Atchison Daily Globe, Monday, May 3, 1952, page 11 of 18. Col 1
Recalls Big 1881 Flood
There are few people still living who went through the great 1881 flood and still have a vivid recollection of it.
One of these is A. M. (Andy) Andrews, route 4, who was six years old when the flood occurred 71 years ago. During the recent flood the resident of the threatened had plenty of time to evacuate household goods, livestock and farm implements. But the 1881 flood hit without warning, trapping families and their farm animals in the Missouri river bottoms near here. The father of A. M. Andrews, who was W. J. Andrews, owned what is now the Otto Schmidt farm, 2 ½ miles northeast of Atchison. Most of Mud Lake was on the farm. W. J. Andrews was a prosperous man. He built a new six room brick home on his place and surrounded its 160 acres with a six board fence.
Timber on the Andrews farm was cut into cordwood sticks four feet long for fuel. Most of the wood was sold to the packing houses in East Atchison where it was used to heat the boilers.
But to get back to the flood: The river raised slowly for a week or more. A. M. Andrews recalls it left its banks slightly and then for some reason receded. No one dreamed a big flood was coming. Then overnight the river swept across the bottoms.
Water was 18 inches or more deep around the Andrews home. Four calves were placed on a flat-boat and rowed to the east bluffs. The cows to whom the calves belonged swam along behind the boat for the three miles distance. A. M. Andrews made the trip with his father and recalls how the cows would keep trying to climb into the boat with the calves. Whenever a shallow place was encountered the boat was stopped so that the cows could rest. A large number of hogs on the farm were also boated to safety. The W. J. Andrews family, which included four children, was transported in the boat to East Atchison. They walked across the old railway bridge and out to the Taylor racetrack southwest of town. Refugee families from the bottoms remained at the track for three weeks. Each family occupies a horse stall. There was no Red Cross to help in those days and the families had to hustle around and locate bedding to sleep on and wood stoves for cooking.
One of the sharp recollections A. M. Andrews has is that the kids would play around the track all day. At night they would stop at the first stall they came to and have dinner. The refugees were all neighbors from Missouri and staying at the track was kind of a community outing. During the flood there was a lot of stealing the bottoms. W. J. Andrews slept in the upstairs of his home every night to protect his property. One night a noise awakened him and some men in a boat were trying to rob his smoke house where the family had a large quantity of cured pork stored. W. J. Andrews watched the men in the bright moonlight as they tried to hammer the door off the smokehouse. Then taking deliberate aim with a large caliber revolver he literally shot the boat right out from under them. There were so many holes in the boat it sank, and the men swam away. “Next time,“ he shouted after the culprits, “I won’t shoot at the boat.”
The crest of the 1881 flood occurred on April 29.
A. M. Andrews recalls that his father raised a good crop of corn that year even though he couldn't plant until the Fourth of July. The corn was soft but made good feed. Before the Andrews family evacuated their home they watched the flood carry away their beautiful board fence which had just been completed. It disappeared down stream six to eight panes at a time.
During the next two years, 1882 and 1883, the river continued to cut away the Andrews farm. Nearly all of the Andrews timber, elm, hickory and sycamore trees by the hundreds -- fell into the river. An eight acre apple orchard, that was 20 years old, also went into the river. The Andrews family could feel the earth shake a little when some of the larger trees and great chunks of their land fell into the angry river.
In 1883 W. J. Andrews decided it was time to get out of the bottoms and moved his family to the Good Intent community.
The bottoms farm was sold to the Schmidt family. When the river cut up to within about 30 feet of the fine brick house it was torn down by the Schmidts.
After the house had been dismantled a strange thing happened. The river ceased its cutting entirely. Then through the years it restored the land by accretion that it had previously cut away.
A. M. Andrews recalls that these folks lived in the bottoms when the 1881 flood struck: Silas Ellis – the father of Jack Ellis; his own grandfather, John Belcher; Matt Moppin; the Gores and Websters; Willie and Joe Connor, “Hase” Branaman, John Gabbert, Pet Hutson and “Cap” Morrow.
From article printed in the Atchison Daily Globe, Monday, 3 May 1952, page 11 of 18. Col 1. Interview with Andrew Marion Andrews (1875-1955), son of William J. Andrews and Amanda J Belcher.
Names mentioned in the article: Andrew Andrews, William Andrews, Otto Schmidt, Silas Ellis, Jack Ellis, John Belcher, Matt Moppin, Gore, Webster, Willie Connor, Joe Connor, Hase Branaman, John Gabbert, Pet Hutson, Cap Morrow.