Wow! For Pawhuska, 2014 is the year of celebration. Both the Historic Constantine Center and Pawhuska Public Library turn 100 this year. Tomorrow, the Pawhuska Journal-Capital and its antecedent publications celebrate 110 years of continuous publication. I have been a devoted reader of the J-C since I was a young bride back in the mid-1960s. I loved reading Editor Frank Spencer’s opinion column and enjoyed the weekly birthday notices and society news. I truly miss that from-the-heart reporting by a man who wasn’t afraid to say what he was thinking. Not too long ago, I enjoyed the antics of Ben Gump and how his tongue-in-cheek humor touched on Christian values.
When I mentioned the J-C’s anniversary to Eileen and O’Dell Monger, former Pawhuskans who moved to Pryor last year, Eileen was quick to mention one special story published long ago that recently brought a smile to an ailing neighbor. In the fall of 1945 O’Dell was quarterback for PHS while his neighbor was quarterback for an opposing team. The J-C reported on the game and O’Dell shared the clipping with the former athlete and his family. Eileen said it made for a beautiful afternoon of reminiscing and brought lots of smiles. Their neighbor passed away four days later and his family expressed much appreciation for O’Dell’s kindness.
Barbara McVey shared clippings and information about Pawhuska floods, beginning with a photo of flood waters in front of the Kihekah Theater in 1915. The best record of Pawhuska floods was recorded in Lois Milleson’s March 27, 1982, article which appeared in the Pawhuska Daily Journal. Titled, “Pawhuska’s flooding makes good reading,” Milleson reported Bird Creek is basically an ungauged stream so flood data is limited. “Based on gauged data, local residents, and newspaper clippings, major floods occurred in 1876, 1915, 1943, 1944, 1945, 1959, and 1974. These data shows the 1915 flood as being the highest.”
Milleson said, “September 15, 1915, was a big day in Pawhuska. It was the climax of a flood which covered most of the town under several feet of water. The Osage Journal on the 16th of September carried five decks of 8-column headlines reading, with the decks getting smaller as they went down the page.” The decks read, “Bird Creek runs current down Main Street spreading over bottom and wreaking devastation everywhere. City inundated almost without warning — bottom covered with five feet of water in thirty minutes. Breaking of Main Street bridge first warning that flood scene of 1876 was to be reenacted. Midland Valley Bridge gives way to turbulent current water and light plant submerged (sic) leaving city in darkness relief to suffering furnished quickly — Residents of Hill open homes and all are housed at nightfall.
“From the Journal-Capital on March 12, 1974, comes this report: ‘Worse than ’59 but not quite as bad as ’43, was the consensus of old timers in Pawhuska discussing Sunday’s flood.”
McVey’s collection found two additional years of Pawhuska floods. On June 12, 1970, the rains came again with a vengeance. This time nearly four inches fell in slightly over an hour, creating extensive flooding. If that wasn’t enough, the possibility of a mini-twister was considered after large trees were twisted off and sent crashing to the ground.
The following year on September 7, 1971, high water once again plagued Pawhuska. Photo cut lines read “Saturday night’s ‘gully washer’ rain of 4.25 inches overloaded storm sewers in the city.” Main and other streets were over curb deep in water. Four wreckers and city trucks worked the better part of an hour at the intersection of 9th and Lynn pulling cars out of water which was waist deep to youngsters playing at curb side. A rowboat railed up and down Lynn and east and west on 9th Street for almost an hour following the deluge.
Newspapers are a way of preserving history. How many times have we relied on news articles for research and in exploring and sharing our community’s rich history?
If any of you would like to share a special story as we celebrate 110 years of local news coverage, please contact me. Your story may inspire someone else to share their story. I am so privileged to be connected to such a fine and historic publication. Happy Birthday J-C!