Great Flood of 1908


“Their experience through the night...”

    1908 May 1: (Bonham News) ...Monday last a party consisting of John A. Saunders, Ed Dye, E. B. Martin, John Rogers and Mr. Edwards went to Spies cut off on Red River to spend a few days fishing.  A most horrible accident occurred to Mr. Saunders and Mr. Martin on Tuesday night that resulted in the death of the former. The two men left camp about 9 o’clock at night to go up the lake some distance to look after a trot line they had set out. While running the line their boat was in some way overturned and they were thrown into the lake. It was very dark and in the water they became confused and got out of the lake on the side opposite the camp without knowing it and at once started in the direction in which they thought the camp lay, but which in reality was in the opposite direction.

    There is a large body of land lying along the lake on the side where they emerged from the water that is covered with a dense growth of willows and cottonwoods, in which the recent rains have made the land a marsh. Into this thicket and bog the two men groped their way in the darkness, and before they knew that they were lost they had gone so far that they could not find their way back to the lake.

    Their experience through the night, as related by the survivor, were fearful beyond description. No one except him who has been lost in such a place in the impenetrable blackness of night can have any conception of the awfulness of that night. Floundering in the mud and water, often knee deep, sinking into quicksands and saving themselves only by means of overhanging branches, wet to the skin, and not even with coats to break the force of the cold wind that benumbed their chilled bodies, they spent the long hours in agony. To add to the terror of it a rain storm, accompanied by vivid lightning and the deep roar of thunder with a cold wind from the north, came up just after midnight. They struggled on until toward day when Mr. Saunders became completely exhausted and fell down. His companion urged him to keep moving, but at last he gave it up and could move no more. Mr. Martin covered his body with what weeds and willow branches he could gather to break the force of the cold wind from his body. Then he walked back and forth to

keep up his own circulation until day brake. As soon as he could see to travel he started for help, and in a short time reached the old Dr. Smith home, now occupied by a man named Brown. He was completely exhausted when he reached there, but gave directions as to how rescuers could reach Mr. Saunders. Help went to him at once. When found he was unconscious and his body was stiff with cold, though he was still alive. A physician was sent for and did what he could for him, but he never regained consciousness and died shortly after 12 o’clock Wednesday night. The body was brought here on the Katy yesterday morning and taken to the family residence.... Mr. Saunders was fifty-four years old...a man of a tender heart, a generous motive and a kindly disposition. Those who knew him well will testify to this truth, and their charity will lead them to cover his one fault with the mantle of forgetfulness.

    1908 May 19: (BN) The quarter boat is down near Sowell’s Bluff clearing out the river of snags and drifts, and cutting timber within 200 feet of the banks. The work is improving the low lands on the river by preventing overflows and also the health of the county by keeping out the rotting timbers in drifts. And no doubt about navigation for broad bottom steam boats and barges. Had the river been in some of the Northern states she would have been locked and damed long ago. Plenty of water and increasing annually. Old Roustabout.

    1908 June 2: (BN) Reports from the River. At Mulberry the river was reported to be five or six miles wide at one time yesterday morning. The damage to the crops along the river country in this county will be something enormous....

    Ravenna. The flood in Red River receded the latter part of last week until the stream was again within its banks. All crops in the bottom were destroyed. Some farms are badly washed, some few have lost many acres of land by the changing of the river and the deposit of sand left by the overflow.

    The farmers are preparing to replant the greater part of the land in corn just as soon as the ground is dry enough. They feel confident that there is yet plenty of time to make a good crop. The most of them are thankful that conditions are not worse than they are.

    John Forest Hall in Lamar County downstream had “the most beautiful corn crop” on land belonging to a bank; it was swept away. When the Halls moved to Mulberry later in the year, the bank’s encouragement was a factor.


    People in “the bottom” camped on “t
he bluff” near school and church. They saw trees, chicken coops, tubs and wagons float by. Mandy Parks watched people coming into camp, including the Bramletts and her friend Jubie. “I thought it was the grandest thing ever was. Mr. Plummer was living where you live. Water came right up to the foot of the hill. He was swimming on his back with a little dog on his stomach.” 

    Loss Hope and Hattie May were living on the Messenger Place. They saved all their belongings except the chickens. After the flood the Hopes continued to live with May’s father, E. T. Davidson.


    1908 June 5:  [from a rare issue of Fannin County Democrat, a newspaper published in Ravenna]  Red River is on a record rise with indications that all records will be broken, and also with indications that Oklahoma will gain some new territory through the cutting of a new channel on this side of the main stream....

    Hundreds of families on the bottoms have moved out and are shifting as best as they can on the nearest high ground above the possibility of the flood....

    Damage in Fannin County.  Reports from the northern part of the county are that the bottom lands are flooded and the water still rising.  There has been no loss of life reported.  A message from Mulberry reports a man going down the river on top of a house and so far all efforts to get him off have proved fruitless.


    1908 October 8: (BN) Mr. Court Keeton, a [crop] diversifier and prominent citizen of the Ivanhoe section has recently returned from an extended trip over Oklahoma. He says the best corn he saw on the trip was in Lightfoot bottom, this side of Kemp’s ferry on Red river and in the overflowed bottoms, from replanting. Mr. Keeton says that on nearly all ridge and elevated rolling land the crop was fairly good but [on] all creek and river bottom level land, crops of all kinds were almost a total failure....