Monroe County Library System,  Monroe, MI 48162


Bygones of Monroe:

Roaring River Raisin


Damage, Excitement, and Narrow Escapes.


About 4:30 o'clock Tuesday morning an alarm was turned in that called out the firemen, and the people were startle by the vigorous ringing of the court house bell. There were no flames to be seen, and no cry of fire could be heard. It was not long, however, before it was generally understood that water instead of fire was the cause for alarm, and a grand rush was made for the river. An immense quantity of ice and water had been precipitated upon the city by the breaking of a jam several miles up the river, and besides causing the water to rise in the upper part of the city considerably higher than it has ever been before, it had carried the Macomb street bridge off its abutments and threatened that at Monroe street in the same way. Cattle were bellowing, horses neighing, hogs squealing, dogs barking and every one seemed strained to the highest pitch of excitement. Scarcely had the ice gorged in the river than the water spread out upon the banks east of the lower bridge, and cries of distress and appeals to be rescued came from the frightened occupants of a number of houses. The water had entered several and others were entirely surrounded. The ice was hurled against them with a force that meant certain destruction if continued even for a few minutes. The movement of the ice soon stopped and the danger of the houses being wrecked was at least temporarily averted. To add to the terrors of the situation for these people it was pitch dark, and the arrival of daylight was most welcome to everybody. Hacks and wagons with boats upon them were to be seen hurrying about, and all were soon rescued from the waterlogged houses. The head of the gorge was found to be at the island of Patmos, and instead of heavy ice it consisted of snow, anchor ice and ice but a few inches thick. The channel was literally choked with this mass which permitted very little water to pass through it. Fences, chicken coops, stables, sheds, hog pens and other buildings along the river west of Monroe street suffered severely, many of them being wrecked outright, while every cellar on the north side of Front street as far west as St. Michael's church and some above that point had from two to five feet of water in them. The rise of the water was so sudden there was no time to remove anything after the alarm was given without wading for it. A number of horses and cattle in the barns along the south bank were not gotten out until the water reached nearly to their backs and there were pretty thoroughly chilled. On the north side of the river the situation was but little better. Elm avenue was under water from Godfroy avenue nearly the entire distance to the western city limits, and from Tremont street to the Lake Shore crossing. The Minnie brook expanded into a stream several times the natural size of the river, and several houses along its banks were moved down stream. The lower bridge, the north end of which had moved but about its width, and the south end about 30 feet east of the butment, had been fastened with large chains but was completely wrecked. The south span swayed around and was badly broken up. The north span broke loose and stopped about 100 feet west of the Lake Shore bridge where the ice again gorged. The water up town fell, but it raised very high below. Many people expected the railroad bridges to go when the ice started, and several hundred started on the run for the depot. They were disappointed; however. About 7:30 in the evening the ice moved a little and the span of the Macomb street bridge sunk to the bottom of the river to be ground to pieces when the ice should move down, which it did about an hour and a half later and gorged again at the Michigan Central bridge. The water soon returned to the channel, but left Front street covered with ice from Murray street to the Lake Shore crossing; Navarre and Jerome from the river to Humphrey. From the Isle of Patmos to the railroad bridge were left great walls of anchor ice and snow upon either side of the river, in many places reaching 10 to 12 feet above the water, the sight being a grand one indeed. They were square and smooth, showing that the ice and snow in the channel above had been actually pushed through this mass. The power must have been tremendous. The water yesterday was quite high in the eastern part of the city but it does not seem that it can do much more damage there. It would be impossible to estimate the damage done by the ice and water Tuesday, as many are not yet able to tell to what extent they have suffered in dollars and cents, but it is probable that 820,000 would be a moderate guess.

The Macomb street bridge was built in 1867 when the city was bonded for $30,000 for the construction of it and the two bridges on Monroe street. It had long been held by some that the former bridge was not high enough to be out of danger, and about five years ago the council called for bids for raising it. The party to whom the contract was awarded failed to furnish the required bond for the performance of the work, the weather grew warmer and the water lower, the lesson taught in 1881 gradually slipped away from us and the matter was finally dropped. The firm that built it has ceased to exist so it is not probable that when a new bridge is built it will be exactly like the old. A bridge at Macomb street is a necessity, and we should have one there at the earliest possible date. The butments remain in as good condition as ever, and it is said that a better bridge than the late one can be placed upon them for $3,000 if not for less. We believe that prompt action on the part of the council looking in that direction will meet the approval of the public generally.



The buildings on the river bank at Wahl's brewery were bruised somewhat by the ice but were not seriously damaged. Some of the workmen investigated the interior of the basement and the cellars with a boat after the water had subsided somewhat.

The Isle of Patmos was buried out of sight under the ice.

Shortly after four o'clock in the morning J. L. Hoffman was awakened by some one crying for help. The cries came from the basement, and when he tried to reach it by the stairway he found himself in the ice cold water up to his armspits and could not open the door. He then went outside the house, broke in a window and fished out Joseph Dufour, his hired man, whom he found wading about in the water up to his chin with a lot of furniture, wood and boxes. Joe thought he heard some one knocking at the outside door to get in, and when he opened it he was knocked down by a torrent of water and a lot of wood and some boxes which stood last outside the door. Mr. Hoffman lost a dog, a chicken and a turkey. His horse and cow were in the water some time but they suffered nothing beyond a cold ducking.

Jos. Kirschner got his horses out of the barn early in the flood but one of them saw it at its hight.

The Kull brothers had some difficulty in getting a horse out of their barn after the water had risen.

The people at the gas works had plenty of water to contend with but they had plenty of gas in the evening.

E. B. Root & Co. had their lumber piles tossed about rather unceremoniously but they lost none of it. The basement of their factory was flooded and left in a rather unpleasant condition.

Waters Bros. & Stevens' lumber yard suffered considerably. A large shed upon the river bank was completely demolished, the barn drifted off its foundation and was prevented from going down stream by an apple tree on an adjoining lot, while a number of piles of lumber were tipped over and floated about the yard.


(Monroe Democrat, Thursday February 10 th , 1887, page 1.)

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