The month has flown by again and I don’t know about where you are but we are having a hard time getting spring to arrive.  It is warm today and the trees have popped and birds are singing so I hope we here in the Midwest have at least a few days of spring weather. (We usually go from cold to 90 degrees)

But spring does bring its share of weather, rains and winds and it can bring about natural disasters. We have swollen rivers here and flooding and today I have a guest blogger from the,  website.  These guys are Ohio history buffs and the story is a good example of how our ancestor’s environment would have affected their lives and perhaps will tell you why they did some of the things  they did.  Check out their site and see if you can help identify any photos.

Speaking of Ohio, I just returned from the Ohio State Conference in Cincinnati and would like to welcome all the folks I met there. It was a great conference.


David Chambers and the Great Dayton Flood


By Jeff Satterly and Robert Muhlhauser


The week of March 21st through March 26th marks the anniversary of one of the most devastating natural disasters ever to hit the United States. It was during this week 100 years ago, in the year 1913, that a system of ravaging storms swept across the American Midwest and parts of New England. The storms brought with them high-speed winds and torrential rains, causing tornadoes and massive flooding. By the time the storms had passed through the area, they had caused billions of dollars’ worth of damage. The week of storming killed hundreds of people and left thousands more homeless.

Oversaturated watersheds like the Greater Miami in Ohio swelled with rain water, and their runoff filled the streams and rivers of the Midwest to overflowing. The intense pressure of the rising waters broke through dams, bridges and levees as if they were twigs. The raging flood waters swallowed entire towns and cities.

The Great Dayton Flood of 1913 brought about countless personal stories of heroism, tragedy and loss, but one story that stands out as particularly powerful is the story of the Chambers family. Two of David Chambers’ grandchildren related the stirring but tragic tale of their grandfather’s heroism to These women’s story tells of a 24-year-old father of three, a young man whose valiant actions in the wake of the Great Flood saved numerous lives.

134_West_Fourth_1913The Chambers lived in North Dayton, in a home that was elevated about the level of the flood waters. When David saw the widespread damage the flood had caused to the city, he selflessly chose to leave the safety of his home, climbing into the family’s 16-person boat and rowing it out into the flood waters. David delivered supplies to victims all over the Riverdale area, and managed to save the lives of more than 150 Dayton residents. Tragically, David’s heroism ended up costing him his own life. When a stray log struck the side of his boat, David was tossed overboard, where he ultimately died in the flood waters. The death of her husband left David’s wife, Stella, on her own to raise three daughters, all of whom were under the age of seven. During a period of financial instability, Stella was forced to place the girls in an orphanage. In the end, however, the girls were reunited with their mother. David was buried in the flood section of Dayton’s Woodland Cemetery.

(photo 134 W. Fourth Dayton, Ohio 1913)


The Great Dayton Flood finally came to an end on the 26th of March. By the time the flood was over, the city of Dayton had suffered widespread and significant 134_West_Fourth_Todaydamage, and the city’s population had been hit with numerous deaths and displacements. 14 square miles of the city were now covered with a blanket of water, and some 20,000 homes had been completely destroyed. In all, the flood ended up costing the city of Dayton nearly $100 million worth of damage, a sizable sum which would amount to a whooping $2 billion in today’s dollars. More than 360 people had been killed in the flood, and an estimated 65,000 people were left homeless. It took the city more than a year to completely clean up the damage, and it was over a decade before Dayton’s economy returned to the levels it enjoyed before the flood hit.

(photo 134 W. Fourth today)


Thanks so much to Kathy Wurth for letting us share a piece of this historical project on Family Tree Tours blog. We’re humbled by the interest in this project, and we really hope you enjoyed this snippet of history!

We’d also like to thank some of the great archives and archivists who have done so much to work to help preserve the amazing history of the 1913 flood, including the Dayton Metro Library and historian  Trudy Bell . The amount of history compiled at these two websites is truly amazing. Lastly, thanks to Jason from, who lent us some of the resources we used to help prepare content for the web and publish our blog, and inspired our Mapping History Contest.

Don’t forget to check out Historical for more images, and for information on our Mapping History Contest to help us figure out the locations pictured in historic photos from 1913 and you could win $100!