Columbia City Commercial Mail ~ Friday, June 23, 1905
Hurd Party Has Wet Time Out in Iowa. Luther Shoemaker Writes Interesting Letter of Trip to His Sister. Rain and Floods Galore.
Luther U. Shoemaker, a member of the John Hurd party leaving this county May 17, on an overland trip to California has written his sister, Miss Nettie Shoemaker, an interesting letter, narrating some experiences of the party, which through Miss Shoemaker's kindness we are permitted to publish. The party which is traveling in a prairie schooner is composed of Mr. and Mrs. John Hurd, Miss Clara Cole, Bertha Miller, and Luther Shoemaker. The letter is as follows:
Keokuk, Iowa, June 10, 1905.Dear Sister: I am as well as common, eat whenever meals are ready and go to bed when I get ready, gut up about 4 o'clock, and we start out on our journey about 6:30 to 7 a.m. when we are not detained on account of water. We are not traveling this afternoon. The reason is Friday about 3 o'clock we stopped to fish along the Des Moines river. Tried fishing but failed to catch any fish, so it was too late to go on our journey any more that day. So we stuck our tent for night. It was thundering when we went to bed. We were about 60 ft. from the edge of the river water.
Gee Whiz! it rained during the night. The women had light in camp tent till 12 and about 5 they awoke us men and said the river was about to swallow the tent. Well just as sure as God made little green apples, the water had raised 15 ft. I like water but it was too much this time. I got up went in the tent and the water was just ankle deep, all over the ground and it was still raising to beat the band. John Hurd and I commenced to pull stakes. We packed everything in the wagon as quick as possible. The water was 8 to 12 inches any place on the ground. In less than 12 hours the river raised about 10 ft. The bridges are all out and here we are. We saw four large bridges and some house roofs and other things going down the river. Some people say here the river has not been higher in 30 years. Lots of railroads are washed out.
June 14th - - Will finish my letter tonight. May be some more news. Have been traveling since I commenced this letter. Well it rained some today. We are camping at a school house at present. We went through a town yesterday by the name of Farmington. There I was and talked with a man that was born in Roanoke, Ind., and once lived in Columbia City. He left there when he was 11 years old. His father was a doctor, Dr. Rockwell.
Well the roads are no better and the bridges are all out and we had to ford and when we could not ford we would turn around and go some other road. We only went 12 or 13 miles today. We crossed the Des Moines river at Farmington Iowa. Some men told us the water raised 4 ½ feet in 35 minutes but 20 ft. altogether. There are about $50,000 worth of bridges out.
Today we stopped at a place to get some corn for the horses and potatoes for ourselves and the woman sent me in the cellar to get the spuds. She asked me if I would do her a favor before going down cellar. By the way the cellar was 8 inches deep in water. She wanted me to bring her butter out from the cellar. So I pulled off my shoes and took it barefooted and while I was getting the potatoes, she tied up a lump of butter, enough for two meals. She said I should tell how I had to do to earn the butter.
June 15th - - I'll bet I'll make somebody tired before getting this read. I guess we are over the worst bridges for this time. We crossed over one today that we had to unhitch and run the wagon over by hand. There are hundreds of acres flood and some lives lost, one man lost 150 sheep. The mail carrier just went by and he told us the river at Keokuk and down to Quincy was 8 miles wide. A wealthy farmer lost 100 head of large steers.
If you see Foy Hull tell him his dog Pomp is holding out fine. Tell everybody we are having a good time and wish you all the same.
Love to all, Luther U. Shoemaker