DAYTON, Ohio – (WDTN) – A whistle is heard at the entrance of the Great 1913 Flood exhibit at Carillon Historical Park. It’s the sound of the NCR factory whistle that started blowing at 6 a.m. to alert the citizens of Dayton that a flood was coming.
Brady Kress is the President and CEO of the park. He said many people would ask about the noise when they entered the exhibit.
“They go in, they hear about the warning sound that went out, the early warnings of the flood in 1913. We were actually able to place the NCR factory whistle on exhibit for the 1st time in this flood exhibit so we’re thrilled about that,” Kress said.
Since the exhibit was added to the park eight years ago on the 100th anniversary of the flood Kress said they have learned a lot from guests visiting the park.
“Over that time we’ve learned a lot of things, we’ve heard a lot of stories, we’ve had a lot of questions from guests,” Kress said. “We really need to answer these questions and find time to do it.”
The workers at Carillon Historical Park found time last March. The Coronavirus Pandemic forced a temporary closure.
“It allowed us some additional research time,” Kress said, “to find some artifacts and find photographs and so we were able to add quite a lot.”
One of the missing stories came from a book written by Johnnie Freeman. “The Forgotten Heroes: Dayton 1913 Flood” shares stories from some of the 500 African-American laborers who traveled from Chicago to help with the recovery efforts.
“We were lucky enough to find and locate photographs of that and put them on display here,” Kress said. “It helps answer the question of how did we clean up the town so quickly.”
The story of William Sloan and Frank Thompson was also added to the area featuring the jon boat. They rescued more than 300 people.
“We found this wonderful story of the Dayton Marcos and one of the heroes of the flood,” Kress said.
Sloan was known as a star pitcher for the Dayton Marcos, the only black team in the Ohio-Indiana League.
A wedding dress in the exhibit tells the tale of a future bride who left it behind when she was rescued from the high water. After the flood, she was already married but eventually was able to recover the dress. Photos of her in the dress were added to the display.
“We’re really excited to add additional stories and additional artifacts to this exhibit,” Kress said.
March 23, marks the beginning of the rain that continued through March 26, 1913. The ground was already saturated from melting snow and ice. Nine to 11 inches of rain across the region went straight into the rivers.
The Stillwater River, Mad River, and Wolf Creek all converge into the Great Miami River at Dayton. The lowest parts of the city were covered in up to 20 feet of water by the time the river crested on March 26, 1913.