Saturday, April 16th
Water in river begins to rise.
Sunday, April 17th
Water rising one inch per hour steadily, and getting so as to attract attention.
Monday, April 18th
Water still rising an inch an hour. Some ice going down river, and about noon the ice knocked out two or three piles of the R R bridge. Water in afternoon running over turnpike by Wandrack's and later in day for several rods towards river-Water in evening within 8 inches of corner timbers of bridge-Peacock has several teams at work on ends of dam. A foot of water over road opposite Marshall's barn. Freight train at 2:45 PM had to wait. Wrecking train came in evening to repair bridge. Winkie moved family away.
Tuesday, April 19th
Water rapidly rising. Turnpike very generally under water. Heavy stream at Wandrack's, so great that turnpike is rapidly washing out, and all crossing suspended. Water crossing road at hotel a foot deep. Creek and river both rising. No train from Chicago to-night. Bridge builders at work and bridge repaired and strengthened. No crossing river except by boats and R R bridge. Evidences of dam only by rapids, as water below was within a foot of the level above, and passed over the dam in about a four foot stream. Ice beginning to move and gorge about Bogus Island.
Wednesday, April 20th
River still rising and water nearly on a level above and below dam. Running over turnpike and road nearly to hotel steps, and too deep for wading, boats came into use as means of communication both across creek and river. Evidences early this am (morning) that ice was beginning to break up, and everybody in town was at all available points of observation to see the results. Business being almost entirely suspended. Milk and passenger train left as usual for Chicago, over the renovated bridge. About 9 am the ice began to give way and sweep down over turnpike, the main current being nearer Wandrack's than the river bridge. The ice above bridge wedging in, and although pressing hard against that structure acting as a breakwater to prevent it receiving shocks. About 10 am a huge block of ice broke out several piles from the Railroad bridge, and soon after a huge timber fell, that was put in the day before. From this time till 4 PM ice kept moving down, and the work of destruction went on until the bridge was entirely destroyed, except a few supports on west end and one central row of piles. The timbers of the destroyed portion of the bridge all fell, leaving the track which was bolted together with the sleepers attached, hanging over the central support like a suspension bridge. Above the bridge the ice destroyed Mrs. Vincut's fruit trees, several out buildings at Hendeman's, Chas Wandrank's wood shed and innumerable fences. A torrent of water and ice pig-styes, out houses, fences, and debris, constantly pouring down and the river still rising. The creek bridge was now just at surface of water and several loads of iron were put on it to hold it from floating away. A large scow was built for a ferry boat by some public spirited individuals. Yesterday's mail reached us this evening by our postmaster, who took a trip to Elgin to get it and had to be ferried across from the east side on his return.
Thursday, April 21st
Situation unchanged this morning, except that the central pier of rainroad bridge was carried away in night, and Winkie's barn was carried down stream a few rods, and the demolished river bridge still standing. Water still rising and several citizens in boats spent the day a few miles below town picking up timber and other wrecked material. Water now reaches up main street to nearly hardware store. No trains and no connection with outside world.
Friday, April 22th
Very little change since yesterday except that river is till raising, and gradually submerging a great deal of the flat land below the dam on Hubbard's flat. A train from Nunda backed down here this morning bringing mail from Chicago and points above here, also to take off milk to Chicago. All milk from east side river, and from north side creek now brought over in ferry boats. The river bridge getting hard knocks from scattering fields of ice, but still standing although badly shaken and with many loose joints and breaks in wood work. The weather summer like and pleasant to-day, thermometer reaching 66 deg in shade, about noon.
Saturday, April 23rd
Water still rising, Wandrack's ice house burst open last night and the ice went down river. River bridge getting hard knocks all day but not yet gone. Many boats were built today for use by persons living in the submerged portion on north side of creek. Warm and pleasant to-day, thermometer rising 76 deg in shade.
Sunday, April 24th
Water still rising. A boat trip to the east side revealing the following state of affairs:
The platform at Wenholtz & Philps' store is used as a landing dock, as it is just two inches above surface of water. P Wollavers blacksmith shop has two feet of water on floor. The water is up to wagon box of large express wagon standing in shed of Brick mill. Two feet of water in Meat market. A rapid current of six inches running over the porch of H. Benthuysen's house. Squire Klinck's store and house adjoining having several feet of water in them. Water nearly up to door-sills of Mr. Enerson's house and the reading room. It has reached floor of harness shop, and the rooms behind used as dining room and kitchen by the Wandrack family, are filled with water. The house occupied by Mr. Winkie has two feet of water in it as has Mr. Matlas residence. There is a heavy current running down stream between all these houses, which is no doubt, undermining them in places, but this drainage can only be known when low water comes. Mr. Enerson and wife, and Mrs Miller and children are still living in their old places, but are entirely cut off from the rest of the town, except by boat communication. On the east side, the water is very high, but on account of the steep bank, in doing little general damage. Squire Klinck's cellar is partly filled, and the River mill floor is but a few inches above the water level. A temporary dam of dirt and timber keeps the water from rushing through between the end of the bridge and mill. Were it not for this dam, the mill would soon be undermined. The water is within an inch of the board sides of the bridge; the bridge itself is standing, but many floor timbers are turned over, and some carried away. The west end has been knocked down stream several inches, and the lower side is off it's supports, and only held in place by heavy planks spiked to the upper side of the bridge. Cakes of ice are constantly striking the upper side of the bridge weakening it and pushing it still more down stream. The river now is s high both below and above the dam that no ripple or eddy shows where the turnpike crosses, and boats go anywhere they choose. Altogether the aspect of the submerged district looks pitiable enough, and we cannot estimate the amount of damage that will result.
This evening we had some heavy showers, The temperature being high all day, reaching at noon. The water still rising and at dark a narrow stream had reached the house block in front of Dr. Bentley's house. His garden is now under water. Quite a delegation from Nunda visited us today to see the flood. No mail from Chicago for two days.
The water now is at least four feet deep in the street in front of Wandrack's and over two feet above the highest point over reached by any previous flood.
Great Easter Flood of 1881
Dr. Nason, Author
Woodstock Sentinel, April 28, 1881