History of Danville - Susquehanna Floods

Created: Thursday, 11 December 2008 Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 February 2014 Written by Nathan Zipfel Print Email

Susquehanna Floods


There was an old tradition, or rather a prophecy, among the Indians that roamed about the Susquehanna, that great floods in this river occurred at regular intervals of fourteen years; and this in some degree proved true in the days of our fathers. The first great flood of which we have any account was in 1744; the second in 758; the third in 1772, and that which is known as the great “pumpkin flood " was in 1786. There being just fourteen years between each of these floods. The "pumpkin flood" was in the month of October and was so designated on account of the immense number of pumpkins that floated down the stream from the fields above. It began to rain on the 5th of October, 1786, and rained incessantly for several days. The water rose rapidly and swept all before it. Several persons were drowned near the place now called Rupert, and at Sunbury houses were overflowed and many people were lost. Northumberland was also flooded and much damage was done. This flood was long remembered and known among the old settlers as "the the great pumpkin flood." In the spring of r800, just fourteen years after the "pumpkin flood," another great freshet occurred. It rained three days and three nights, carrying off a deep snow and doing much damage. In 1814 there was another destructive flood that caused much loss of life and property. Here the old Indian tradition that floods occurred every fourteen years failed; for the next was in r 8r 7, after an interval of only three years. The next flood of note was in 1847. If there were any from 1817 to 1847 we have no record of them. Many of my readers will remember that of 1859 which also raised the water in the North Branch over eight feet above high water mark. Still more vividly do they remember the extraordinary flood of March, 1865. The exciting scenes in Danville on the 17th and i8th days of that month will never be forgotten. The river began to rise on Friday, and on Saturday the water rose to four feet above the highest flood on record. A great portion of Danville was overflowed and many families were compelled to leave their homes in haste. Women and children were taken from their houses in boats. The whole district from Sageburg to Mill street was covered with water reaching up Mulberry street and to the scales in front of the Montgomery building. The low lands along the Mahoning were also under water. On Mulberry as well as on Mill street boats and rafts were moving among the houses and gliding high over the gardens. The river bridge was much injured but withstood the onset. Many stables and other buildings floated about and found new and strange foundations as the water receded, without any regard to the side that was up or down. Only one man, Peter Green, was drowned at this place. He fell into the Mahoning from a small raft while attempting to supply his family with coal. His body was recovered and properly cared for. Another great flood in the North Branch in 1875 took the river bridge that had so long withstood the assaults of the angry torrent, but when the Catawissa bridge came down and struck it broadside it had to yield. It has since been rebuilt more substantially than before. We had very high water on the 12th of February, 1881.


SOURCE:  Page(s) 44-45; Danville, Montour County Pennsylvania; D.H.B. Brower, Harrisburg; 1881