MEMORIES IN FOCUS: When floods were a way of life years ago
Floods have marked much of Marion’s history but may not have been as commonplace as many citizens believe, at least in Marion’s early days.
The first big floods in recorded history occurred in 1877, when two floods within four weeks injured crops and took out a bridge over the Cottonwood River but otherwise did what the Marion County Record of the time reported as “no very great damage.”
At the time, the Marion County Record recounted that original settlers told most recent arrivals that the valley flooded about once every dozen years.
True to form, more than a dozen years passed before the next, relatively minor bout of flooding, in 1900 and 1901.
In a 1901 advertisement in both the Record and the Headline, which later merged with the Record, the dry goods and merchantile firm W.W. Loveless and Sons, shown at left in the photo above, said in an ad:
“A great many of our citizens had contended for years that the generation now growing up would never have an opportunity to witness as their dads had our city submerged by the mighty waters.
“However, on the 16th of April a year ago, we had considerable reason to believe that a flood such as was experienced in ’77 was not beyond a possibility, and last week we were again greatly reminded that all things are possible.”
The relatively minor floods of 1900 and 1901 were followed by more intense flooding in 1903 and a double whammy in 1906 from tornadoes and flooding that left water four feet deep on Main St.
After a less severe flood in 1909 and nearly annual throughout the 1910s, the channels of both Luta Creek and the Cottonwood River were ordered straightened, and Marion’s signature stone-arch bridge over Luta Creek on Main St. was ordered removed to lessen the chance of severe flooding.
As more history can attest, neither project eliminating flooding. Additional significant floods occurred in 1941 and especially in 1951.
Marion was not rendered safe from flooding until after Marion Reservoir was completed in 1968 and a dike and diversion channel were completed in 1977.
Minor flooding occurred in the early 1970s, but no areal flooding has occurred with the city since the dike’s completion.
Last modified Nov. 20, 2018