.

When we first started researching this exhibit, we knew that floods, tornadoes and fires were going to be high on the priority list. We did not realize, though, that we had so much content that we could create a whole exhibit on front page news stories on natural disasters in Trumbull County. In the end, visitors to the exhibit will view one wall on natural disasters, with a particular focus on the biggest flood that Warren and Trumbull County has ever seen.

More than 100 images of the 1913 flood survive in TCHS’s archive, revealing feet of water that displaced hundreds of residents and killed two people from Warren, both residents of The Flats: a man named Frank Wilkinson and an unnamed 4-year-old boy from Fulton Street. The steady rains broke all previous records for rainfall in the City of Warren, with 8 to 11 inches of rain during a five-day storm.

Residents were evacuated by boat, with the majority of the damage caused in the area called The Flats, a low-land community located across the railroad tracks past Pine Avenue, before Republic Steel. West Market Street was also hit harder than most areas of the city. Morgan and Williams Carriage Company, located where CharBenay’s winery is today, drove carriages out of their warehouse to salvage their supply.

Two years before in 1911, Warren had become the first city in the United States to install incandescent streetlights. The water was so strong during the 1913 flood that electricity in downtown Warren, including the streetlights, were out of commission.

The Warren Daily Chronicle wrote, “Where the lights of the city went out, the real service of the Mazda system was fully appreciated by the citizens. In the business section of the city, an occasional beam of light indicated the presence of gas lights in a store. At other places, oil lights, lanterns, and even candles were pressed into service.” The Chronicle, lacking electricity but not wanting to miss publication, set newspaper type by hand and operated the presses by foot power.

Perhaps one of the most famous images of the 1913 flood shows the Perkins Barn stuck underneath the Market Street bridge. Dislodged from its home on Mahoning Avenue, the barn floated down river until it became lodged beneath the cast iron bridge. Fearing that the stress of the barn would damage the bridge, Warren police Chief Frank H. Flowers set the barn on fire. This also caused the bridge to also catch fire, so badly in fact that the cast iron bridge was replaced due to damage.

Today, images, newspapers, and even scrapbooks of the 1913 flood are frequently donated to TCHS. Kept in families and passed down through generations, these items remind us of the harrowing experiences that many lived through at that time.

To view Read All About It and see images of the 1913 flood, as well as the 1985 tornado, 1959 flood, and the fire at City Hall, join us for the Exhibit Farewell reception 5 to 7 p.m. Aug. 18 at the Morgan History Center, 328 Mahoning Ave. This event is free and open to the public.

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