I saw your request for Cowden information. I have a fair amount of material just from Google searches, most of which you probably have already. Something that may be unique, though, is a letter he wrote to Saloma and Isaac Cole (my 3rd Great Grandparents) in Galion after the Dayton flood in 1913 – see below. Col. Cowden was a remarkable man, including his unique military history and work with the United Brethren Church. Let me know if you need more on him, please share anything cool you find, and good luck with your portrayal!
Dayton, Ohio May 2nd, 1913
My Dear Uncle and Aunt:
Your letter came by hand last week and I intended writing Sunday but somehow did not get at it. We are now having fine cleaning and drying weather and that is what we need. After six weeks we are now sleeping and eating in our own house, even though it is wet and all topsy turvy and do not know where anything is, but it seems mighty good to get back. We were so glad to get your letter and these good letters from dear ones helps us to keep up courage and work ahead. We are so glad that so many of our friends were spared from this destruction, although we know they must have suffered much anxiety about friends. It is no use trying to describe the terribleness and the ruins, for that is impossible to do or rather to describe it in such a manner that others can imagine it. But people are working together here and things are coming out remarkably well, but it will take many years to get things back to normal again. The stores have cleaned up to the extent where they can again be open and sell things, and we can now buy. For a while we could buy nothing, for there was nothing to buy and no where to buy but now we can again get about what we want, even if some of it is muddy and dirty. The Mansfield folks sent us a box of things, and now since we are back Aunt Lizzie and Albert Bilsing have each sent us a barrel which we hope to get in a few days so that we are coming nicely.
I must try to tell you a little. The distress whistle blew about 4:30 Tuesday morning and we knew immediately what it meant for we knew the river was very high and at the same time a man ran down the street yelling “everybody get up the water is running over the levee.” We got up, dressed, mother and I carried out meat, lard, canned fruit out of the cellar to the kitchen and the lard clear upstairs, we then took one carpet up and Carried it upstairs and laid it on the floor, and carried a few other things upstairs and then mother got the horse out and then in a jiffy we threw a pair of shoes for pa, a couple pairs of stockings and socks and one dress shirt in a suit case and ran, that being about 40 minutes after we got up. When we got up not a bit of water was on the street and by the time mother and (pa having gone out earlier and Simon had been at the store in town from 2:00 working) left the water was up on our yards and knee deep in places. We run back and went through the stable and through the alley and run three square to get ahead of the water but finally waded shoe top deep and it was just pouring rain. But we were spared so much suffering and anxiety by fleeing, for those that did not flee could not be rescued for a couple of days because the current was so swift where we live that boats would simply capsize in the effort. People punched holes in the roofs and lived there for three days, in the extreme weather of cold, rain, and snow. Houses swimming off and breaking to pieces all about. There were nearly 1800 head of horses drowned and perished. We did not know until Friday noon that Simon was safe and he did not know until Friday morning whether we were safe. It was just like you were in prison. One part of the city had no communication with any other part. Then the big fires. It just seemed on those dark nights when we could not have the lights that the entire city would burn.
We could get back to the house on Monday after and just imagine before we could get to the house to have to climb over and around a pile of wreckage and floating trash of all kinds, nearly as high as the roof of our porch there as a foot or more of mud, sticks, cornstocks and then the door could only be opened a little bit and the soft mud just ran out to meet you. Our furniture was toppled over and laying in every shape and the mud on the floor was over the baseboard. We had set a tub up stairs and in that we put our cans of lard and that floated down stairs and was sitting just as nice as you please in one corner of the hall back of the tumbled over hat racks. The onions that were in the cellar when we left were upstairs in the hall, or a part of them were. We had to throw away all our mattresses, some chairs, sideboard, china closet, piano, kitchen cabinet, pictures and may yet have to throw away our davenport. The woodwork in the house is all turned white and spotted. We had about five bushels of potatoes in the cellar and they all had to go. When we could get at them they were all spotted and rotten, just as if they had the smallpox. Things that were in one room when we left were in another when we got back. Our clothing that could be washed and other things that can be washed, will in most cases come out so we can use them. Of course, they are yellow but we can use them any way. We have not been able to get every thing washed yet. The first week mother and another woman washed two whole days just washing out the worst, and getting things dry so they would not mold. We simply had to burst every drawer open in our bureaus in order to get things out. Our books are nearly all gone, but we are glad that it was the material things that went and that all are spared and don’t have to remember this by having had some dear one taken away, as some others do. There were so many babies born at the time. Some born in boats, others in the lofts up between the ceiling of the upstairs and the roofs almost everywhere and yet many of them have lived. One old lady and her son lived together and could not get out. The son punched a hole in the roof and took the clothes line and tied it around her waist and then tied her to the chimney of the house and he and she were out there in that awful rain and snow for three days and two awful dark nights. She was alive yet when rescued but died in a day or two. One man and wife tied their five months old baby in a pillow case and tied it on the man’s back and then climbed out a window to a telegraph pole to the wires and then went hand over hand hanging to the wires until they got beyond the water and all got out. It is simply wonderful how people’s lives were spared.
We sure have had great evidence of how powerless humanity is with God and nature, and how even in times of great peril God will protect his children. This certainly ought to be a warning to all of us about here to try to live better.
Now I must close and write some other letters. I have tried to write you a little of our experience. I will not be able to write so fully to all, so those close to you can read this to know. So many farms along the river have been washed of all their soil, nothing left but stone and gravel, and my what a little meek river this is ordinarily hardly a stream.
Hope you are well and will keep so and do not work too hard and get sick. Don’t worry about your housecleaning. We used to think our house got awful dirty but it was mighty clean compared to conditions now.
Love to all and lovingly yours.