Hidden heroes of the 1913 flood

Local News

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The 1913 Dayton flood changed the landscape and demographics of the city forever. One man is working to learn more about the hidden heroes who made history through their efforts during the disaster.

A series of winter rainstorms in 1913 caused the Great Miami River to overflow, killing more than 300 people and displacing 65 thousand.

Records show that 500 African-American men from Chicago enlisted as laborers and traveled to Dayton to save lives and help with recovery efforts.

Author Johnnie Freeman started his five year research project in 2013, working to uncover these unsung heroes’ stories.

When you take out those vital essence and you go inside of Carillon Park or go inside of any kind of place, a museum, and you see these things missing, then you don’t feel like a part of history. So I want to make sure that the whole history of the Dayton 1913 Flood was told.

Through his research freeman uncovered the stories of men like W.G. Sloan who saved more than 300 lives during the flood.

Hundreds of other men provided food. Shelter and even free coffins to those who had lost loved ones in the tragedy.

Those stories are now showcased in his book, “The Forgotten Heroes: Dayton 1913 Flood,” available in stores and libraries.

“Telling this rich history of the Dayton 1913 floods. The untold story that should have been told now that’s over 100 years old,” Freeman said.

After the flood many stayed in Dayton creating a larger workforce and new citizens.

Daytonians may be descendants of these brave men and women and Freeman is looking to continue adding their stories to his work.

“There are stories to be told, so anybody that knows any stories about the Dayton 1913 flood, about what went on. Please let me know so I can maybe add that on to a supplement of it,” he said.

Freeman is now traveling across the Miami Valley with his exhibit sharing his research.

Click here to see Freeman’s upcoming events at the Dayton Metro Library. He will also be doing a presentation at the Wright Memorial Public Library on Sunday March 15th at 2 p.m.

You can also find him participating at the Black History Month at the Market event at 2nd Street Market Saturday February 22 from 1:15 to 2:00 p.m.

To contact him for more information, email jl.freeman@hotmail.com.

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