Histories: Trempealeau Co. Historical Accounts:
"History of Trempealeau County Wisconsin, 1917":
Chapter 23: More Historical Papers
The Flood of 1876
-As transcribed from page 901
The great flood of March, 1876, marks an important epoch in Trempealeau County life, for while there were no casualties, and only a few serious injuries, old pioneers date all the events of the early days as happening "before the flood" or "after the flood."
The flood was ushered in by a severe rain. Soon every river and creek was flooded. In the Trempealeau Valley, where the Green Bay had caused a number of new villages to spring up, the damage was the worst. Some of the millers in order to save their dams, opened their sluice gates, and this made the condition in the lower valley all the worse. The villages and hamlets were flooded, the people had to go about in boats. There were a number of thrilling rescues, amusing stories are told of people taken from wood piles and box cars, and even of one adventurous cow which made its way with its calf up a pair of stairs and was found the next morning safe on a stair landing, many feet above the raging flood. The flood was followed by severe cold, some isolated families had to burn furniture and laths from their houses to keep warm. Vast tracts of water froze shortly afterward, making the valley one great ice field.
Many thrilling scenes were also enacted in the Beaver Creek Valley, especially at Galesville.
The saddest affair was at Independence. It began to rain there in the forenoon, and continued most of the day. The ground being hard frozen, the creeks were soon roaring torrents. Toward evening four boys - Lee Fay, Fred Hill and two Schmidt boys - went on the railroad bridge across Elk Creek to watch the ice break up. So intent were they in watching the ice that they did not observe that the track was covered with water, and they were unable to get off and had to cling to the truss of the bridge all night. As they had told no one where they were going, their friends were unable to locate them and when found next day they were in a pitiful condition. The physicians called concluded that immediate amputation of the feet was necessary. The operation was performed by Drs. George N. Hidershide and Frank L. Lewis, of Arcadia.
The experience of Dr. Geo. N. Hidershide in this connection throws an interesting light on the life of a physician in the early days. Word reached Arcadia of the tragedy at 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and Dr. Hidershide, crossing the raging river in a skiff, secured a saddle horse from a farmer and started on his errand of mercy. At the Two-Mile Bridge he was forced to take to the hills. At every valley he had to go nearly to the head of the stream, as all were too swollen for crossing. All that terrible chilling night he toiled on his way, and it was not until 5 o'clock the next morning that he reached his destination at Independence, only nine miles from Arcadia. He made the boys as comfortable as he could, and then returned to Arcadia. Later he and Dr. Lewis performed the amputating operation.
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