As January draws to an end, so does the anniversary of the 1937 Ohio River Flood. The disaster left 1 million homeless in states from Pennsylvania to Illinois, and has history in Lawrence county. About 700 refugees, mainly from Louisville, fled to waters and ended up here where residents took them in.
“At the same time, over 150 blocks of Louisville were under water,” said Lawrence county historian Ron Bell. “About the same time there were 34 square miles of Jeffersonville and all but six square miles were under water. And Evansville was just as much of a disaster as Louisville.”
Local residents welcomed the victims and gave them food, shelter, and entertainment.
“They listed everyone who made a donation in the newspaper, and it went from the 500 dollar donors to the 50 cent donors. And to those who were about to lose their house, that was a big deal.”
At the same time, in the midst of the Great Depression, hundreds of houses were getting foreclosed on in the county, and residents were dealing with a severe ice storm.
“It was a disaster upon a disaster.”
Bell says most the refugees later returned home, or went to serve in World War two.