1937 Flood


I sent the letters below to Byron Crawford of the Louisville
Courier-Journal, and he has written a column based on them and interviews with myself, Al Craig, and Doris Hance Vaught, which you can read here:


I also have a version of these letters with photographs taken during the flood, which can take a while to download if you have a dialup connection, but anyone interested can write me, and I'll send it to you directly.  -- Bill Davis




In her accounts of the 1937 flood, Jennie Lee Hance Craig describes the onset of the flood, "Had" Gex and Albert Craig working together to try to save their stock by driving them to higher ground at the Mylor farm, then trying to get a ferry to take their stock up U.S. 42 to higher ground across the fill near the Carroll-Gallatin County line.

Jennie Lee Hance Craig was the wife of Albert Gallatin Craig, living with their three children, Albert (known as "Junior"), Bill, and Alice Inda Craig in the home of Albert's elderly father, Virginius "V.T." Craig, on the Ohio River just east of Agniel's Branch and the Carroll - Gallatin County line. Also in the house hold were Albert's mother, Carrie Gaines Craig, Albert's sister, Marjory Craig, and and his aunt Laura B. Craig, known as "Auntie." This home was built in the 1840's by V.T.'s father, Judge Albert Gallatin Craig. South of the house was a brick outbuilding which contained "Richmond's room," named for a simple-minded slave that remained with the Craig family after the Civil War. West of the house was an icehouse and "Banning's stable," named for a prize horse V.T. Craig had once owned. The Craig home was purchased by Gallatin Steel in the 1990's, and has since been torn down.

To the east of the Craig home was the farm of Louis Edward "Had" Gex (pronounced "Jay") . He was Albert's cousin and the husband of Albert's sister, Corrine. His home, an antebellum brick stucture built by John Anthony Gex, still stands across U. S. 42 from the Gallatin Steel plant. Just east of the Gex farm along U.S. 42 stood the Mylor house, which was torn down in 2006. The old Gex School was on the south side of U.S. 42, near the Mylor home.   Many locals remember another Mylor farm at the county line, but none of the references in the letters appear to refer to this other Mylor farm.

To the west of the Craig farm was was "the fill," where the ground had been built up for a U.S. 42 to cross Agniel's branch near the Carroll-Gallatin County line. Another mile west was the home of Albert Craig's sister, Dixie Craig Froman, where the coal pile for the Kentucky Utilities Plant is now located.  Jennie Lee Craig's children had been sent to the Froman house for their safety.

In 1864 the Craig and Gex homes were the site of a Civil War skirmish, known as the Battle of Gex's Landing.


Letter #1 - A note addressed to "Any of the Hances or Allphins," apparently sent up river by coast guard towards Warsaw or Jackson's Landing in Gallatin County, Kentucky, and addressed to "Any of the Hances or Allphins," then re-addressed with a note to someone by Helen Hance Allphin, Jennie Lee's sister who lived in Warsaw.

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Any of the Hances or Allphins

This is a note we got from J. L. am sending on to you. We are alright. Will try to get up tomorrow - if there is anything we can do. Let us know.


water goes down slowly doesn't it?

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Dear Folks: I heard from you through the Coast Guard. I hear there is a note for me at Dixies from you. Mylors gave it to Perry [Froman] and he took it home. Albert, Had, and I are in an upstairs room at Had's. The rest are at Dixie's except Elizabeth Froman is keeping Billy and Junior part of time. I must write this hurriedly in order to get this man to take it. We have had very trying times but I am thankful to be alive. Albert has been sick thru it all. He had no boots or rubber coat and has been wet most of the time. I asked coast guard to get some but they didn't bring any. There are none in Ghent. Carrollton is in a desperate shape. I hear only one street out of the water. All of Albert and Had's stock (79 fat unpaid for steers, cows, mules, sheep, hogs etc.) were in the water. They would put them on Hay and things only to have the water get them again. They would drive stock to Mylor's where it was higher. They would swim back. Yesterday they got the Ghent ferry to move what stock they could get on it to other
side of fill. He charged $100. Some is still at Mylor's in water. They
couldn't [next pg.] get them to where boat could load them. Much stock is drowned. Many of our building have gone. My chickens in Banning's stable were caught below Ghent. All our large furniture, meat, etc, is in water. Albert was sick in bed yesterday. Got up today. Will try to let you know if things don't go right from now on. Try to send me full details of your condition by someone. Has anyone heard from Lucille?

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Letter #2 A letter written with several additional notes added later,
possibly to be given to her sister-in-law Dixie Craig Froman, who was
caring for her three children at her farm which was on higher ground, two miles down river from the Craig farm.

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Albert and Had are expecting to cross in the canoe and since it is such bad crossing and the canoe is leaking I will try to send your bag and two lamps on the next trip over. Jim R. [Riley] and Huey were waiting for us at the landing yesterday. They wanted to work. Said they were going to milk, etc. Were also going to get their bed out of stripping room and put it on the hay. We, Doke, and boy had gone over in Jim R. boat. When we got over there Jim had gone in Perry's boat. Had and Albert like Jim's boat. They had ferried hay to cattle in it. We landed at hall door, waked Had and told him to go with Huey and Jim to see about fixing gates around hay to keep sheep in and go see about cattle. Albert went to bed. Had went down to go with Huey and Jim and they were gone. We supposed to sheep barn. Had went in canoe, found no Huey or Jim. They had taken the only boat we had and not only that, but one canoe paddle that we were using in boat to steer with. We were left with leaky canoe and one paddle. Had and Parker had five hogs in the far barn that they couldn't get. Had thinks Huey and Jim probably got a hog to dress and left. None of the men have been to help since Doke left yesterday. Albert made a nice looking hole in chimney and put up stove yesterday. It was entirely too cold without it. We went to bed fairly early. Had slept soundly. Albert slept some. We got up at 1 o'clock. Albert and Had are rescuing and I have been trying to get the room in shape. I think [next pg.] Albert felt better when he got up. His bowels are loose, and I think that and the worry are almost too much

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They saved all but about ½ doz. chickens. I will dress two of them that
were just passing out.

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Thursday. Didn't get this delivered. The water is just 3 ½   inches deep in house this a.m. Don't think the house is hurt much. Walls stained some. Hope to get some one to help me and sweep mud off floors as water leaves.

Albert was sick in bed all day yesterday. His pulse was very rapid and
irregular. I was very uneasy. He is doing better today. Was sorry I didn't send things yesterday p.m. that had been my first chance. The men that came over to barns would not come to housed and Had and Albert couldn't remember to tell them. Had and Albert have worked day and night. I prefer to stay here instead of some of you coming as long as children are well. Louis took ½ case of eggs to Ghent.

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Dear Alice Inda: I'm sure you are being nice and having a good time. I am taking good care of Happy. She would like to see you. I hope you slept well last night. If Junior and Bill are there tell them I hope they are having a nice time.

Love to the three of you. Mother

[ Happy was a small dog ]

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I wish

lonesome without

[ May be a reply that Alice Inda began ]


Letter #3

Jennie Lee Hance Craig's account of the flood, written toward the end of the ordeal.


Week preceding Sat., Jan 23, I spent first of week cleaning clothes in
preparation for Lucille's wedding Sat. The river was rising but there was no alarm. It rained a great deal on Wed. I went to the fill where a car was wrecked. It looked water was six feet from road. On Thurs a.m.
Dolly  [Albert's sister Dolly Smith] moved out. Thurs. p.m. Albert, Junior, and I took Mr. Craig to Ghent to get shaved. Junior's school bus did not come Thurs. Driver was moving. By noon water was over road to Warsaw. The water was over fill when we returned from Ghent. Still raining. River rising very rapidly Marjory and I began to be alarmed. Mr. Craig insisted we were in no danger. Everyone thought it impossible for water to rise above the 1884 level. Marjory waked us at 3:30. The water was in the drive. Marjory and Mrs. Craig began to carry fruit from cellar. I went to Banning's stable to carry chickens to second floor. Mr. Craig said we were crazy, that the water would never get in house. We waked children to help move things from cellar. After moving chickens Bill and I began to pile wood on front porch, where the water wouldn't get it. Albert insisted that I stop. Said when it got light he [pg.2] would get Had's canoe, go for Doke and the Rileys and move things. I wouldn't stop so he helped. As it began to get light one of the children called that water was between house and barn. We found water thru both barns, between us and the road and over
highway. Albert had only high top rubbers. He began to try to run stock (19 steers {fat}, milk cows, sheep, hogs, 3 calves, 1 bull, 4 mules), they wouldn't leave. I couldn't get to the car. Albert drove it from flooded garage and I took Mr. Craig and Auntie to Corrine's. Got Had out of bed, got two of his men, three of Mylor's men. No one but Had had boots. The water now was over Albert's rubbers. He was very wet. Most of men wouldn't get in the water. After much trouble (used mules) the stock was driven to Had's. Marjory and children were moving what they could upstairs. We hung the meet from five hogs. Got man to carry coal from cellar. Richmond's room was most half full of cottonseed meal and wheat. The men moved it to barn left after water was knee deep in barns. Had sent for his wagon and team that they might use two. The water was all around except within a few feet
of house. Too deep for cars. We hitched Jim Riley's car behind Had's wagon that Leonard Dean was driving and our car (with Mrs. Craig, Marjory, Alice Inda, Albert, Happy and bedding) behind our wagon. Junior, Riley, and I rode our wagon. I tried driving but couldn't stay on concrete. Junior finished driving. Had and I went back in afternoon to move the lard [pg.3] which was still in the hall. The water was going in cellar. Mac [Albert's brother-in-law Mac Smith], Perry [Froman], and Clair Yager came and the men moved much furniture upstairs. Put desk on table, sideboard, and dining table on other tables. The piano couldn't be moved. Marjory and children had put books off two lower shelves on piano. Albert and Had were so busy with stock that we had little chance to go down home. Next day Albert and I went down hoping to move meat from smoke house ceiling. The water was so high we couldn't get in. Our 50 gal barrel full of coal oil had turned
over. The water was coming on the house floors. I moved things from the kitchen as long as the water didn't come over rubbers. Am afraid clocks etc were left on mantles. I moved things to higher shelves in kitchen. They are now under water.

Albert and I tried to do something for Mrs. Craig's chickens that were
floating on the roosts. Many were drowned. Albert went thru a window put the roost higher, climbed on them and caught the chickens, and put them on. Much of Had's and our stuff was floating away (gates, etc.) on Sunday. Jim Riley called across water to Arthur [Riley] and asked him to get a boat over here. Arthur got one from Shirley [Riley] that belong to Scottland Gardens [a getaway spot in Ghent]. It was used to move the tenants off of Had's place. Perry had gotten a poor john boat but every time anyone came over in it, they would use it to go back. We were left with nothing but the old canoe. [pg.4]

On Sun the coast guard landed a few feet from Had's front steps.   They asked if we had food. Promised to stop on way from Warsaw to Carrollton next morning and move the family out. It was still raining hard. The water was in Had's barns. The men worked all day. Put sheep on hay in barn. Lifted Albert's 20 hogs and Had's six sows to barn loft. Had put 5 head of cattle on hay in old barn. The cattle, cows, calves (103), and mules were driven to Mylor's because it was higher. Had put his new car on Mylor's porch. There were 3 cars there. The Mylor, Gardt, Turner stock and what Mr. Carr had left were on a second story in Mylor's barn. Our stock stayed mostly on highway but would go in water in Mylor barn and eat Mr. Wilhoite's hay.

Albert drove his car to Mylor's. We asked coast guard to try to get
Warsaw ferry to come to move stock. Couldn't get them. We had tried to get word to Uncle Perry [Albert's uncle Perry B. Gaines of Carroll County ] to try to get a boat. Albert and Had were nearly frantic. They were working with stock about 20 hours out of 24 hours. On Sunday afternoon Perry came and took Auntie and Marjory to Dixie's . The rest of us moved Corrine's things upstairs. Mr. Doke and Willie Knox came about 9 o'clock to stay all night. Corrine and I had begged Doke [pg.5] to come back so we wouldn't be left h
with the stock. The current between house and barn was very swift. Mr. Doke and Willie moved the heavy furniture that we couldn't lift. About 9 o'clock Mon morning the coast guard came. Albert asked me to stay here and get their answer about Warsaw ferry. The rest of the family left, taking food, clothing and bedcovers. The rain had stopped. I was expecting to go to Dixies with Albert and Had. The water was then over the porch. When they came in Albert asked me to stay here and cook and keep their clothes

drying said that was only chance to save any of the stock. It took several hours to ferry the swift water, go to Dixie's [bank, & back?]. Doke, Albert and I went to Dixies and got our clothes. Albert dug a hole in the chimney in room upstairs, waded in water, got stove and set it up. The three of us lived in one room Sun night. They couldn't catch one of Albert's hogs. I let it in the house [pg.6] as the water rose and when the floors were covered Albert helped it to the stair landing and there it stayed during flood. I kept Happy in a basket for several days. Then sent her to Doke's. Albert and Had would take hay to Mylors and put it on a wagon for the stock to eat. Perry on Mon. got to Vevay to see about a ferry. Tues morning Had and Albert went over water to see if they could get a report on Vevay ferry or get some boat. Perry was over there. His motor balked. Albert stayed to help him and Had came on in canoe. Just as Had got to the barn the cattle began to swim home from Mylor's. Had couldn't turn them back. All but fifteen came. There they gathered around on the highest ground, where the water was far up on their bodies. Every little bit some of them would start off, the men all the time trying to keep them where ground was highest. By this time the neighbors had learned of our plight and were here to help. There were several john boats here. Two with outboard motors. About noon we saw Ghent ferry [pg.7] coming. Capt. Jack [Graham] said he did not think they could load stock. Albert cut a large hole in side barn.

They drove sheep off hay, through the hole onto ferry. They we taken across the fill. Then the cattle were driven in barn, up on hay and onto ferry. The weather was fair. After several trips the barn was emptied. They tried to drive the 15 remaining cattle from Mylor's to load but failed. They and the mules stayed there. The water was almost on a stand. Capt. Jack tied up across the fill to await another day as it was now dark.

The next morning the water was not rising and they decided to leave the rest of stock at Mylor's. Water was just over second step on Corrine's hall. The five cattle in the barn on hay got out and drowned. Albert had 10 jersey cows drowned. One of Had's steers was drowned. Had lost one hog that was caught in the far barn when water rose. Several calves were lost. Airplane flew over often and took pictures. That evening the Pathe news man said he had been over the world burn never before saw a ferry boat going up a federal highway or cow [pg.8] punchers herding cattle in motor boats. Sallie B. [Beall] wrote Aunt Beall that she saw some of the pictures in a Detroit paper. One picture is in LIFE.

I heard someone sent Harry Reyner a bunch of pictures taken by Pathe news man. On Wed. Albert was in bed all day. He wanted radio to get river news. I tied a wire around a hammer without a handle and threw it out the window in the water for a ground. Ran a wire to front room window and tied it to an old aerial wire. It worked fine. The flood news from Louisville was terrible. We heard Carrollton broadcasting on short wave. On Thursday [ Harry ] Berge and some men came to see about us. Were checking up on feed lost. On Fri. Berge, Mr. Tinsley, Perry, Frank, and some others came and brought us two Red Cross boats that had been made in Warsaw. Banning's stable with my chickens had gone, landed at Dawson VanDevere's. Huey's house and out buildings had gone. Garage also gone. The water had been seven feet in Mr. Craig's house, over our meat. One night while water was still rising Albert and Had went out at 1 o'clock to move Corrine's chickens to barn loft. Worked about two and one half hours. Had going in water to his [pg.9] waist. They had a narrow escape where the canoe caught on a fence post. The current was swift. After awhile they wiggled it off. The canoe is in bad shape. As the water left we began to scoop mud from Corrine's house. Her floors and walls do not seem badly damaged. When we got in down home it was terrible. Everything with about two, three, or four inches of mud on it. The books had fallen from the piano. I washed what seemed most valuable. Dishes from the kitchen were in the parlor Books were
in the kitchen. The table with dining table, sideboard, desk, etc. had
turned over. This furniture had been in water and veneer was peeling. The piano is ruined. Everything in kitchen was covered with mud. We had moved nothing from kitchen. The brick rooms were terrible. My Maytag was turned over and covered with mud. Can't use it until I can have it gone over. The corn swelled and bulged the sides of the crib. It is covered with mud but some people bought some at 35¢ for hogs. It was worth about $1.25. [pg.10]

The hay was smoking so they had to move it. Were afraid it would set barn on fire. Albert found the wheat on the lower floor of barn loft sprouted. He is turning it trying to dry it. We moved out Jan. 22. It is now Feb. 8. I have built fires downstairs today to try to dry Corinne's house. The rest are still at Dixies. I went to Papa's yesterday. Helen, Bryan took [me], [I] was afraid to take children because fills are cracking.
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#4 From a memoir of her life by Lucille Hance Farmer, sister of Jennie Lee Hance Craig. She had been living and teaching at the Masonic Home at St. Matthews, Kentucky for 11 years, and was about to be married at the home of her father, Milton Lee Hance, at Jackson's Landing above Warsaw, when he flooding hit.

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George Farmer and I were married Jan. 23, 1937. We were to be married at my home [at Jackson's Landing, above Warsaw] and all was set for the wedding when my father called and said, "There are 10 feet of water in the room you are to be married in. We have moved upstairs, tied a boat to the door, and are living on your wedding cake." The plans changed quickly, and the teachers and Superintendent and wife, with home I lived at the Masonic Home for 11 years got busy and fixed a wonderful wedding for us. My cousin, Dr. Hampton Adams could not get here from Frankfort so we called Dr. Carpenter who was working on boat detail and he promised to arrive and we had a 6 o'clock wedding. We could not get out of town for a honeymoon, so we went to the apartment we planned to live in. The water rose repeatedly and we could barely get through it the next morning to drive to Crescent Hill where we had a hot coke and cold hamburger at a whiskey joint that was open for breakfast (no electricity). We ended up in Crescent Hill at some friends house where we stayed two weeks with other refugees. That Sunday was known as "Black Sunday" with the rain pouring and the river rising rapidly, we spent the afternoon with other volunteers, going door to door and asking for dry men's socks, which we took down to meet the boats bringing refugees to the hill down at the end of Mellwood. Some people flooded out in West End were able to get to Crescent Hill on some freight cars and they were housed at Barrett Junior High. We worked there the next two weeks handing out food, clothing and finding places for the people to sleep. That is the story of our honeymoon.



These letters are all from a post by Bill Davis on the Gallatin County Geneological mailing list. We believe that list is no longer active.