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all danger had passed, but it was discovered later that
the ice had first broken at the upper end of the river and
gorged near Springfield, about forty miles above us, which
very plainly explained the cause of the river being clear
at Yankton. The ice remained unbroken in the river bed
below, which was an indication of an overflow, and the
water had already commenced to make its way out over
the lowlands.

On Monday, the 28th, the ice above began giving way
and moved slowly down on the Nebraska side of the river,



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i6o NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

the Dakota side running clear until late in the afternoon,
when all were excited about the city— danger was antici-
pated on the Missouri bottoms. Captain Lavender, with
yawl and crew, went to warn some of the people of the
coming of the water, and on his return, finding himself
cut off by the ice, he abandoned his boat at the car shops,
one mile below the city, and made the remainder of his
way on foot.

On Tuesday, the 29th, the gorge was reported un-
broken at Springfield, and the rising of the water was not
as rapid as it proved to be later. The floating ice, con-
tinually being forced on to the unbroken ice in the river
bed a few miles below Yankton, forming a dam, and
throwing the water onto the Dakota side— where it con-
tinued to flow through the night, seemed conclusive evi-
dence in my mind that the greatest flood ever known on
the Missouri River was then taking place.

Being informed on the morning of the 30th of the
amount of water then on the bottom lands; knowing the
locality of some families and their danger of being swept
away should the water rise with velocity, and thinking
it would be a loss of time to wait to get and man a yawl,
as I believed the water yet too shallow in many places to
move so large a boat, I immediately secured a skiff, and
with the assistance of Mr. 'Fred Kincel, with his team,
succeeded in getting my boat to the hill, known during
the flood as Hanson's Landing. This landing was in the
public highway leading from the city of Yankton in a



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NUGGBTS OF BXPBRIBNCB 161

northeasterly direction to the Jim River bridge. It i& two
miles from Yankton and one mile from the bridge, where
the road ascends from the bottom to the upland or prairie.

When arriving at the landing I met a young man who
was anxiously watching an opportunity to reach his peo-
ple in the flooded regions. He expressed a desire to go
with me and we started on our voyage. I found the water
shallow, as anticipated, with an inch of ice that had
formed over it the night before, which proved a hindrance
to us, as we were compelled to break the ice in front be-
fore we could go forward After working some time we
reached a snowdrift; taking the boat from the water we
drew it on the snow with good results, but we found the
end of the snowdrift and again took to the water.

We passed near a farm residence, where two or three
women and as many men were standing on straw covered
■heds, who were loudly laughing and having a merry time
as they watched the movements of the ice and water, ap-
parently wholly unconcerned as to any danger that could
come to them. The water was then three feet deep about
the outbuildings; a skiff was moored near by, and I said
to them: "Had you not better go to the landt I think
the water will be still higher.' ' But they only scoffed at
my warnings as a reward. When returning after several
days in the submerged country, I met the same party at
the house of Major Hanson on the hill— a very meek
family of people.

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i6a NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

Soon after leaving the farm residence, we came to a
new railroad grade, where we took the boat from the wa-
ter again and drew it on the sleek surface about eighty
rods; when at this point we got a sudden rise of ten
inches more water, and we launched the little life pre-
server, as she proved to be, once more— this time in the
railroad ditch, which we followed to the open prairie on
the east side of the Jim River. Up to this time our progress
had been greatly retarded, owing to the shoal water and
the thin ice. The water began coming in waves; the thin
ice gave way before it, and a boat could be handled with
more ease and speed.

As we floated out onto the open prairie, there appear-
ed to us our first duty, as rescuers. About one hundred
and fifty yards from us was a man on horseback, in the
water, who had started to cross the Jim River bridge*
He had reached the unbroken ice, and the moving ice had
so completely closed in on his rear as to not allow the
horse to move either way. A number of men and women
were on the bluff as spectators, but with no means of
aiding him, and they called to us for help. I thought it
must have seemed a discouraging case to the poor fellow,
before he saw the little boat floating out through the brush
lining the Jim River. There he sat on the horse, thirty
rods or more from land, his legs in water to the knees;
the ice rushing about in the rapidly rising water, making
moaning noises, like brutes in great agony. I imagined
he was thinking that he would ere long be swallowed up



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 163

in the wild and angry waves. Fortunately we were in
good time for the rescue and we hastened to his assistance,
changing our column, rear to the front, broke and parted
the ice as the boat moved backward, until a channel was
opened and the horse relieved from his paralytic condi-
tion in the ice. Then moving forward, allowing the horse
to follow in the boat's wake, we proceeded shoreward. The
horse appeared to understand something of the situation
and was anxious for deliverance. His rider required fre-
quent warning to hold back, lest he climb in and capsize
the boat, an act I did not care to have him indulge in at
that season of the year, with the temperature of the water
at freezing point. However, we arrived safe in the haven
with our charge, and received the blessings of a delighted
young wife.

At this place is located a brick house, which will
appear conspicuously in this narrative. A brief descrip-
tion of this house will be of interest to the reader, as a
better understanding of the country in which we were
operating can thus be obtained :

It was a two story, brick dwelling, and was the prop-
erty of Lewis Volin; it was located on the north bluff,
about one mile east from the Jim River bridge and fronted
to the south, overlooking both Vie Missouri and Jim Rivers
and their bottom lands, also fie Nebraska bluff, south of
the Missouri River. As a greater portion of the people of
the flooded district in Yankton County were taken to
Yankton, they were landed at the brick house, where pro-



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164 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

visions were provided, and when navigation permitted
they were transferred to the west side of the Jim River.
This house was used for a general rendezvous and head-
quarters for all parties going from and coming to, or
operating on the submerged bottoms.



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CHAPTER XV



ARRIVAL AT THE PARKAS PLACE— THE LITTLE SKIFF AT SEA—
TERRIFIC STORM— THIRTY-SIX HOURS' IMPRISONMENT-
DANGER NOT FULLY REALIZED— MERCURY HOVERING
AROUND ZERO— IN YOUNGER DAYS— PRETERNATURAL
SCENERY— ARRIVAL OF CAPTAIN LAVENDER WITH YAWL
AND CREW — SEARCHING THE ICY COUNTRY FOR AN OUT-
LET—SINGING ON THE WATER A BAD OMEN— CAPTAIN NO-
BLE AT THE HELM.

To return to our subject: Touching land at the brick
house a few minutes only, we were again on the waves, pull-
ing for the residence of the Parks family, some miles to the
southeast and towards the Missouri Eiver. Having lately
received another new supply of water, we could now propel
our little craft with considerable speed, and arrived at the
Parks' place about 4 p. m.— in good time, but not a mo-
ment too soon. This house was a one-story dwelling— one
part of logs, the adjoining part being of frame. There
were ten inches of water on the floor, and the two families
—Parks and Lagrants, were taking refuge on the beds,
chairs and tables. The water was gradually rising, with
no possible way for escape, until our arrival. A hurried
ionsultation, and the little skiff was immediately put to sea,



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168 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

to carry the women and children to the residence of Mr.
Clark West The distance, as I could learn, was about one
mile, as the bird flies, and it was the nearest two-story
dwelling in the neighborhood.

The treacherous appearance of the location we were
leaving will not easily be forgotten by those who were eye
witness. As night came on, the water deepened and was rac-
ing furiously through the trees and snow banks, as if deter-
mined to sweep everything with it, and everything that
came in contact with the current was carried away.

While some of our party were yet standing on a large
snow drift, watching for the return of the boat, the frame
part of the house quickly raised to the surface of the water
and toppled over on its side. There were nine of us to be
carried in the skiff over that body of turbulent water, but
with the kind providence of the all-wise Father, we were
all, at 9 o'clock in the evening, at the house of Mr. West,
where I found we were not the only party seeking refuge,
for three other families had previously taken up quarters
there.

This, being the first night, with the terrific appearance
put forth by the water and ice, I considered the severest
test for weak hearts, of all my ten days and nights 1 experi-
ence with the destructions and devastations of the flood.
The second story of the house consisted of two rooms, with
the stairs between them. The west room contained two
beds, a "shake-down" (with a helpless old couple upon it),
and many things which had been brought up to be saved



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 169

from the water. This was the larger room and was occupied
by the women and children. In the smaller room opposite
were two beds, which were occupied by the men.

As there was no other way of reaching the stairs from
the skiff, our party waded on our arrival at the kitchen
door ; the water then being two feet deep on the first floor.

All the people had been in the water more or less and
were wearing their wet clothes. There had been no time
for making preparations, the water having come upon the
people in the lower localities suddenly, allowing them barely
time to flee with their lives.

The doors and windows of the lower story were kept
open for the free accession of the water. The night was
dark and cold; the water rushed with all its fury and
mighty speed through and about the house ; doleful noises
could be heard as the waves and ice rolled and dashed
against the house and outbuildings; the water was rising
every moment with greater rapidity; step after step it
came climbing up the stairs toward us, and no one knew
how long the house would resist the strain.

Shortly after midnight the wind rose to almost a hurri-
cane, making our condition a more terrifying one, and
many an appeal in solemn prayer to the Father above for
deliverance was offered up by those suffering people. My
anxiety in regard to more serious events was concerning the
women and children, of whom there were far too many to
be cared for with one little skiff, that would safely carry
but three people on the calmest sea. Many thoughts came



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170 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

to me, and yet I did not fully realize the extent of our dan-
ger. The current might change from its course north of us,
and break through nearer the river, but, I reasoned, there
were the trees around the house, which were a fair defence,
and the Jim River but a short distance west of us, with her
heavy line of sturdy cottonwood on each side, a much
greater protection. Had we been men only, I would at
that time, even with the house forced from its foundation,
have thought our chances of escape moderately good, but
experience is knowledge, and knowledge often changes opin-
ion. Later, I found the power of that body of water and
ice far beyond my anticipations.

With all the many difficulties and afflictions we were
undergoing, there came one consolation. Soon after the
wind began to blow the water stopped rising, which helped
greatly to sheer the depressed spirit of our terror stricken
people.

The morning of the 31st came, but did not improve the
weather nor lessen the water, though with the light of day
our people were of better courage.

Let us ponder a few moments on the condition of the
people on these river bottoms. It was the month of March ;
the wind remaining at its height; the water from five to
fifteen feet deep over many miles and thousands of acres of
as fertile farming land as can be found west of the Miss-
issippi River; the mercury hovering around zero; the waves
rolling high and filling the frosted air with spray, prevent-
ing us from seeing anything going on about us. In the lat-



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 171

ter part of the day there would occasionally be a pause for
a moment in the storm, when, peering through the windows,
we could see a small building or a grain stack tossing about
on the water before the wind. Think of our experiencing
a genuine Dakota blizzard, in midwinter, on that ocean of
water, and you may get a slight idea of our situation. It
was impossible to operate with a boat on the water during
the storm, and the suffering cannot be described. Many
crept away in attics, while others with their families
climbed to the roofs of their sod-covered dwellings, wrapped
in bed clothes, as best they could, where they awaited the
abating of the storm and the coming of the life boats.

The morning of April 1st was cloudy, windy and cold,
but later on, the weather having changed for the better, I
concluded to go out with the boat and if possible find a
way to the land. With an assistant, I ran the boat to
Park's place, which we had left two nights previous, and
found it presenting a desolate appearance; all live stock
had disappeared, excepting a bunch of shoats, which we
discovered had kept themselves on the ice, until by the
rise of water they were elevated to the roof of a straw-
covered shed, where they were pestling quite contented.
We now ran the boat out to the channel or running ice.
On this exploration I had an opportunity of seeing
some peculiar formations and interesting scenery, which I
regret my inability to properly describe. In younger days
I had played about the great Niagara; I had seen her in all
her grandeur, both in summer and in winter; I had sat on



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17* NUGGETS OF BXPBRIBNCB

Goat Island and watched the beautiful rainbows by day,
and the lunar-bow by night; I had crossed the river below
the Falls on the bridge of ice; I had climbed the mountains
of ice formed by the ascending spray from the great catar-
act; I had walked from island to island above the Falls on
ice and on rocks, gathered boughs from the tamarack and
cedar trees, when the icicles hung like sparkling diamonds
im the clear sunlight; I had often watched the beautiful
little steamer "Maid of the Mist," laden with the merry
tourists, all attired in their golden-colored, water-proof
suits, as they promenaded or danced up and down the hur-
ricane deck, while the tiny craft bravely plowed her way
through the high rolling waves and dense spray and sped
on with her pleasure seekers on her voyage around the im-
mense volume of falling water, but on this occasion I seemed
to be in the midst of a greater intermixture of foreign and
preternatural scenery.

Along the Jim River, where it seemed.to take a southerly
direction, was formed a solid belt of ice, braced by the large
trees on each side of the river. West, as far as the eye
could reach, was gorged and moving ice, which was of a
gray or dark color and very craggy and uneven appear-
ance. The entire body of ice seemed to me to have been
gorged on Thursday night; a channel had broken through
the center, a bank was formed on each side, not more than
one hundred feet wide, and not unlike the work of a master
mechanic. Propelling the boat through a narrow channel
clear from ice, between the bank and a large body of ice



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NUGGBTS OP EXPERIENCE 173

extending east, we followed nearly to the Jim River, where
we came to its head. Here the water came from the ice re-
sembling an immense spring boiling from underneath giant
rocks. From this point I had an excellent view of the sub-
merged country— several miles in all directions. The chan-
nel, or running ice, appeared to form a half circle, coming
from the Missouri River above us, moved in a northerly di-
rection crossing the Jim River, then bearing east; again to
the southeast towards the Missouri River. The ice in the
channel seemed to be three feet above the water, and run-
ning with almost the speed of a race horse. As I looked
upon that long line of moving ice, there came vividly to my
mind scenes in the days of the Civil War, when the Army of
the Potomac was on the march from the Chickahominy to
the south side of the James River.

The dark, cloudy morning had changed to sunlight. A
fog seemed to hang over us, with a space of several feet of
clear, frosty air between it and the water. Snow banks and
piles of ice had lodged in different places on Wednesday
night. The storm on Thursday, the dashing water, with
the cold, freezing weather, had formed them into great
shining icebergs that extended the long white peaks high in
the air above the water, so numerous in some places as to
require some skill to manage a boat among them. The dark
clouds had passed away, and the bright sun penetrating
the gray mist presented a scene similar to a mirage seen on
the prairie. The trees were bowed down with their burden
of ice, each branch and trunk encased with the bright crysh

15



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174 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

tal were patting forth white, purple and golden colors, all
mingled with the oehre tinged water and gray colored ice.
The partly divested and snow clad bluffs arose in the dis-
tance, with the dark blue sky far in the background.

Later, while on this exploring trip, I met Captain Lav-
ender with his yawl and crew, who hailed me, inquiring
where he could get something to eat, stating he had tried to
get to us, and was cast on a cake of ice, where he was com-
pelled to remain a part of the afternoon Thursday, in the
storm, and had lodged that night in the garret of Patrick
Daneen's vacant farm house, without food. I having so re-
cently escaped from my thirty-six hour imprisonment, knew
but one place,— the house of Clark West. I said to him:
11 Go there. I think you can get food, also information as
to who will be suffering most."

To me the appearance of the captain with his crew was
a very pleasant event. It was my first knowledge of a boat,
other than my own, being in the submerged country. I
was still searching the icy country for an outlet farther to
the east, when I met Captain Lavender returning. He had
loaded his boat with people and was making towards the
running ice. Again he called to me, sayings "What is the
trouble t" I replied: "You cannot cross the current."
The Captain turned his boat eastward, saying: "I think I
can get through this way," but after moving about some
time among the floating blocks of ice, in search of an ave-
nue to the land, he became weary and returned for a resting
place. He reported the channel impassable, and I returned



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 177

to Mr. West's for the night. Lavender and crew went to
Abe Van Osdel's.

Captain Lavender had been a sea captain of some years'
experience. He was a quiet, good fellow, and an ardent
worker in the cause. Nothing on water seemed to annoy
him so much as vocal music. As it occurs to me, my ex-
perience has been that all seafaring people are to a greater
or less degree imbued with superstitious beliefs, and the
Captain thought siuging on the water a bad omen. He
seemed sincere in his belief that the water invariably rises
while the women sing.

April 2d dawned colt! and cloudy, with some wind. Not
knowing whether or not the people in the outside world
were awake to the state of affairs existing in that unfortun-
ate locality, I again took to the water with the skiff, anx-
iously watching for an opening in the ice, to get to land and
state the danger the people were in, that men with boats
might hasten to the rescue ; but each time I found the ice
running, and crossing an impossibility.

After my return I went with a party to some out-build-
ings. Fuel had been procured and sent to the house in the
skiff. Mr. West and myself were seated on the roof of a
small building; as getting to the land seemed an unanswer-
able question. We were speaking of the probable results
should the water rise higher, when away to the north I dis-
covered an object on the water, which I took to be a boat,
but so far away that I could only indistinctly see the vi-
brating of the oars. To me, they resembled the wings of a



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178 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

large bird moving lazily over the surface of the water. To
this I drew Mr. West's attention and we watched her on-
ward coming. It was not long until we were convinced that
another rescuing party was exploring the icy region.
Steadily on she came, directly towards us, until within a
few rods of the buildings, when I heard a voice calling my
name. I recognized the familiar faces of Ohlman, Karr
and other gentlemen from Yankton, who composed the
boat's crew, with that seafaring veteran, Captain Noble, at
the helm. When landed on the building, all gave me a
kindly greeting, expressing their surprise and gratification
at finding me alive, as they had thought me lost four days
previous, but I was a little earlier than the ice, and reached
the south side before its coming.

The gallant Captain and his little band of heroes had
taken desperate chances. Believing there was much suffer-
ing, they had risked their own lives to know the fate of
others. They watched an opportunity for the slightest
opening, then like a flash the iron hull was forced into the
running ice, and though it seemed for a time as if the
force of the floating mass would gain the mastery, and the
boat with its contents and all would be crushed and
carried down to destruction, yet with the determined
and unceasing efforts of the Captain and his crew, she
was brought safely to open sea.



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CHAPTEPv XVI



MY CRAFT— CAPTAIN NOBLE A STRANGER— RECEDING OF THE
WATER — THE HARDTS — RETURN OF THE WATER —
CROWDED APARTMENTS — WEST'S HARBOR — RELIGIOUS
SERVICES— MONDAY, APRIL FOURTH— A HARD, AND A LONG
FUIIj— THE NELSON FAMILY— WE TOOK A WALK— RETURN
TO THE TROUBLED WATERS — THE WIDOW AND FAMILY —
BLINDING SNOW STORM— BRAVE HEARTS AND WILLING
HANDS.

My little skiff was now at a discount. Two yawls were
exploring the south side of the running ice, engaged in
moving families from place to place, where they could be
made most comfortable.

On the occasion of my first conversation with Captain
Noble, whom I had never met until on the waters of the in-
undated country, the Captain took the opportunity to in-
quire if that was my residence, when I replied: "I am
here as yourself, sir, a rescuer/ ' and pointing to the skiff
said: "Here is my craft.' 9 The Captain looked at me,
then at the frail little boat; again at me, and remarked:
"Well, you have a good deal of nerve."

Captain Noble was a sea captain, with thirty years' ex-
perience on salt waters. He was a resident of the coast of



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i8o NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

Maine, and had arrived in Yankton on his first visit to Da-
kota but a few days before the overflow. A total stranger
as he was, not one man in a thousand would have exposed
himself as he did, from the first rise of the flood. It dem-
onstrated that he had those qualities of head and heart that
constitute nature's noblemen.

At the house of Mr. West, early Saturday evening, the
water began to recede and sank away rapidly, so that in a
very short time the kitchen floor was cleared ; a fire started
in the range, and the Captains—Lavender and Noble, their
boat's crews, your humble servant and "man Friday' ' (who


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