Baltimore Flood

The Baltimore Flood

In 1868, The Jones Falls Overflowed
Causing a Disaster Known as "Baltimore’s Black Friday Flood.”

In 1868, the Jones Falls overflowed, a disaster now known as Baltimore’s “Black Friday Flood.” The flood, which is illustrated above on the cover of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated, took 50 lives and caused millions of dollars in damages. It wasn’t until 1911 that construction finally began on the Fallsway covering the stream in an effort to prevent another deadly overflow. - See more HERE

1868 Flood72

City Flood - July 24, 1868, The Jones Falls Overflowed The Tide Swept in Flooding Houses, Horses, Telegraph Poles, Bridges and More were Swept Away with the Water

Devastating floods like those that have caused havoc in North Dakota and Minnesota are no strangers to Maryland, as the great floods of 1936, 1955, 1972 and 1985, and prior to the 1868 Flood, there were two more notable floods, the Flood of 1837, which was well documented, and the less documented Flood of 1817. This page will discuss briefly the 1817, 1837 Floods, and go a little more into the depth of the Great Flood of 1868

To start the Flood of 1868 was better known at that time as the "Black Friday Flood of 1868" in one day it claimed approx. 50 lives, damaged more than 2,000 homes and caused property damage estimated to be in the area of 2 to 3 million Dollars. Some 4,000 people were thrown out of work by this flood. Described as a "Freshet," the flood began harmlessly as a heavy rain during the early hours of July 24. As the day wore on, Wagner-esque lightning tore the skies, barrages of thunder echoed throughout the city and the downpour continued.

Baltimoreans on their way to work noticed that the Jones Falls was overflowing its banks, but it was not until a south wind began blowing a high tide in from the harbor that the crisis really began. The tide joined with the raging waters of the Jones Falls, and the stream rose 5 feet in 10 minutes. The stream eventually reached a height of 20 feet.

The flood washed away telegraph poles and smashed horse-drawn cars against buildings as terrified passengers and horses scrambled for their lives. Dislodged houses and bridges swirled toward the harbor, and the city's water supply and gas system were rendered useless.

Seven Bridges Swept Away

"The small wooden bridge at Charles Street avenue was the first within the city limits to give way, sweeping down with other debris from above. [It] passed under the lofty Belvidere and Eager-street bridges, the latter being a stone arch, and reaching thence the iron bridge at Madison street, struck it, causing that bridge to give way, and soon after the bridges at Monument, Centre, Bath, Hillen and Fayette streets, making seven bridges in all in the city, swept away," reported The Sun the day after.

A reporter for the Baltimore Telegraph observed the scene as the bridges gave way:

"The water took the immense iron fragments as if they had been feathers, and, after toying with them awhile, threw them with great force upon Baltimore Street Bridge. This caused the north side of the bridge to give way," he wrote.

"This city," said The Sun, "and the adjacent country was visited yesterday with violent storms of rain, which lasted several hours, producing a most disastrous flood. The rain poured down in torrents from early in the morning, and about midday the water in Jones' falls -- that delectable stream which passes directly through the city -- rose with great rapidity, soon overflowing its walled banks, backing into numerous contiguous streets, and penetrating dwellings, stores and innumerable basements, creating great alarm and damaging and sweeping off property, carrying away bridges, & etc."

Water poured into the main waiting room of the Northern Central Railroad's Calvert Station, and the thick walls of the German Zion Church on North Gay Street gave way with a mighty crash.

Oh, Rats!

Schools of rats driven from their normal berths by rising water fled in terror through the streets. Communication between the eastern and western sections of the city was severed.

Water rose into the basement of The Sun Iron Building on East Baltimore Street and for a time threatened the building and its equipment as basement pumps failed to keep pace with the onrush of water. It was only the intervention of a fire department pumper that saved the building and allowed the paper to publish the next day's newspaper.

"Engineer-Cosgrove, with John A. Hogg, president of the board, rendered us valuable aid, for which we tender our heartiest thanks," said The Sun in an editorial.

"The scene from the bridge at Eager Street when the water was at its greatest height was very striking. Its yellow flood came down with a turbulent roar like some mountain torrent, bringing in its headlong rush fragments of bridges and buildings, uprooted trees, driftwood, fences, sheds, outhouses, oil tanks, barrels, merchandise. As soon as the rain slackened, crowds of people flocked to the banks of the stream to witness and view of the scene of destruction," reported The Sun.

"The disaster was not without its lighter moments," said an article in The Sunday Sun Magazine in 1957.

"On some streets, men and women 'revealed in semi-nudity, catching the waifs and strays borne down by the tide. Barrels of flour and whiskey, articles of household furniture and all other imaginable stuff was captured.' "

Railroad service on the Northern Central was disrupted as bridges at Melvale, Woodberry and Mount Washington were destroyed. The telegraph lines along the B&O railway were ripped down and several bridges along the Western Maryland Railway were ruined.

The waters receded as quickly as they had raced through the city. By nightfall, looters were breaking into empty stores, homes, and warehouses and taking what they wanted, unchallenged by any authority.

The next morning downtown Baltimore was littered with debris, and mud was, in places, 6 to 8 inches deep. An awful stench arose over the city from the carcasses of dead animals that baked in the July heat. There was soon an outbreak of typhoid fever.

Seventy years had not dimmed the memory of the flood for Miss Josephine McPhail, then 94, who told The Sun in 1937, "I can still see in my mind's eye the color of that raging torrent, the mad rush of debris and the rats. Above all, the rats."

The Power of Nature

An editorial in The Sun said, "The great flood of Friday was an impressive exhibition of the mighty power of the elements and of the feebleness and frailty of man when he is confronted with a sudden outbreak of those forces of nature which are generally considered subservient to his will, but which sometimes assert themselves with an energy that he has no resources to withstand. It was also a revelation of the peril and disaster which a few hours may bring to property and life in a city traversed, as this is, by a stream like Jones' falls."

Controlling the Jones Falls became a matter of civic concern, but wasn't until 1914 that the Fallsway covering the stream was constructed at a cost of $2 million.

While everything on this site is about or has something to do with "Baltimore City", not everything is about "Baltimore City's Police" that said, this does have a Baltimore City Police Connection in that a newly appointed Commissioner of the Police, Commissioner James E. Carr, took command, saving lives and making a difference. Harper's Weekly reported on the Commissioner's Bravery and the lives he saved.


Carr 1868 Flood

24 July 1868

It was shortly after his election to the Police Board that that most dreadful calamity, the flood of Baltimore (24 July 1868), overtook our city. In that crisis, the bravery of Commissioner Carr in rescuing the victims of the catastrophe became a matter of national fame. Harper's Weekly, at the time, in a long article on the floods, quoted the following editorial notice from the Baltimore Sunday Telegram, of 26 July,1868: "It is a true saying, that in times of great public calamities, some men rise to the position of a great public benefactor, and such was the case yesterday with Police Commissioner James E. Carr. He, at first sight, apprehended the character of the calamity, and he immediately sent for boats and organized a sufficient force of policemen to manage them. He soon had work enough to do. He led his boat in places of great peril and rescued women from drowning.

The city was afflicted on Friday, 24 July 1868, with a calamity, which formed a fitting close to what was perhaps the most eventful decade in Baltimore's history. It was the memorable and disastrous flood which proved so conclusively of what brave men the police force was composed, and how efficient was their organization. For several days previous to the flood the rain had fallen in torrents, saturating the earth and swelling the streams among the hills of Baltimore and Howard counties. The land, therefore, was almost incapable of absorbing any more of the moisture, when on Friday morning the rain came as if in the realization of some awful plan of nature, and in pursuance of the preparation which preceded it. The cause of the flood has been variously attributed to the overflowing of Lake Roland; to the breaking of a water-spout in the neighborhood of the Queen Spring Valley, and to a number of other things equally unsatisfactory. But as similar floods occurred at various places along the Atlantic slope of the Alleghenies, the inundation is doubtless to be attributed wholly to the heavy fall of rain which began on the morning of July 24 and lasted until 1 o'clock of the same day. The part most difficult to explain, is the rapidity with which the streams rose. The Patapsco river at Ellicott City and Jones Falls rose at the rate of five feet in ten minutes; the water came down those streams like a great wave on the sea-shore. The river at Ellicott City rose ten feet before a drop of rain had fallen there, and was at one time forty feet high. In this city, the rise was so rapid that a gentleman entering a cigar store from a dry street returned with a lighted cigar to find himself knee-deep in a rapidly rushing stream. A passenger car, while crossing a street, was caught by the flood, and with its passengers was swept several blocks toward the river. The market men were caught at ' their work, and only had time to get on their benches and stalls for safety, and these were washed away with their occupants. Terrible as was the catastrophe in Baltimore, it was much worse in Ellicott City. Had it occurred at night the loss of life that it must have caused is fearful to contemplate. It was about ten o'clock in the morning when the water first rose above the banks of Jones Falls and began to flood the low streets of this city. Slowly, at their beginning, the floods covered Harrison street, but in a moment they rushed down Harrison street, increasing in volume at each minute, until the bed of the street was filled with a swollen and powerful stream, whirling on in its surface the shattered remains of ruined homesteads, wrecks of furniture, and, in fact, almost everything in ordinary and common use. When it reached Baltimore street the stream divided into three currents. One rushed like a torrent to the right, the other to the left, and the third ran with more slowness down the center of the market. Above the roar of the vortex could be heard the shrieks of women and children, and the cries of men for help, as they were whirled along with the furious current. Even carriages, with their occupants, were caught up and carried along. For some hours after the awful scenes of destruction had begun in the center of the city, the greater part of the population of the upper portions, kept indoors by the pouring rain, had no idea of the dreadful occurrences below. An extra edition of the Evening Commercial, published at about two o'clock, gave them their first intimation of the disaster. When the flood first appeared on Harrison street the police busied themselves aiding the residents of the street to carry their household goods to places of safety. In a few moments, however, they were obliged to turn their attention towards rescuing the people themselves. Alarms were rang, and men called in from all the stations, to the scene. Numerous boats were promptly ordered from the wharves by the Police Commissioners, and were hurried to the inundated district. They were manned by experienced boatmen and policemen. Most of the boats were launched from the Holliday Street Theatre, and were sent thence, under the direction of Commissioner James E. Carr, through Calvert, North Holliday, and other streets, for the purpose of removing families and furniture to places of safety. On the streets, running at right angles with Harrison street, the streams were by no means so turbulent as in the thoroughfares running parallel with Jones Falls, and they experienced but little of the fierce current that dashed through the latter. Many persons refused the proffered aid, preferring to guard their property. In the neighborhood of North, Davis and Bath streets thieves were busy plying their trade. They were principally young negroes. The police captured a number of them, who were afterwards convicted and sentenced to long terms of imprisonment. One citizen appealed most piteously to Commissioner Jarrett to send policemen to his house, into which he had seen some men swim. The Commissioner and a party got into a boat and pulled in the direction of the house, mooring their boat at a second-story window, through which an entrance was made. A search of the premises discovered that his money, amounting to 8570, was gone. Shortly afterwards it was ascertained that his wife, fearing the flood, had secured the money on her person without informing her husband. At about four o'clock in the afternoon an exciting scene took place on Saratoga street, between Gay and Holliday streets. A boat, in which were Commissioner James E. Carr, Sergeant Charles McComas, Win. Henry Collier, and a colored man, had gone to the second story of a tenement on the east side of Saratoga street, nearly opposite the Central District station-house, to remove several children. Immediately in front of the house was lodged a large quantity of driftwood, consisting of beams and logs, alongside of which the current was running with fearful rapidity. In attempting to stem the tide and effect a landing on the driftwood, which the rescuing party thought to be securely lodged against the houses, an oar was dropped overboard, and Mr. Carr, in attempting to recover it, was flung forcibly into the seething yellow water. Sergeant McComas, in trying to catch him, was also precipitated into the stream, together with the colored man. Confusion ensued, and the three men floated helplessly along with the tide, Commissioner Carr very rapidly, for he had been thrown out into the current. The others succeeded in reaching the pile of driftwood, but the Commissioner was whirled away out of sight, notwithstanding his powerful efforts to swim into stiller waters. A shout at once went up that Commissioner Carr was drowned. It had been seen to disappear under the water, and everybody supposed his corpse would be found after the flood subsided. The Evening Commercial quickly published the rumor in an extra edition. An hour later it was happily proved to be incorrect, for the Commissioner was rescued at the corner of Fayette and Harrison streets. He had been washed from Saratoga street into Harrison street, catching at various fixed articles, and endeavoring to pull himself out of the water, but being unable to do so. At one time he caught hold of a balcony, but was forced from it by the inhuman owner of the house, lest he should break off the balcony ! From Fayette street he was seen by a number of citizens, however. One of them, an expert swimmer, tied a rope around his waist, and while the other end of the rope was held by some persons standing in the shallow water, he swam out to the middle of the street. Recognizing the Commissioner, who was at that time almost exhausted, after an hour's battle with the waves the citizen made to him the Odd Fellows' signal of distress. The Commissioner let go his hold on the house to which he was clinging, and allowed himself to float down the stream toward his rescuer. He was quickly pulled out of the water. The news then spread, amid much rejoicing, that Commissioner Carr had been rescued, which the latter hastened to give visible proof of to his friends by hurrying as soon as he recovered, back to the place where they had seen him disappear. His two companions in distress, Sergeant McComas and the colored man, who had succeeded in reaching the pile of debris, had floated a short distance further down the stream. Their position was an extremely dangerous one, but they were rescued by Detective Richards, who got into a boat and steered it towards the men, persons holding it from the second story windows of a house by a long rope. When the imperiled men succeeded in escaping into the boat, the craft was hauled back against the tide. A somewhat amusing incident occurred at the Gay Street bridge. Mayor Banks was inspecting the scene of the flood late at night, after the waters had fallen to such an extent as to be confined within the limits of the banks of Jones Falls. A great crowd of people was still on the streets. Noticing a large number on the Gay Street bridge, which seemed liable to fall at any moment, he ordered a policeman to clear the structure. The officer, not recognizing the Mayor, turned on him fiercely : " Do you want that bridge cleared?" he cried. " Yes, and at once," replied the Mayor. '•Well, clear it yourself, then!" said the policeman, as he seized Mayor Banks by the collar, and swung him forcibly into the crowd. Nothing could be more abject than the man's apologies, when he discovered whom he had assaulted. Captain Frey, now Marshal of the police force, then in charge of the Southern District, who had been ordered at the beginning of the flood to report at the Holliday Street Theatre, with as many men as he could get together, was soon returned to his own district, when it was learned that the floods had invaded his precinct also, and that the bridges were in danger. His men remained at work all day and all night, recovering property and bodies as they floated down the stream. They took several thousand dollars' worth of goods from the water and eighteen corpses, most of which had been washed down from Ellicott city. His men worked for several days afterward, looking for property and bodies among the debris. In the middle precinct also, a number of bodies were recovered and a large amount of property returned to its owners. Several thieves, who took advantage of the disaster to rob unprotected houses, were also caught and punished.

It was not until the night after the inundation that the dilapidated old Middle Station was sufficiently cleared of the five- inch deep deposit of mud that covered it, to permit of its occupation, and then Captain Mitchell and his officers only used the upper floor. On the following day the citizens of Baltimore, with their proverbial liberality, set about to relieve the distress of the victims of the flood. The police carried private alms where they knew immediate relief was needed, until the Citizens Relief Committee opened its headquarters for the distribution of aid. Among the methods of raising money for the relief of the suffering, was a benefit given at the Holiday Theatre on Saturday evening, August 1, on which occasion John E. Owens played "Major Wellington de Boots," in "Everybody's Friend." The tickets for the benefit were sold by the police. When the returns were handed in, they showed a total of $3,601.50. There were but four districts in the city at this time, it will be remembered. The money was immediately banded over by Marshal Farlow to manager John T. Ford, to whose generosity the benefit was due. That gentleman, in company with Mayor Banks, proceeded at once to the office of the Relief Committee, and gave over the entire amount, not deducting any part on account of his expenses, etc. A few weeks later, when the excitement had subsided, and the devastated district was beginning to be restored, the City Councils passed resolutions of thanks to the police, for their services during the terrible Friday of the flood.

The first report of the new Board of Commissioners, made to the State Legislature, was dated January 18, 1870. It included the transactions of the department during the years 1868 and 1869. There had been comment of slightly unfavorable character, upon the number of policemen employed. The critics declared that the number was excessive, and that taxation was unnecessarily increased. The Commissioners called the attention of the Legislature to the fact that Baltimore then had a population of very nearly 400,000 persons, and that the entire police force consisted of only members. These policemen, the Board asserted, were apportioned among twenty wards, giving an average of not more than twenty-eight of the regular force to each of them to serve both night and day, with no suitable reserve for emergencies. This explanation by the Commissioners was so sweeping that there was no further comment made upon the excessive number of policemen. Any criticism thereafter was rather in the contrary direction. The Board, during the first two years of its service, had many things brought to its attention which demanded reform. Among these was the prevalence of prize-fights in the vicinity. Northern ruffians were in the habit of coming to Baltimore county, and here settling their claims of prowess in the most brutal fashion. They evaded the law giving the Police Commission power to arrest or " shadow" men from the city, by making their rendezvous outside of the city limits. The Commissioners appealed to the State, .and had the law so modified that prize-fighting soon became a reminiscence. Another evil was the increase in the number of private detective agencies in town. Under the most favorable circumstances, these organizations are provocative of blackmailing. Every good police official looks at them with doubt, and they are in many cases used by the criminal as feelers, to ascertain what the authorities are about. The detective service of the police department had just about got itself into an excellent state of efficiency in 1869, and the Commissioners were anxious to relieve it from every embarrassment, so again the Legislature was appealed to. The State authorities responded, and gave the department the same power of control over these agencies as it had over all other bodies engaged in the discovery or prosecution of crime. It was in October, 1867, that the Board forbid all processions through the streets of any organizations not part of the army or navy of the United States, without first procuring permits. This action was occasioned by a sad experience the city had early in the month. During a parade of a negro company, some persons in a crowd of onlookers began to jeer and torment the paraders. One of the colored men lost his control, and drawing a revolver, fired into the crowd, killing a young white man named Charles A. Ellermeyer. The paraders were attacked by the indignant citizens, and a riot was prevented only by the • prompt appearance of a large force of police.

It was on that fearful day in July, 1868, when Baltimore was swept by flood, and part of the town was fairly drowned beneath the waters which raged from the country about, that patrolman Gault discovered that he was not merely an enthusiastic police man, but a man full of that noble desire to do good which impels one to risk his life for another's benefit. There was a great crowd of terror-stricken citizens standing in High street, near Front street, at about 3 o'clock in the afternoon of July 24. The yellow flood roared and writhed and twisted itself in apparent deviltry as it rushed on its path of destruction. On its breast was borne all manner of things : parts of houses, great tree trunks from which huge branches had been torn by the angry waters, chicken coops, furniture, produce — but look ! what is this floating upon the tossing waves, half hidden at times by the billows, but always rising with them, always cresting them — making them sacred even in their maddened rush for prey ? It comes nearer the great crowd ; it is upon them, abreast of them, and within the cradle which rides the flood a babe looks out and smiles upon the thousand men who stand awe-stricken at the strange sight. There is no motion in the crowd ; not a hand is waved, not a tongue is loosened as the cradle with its precious burden sweeps by, the wreckage apparently making way for it. Again look ! a man darts from the midst of the crowd ; he wears the familiar uniform of a policeman ; his head is bare, his hair streaming in the wind and tossing spray. Over he goes into the raging waters, and amid the cheers of the crowd swims towards the castaway. Tree trunks intervene ; great masses of wreckage interpose themselves, but nothing daunts the brave man who struggles toward the object of his endeavors. Struck now and forced back by some heavy drift he begins all over again, and with set teeth grasps the cradle. The baby smiles at him and then gives a little crow of delight as the rescuer's weight tilts the cradle to one side. Little it knows how near it has been to the end. The policeman landed many squares below the place where he leaped into the flood, but the crowd had followed him, and as he stepped ashore and handed the little one to a lady who was standing near, the immense crowd surged about him and made the air ring with cheers. Three hours after this Mr. Gault, still drenched from his heroic battle with the flood, again leaped into the water at Harrison and Gay streets, and in the presence of fully 500 persons rescued John Steigel, after the latter had almost choked the brave officer to death. In the summer of 1876 Detective Gault gained much praise by his clever capture of a pickpocket in this city. One of the officials at the Union depot had put his aunt, an elderly lady, and her daughter on board a train. They were going to Hartford, Connecticut. Before the train left the Union depot a well- dressed gentleman who was sitting in a seat behind them, with much politeness assisted the ladies in disposing of their baggage, etc. As soon as they were comfortably seated he left the car, telling them that he was going into the " smoker " and would return. At that time it was customary for the trains from the Union depot to stop at Bay View junction to take on the cars that had come up from the President street station. Before they reached the junction the conductor went through the train collecting the tickets. Then the old lady suddenly discovered that her pocket-book, containing the tickets for herself and her daughter and about §20 in bills was missing. She supposed she must have lost it, and returned to the Union depot much chagrined with the next train. When she told her nephew about the polite gentleman who had assisted her with her pack ages the young man at once suspected that the " gentleman " had stolen the pocket-book. He reported the facts to the police headquarters. Detective Gault was assigned to look into the case. When he learned that the pocket-book contained two Hartford tickets, heat once determined to watch the "scalpers' " offices, suspecting that the thief would try to sell the tickets. As the detective was loitering along Baltimore street in the neighbor- o o o hood where the "scalpers' " shops are located, he noticed a man answering the description given by the ladies of the polite he leaped into the flood, but the crowd had followed him, and as he stepped ashore and handed the little one to a lady who was standing near, the immense crowd surged about him and made the air ring with cheers. Three hours after this Mr. Gault, still drenched from his heroic battle with the flood, again leaped into the water at Harrison and Gay streets, and in the presence of fully 500 persons rescued John Steigel, after the latter had almost choked the brave officer to death.


The Sun (1837-1987); Jul 27, 1868;

pg. 2
The Late Flood – Causes and Remedies

The Great Flood of Friday, 24 July, 1868 was an impressive exhibition of the mighty power of the elements and of the feebleness and frailty of man when he is confronted with the sudden outbreak of those forces of nature which are generally considered subservient to his will, but will sometimes assert themselves with the energy that he has no resources to withstand. It was also a revelation of the peril and disaster which a few hours may bring to property and life in a city traversed, as this is, by a stream like the Jones falls.

This stream, coming from the hilly country of the Northwest, runs for miles on its winding course through the very center and heart of Baltimore, from its Northwestern to its Southeastern limits, and whenever the narrow banks are swollen by sudden freshets, becomes incapable of retaining its boundaries, and widens out in the lowlands into small lakes, submerging the sellers of stores and dwellings, while some of the streets in its neighborhood are converted into rivers, with water enough in places to float schooners and sailboats. Almost yearly there are occasional disasters, though to know very considerable extent, from this disloyal and extraordinary institution, but the late calamity was probably unprecedented, and without any approach to a parallel, unless it was the flood of 1837. That commence, like this, with dark and heavy clouds, accompanied by vivid flashes of lightning, and continuous peals of heavy thunder, one of which is described in the sons account of the storm of that period as seeking the firmest fabric of the city.” The. However, at which the flood of 1837 came on was night, between nine and 10, when the rain began to fall from the heavens in Tarrant, and continued till past 1 o’clock in the morning. At that time Jones falls over ran its banks, the force of the waters carried away the several bridges which crossed it, which, reinforced by huge quantities of Driftwood and fragments of this lodged buildings, brought up against the bridge and gay Street, so penning up the flood above it that the water burst from its banks and immediately inundated all that section of the city then known as the, “Meadows.” The lateness of the hour and the darkness of the night combined to render the calamity more destructive of life then the recent disaster. – Some 20 people were drowned in the city and vicinity; in one case a man, his wife and three children, living at the corner of holiday and Saratoga streets, were drowned in their beds. The loss of property was estimated that not less than $2 million. Although the loss of life in the city by the late flood has not been as large, the loss of property is believed to be considerably larger. To the municipality, as well as individuals, the visitation is heavily disastrous. In addition to the destruction of costly bridges, and other public improvements, of articles of commerce, the interruption of industries, &c., the number of persons who have lost their little all by this last visitation, and two were suddenly forced from their homes, and are now in want, must be very great.

It is certainly worthy of great consideration whether a body of water which is almost as menacing to life and property in some sections of the city through which it passes as Vesuvius and Etna are in their occasional eruptions and a fire to the dwellers on their borders, and which is hard to manage at best, in view of sanitary measures, cannot be so regulated and directed as to afford some safeguard against day we occurrence of these terrible calamities. – It is difficult to devise means to accomplish this object, though there are no physical obstacles to it which art and science cannot overcome. Some suggest a change in the channel of the fails. So as to carry it outside the city or into Gwen’s Falls or Herring run – either of which plans would involve the long delay necessary to state and city legislation. And an enormous expenditure to pay, in addition to the cost of the work, for the condemnation of lands and of water and millwrights. It is also urged by the correspondent that the city should condemn all property lying on the west side of the falls from North Avenue to its mouth. And make a channel or bed of the falls to take the with of the W. Falls Ave. and Harrison Street between the points named. This plan, however, involves the actual necessity for an elevated Levy on the west side, without openings for sewerage, to make it effective, and the lifting of bridges above the streets on the same side, which would render them impracticable, unless the low grounds were also filled up. Without having such information from scientific and engineering sources as wood and able us to form a very decided opinion, the most feasible plan seems to be to cut a more direct route from the point near where the stream enters the city to the upper portion of the basin, on the higher grounds which intervened, thus placing the bridges at a better height over the water. This would involve, of course – as will any plan, indeed, for a change in the course of the stream – large costs for condemnation, but the present bed of the stream would be gained for building purposes, and facilities for ordinary sewerage be retained. There may be no plan yet named which would be regarded as practicable, but, with the growing greatness of the city, and when it rises, by that spirit of enterprise which may be expected to grow out of the demands of its brilliant future, some plan will of necessity be adopted adequate to the object and worthy the energy and resources of our people.

The property and business out of the direct reach of the floods down the falls may be affected seriously, as well as others, thereby. This is shown by what happened at the sun office on Saturday morning. About 2 o’clock on that morning, after all danger from the flood was supposed to be over, the water suddenly rose in the seller of the sun iron building with such force as to defy our pumps, and we should not have been able to get the paper out at that usual time on Saturday but for the prompt and efficient assistance of Mr. A. J. Albert, fire Commissioner, with engine number four fully manned, under command of engineer Crossgrove, who, with John A. Hogg,, president of the board, rendered us valuable aid, for which we tender our heartiest thanks. The rush of water at such a time can be explained by stating that our seller is of double depth, and that the water in the numerous and sellers within a square or so of us, included the immense quantity in the large excavation for the new City Hall, created a pressure which forced the water into our press room. The same was the case in the basement pressroom of the German correspondent, on gay Street, one square below, and our contemporary received the same aid from the fire department, and was thus enabled to issue its warnings journal


The Sun (1837-1987); Oct 6, 1868;

pg. 2

Engineers Report on Jones Falls

Remedy against future floods – the report of the board of engineers appointed by a joint special committee of the city Council in July last to devise a plan for preventing a recurrence of the calamity produced by the flood of that month, the material portions of which we give elsewhere, is a document of great interest upon a subject of general importance to the city.

The board seem to have given the whole subject thorough and exhaustive consideration, having apparently spared no labor upon it, and examined it most carefully in all of its aspects, as was proper and becoming in a matter of such vital interest to the city, looking to the its future, and what we have reason to anticipate of it, as the seal of great enterprises and augmenting population. They in fact suggestive four plans, two in connection with the diversion of the Jones falls outside the city into Herring run, and two in connection with the retention of the falls inside the city without diversion. The estimated cost on the first line of diversion from Belvedere Bridge to Herring run, head of back River, is 6,000,003 and $34,412.53; on the second line the diversion. To the same .3 million $875,934.90. The estimated cost of straightening out and widening the falls to the city, on the line nearly straight from John Street to Baltimore Street, is $2,070,718; the estimate of the cost of altering and widening the falls on a curved line near the present channel. $1,906,116.50. – Both the lines of diversion outside, through they differ considerably in estimated cost, are looked upon as equally effective in carrying the stream to Back River. As it is assumed that of the annual expenditures for dredging purposes in the harbor, $66,000, are due to the deposit of Jones falls, Harford Ron and Harris Creek, which would represent at 6%, a capital of $1,100,000, it is contended that, as the diversion would save the city the annual cost indicated, it should be credited with that amount, thereby virtually reducing it in cost from $3,925,954 to $1,825,954. It is also observed in this connection that the injury to the harbor is not fully represented by capitalizing the annual expense and money of removing the deposits, but that the reduction in the depth of the water until the slow operation of the dredging is completed, must be injurious to the navigated path, and consequently to commerce, to an expert the money vein of which cannot be tested even approximately. It is also urged that other credit: which should be given to the plan of an entire diversion is at the space now occupied by the bed of the falls and which, the general sewer required to carry on the drainage of the city below that point being played therein, may be filled up as far down as the street at which the channel would have to be and as a dock, and so would be utilized either as an Avenue or as foundation for building purposes. In the event of adopting the alternative plan of keeping the channel of the falls within the city, the board would recommend the costly mode that of altering and widening the curved line, near the present channel should be employed. The establishment of lines of sewage, parallel to the falls, hereto for suggested by the sun, and the filling up of lower streets to some extent, are shown to be unnecessary. It is however remarked that it may, on a more caring study of the subject, be found bested to adopt the straight-line channel, in consideration of the fact that a large area of building lots will be thrown into that part of the city, west of the falls, where they will be more valuable, and that a desirable arrangement can be made for straightening and squaring up Saratoga, Gay, Harrison, Frederick, bath, Franklin and pleasant streets. Upon any plan state legislation will be necessary.

It will be seen by reference to the city Council procedures, that a resolution has been passed by the first branch, after the re-caption of the report, requesting the representation of the city and legislature to endeavor to procure the passage of a law authorizing the city authorities to provide for the straightening, widening or deepening the falls, or for diverting the channel thereof; to provide for filling up or tunneling the streets in the lately submerged district; to condemn private property if necessary, for the object; to create any debt to defray the expense, and to provide for the issuing of the bonds of the city for the same. The whole subject is one which is of great importance to the material interest and future growth of the city, and all to be well Wade and acted upon deliberately and with circumspection. Especially in view of the financial burdens which it involves.


The Floods of 1817, 1837, 1868
For the Baltimore Sun A PROPERTY HOLDER

The Sun (1837-1987); Oct 19, 1868;
pg. 4 The Floods of 1817, 1837, and 1868

The first we barely recollect from seeing men on horseback who had to cross the lower streets, and the boats which had to float about in helping those inundated. The second was an alarm after midnight to the city: for help. When the daylight came, as we walked the streets, and alleys, into the houses and yards of the people, looked at the cows, horses and &c., drowned in their stalls, beheld the destruction upon destruction, we felt something should be done. A meeting was called in the upper room of Mr. Cooper, on the market space, a few doors below Baltimore Street. – Various projects were brought forth on the part of the property holders. We advocated the deepening of the falls, but it was voted to petition the Council to pass an ordinance requiring the property holders along the line of the falls to build stonewalls a certain height, under the impression that this would control the stream. – This, which we then pronounced a foolish waste of money, was done.

In 1868 the third flood came. What resistance did the stonewalls make? Another project was on foot to turn the fails across the country above Woodbury or near the lake into Harris Creek or Herring run. This idea which exploded by the flood on stony run and another on Schroders run, in the Western part of the city, when there was no rain a few hundred yards east of it, showing that the quantity of water which would fall in such a basin as that of the falls, between the city, and Woodberry when the lake, would require on outlet of very considerable size, even if the falls had been turned out into either Creek, and large provisions must be made for it to vent.

This last flood of 1868 establishes the fact that a greater amount of water fell and laid waste in its way than either of the proceeding. When at its height the report was in circulation that both the storage lakes had given way; that it was not possible for so much water to be collected from rain in the time. But it was not so. We may add to the amount which thus fell that on both lakes, in case of rain which will break their embankments. Thus we have provision to make for a greater flood, or floods, which will ever be the peril to property- holders, as storage lakes are provided for the city.

Is it wise for city which has so lately suffered – which may any year, or day, or even few hours – suffer as much, yea more, to delay making adequate provision to meet the emergency? That provision, without a shadow of a doubt, which must be made, is to widen, deepen and straighten the falls. We would scarcely consider a man sane who would call this in question after seeing the falls as they overflowed from Dan Meads foundry lot and rust on uncontrolled, until they reach the basin by the falls, Harrison, Frederick and gay Street wharves, on 24 July, 1868.

A preposition has been directly brought before the city in the plat and suggestions of Mr. Tyson. The engineers who have examined the various plans have concluded also that the widening, deepening and straightening are the proper remedy. To this let us as citizens, property – holders and councilman, addressed ourselves, with a determination to do something, and to do it without delay.

Conceding that the plan adopted must be to widen, deepen and straighten, what is the best way in which it can be done, and how can it be made of gratis used to the city? We say greatest, use because we believe it can be made one of the most profitable investments, not merely improvements, that the city can make.

Without difficulty it can be deepened to the rocks below either – Street bridge, so as to give a canal, or dock, 6 feet deep at low water. This will give a wharf first gals, canal and tugboats, etc. – On both sides, the entire length, and would almost equal in length two thirds of the wharf property of the city. Along both sides would be the very best locations in the city for coal, lumber, would and stone yards, machine shops and almost every kind of Manufactory. The result would be to make what is now in many places a nuisance, one of the most valuable parts of the city. Seldom has a city the opportunity for such improvements, and certainly and few would be as long and turning in to profit.

Mr. Tyson has called special attention to this as an improvement, whilst it is a remedy against a terrible evil from which we have suffered, and to which we are any day liable. On each side of this to now avenues and thoroughfares are proposed. It is a line in the city which is in need, at this time, of just such a thoroughfare, and would relieve some now overcrowded. The sewerage, bridges, with, &c., will all take care of themselves as a necessity, on the adoption of the plan to make so grand an improvement. We are persuaded that on the carrying out of this plan the increase of the property along the falls, and adjacent to it, will be such that in 10 years it will pay for its entire cost.

It is probably not known to many of our citizens that the falls did, before 1796, turn off nearly but above Monument Street, and across Calvert Station to Calvert Street, running along the Street to Lexington, and then nearly at right angles to the present bed of the falls north of gay Street. This, with the present bed from eager Street down, made the ground between Calvert Street and the falls, at times, an island. If so early in our history, with so few people, they could undertake an accomplice the filling up of this channel and confining it to its present limits, surely we can do what is now proposed.

It will protect against destruction of property and loss of life: will improve the appearance and faculties of the city; remove nuisances which every season in danger the health of the city; destroy old haunts and demoralization and crime, and be certain, positive profit. Written by an 1868 property holder

*Throughout these writings you may see this symbol &c., for those that might not know; it is the same etc. or the one-word spelling "etcetera" commonly used and accepted as correct by many dictionaries. It is also sometimes spelled "et caetera, et coetera" or "et cœtera" and is usually abbreviated to "etc." or "&c." Archaic abbreviations, most commonly used in legislation, notations for mathematics, or qualifications, include "&/c.," "&e.," "&ct.," and "&ca." Note that the ampersand is a ligature of "etc.".

The phrase et cetera is often used to denote the logical continuation of some sort of series of descriptions. For example, in the following expression:

"We will need a lot of bread: wheat, granary, whole meal, etc." or "We will need a lot of bread: wheat, granary, whole meal, &c."

Typically, the abbreviated versions should always be followed by a full stop (period), and it is customary—even in British English where the serial comma is typically not used—that "etc." always be preceded by a comma. Therefore:

Devider color with motto

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