Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, March 6, 2005 pg. 12
It’s been several years since I have written about the Great Flood of 1908, which occurred 97 years ago this week. For the sake of our newer readers, let’s review the scenario regarding one of Albion’s greatest natural disasters, which has went into the annals as a monumental event in Albion history.
In February 1908, over 60 inches of snow fell in the area, followed by a heat wave. In early March came heavy rains, and the waters of the Kalamazoo River rose to record levels. An all-night rain on Friday, March 6 raised the rushing waters to 8 feet by Saturday noon. On Saturday, March 6, the water began rising at one inch every 15 minutes. At 3:00 p.m. the Homer dam broke, sending an additional five foot wave of water and ice chunks headed towards Albion. It took both road bridges and the bridges of the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad tracks between Albion and Homer. By midnight, water over the Superior Street bridge in downtown Albion was a foot deep, and 18 inches over the Cass St. bridge! Dynamite was used to break up ice jams upstream and some water was diverted via the “black ditch” which flowed through the southwestern portion of town.
Six buildings on Superior St. collapsed, resulting in over $125,000 in damage. Merchants had to relocate, including the Cascarelli Fruit Stand which subsequently moved to the S. Superior St. and W. Center St. location. Buildings that did not collapse had six feet of water in the basement, and much merchandise was ruined in downtown Albion as a result.
All of Albion’s bridges either collapsed or were damaged, and had to be replaced during the summer of 1908. The exception was the Cass St. bridge which had been known as “Dickie’s Folly,” named after Albion Mayor Samuel Dickie (1851-1925). Despite much criticism, Dickie had spent an extra $4,000 to reinforce the pilings when the bridge was constructed in 1896. Thus the Cass St. bridge held.
Most persons have seen historical postcards of the Flood of 1908 showing downtown Albion collapsing in various stages, and the water surrounding the White Mill on E. Cass St. It’s always interesting to read what people wrote as their message. One card I’ve got states in part, “...I’ll send you some [flood photos] when I get the one that got grandma’s house...the water was so high that it was on top of the kitchen so the flood wood went in the eaves trough.”
This week we from our Historical Notebook we present a scene showing the E. Erie St. bridge as the waters were receding. The scene looks north, and the bridge railing on the right can be seen collapsing. Notice the people standing on the bridge, and the ice chunks on top. The ice was deposited there when the flood waters went over the bridge. Although the E. Erie St. bridge did not entirely collapse, it was still damaged to a point however where it had to be replaced that summer. Now 97 years old and with weight restrictions, it is the only bridge left in town today from several constructed in the summer of 1908. The white house in the center is the house that sits across the River from Thompson’s Brakes where the little dam is. Next to the right in the distance is the First Presbyterian Church. The big house on the right is 217 E. Erie St., and is also standing today.
East Erie St. Bridge as the Waters were Receding
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic