The flood gates of heaven opened and the rain descended with vengeance Friday night, June 24, and early Saturday morning, June 25, in Algonquin and vicinity. In the years to come, when the now little boys of Algonquin have become the sires of other little boys, they will take their offspring on their knees and relate to them the tale of the great flood of "98, when the business houses of A. Baumann (saloon), Gevers & Dworak (grocery, dry goods, shoes, boots), Peter Bros. (bike shop), Albert Wilbrandt (meat market), Fred Abbott (barber), T. Kabon (saloon in Columbia Hall), Mutchow & Seyk and others were flooded. They will tell how, after a day of intense heat, the rain began to fall, soon after 9 o'clock in; the evening, and how the volume of falling water increased until it seemed as through a second great flood had come, with neither an ark of refuge or rainbow of promise.
Little attention was paid to the rain until about midnight, when the creek (Crystal Lake outlet) began to rise. The water slowly crept higher until it reached the animals cages, back of Baumann's saloon. Then the struggle to save property began. With only feeble light of lanterns and the lightning's flash to guide them in the inky blackness Messrs. Baumann, Wandrack, Gevers, Dworak, Kabon and others toiled until dawn in a desperate effort to move their goods to a place of safety. It was a useless endeavor. The rising water, rushing and roaring to the river, filled the creek bed overflowed, caught barrels, boxes, fences, pumps, animal cages, animals, Baumann's cottage, trees, creek bridge and all manner of debris in its mad embrace, and, tossing it hither and thither, twisting and writhing, snapping and crashing, bore its burden to Fox River, where it was scattered for miles along the banks and bottom lands.
In Baumann's saloon the water reached a depth from the floor of 32 inches. At Gevers & Dworak's there were 6 inches of water on the floor, with the basement full. Gene Andrus' cellar was full to the top. Peter's basement had 4 feet of water, while Wilbrandt's had 4 1/2 feet. Abbott's barber shop escaped with 4 inches of water, as Fred kept the doors closed. There was 6 feet of water at Mutchow & Seyk's, just filling the cellar, and T. Kabon had about the same depth. Nearly all the cellars in town had more or less water. The flood reached its highest point about 3 o'clock a.m., and soon after the water began slowly to recede. At one time it rose 6 inches in five minutes. Baumann's animal cages were moved back, Gevers & Dworaks's wood pile tied down, and everything movable either tied, nailed or anchored in some way. The men were working in water sometimes up to their necks. The women and children at Baumann's , Gevers & Dworak's, Abbott's, Kabon's and Voitech's were carried by the men to safety, although the water was very deep before they were rescued. They were nearly all asleep, and were hurried away with scanty attire. The best care was given them, and no one was injured. The water made such a deafening roar that a man's voice could only be heard a few feet away, and the electric display was dazzling.
Fred Abbott was standing in his shop when he saw a huge timber, rising and falling with the waves, come rushing through Andrus' yard. It struck the chain pump and brushed it over and aside like a feather. Fred thought the timber was headed for the shop and he says it would have crashed through the building as though the structure was made of paper. This shows the incredible force of the current. Nothing could stand against it. The Baumann cottage went down, and lodged at the creek bridge. In a few minutes -------------and all were ----------- swept away. All the squirrels, rabbits, owls, white rats, ---arly all the pigeons and all the other animals and birds were drowned, except the goat. Stehlik saved him by going under the cottage after him, dragging him in by the horns, and locking him in the bathroom in the upper story. In the cottage was a lot bedding, clothing and other valuables; also a $250 pool table, all being a total loss. A piano in the saloon was ruined by the water and dirt. Some glasses and other articles sum Baumann's loss up to abouit $800. Gevers & Dworak sustained a loss of $45 on floor alone, besides the loss on barrels of vinegar, syrup, molasses, machine oil, canned goods, jars, etc., stored in the cellar. Some of their goods were stored in a shed in the rear of the store, and these were damaged. They also lost several cords of wood, and Mr. Gevers loses 114 chickens of high breed. Gene Andrus suffered considerable damage in the basement of his house, but there was no heavy loss.
Peter's basement contained a barrel of kerosene, some gasoline, wrapping paper and paper sacks, tobacco, besides the bicycle repair shop. The damage comes within $100. Albert Wilbrandt calculates his damages at $100. He had a lot of lard and tallow ruined; also a wagon load of rock salt in burlap sacks. When the water subsided he found the sacks all right, but not a grain of salt. It had dissolved.
T. Kabon lost considerable in the way of clothes, etc., also some liquors. His damage is about $75. Mutchow & Seyk had goods stored in their basement, but suffered no damage. Fred Abbott, who slept through the whole affair, until nearly 3 o'clock in morning, had a lot of carpets and rugs soaked and discolored. The condensing factory floor was covered several inches deep with gravel, sand and water, swashed down from the bluffs, and as a consequence did not run Saturday or Sunday night. In the morning, at the usual hour for the first run, only 4,000 pounds of milk had been received, and it was not considered advisable to start with so small a quantity. The farmers were unable to reach the factory on account of washed out bridges. They disposed of some of the milk at the creameries.
The willows on the north bank of the creek, from the street several hundred feet toward the river, were torn out slick and clean. The railroad bridge towards Nunda was washed out and there were several washouts along the track. Forces of men were bucy all day Saturday repairing. No trains go through until noon Saturday.
The creek bridge was carried to B.B. Steward's farm. Parts of the animal cages have been recovered, also some other property, but it is all practically ruined.
The roadway was washed out in places, and many small creek bridges are missing. Repairs were at once made.
Saturday mourning a ferry across the creek was improvised by stretching a rope from Baumann's to Voltech's. The passengers pulled themselves across in a boat. Several were upset and there was very nearly a fatality. August Berkley, John Dehmlow and a man from Cary were in the boat when Mr. Voltech stepped in, and the craft at once capsized. This was on the south side of the creek. The Cary man and Voltech reached shore at once, but Dehmlow, who is not a good swimmer, grasped Berkley in a deathlike embrace. Berkley could not swim with his dody so entangled, and the current swiftly bore them towards the river. Berkley seized some overhanging willow branches, but they broke in his grasp. He tried to free himself so that he might help both, but could not. Both men felt that the last hope was gone. Dehmlow became almost unconscious. With a final effort Berkley with hands clutched some stronger willows. They held, and thus supported it was only a short time before Elmer and Alvin Dodd and John Nickles had both men safely on shore. Dehmlow could scarce(ly) stand, and had swallowed considerable water. Berkley's presence of mind alone saved both from drowning. They were already well toward the river when their course was arrested.
The flood calls to the minds of the older people the freshest of 1881. The water was even higher then, but not so much damage was done.
August 1, 1898
About six inches of water fell last Friday night and many cellars and basements on the river bottom were inundated. The river was higher than it has been in many years. All manner of wreckage came floating down in the early morning. It was the heaviest rain falling five hours ever known in this section. Some damage was done to the crops. Especially the low portions of the oats and corn fields. The N. W. railroad was washed out in places and a landslide above Algonquin held the trains for nearly twelve hours. Several northbound excursion trains were left here on the siding for the length of time. The road was all right south of Dundee, so that trains came regularly from that direction this far.
Friday's Night's Rain
Nunda Herald, June 30, 1898
Picture of Flood the Next Day
Picture of Temporary Bridge