By MaryAnn Kromer
PHOTO BY MARYANN KROMER
Warren Weininger displays his collection of 1913 flood photos.
Stories of the 1913 flood have been preserved in family stories passed along through the years. Warren Weininger, 91, resides on a farm in rural McCutchenville.
"I was born in this house. So was my dad. My granddad and grandmother built it back about 1889," he said.
Born in 1921, Warren was not around when the 1913 flood ravaged the area, but his mother, Mae Parks Weininger, told her children how the flood affected her and her siblings. She was one of eight children. The family lived on a farm about two miles south of Tiffin on SR 53, on the west side of the river.
"She went eight years to one of the one-room schools. It was No. 2," Warren said.
Her father, Joe Parks, served as a deputy sheriff and later as sheriff. Although Mr. Parks had only an eighth-grade education, he wanted his children to be well-educated. When Mae and her two sisters completed grade 8, he sent them into Tiffin for high school classes.
"Until the flood, they drove a horse and buggy into town every day. There was a livery stable in the vicinity of where the municipal building is now, just off of Market. They would leave their buggy there and the owner would unhook the horse and feed and water it for the day. Then the girls would pick it up and drive it back home after school was out," Weininger said. "That worked fine until the flood. They had to cross the river to get to the old high school building on East Perry Street."
Mae was able to stay at the home of a friend, but she still had to get across the river to reach the school. The city's bridges had been washed away or weakened to an unsafe degree - all except one.
"She had to walk across the railroad bridge. That was the only way to get across the river, and she was scared to death of that. You look down between the rails, and there's nothing there, but the water was up pretty high," Weininger said. "My mother graduated from high school in 1915, so she would have been a sophomore."
Mrs. Weininger also described how most of the homes along Frost Parkway had been swept away and destroyed. When the waters receded, searchers recovered the body of one Frost Parkway resident in Fort Seneca. As for Mae, she lived to be 104 years old, the oldest Columbian High School alumna.
The Weininger farm is several miles away from CR 6. At the time of the flood, Keller's Bridge spanned the river, near the present-day Ruffing Care Center. Weininger has a photo of the long covered bridge that washed out in the raging currents. Later, the metal St. John's Bridge replaced it, followed by the current concrete bridge. At the time, Keller's Mill also stood on the riverbank near the span.
"The nursing home is right behind it. It belonged to the Allman family. Mr. Allman owned the Shawhan Hotel," Weininger said.
He also has a collection of photos featuring pictures of the 1913 flood damage. One is labeled Noble Block, just north of Washington Street bridge. "Mrs. Albright's stove" is circled on the photo. The Shawhan, the Standard Garage on Perry Street and the property of Vanetta Plots at the foot of Jefferson Street, also are in the pictures.
Warren remembered another serious flood in 1937. The water came over his road at the creek, but he did not remember any bridges being washed out.
"I remember the '30s. They were tough. On top of everything being bad financially, we had a terrible drought in the mid-'30s. ... Then we go and have one of the biggest floods in history," Weininger said.