Flood of 1788-89


In one of John Cleves Symmes' letters to Colonel Dayton dated at North Bend, [Ohio], May, 1789, he says that when he landed at that place he discovered that the country thereabout had been entirely inundated, and to such an extent had the waters prevailed he was obliged to cast about for a site on which to lay out his town.

Symmes also states that the season was remarkable for the amazing height of the water in the Ohio, being many feet higher than had been known since the white people had come into Kentucky.

Further on in his letter he says that when he left Limestone (Maysville, Ky) on January 29, 1789, he embarked with the bow of his boat "just even with the high bank" on which his house was built at that place.   On reaching Columbus, [Columbia/Tusculum area] at the mouth of the Little Miami, Symmes states that he found the entire place to be under water.  The soldiers in the block house had been driven from below to the loft and thence by boat to a place of safety. But our house was on a high spot of ground and escaped the flood.  And this puts me in mind of something else - a memorandum made by Judge Goforth.  He was an intelligent man, capable of taking observation and noticeably exact in whatever he recorded.  Here's what he says concerning the depth of the Ohio River, and the flood of 1788-'89:  “September 25, 1789 - Mayor Stites, old Mr. Bealer and myself took the depth of the Ohio River, and found there was fifty-seven feet of water in the channel, and that the water was fifty feet lower at that time than it was at that uncommonly high freshet last winter.  The water at the high flood was 112 feet.”  I know that Mr. Cist doubted the worth of that memorandum, and in one of his publications (1841) discredited the Judge's measurements, but Mr. Cist does not give us any substantial facts to disprove the same.  I have never seen any reference to the flood of 1788-89 in the papers, and send you the historic matter for what it is worth.  High water seems to be a prevailing topic of conversation just now.


Lytle, William. "Personal Narrative of William Lytle." Quarterly Publication of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio 1 (January-March 1906): 3-30.