2016-02-23 / Front Page

Over 130 Attend Annual Meeting Of Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District

by Michael Stanley
Staff Writer


A crowd of more than 150 gathered inside the Oak Room at the Canyon Inn last Thursday evening for the 2016 annual meeting of the Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District. (Staff Photo) A crowd of more than 150 gathered inside the Oak Room at the Canyon Inn last Thursday evening for the 2016 annual meeting of the Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District. (Staff Photo) More than 130 area residents interested in the ongoing and future activities of the Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District (SWCD) filled the Oak Room Thursday evening at the Canyon Inn inside Mc- Cormick’s Creek State Park for the organization’s annual meeting.

The evening included an election to fill one of five seats on the SWCD Board of Supervisors, with Gosport area resident Chad Cooper elected to fill the role.

Owen County Historian Tony Neff served as the night’s keynote speaker, delving deep into the history of flooding in and around Owen County.

While highlighting the historic flood of March 26, 1913 when the White River reached 28.5 feet, and more recently the flood of June 8, 2008 when the river reached 26.93 feet in Spencer, Neff also provided information for a forgotten incident, when White River’s waters reached a level of 26.4 feet on August 2, 1875.


Members of the 2016 Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors include, left to right: Marcus Robinson, Chad Cooper, Paul Cummings, John Thacker and Letha Dyer. (Staff Photo) Members of the 2016 Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District Board of Supervisors include, left to right: Marcus Robinson, Chad Cooper, Paul Cummings, John Thacker and Letha Dyer. (Staff Photo) Neff provided an old local newspaper excerpt on ‘Facts About High Water,’ which noted “One the 2nd day of August, 1875, when the flood reached the highest point, Richard N. Beem chiseled a mark in the solid stone wall of Beem’s bluff. The flood of March 26, 1913, exceeded the former 26 inches by actual measurement made by R.L. Beem, William Mahuren and M.V. Haltom.”

Neff noted the 1875 flood may not have had the largest impact of the flooding to occur locally, but it was the biggest flood of the 19th century in Indiana, occurring during the second wettest July prior to 2015.


Owen Valley High School FFA chapter president Caitlin Myers provided a year in review for the annual meeting of the Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District. (Staff Photo) Owen Valley High School FFA chapter president Caitlin Myers provided a year in review for the annual meeting of the Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District. (Staff Photo) The waters washed out the original Cataract Bridge, located between the upper and lower Cataract Falls and left extensive agricultural damage.

He explained how the worst flooding of 1913 took place on the southeast side of Spencer, where J.M. Evan’s home was washed off of its South Washington Street foundation and into the town street. Jos Britten’s home was also washed off of its foundation. Water had reached the roof line at the residences of Pleasant Evans and Louis Bender and James Babbs’ home sustained water damage inside and out, but remained standing.

Neff also provided photographs from the various times, one of which depicted a large hole washed out of a farm field south of Romona in 1913, where Thomas Laymon’s home and barn south of White River were washed away completely.


Steve Cotter with SICIM (Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management) spoke about future efforts concentrated in Owen County. (Staff Photo) Steve Cotter with SICIM (Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management) spoke about future efforts concentrated in Owen County. (Staff Photo) The old steel bridges in Gosport and Freedom survived the flooding, but J.D. Dyer’s store in Freedom was filled 18-inches deep with flood waters. Louis Courim’s store received eight inches of water.

The largest impact crippled the local railroad infrastructure, where tracks, ballasts, grades and telephone poles were washed away from Gosport to Spencer. The Vandalia Railroad, running from Martinsville to Switz City, was under water. While the Monon bridge survived, its abutment suffered damage.

Neff shared some additional local newspaper coverage of the 1913 flood, which mentioned an April 2 concert at the county courthouse auditorium to benefit flood sufferers.


Owen County SWCD Executive Director Andrea Oeding addressed the annual meeting crowd Thursday. (Staff Photo) Owen County SWCD Executive Director Andrea Oeding addressed the annual meeting crowd Thursday. (Staff Photo) Indianapolis newspapers and mail were picked up on Sunday in Gosport by J.B. Archer and W.G. Moss, while local Postmaster J.D. Heavenridge made an overland trip to Indianapolis on Thursday and Friday to retrieve the community’s mail. He also mentioned teams of men sent by White Lumber Company to help people move through the night.

“The colored people have shown a commendable spirit of progress in the matter of their school,” one newspaper clipping read. “The house had been flooded as high as the windows and a deposit of about six inches of mud and slime was left on the floor. By Saturday they had the house all cleaned out and had it in shape for use by Monday.”

A comparison was provided between the ‘Great Flood of 1913’ and the flood of 2008, noting 1913’s flooding was widespread throughout the Midwest, including many complete large watersheds and provided the all-time flooding record of many major rivers, leaving 800 dead.

The rainfall on June 7 and June 8, 2008 was localized within several watersheds in south central Indiana, where local flash flooding of tributaries in the West and East Fork of White River led to nine deaths, three of which occurred in Indiana.

The 2008 flood served as Spencer’s 1,000-year flood event and left extensive local damage to fields, streams, roads, levies and bridges with 10.4 inches of rain measured in 24 hours. He reminded that the Town of Spencer received some state and federal assistance to recover between 2008 and 2011, including $1,061,132 to purchase 17 flood-prone properties, along with a $353,710 local match and $78,000 in FEMA flood reimbursements to property owners.

Neff also tracked the timing of flooding in the year, noting 61 major or moderate floods have been recorded in Spencer, with none occurring in August or October. He said the month of January had the highest total flooding incidents with 15, followed by April with 11, May with nine and seven in March.

Owen County Community Foundation President and CEO Mark Rogers later shared a video and spoke about the ongoing MYPath effort to connect a walking trail from the Owen County Family YMCA to McCormick’s Creek State Park.

A year in review for the Owen Valley High School FFA chapter was provided by chapter president Caitlin Myers.

Lastly, the crowd heard from Steve Cotter with Southern Indiana Cooperative Invasives Management (SICIM) concerning a cooperative 35-county area weed management effort.

The Owen County Soil & Water Conservation District can be found online at www.owencountyswcd.org. The office, located at 743 East Franklin Street in Spencer, can be reached by phone at 812-829-2605.

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