I personally enjoy a thunderstorm…if the thunder doesn’t immediately follow the bolt of lightning. But I’m not sure how much I would have appreciated what has been called the most devastating storm in Matamoras history.
That particular event was on a Sunday afternoon. It was Aug. 8, 1915 at 5 p.m. The atmosphere had been unbearably hot and humid all day, and beginning at 2:30 in the mid-afternoon, distant rumblings of thunder were heard in the far southwest of town. It was nearly 90 minutes later before one could see the storm clouds gathering. Such a slow pace did not foretell a good omen of the coming event.
Throughout all this section of the Mid-Ohio River Valley incessant flashes of lightning brightened the black sky in all directions. There came a blinding rain with constant, continual rumblings in the sky. With the exceedingly heavy rains, the streets of town quickly flooded. All vehicle travel was halted by the fierceness of the storm. The rain ended with hail which cooled the air considerably.
Many people had attended a ballgame in Paden City, the mode of transportation being by means of railroad travel. A person could either cross the river by ferry boat from Matamoras to Friendly, and catch the train there or go to Fly, where another ferry crossed to the train station in Sistersville.
Everyone at the ballgame became storm bound, having to remain on the Union Traction cars. All travel was cancelled until the worst of the storm passed. The only relief in the meantime was the break in the humidity as cooler air came with the hail as it worked its way up the valley.
The “Matamoras Enterprise” of Aug. 12, 1915 carried a description of the destruction of the area. It read, “North Fork and Mill Creek came tearing out and the misfortune of one home was in having the back porch carried away and the whole building forced off its foundation. A 100-barrel tank belonging to the Sutton Brothers came down the creek to the river. A mowing machine owned by Wiley Amos was washed away and the engine house of a well on Mill Creek was completely demolished. Produce was scattered all along the road to the river and drift piles were full of snakes of all descriptions. Jim Run was on a rampage also and a great deal of damage occurred to oil wells and corn fields. The tubing in a well belonging to C.C. Stover was broken off and a 100 barrel tank taken from its spot.”
John Miller is president of the Matamoras Area Historical Society. Membership dues are $15 per year single/couple. Life membership is $150. Contact the society at P.O. Box 1846, New Matamoras, Ohio 45767. Much of this column is built on the work of Matamoras’ historian, the late Diana McMahan.