The Great Flood of 1921 was documented by The Pueblo Chieftain newspaper
When it came to covering the flood of June 3, 1921, the Colorado Daily Chieftain, also known as The Pueblo Chieftain, took extraordinary steps to keep the citizens of Pueblo informed of the news of the devastation.
It all started with a Saturday June 4, 1921, special edition bearing the title in capital letters “FLOOD EXTRA”. The special two-page edition did not feature photographs or advertisements.
There was even a blank space at the bottom of the second page, which is a testament to how quickly it was put together. A June 9 edition of the Chieftain reported that “it was quite impossible” to print regular editions of the newspaper, “due to the power and gas failure,” and the publisher promised to republish them. additional editions “when normal conditions are restored.” . ”
This first supplemental edition was replete with stories of “the greatest flood in Pueblo since Decoration Day 1894” which “devastated the city’s business and wholesale districts.”
Initially, the newspaper reported, “Over 20 lives were lost when the Missouri Pacific and Denver and Rio Grande passenger trains were washed away in the river near the Nuckolls Packing Company. Many more have been pronounced dead.
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Deaths and rescues have been reported in Pueblo after the flooding
A death list of known victims has been printed along with some of the names of the missing. Details of the heroic rescues have been included.
“Police, under the direction of Night Captain Jack Sinclair, rescued 18 families from the flooded sections of West 17th Street at 8:15 am,” one story reported. “AJ Jackson … 523 W. Third St. took refuge in a tree holding his wife in his arms.”
Jackson then lost his strength and his wife slipped from his arms, drowning. When he fell in an attempt to save her, her nephew, Luther Hudson, swam to her aid.
The additional issue also dealt with attempts to prevent looting, price hikes, food and gas shortages.
A city council resolution signed by Commissioner Jas L. Lovern said that “anyone providing food to the public at retail who charges extraordinary or excessive prices until further notice will be subject to their food supply taking over. and its place of business by the city of Pueblo and operated for public use.
The June 8 newspaper reported that “funds for flood-ravaged Pueblo relief were pouring in” from New York to Wyoming. On June 9, the newspaper reported that the two houses of Congress had passed a joint resolution introduced by Representative Guy U. Hardy and Senator Phipps, which granted the Secretary of War “great powers in the administration of relief” .
On June 10, the newspaper recalled an even older flood in 1864 that “brought water almost to the exact line on Santa Fe Avenue hit by the flooding last Friday night.”
Due to the contamination of drinking water, a newspaper ad assured readers that Pueblo Ice Company’s ice was “pure and safe.” It was frozen from twice distilled water before the flood and stored at the Mountain Ice Co. plant so high it was untouched by flood water.
Puebloans facing the reconstruction of a seventh of the city
On June 12, the newspaper reported that the city was facing “the need to rebuild about one-seventh of its current area. It is inconceivable that this great industrial city, so favorably situated for commerce, would disappear or be reduced to the proportions of a village.
That same issue shared stories of large objects moved by floodwaters, like a freight car forced sideways through a brick building, another freight car carrying a block and a half, and a 3,000 pound safe that crossed Union Avenue.
There was also a case of a body in a steel coffin that traveled a distance of over a mile.
Stories of Puebloan’s bounty were shared as known and unidentified bodies were buried with flowers paid for by “warm and sympathetic hearts.” The undertakers and florists of Pueblo have bestowed human tribute in all cases, whether high or low, rich or poor, black or white, known or unknown.
Official water depths have been reported including McCarthy Block at North Main and Union where the water reached a depth of 12 feet-6 inches. The width of the flood was reported as a mile “through the center of the city’s commercial section, with losses totaling over $ 3 million”.
The city’s drinking water was finally declared drinkable on June 12. One story reported that PA Payne of Pueblo, who had been arrested by Colorado Springs police on a contraband charge, was saved from certain death as “the flood made every vestige of the house sweat.”
Another story reports that the body of Missouri Pacific passenger train engineer SG Evans was found 10 miles downstream and soon after, “the body of a two-day-old baby was found in the same district”.
On June 15, the newspaper looked to the future and urged, “The issue of making Arkansas flood proof is the big topic right now.
“The Pueblo flood was not something broken, accidental or unforeseen, but was a real real danger from the past and remains a danger for the future unless it is controlled,” one man said. eminent businessman, who has not been named.
The June 15 issue also featured an article under the headline “How the Flood Left the Heart of Pueblo,” said that once the water had calmed down, the mud was “over 2 feet deep” and “workers rummaged through the mud looking for victims buried in the mud.
The June 16 issue of the newspaper had a story about the brave dog “Casabianca” who stayed on a shed roof for three days even though the distance to mainland was short. Other dogs even went to visit her, but she stayed there until her owner arrived and took her to safety with a bundle of clothes she apparently kept.
On June 16, the newspaper also reported damage downstream from Pueblo to La Junta.
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Food was scarce during the flood
On June 17, the flooding still dominated the headlines when the newspaper reported the need for food at Red Cross headquarters on the south side.
The same edition reported on Dan Glover, a black man who died while trying to join the Frank Pryor Furniture company in an effort to help save furniture and other property from flood waters. Frank Pryor Jr. told the newspaper how Glover wanted a bright blue uniform cap with “Pryor’s” engraved on the front in big gold letters.
“We eventually ordered the cap, but it never arrived in time for Glover to wear it,” he said. The 45-year-old worker was found dead one block from the furniture company.
The same edition reported on the heroism of Henry Borndruck, 70, who was on the second floor of the old Schlitz warehouse when the Missouri Pacific train stopped a few feet from the building, as the waters turned deeper, the wood of the Newton yards began to pile up against the cars.
Borndruck shouted for passengers to cross the “floating bridge” to take refuge in the building and, “in response to his call, 24 people were rescued from the flood,” The Chieftain reported.
On June 17, the Chieftain reprinted excerpts from the editorial “The Spirit of Pueblo” which had been published in the Canon City Record. He said: “The best example the West has ever had of a determination to make is that of Pueblo, who decided that even though it was all but wiped out and ruined in the blink of an eye, it will rebuild bigger and better than ever.
In the June 18 issue, the Chieftain reported that he was indebted to Franklin Press for printing the newspaper for several days. The Franklin Press was operational after a day of closure when its basement and first floor were underwater.
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The additional June 4 issue was printed by the O’Brien Printing Company to which the newspaper staff gave special thanks for this issue. The two printing houses had no electricity, “the presses were therefore pumped by hand” with “the forces of eight to eleven men”.
A June 18 editorial titled ‘Where Loyalty Will Be Used’ reminded Pueblo residents to continue to use stockpiles salvaged from local traders as much as possible, as “much of the town’s food items were in containers. waterproof and airtight glass or metal. Labels can be damaged or containers beaten without damaging the contents.
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All the news that it was good to reprint in the Pueblo Chieftain
On June 19, the newspaper presented, as promised, reproductions of the second, third, fourth and fifth editions of the Flood newspaper at the request of residents who had not been able to see them at the time. On that day, the newspaper reported severe flood damage in the Swallows area of Pueblo West and other accidental deaths in that neighborhood.
The June 19 edition also had the headline “No Bodies Yesterday”, which reported that June 18 was the first day since the flooding that no bodies were found in the debris. The “death list total was 104” however, the missing persons list prompted the newspaper to state, “a conservative estimate as to the final death lists has been placed at something over 600”.
The newspaper featured numerous flood-themed advertisements such as “The Big Taub Flood Sale,” which boasted 5-40% off its prices and said, “Hundreds of clothing combinations will be brought in by the cleaners on Monday. It will be advantageous for you to come to Bessemer.
One article reported 610 houses washed away by the floods, 96 more which were “absolutely destroyed” and 61 which had been moved from their foundations.
Another story detailed how the flooding benefited A. Smithour, a farm owner about 9 miles east of Pueblo. Smithour had reported that he should have spent $ 1,000 to drain and fill a swamp on his property, but “when the unruly waters calmed down, he found that the river had deposited an average of 3 feet of earth in its place, staring at her in one night better than any human hand could have done in months.
Another article from June 19 asked, “Where is the Eighth Street bridge?” We have asked this question of Eastern, Southern and Northern members repeatedly over the past few days. The majority requested offers no explanation. “
The reporter speculated that the bridge, which spanned Fountain Creek, was concrete and had steel rod reinforcements that would have made it impossible for the bridge to float, and that it may have rested in the soft sand just below the banks that ‘he used to link.
The article also wondered if it had “been torn to pieces and strewn over the bed of the Fountain River.”