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Nelson Armstrong.

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made his appearance on Wednesday), were all present,
seated or standing around the stove, warming our bedewed
garments. Many amusing jokes were exchanged among the
hardys. The sudden disappearance of the water, which was
a surprise and a mystery to us all, and the prospects of hav-
ing to walk to Yankton the next morning over the muddy
river bottoms, were the subjects of our conversations.

We were again surprised when at nine in the even-
ing the water began to return, and came up as rapidly as it
had gone down but a few hours before. All hands were
forced to seek shelter in the two already crowded rooms
upstairs. The water continued to rise until it was three
feet deep on the kitchen floor.

April 3rd was Sunday. All had been done for the suf-
ferers that could be done, until a way could be found to
take them to land. The boats all laid at their moorings in
West's Harbor (as it had come to be) ; the water remained



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 181

at its mark until Sunday evening when it began to rise
very fast, which caused a good deal of uneasiness among
the people. Captain Lavender reported a wave moving
from side to side, as being the cause of the rise and fall of
the water, and the custom on all large bodies of water.
Some of us knew the channel was gorging below and back-
ing the water, or the gorge was giving way above. The ice
was likely to sweep down upon us at any moment. There
was scarcely standing room for our number in the crowded
apartments, and none but the small children slept. Re-
ligious services were held through the night. The landing
at the head of the stairs between the two rooms was occu-
pied as ia pulpit. I was selected as lantern holder to furn-
ish light for the occasion. Mr. Karr read from the Great,
Good Book, and the name of the good man who led in
prayer has gone from my memory. The water was often
measured and was found to rise one inch on the stairs in
five minutes, which we thought a rapid ascent. A sharp
lookout was kept up, and the night passed slowly away.

Monday, April 4th, the morning was clear and calm;
the sun shone brightly, and all was still, save the roaring of
the waters as they rolled away over the great bottoms. Cap-
tains Noble and Lavender pulled away with the life boats
once more to review the object of our future. As there was
nothing to be done until a passage to the land could be
found, I was obliged to wait for an opportunity to be of
service, and was pleased that I did not have to wait long.
Standing on the roof of a building, watching for any signal



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that might be given, I saw Captain Noble's boat hastily re-
turning. In silence I waited for any information he might
bring. When within speaking distance, he said to me:
"Have them get ready." I quickly gave the order, and the
women and children were immediately prepared to take the
boat. When the Captain came near me he spoke in a low,
firm voice, saying: "Have them make haste. We find the
ice in the channel stands still; no man knows how long it
will remain.' '

The boat was quickly loaded with the precious freight
and hurried to the crossing on the ice. Captain Lavender
had crossed the ice to ply his boat between the gorge and
the brick house on the bluff. S. K. Felton, with a yawl and
crew, was also at the gorge. Captain Noble and William
Giggey with their boats were on the south side behind the
gorge to carry the people from their different places of con-
finement to the crossing on the ice. All day long men
worked unceasingly, willing to venture in the most danger-
ous places to save and comfort human life. Such scenes
are not experienced in all generations. The alertness of
Captain Noble, as he detected every movement of the ice
above; his quiet, unassuming appearance; his graceful
management of the boat, gave his crew perfect confidence
in their helmsman. Brave men were everywhere engaged
in the noble work, battling with the furious water and ice,
assisting the sufferers in every way possible. Refugees
could be seen streaming up the bluffs wherever landed.
Teams of horses were hurrying about to carry them to the



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NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE 183

brick house or comfortable quarters in different parts of
the country, where the doors of farm houses were thrown
open to welcome them. AH were taking an active part;
there really seemed to be a strife between man and some
unknown power for the bodies of those unfortunate beings.
So the bustling labors continued from early morning until
darkness fell upon the scene, and the day was at its end.
The sun had sunk beyond the western prairies when our
last two loads reached the south side of the gorge. Cap-
tains Noble and Giggey's boats came to the crossing about
the same time. As no assistance was visible on the opposite
side, Noble advised that his people be taken into Mr. Gig-
gey's boat and his (Noble's) boat be taken across the gorge,
which was immediately done. The women and children
were then helped across and placed in Captain Noble's
boat. The other boat was then taken over, the remainder
taken aboard, and with a hard pull and a long pull through
the darkness, we reached the brick house in safety, and
again touched foot on land.

The whole number of people landed on this day, as re-
ported, was one hundred and eighty. All were safe who
had been considered in imminent danger. We could rejoice
in the small number of lives lost, but many suffered with
frozen hands and feet, and not a few were disabled beyond
recovery. Three boats' crews, Lavender's, Noble's and
Giggey's, abode at the brick house over night, and I believe
each individual rested, conscious of having done his duty
well to God and man.



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We felt confident that the gorge would go out during thg
night, as it was surging, cracking and threatening to give
way when we last crossed with the boats, but it remained
until Tuesday afternoon, when we received another addi-
tional supply of the unwelcome mixture of water, ice and
quicksand. The gorge began to heave and groan, and fin-
ally moved down over the bottom, sweeping all in its way,
buildings, hay and straw stacks, containing horses, cattle
or hogs; all went down with the watery avalanche. Cotton-
wood trees, two feet in diameter, fell before the ice with as
little resistance as grass before the scythe.

I had concluded to go to Yankton for a few days' much
needed rest, and was on the alert for a way to cross the Jim
Biver. Early in the afternoon I walked up the water side,
where I found a yawl lying that was bound for Yankton,
managed by the Sampson (Norwegian) crew. I engaged
to man an oar as a reward for my passage over the Jim.
We started the boat, with Sampson at the helm (a strong
name, but a weak crew.) We were searching for an open-
ing through, when I discovered that another rise of water
was coming which had set the ice going and the whole body
above us was in motion. It was cutting us off from land.
In a very few minutes we would be completely surrounded,
our only alternative being to pull for shore, which we did
without delay, and succeeded in reaching, but far from our
starting point. Quickly hauling the boat onto a snow drift
to an elevation of security, we ran to the house occupied
by the Nelson family, where the water had preceded us, and



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NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE 185

was tearing through the house over the first floor, with the
roaring of a cataract. A well filled granary near by, with
its contents, passed to the surface of the water and went
floating down along the bluff. When we had moved the
women and children to the hillside, with bed clothing, and
they were distributed to different places for shelter, it was
again night, with no place to shelter ourselves. At this
time B. M. Coats of Yankton appeared on the scene and
suggested that I take a walk with him ,three miles, to a
farmer friend of his, which I did. The walking was not
good; the snow drifts were not sufficiently solid to carry
the weight of a man. Some of the way we were tramping
in halfway to our knees, and occasionally would break
through where it was much deeper. We would have to stop
and pull ourselves out, then commence new again. Oh! how
tired I was, but we reached the house, had some supper and
a good bed.

The following morning I arose, fully determined if possi-
ble, to reach Yankton before the setting of another sun.
After eating breakfast we walked back to the troubled waters
where I met Ed Iverson, who was just returning from the
vicinity of Gayville. He reported the people there penned
up in the attics of buildings without food or means of es-
cape. He also expressed a desire to go to Yankton for a
boat and provisions for them. I suggested we take the boat
used by the Sampson crew, as it was then idle. This was a
favored idea, and we soon had help and were pulling the
boat across the Jim River bottoms.
1$



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186 NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE

We reached Hanson's Landing without obstruction,
where we met several Yankton citizens, who greeted us joy-
fully. Among them was Postmaster Howard, who said we
were all heroes. After reaching Yankton, the circum-
stances with our desires were made known to the County
Commissioners. A team was procured, loaded with provis-
ions; a boat's crew selected, and we again returned to the
inundated country, at Hanson's Landing. Transferring
the eatables from wagon to boat, we pulled away over the
high rolling waves against a strong northwest wind, and
touching at the brick house, long enough only to leave the
greater portion of our provisions, we were off for the work
laid out for us.

It was far in the night when we reached a log house
occupied by a widow with her children— seven in number.
There was water to the depth of two feet on the floor and no
fire in the house. The widow and her children were on the
upper floor, remaining in bed to avoid the cold weather.
After raising the stove above the water and starting a fire,
Will Goodwin and myself cooked supper for the family and
crew.

The morning of the 7th came, cold, with rain and hail
falling. After breakfasting, with the widow and her family
in the boat, we commenced our work for the day. We ran
over to Peter Johnson's to leave provisions, where several
families had congregated. Here the boat was loaded with
women and children, and we began our return voyage. At



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 187

this time the storm settled down to a very wet snow, so com-
pletely covering the people and freezing to their garments
as to prevent our distinguishing one from the other. So
dense was the storm that it compelled us to propel the boat
near the bluff, as a guide, which made our labors more fa-
tiguing and retarded our progress to some degree, as we
had to make the curves of the bank, as well as stem a strong
current.

As I write these words, I fancy I see before me (as I
looked upon them then) that boat, crowded with silent, suf-
fering mothers and little ones, and the wearied counten-
ances of those of brave hearts, with willing hands, as they
tugged at the oars, while we moved slowly through the storm,
watching for the brick house on the bluff, an object we did
not have the pleasure of seeing until late in the afternoon.
After delivering our precious load safe at the brick house,
we cooked and ate dinner. As I was suffering with cold, I
quietly walked away from the exciting scenes to a farm
house, where I was kindly treated and cared for until I
could obtain passage to the west side of the Jim.

The next morning, while on my way to the water, I
called for a few minutes at the brick house, where I met
W. B. Valentine, a Yankton County Commissioner, who
was looking after the comforts of the unfortunates and
making preparations to send them to Yankton, where they
could be more comfortably cared for.

While at the brick house, I learned of a yawl lying some
distance west that would cross to the west side sometime



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188 NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE

during the day. Hastening my steps in search of her, I ar-
rived in good time, secured passage to Hanson's Landing,
and reached Yankton the evening of April 8th, thus com-
pleting my

"Ten Days' Experience in the Flood.' '



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paper of ©♦ 1k, jfelton



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CHAPTEPv XVII



NECESSITY FOB MORE BOATS— THE IRON LIFE BOAT— OUR AP-
PEARANCE HAILED WITH JOY— CRASHING ICE AND ROAR-
ING WATERS— HEMMED IN BY THE GORGE— HELPING
ALONG THE OLD AND ENCOURAGING ALL— THE STURDY
HEARTS AND WILLING ONES.

By request of Dr. N. Armstrong, who publishes the
foregoing, I add a brief account of my experience of April
1st to 12th, in the effort to relieve the people in the sub-
merged regions.

April 1st, about noon, word was received by the County
Commissioners of urgent necessity of more boats, to assist
in rescuing the people. Promptly at the call the boats were
engaged and crews secured to man them made up from the
willing hearts, ready to do and dare in aid of their fellow
townsmen. Mr. Monroe had just reached home from a two
days' imprisonment in the gorge between the Missouri and
James Rivers. In company with others I called on him
and found him suffering with frozen feet in consequence
of exposure in his noble efforts to relieve the family of Mr.
Richards and some thirty others, who, like himself, had
been confined upon the roof of a "dug out" nearly the en-



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iga NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

tire time of two days and nights. After listening to Mr.
ML's account— which space does not allow me to record in
full— we decided that our first duly was to relieve these
people. Accordingly, on the morning of April the 2d, we
launched our iron life boat, and turned down the wild stream
of the Missouri, among seething water, grinding ice and
blinding snow— about five miles below Yankton and be-
tween the two rivers. On rounding the point of a large
gorge of ice we suddenly came on a part of the party we
were in search of, struggling in two small skiffs to get out
from among the gorge and running ice. Our appear-
ance was hailed with joy by the almost perishing women
and children— though braver hearts than theirs never came
within the writer's notice. Not a murmur of complaint
from old or young. Transferring fourteen from the boats
and ice to our yawl, we turned towards Yankton, reaching
the immense gorge opposite the steamboat landing in Yank-
ton about noon, where willing hands assisted us in trans-
ferring them to land and the kind care of the citizens.

I would not forget to mention here, that on our way up
with these people, we met Captain Noble and crew, pulling
for the neighborhood of Clark West's, their arrival there,
and subsequent effective service having been stated by
Dr. A.

Again reaching the vicinity of the house of Mr. Rich-
ards about 2 o'clock in the afternoon we found nearly one-
half mile of gorged ice between us and those we were bound



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 193

to release. Over this on foot we made our way to the house,
where we found Mr. and Mrs. Semple— an aged couple
nearly ninety years old— their son, B. M. Semple, Mr. Rich-
ards, Mr. English and several others. Taking Mr. R. 's sled
we placed the aged couple together with a Mrs. McArthur,
upon the sled, strung out a long rope, while others held up
our impromptu ice boat, and succeeded in again reaching
our boats in safety, less numerous involuntary baths, which
at this season of the year are not remarkable for their pleas-
ant effects. Loading in our precious freight we again
turned towards Yankton, reaching land again at dark. The
experience of these unfortunate people would fill a volume,
spending the cold nights in the out-door air, surrounded by
crashing ice and roaring water, their only hope of safety
being less than thirty feet square of solid earth, which
raised itself as an "oasis" above the surrounding waters.

Sunday, April 3rd, we left Yankton again for the scene
of danger, in a severe cold northwest gale, with ice running
wild. We became hemmed in, and were forced to seek ref-
uge in the lea of some timber, on the roof of a log stable,
with water a little over the eaves. Here we remained until
4 o'clock p. m., when the ice opening to the north, we made
a dash for open water, and again succeeded in reaching Mr.
Richard's house at dark. After a night similar to those
described by Dr. A., daylight found us hemmed in by the
gorge, the nearest open water was distant one and one-half
miles, with no other alternative but to haul our boat by



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194 NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE

hand over the ice, so at it we went, and in two hours' time
reached open water and soon after arrived at the house of
Louis Volin on the bluff, where we found that Captain Lav-
ender had just landed his first boat load of sufferers on
terra firma. Hastening to the gorge we were just in time to
meet Captain Noble and Wm. Giggey, with each a yawl
load, who were immediately helped across the gorge to our
boat. At this place we met Dr. Armstrong with his arms
full of little ones, helping along the old, encouraging all to
keep up good heart. Remaining at this point only as long
as our services were needed, we pulled for the vicinity of
John Thompson's, where we found a large number of fami-
lies in the attics of their houses, with water and ice nearly
on a level with their feet. One family being in a house
without an attic floor, were huddled together on a bed, which
was hoisted as high as possible on boxes and chairs, near a
hole which they had cut through the roof. We found here
the mother and four little ones, while the father sat on the
roof, apparently indifferent, whether assistance came or
not. From this vicinity we landed eight families, in all
forty-two persons. We continued in this work for ten
days, each day being but a repetition of former scenes, in-
cidents and labors, until all were saved who could be
reached, though they were so hemmed in by ice that to
reach them by boat or on foot over the ice was utterly im-
possible. While the destruction of live stock was appalling,
we can rejoice that there was but little loss of life, though
for many days these people suffered all but death.



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NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE 195

To the sturdy hearts and willing ones, who composed
the crews of the different boats engaged in this work, no
less than to those who had the honor to be at the helm, is
due the praise and thanks of a grateful people. On them
fell the burden of labor, and an equal share of danger, and
to them should be rendered a full share of credit. I sub-
join a list of those who composed the crew of the yawl of
which I had the honor of being in charge : J. C. Fitzpatrick,
Anton Brockman, Samuel Martin, Thomas Adams, Charles
Smith, Robert Logan, crew.

Respectfully, S. K. Fet/ton.



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Zhe Da^s of Migb Wheels

or Dow Daftota Belle
Tftotteo awa? witb tbe Stakes



17



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CHAPTER XVIII



MITCHELL AN ASPIRING TOWN— THE RACE TRACK — THE FAV-
ORITE GRAY MARE — EXCITEMENT RUNNING HIGH — THE
YOUNG MARE THAT WAS RAISED IN DAKOTA— PAINT
HOPES — THE THIRD DAY OF JULY — THE IMMENSE CROWD
OF PEOPLE— A NEWLY AROUSED INTELLIGENCE— A DESPER-
ATE TRIO — PLENTY OF ICE THE BALANCE OF THE SEASON.

In the spring of 1882, the town of Mitchell, in Dakota,
was building up rapidly ; money was circulating briskly in
land deals, and a generous spirit prevailed in the matter
of securing attractions for the aspiring town, especially
among the livelier residents. A gathering of men from
many states, mostly eastern, and largely newcomers, deter-
mined that Mitchell should own a race track, for who could
predict what fame might not reflect upon the new town,
from the brilliant record of some trotter, as yet a foal, fling-
ing its heels in distant pastures, all unconscious of its des-
tiny.

A trotting association was formed; land purchased for
a fair ground, and a half-mile race track was built. A
promising season was looming up, and the keenest interest
was felt. Several horses possessing evident qualities for
speed were bought and brought in, and when the work on



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200 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

the ground was well advanced, a two days' racing meeting
was advertised to be held on July third and fourth.

There was hardly a man in Mitchell, young or old, who
had not the name of some hopeful equine on his lips, and
while some were loud, others assumed an air of mystery or
wisdom, and the town was in a flutter of expectancy. Trot-
ters even trotted through the boys' dreams, and many a
hotly contested mile was driven over the track before the
meeting. Prospects were promising for a large number of
entries, and all seemed delighted with the new enterprise.
Not a man concerned but was confident of winning a bundle
on the days of the meeting, and I doubt if there was ever a
more enjoyable time anticipated at Coney Island or Chi-
cago.

Mr. J. K. Smith, the secretary of the Trotting Associa-
tion, was the owner of a gray mare that had been in train-
ing since very early in the spring, and indeed many years
before. She was under the guiding hand of one Wright,
who had come out from Iowa, professing to be the best
skilled trainer and driver in all the northwest. This mare
was a great favorite at Mitchell; she had been shipped
from the East the previous year, and it was universally be-
lieved that no horse in the country could defeat her in a
race, in fact, it seemed as if she was looked upon as an in-
vincible. Mr. Smith had spoken with a great deal of confi-
dence in regard to the ability of his mare, and intimated his
apprehensions that others would not enter against her, and
he would be under the painful necessity of starting her



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NUGGETS OP EXPERIENCE 201

alone in exhibition heats. Excitement was running high.
My semi-inaction seemed more than I could endure; my
business was of too tame a nature altogether. I had no
horse, and each owner of a racer was sure his horse could
beat the other man's horse* and all were confident in their
minds that they could name the winner in any race at the
meeting. I knew of a pretty good mare, that had been
raised in Dakota. She was a large, beautiful, dapple gray;
sixteen hands high, kind and gentle, and as yet none of my
Mitchell friends had the pleasure of an acquaintance with
her. As I became absorbed in the prospects of the coming
sports, I wrote the owner of the mare, informing him of the
race meeting, and suggested to him to bring his mare-
Dakota Belle— to Mitchell, and if he so desired, I would
drive her in the race. The return mail brought me a letter
from the owner, stating it would be impossible for him to
leave home, but the Belle was standing in the barn, and if
I wanted her, I could come and get her. The time was
short to think of starting in a race of heats, with a horse
that had not been in exercise, for it was already the last
week in June. Nevertheless, I took the first train for the
home of the owner of the mare. I did not say good-by to
anyone, and but few knew of my departure. Arriving at my
destination the night of June 26th, I found the mare very
fat, and started the next day to drive her to Mitchell, a dis-
tance of about one hundred and ten miles. The mare hav-
ing been stabled in company with other horses, was very
fretful when alone on the prairie. She left her feed the



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202 NUGGETS OF EXPERIENCE

first day oat and would eat nothing but hay and grass.
With the mare and faint hopes, I arrived at Mitchell the
night of Friday, June 30th.

I had intended starting the Belle in the three minute
class against Mr. Smith's mare, which would be called on
Monday, July 3rd, but the time was so short and she was
not eating and appeared so tired, that I gave up the idea of
starting her at the meeting. But many people urged that
the mare should be entered for the race. The officers of the
association also came to see me, saying it was their first
meeting and they were anxious to make a success. The
races, they assured me, Should be managed strictly in ac-
cordance with the rules of the National Trotting Associa-
tion, and any man not obeying the rules would be punished


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