Milton History

a pictorial history of Milton, PA

Flood History

From History of Northumberland Co. PA 1876: In that year occurred the destructive flood on Limestone Run, which not only swept away the Front street bridge, built seven years before, but did great injury to the street itself and also to private property. It was a memorable event, on account of the severe loss which it occasioned to the borough and the County, as well as to individuals. How the disaster was regarded at the time, is shown by the following mention in the columns of the Miltonian of August 16th, 1817:

“Awful Calamity. - The fine, industrious, and very thriving town of Milton was visited, on Saturday Iast, by an awful calamity. From Friday evening till Saturday, at four P.M., the rain poured forth in continual torrents, and the small streams emptying into Limestone Run, which enters the river through the town, increased with so much rapidity, that the inhabitants were compelled to guard against it, and, if possible, to impede the force of that destructive element; but though every effort of human industry was used, it was still unavailing. The stone bridge on the main street was undermined and almost entirely razed to the foundation, which filled up the channel, and opened a new one on the opposite side. The water continued to come with an increased force and rapidity, undermining some houses, and sweeping the lots on which they stood to a level with the water. The houses swept away are: the inn of Mr. Hill, occupied by George Nagle, and dwelling and store-house of Arthur McGowan, and a small saddler’s-shop, occupied by Mr. Merkle; the store-house of D. R. Bright, and the foundation of part of his inn, tenanted by H. Wolfinger; the store-house of Mr. Moses Teas. By the activity of the inhabitants, the moveable property was saved from destruction. One corner of Mr. George Eckert’s superb stone mill was partially undermined, but, we are happy to state, this valuable edifice, so necessary to the community at large, is now under repair.

“Mr. McGowan’s carding-machines were also saved, together with the building in which they stood, and we rejoice to think that they can be put in operation in a short time. This building stands upon the edge of the run. Mr. Samuel Teas’ distillery sustained considerable injury, as did also the buildings attached to the distillery of Mr. John A. Schneider. A substantial bridge is now erecting over the run, on the old foot-bridge, to pass by Mr. Moses Teas’, Mr. Eckert’s, and the saw-mill, and then into the main street by Dr. Dougal’s. The persons at work at this bridge proceed with a celerity and industry highly creditable, and we think the bridge will be passable by Monday next. Added to this calamity, we will have to regret the great impediment to travelers, as it will probably be eighteen months before we can possibly have the new bridge in the main street, together with all the other repairs necessary.”


On the west branch, made comparatively little havoc at Milton. The principal damage was done to the Milton bridge, of which the middle section, that between the islands, was carried away. The bridge company set about re-building it at once, and the work was done by Thomas Murdock and brother. During the time between the destruction and the re-opening of this section, a ferry, from island to island, was operated by Jacob Wheeland, in the employ and interest of the company.


On the 17th of March of that year commenced a flood, unprecedented for the height of the water, and the amount of damage done, not only at Milton, but at all other points along the river. The following account of the havoc at Milton is from the Miltonian of March 26th, 1865:

”On Wednesday of last week, the river commenced to make a gradual swell, which slowly continued on Thursday, through the effects of rain and melting snow among the hills, until Friday, when the rise became more rapid, first filling the river-bank full. But still it rose and rose, higher and higher, not caring for any former precedent as to height, until, Saturday morning, it had risen to such a depth that Front street, in some places, contained over six feet of water, and Saturday morning, the good news came that the water was falling. This glad news was welcomed by one and all. Each then wore a cheerful face. It was Noah’s dove returning to the ark!

“It was a sad sight to see such a destruction of property - bridges, houses, household furniture, stables, fences, etc., came floating down the river in confused masses.

“On Friday it was perceptible, to each one’s eye, that the Milton bridge could not much longer withstand the pressure brought against it by the accumulating logs and debris of all kinds. The western portion was swept away some time on Friday night. The eastern portion, or that nearest to town, left about three o’clock Friday afternoon. Many aching hearts witnessed the grand scene! Just previous to starting, her creaking timbers made loud throes of agony. By the bridge breaking in two, and swinging round towards either bank, she floated grandly down the river, never to return. The middle bridge - that between the two islands - was swept from the piers about the same time, but, lodging against trees, moved only a few rods down the river.

“To enumerate and individualize the Iosses experienced by different ones in this locality, would be impossible in a newspaper article. The families on the river-bank, in the upper portion of the borough, as well as the lower, were compelled to forsake their homes, without much loss however. Many of those in the lower part of the town took refuge in the German Reformed Church, reminding one of those sad, rebellious times, when refugees are driven from their homes - while others were provided for in other ways.

“There is but little injury done in the upper portion of the town, as the water had little or no current. In the lower portion, however, where the current was swift and strong, it washed out streets and did great damage.

“Mr. John Datesman, of West Milton, is a heavy loser in grain, which became wet, and may nearly all be destroyed by not being made dry. We are informed that about two thousand bushels had to he taken from his warehouse, and through the kindness of friends and neighbors, was hauled to the different barns in the country to dry. It is stated that, while the goods were being removed from his store, some rascal robbed his till of all the money it contained. Such a man will steal from the devil, when he can.

“John Halter, on Mrs. Marr’s farm, had his house swept away and his furniture all lost. He also lost two crops of tobacco, leaving him penniless. Mrs. Marr also lost tobacco to the amount of a thousand dollars and over. But there is loss, more or less, by each family residing along the river, and we cannot now enumerate. Farms lying along the river were swept of all fencing, which proves a very heavy loss.

The rebuilding of the bridge was now the serious question. The disaster had been so great that the stock of the company was nearly extinguished. It was declared to be depreciated four-fifths, which left a total of only about five thousand dollars in existence, while sixty thousand more than this sum was necessary for rebuilding. The old stockholders were unwilling to pay the assessment of eighty percent, and there seemed to be no new takers of stock. The prospect for a new bridge seemed gloomy enough, and, indeed, it could not have been accomplished - perhaps four years - but for the unwearying and persistent exertions of Colonel Thomas Swenk, and a few other individuals, who were determined that Milton should suffer no such blow as the permanent loss of her bridge. At last, the company was rehabilitated, and the contract for the new bridge was given to Benjamin Griffey, who employed David Starick to build the necessary stone-work. The entire cost of the structure was sixty-five thousand dollars. During the construction, a ferry, to partially fill the place of the bridge, was run across at the lower end of the islands.

From Bell’s History of Northumberland County 1891: On Saturday, August 9, 1817, the waters of Limestone run, swollen to an unprecedented height by heavy and protracted rains in the region of its sources, swept away the three-arched stone bridge in Front street; the inn of Mr. Hill, occupied by George Nagle; the dwelling and store house of Arthur McGowan; Mr. Marble’s saddler shop; the store house of Daniel R. Bright, and the foundation of his tavern, occupied by Henry Wolfinger; the store house of Moses Teas, and one corner of George Eckert’s stone mill. The force of the current was so great that two large mill stones were swept away and never recovered, and a gravel bar was formed at the mouth of the run, extending half-way across the river. Such was the first public calamity experienced by the citizens of Milton.

The river flood of 1847 carried away the middle section of the Susquehanna bridge, and the great flood of March 17, 1865, demolished that structure entirely, flooding the town and doing considerable damage to stores, residences, and streets.

On the 1st of June, 1889, a repetition of these experiences occurred; the bridge was again carried away, residences and stores were flooded and their contents seriously damaged, and the water rose to a height never before attained within the recollection of the oldest inhabitant.