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The great flood of 1940 hits Moulton

by Murray Montgomery
Murray Montgomery

One of the worst floods to hit the Lavaca County area occurred the last weekend in June of 1940. The Moulton Eagle, a weekly newspaper, had the big story days later in its July 5 issue. The Eagle reported that a number of bridges had been lost in the area. County Commissioner Arnold Freytag reported that eleven big bridges had been lost and approaches to 150 smaller bridges were washed out. "Much damage was done in my precinct by the torrential rain Saturday night," said Freytag. Peach Creek, west of Moulton, was also on the rampage, according to the paper. The following unedited story appeared in the July 5, 1940, issue of The Moulton Eagle.


Placid Lavaca River Becomes Raging Torrent
(The Moulton Eagle - Friday, July 5, 1940)

The heaviest rainfall ever recorded here fell from 3 o'clock Saturday morning until 9 o'clock Sunday morning, the precipitation for the 30-hour period measuring more than 20 inches, 16 inches falling Saturday night.

The Lavaca River overflowed its banks, reaching its highest stage during the early hours Sunday morning when the river reached the front steps of the E.A. Oehl home in the eastern part of town.

The river overflowed Highway 95 at the bridge north of town, but no damage was resulted.

Nearly all of the colored people living in the southeastern part of town were driven from their homes by the floodwaters.

Residents in the west part of the city report that the water in the creek there, a tributary to the Lavaca, rose higher than it did in a number of years.

A number of residences and several warehouses were flooded by the driving rain, but only slight damage was reported.

Several farmers in the Moulton section report the loss of poultry. Fences also were washed away.

The heavy rainfall sent the waters of the Lavaca River to an all time high at Hallettsville, inundating part of the residential section and the business section around the courthouse square, causing the loss of seven lives and property damage of hundred of thousands of dollars. A dozen or more homes were washed away. The water rose to the first floor of the courthouse and extended beyond Highway 77, one and one-half blocks east of the public square.

The old saying that "a touch of nature makes the whole world kin" still holds true. When Hallettsville called for help between 9 and 10 o'clock Sunday morning, neighboring cities and distant points rushed assistance to the stricken city.

A party from Moulton was among the first to enter the city and offer assistance after the water receded.

Business firms of Hallettsville lost much of their stocks and store fixtures were damaged.

The office of the County Triple A is located in the basement of the courthouse which was filled with water. Employees are busy trying to save the records.

The road damage in Lavaca County is enormous. County Judge Paul H. Fertsch appealed to the federal government for an appropriation towards rebuilding bridges that were destroyed by the flood. Judge Fertsch estimates the road damage at approximately $200,000.

The damage in Lavaca County is estimated at $1,000,000.



Murray Montgomery
Lone Star Diary September 18, 2014 column
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