MANISTIQUE - The most catastrophic event to occur in Manistique other than the fire of 1883 was the flood of 1920. Floodwaters began pouring over the flume walls in the early morning of Palm Sunday, March 28, 1920.
The immediate cause of the flood was an ice jam on the Driggs River that backed the river up. When the jam broke, the water and logs in the river rushed into the Manistique River. Since the winter had an exceptional snowfall along with warmer than normal temperatures and several days of rain, the rivers draining into the Manistique River were already swollen.
With the torrent of water, a west bank wall broke, causing water to rush over the flume walls and into the west side of Manistique all the way down Deer Street and Chippewa Avenue.
Photos courtesy of the Schoolcraft County Historical Society
Flooded homes on Weston Avenue next to the Manistique River. Houses across the river on North Cedar are also visible.
Deer Street with water swirling down the street, located on the west side of Manistique.
The Waddell Lumber and Supply Company was located in the direct path of the flood waters near the Siphon Bridge. The warehouse eventually filled with between two to five feet of water. The foundation was compromised and the warehouse collapsed, as the raging river swept away the lumber that had been stored there.
More than $1,500,000 in property damage as many city streets were beneath one to four feet of water. The disaster overwhelmed the industrial west side of Manistique, as the Goodwillie Brothers Box factory badly wrecked with loss of 125,000 feet of lumber, Waddell Lumber Company completely wiped out, the paper mill practically destroyed, and lime works, chemical plant and many saw mills badly damaged.
Huge piles of timber to be cut into lumber, pulp wood for paper and other wood for chemicals were swept into Lake Michigan and lost. Many homes were ruined leaving dozens of family's homeless, while 20 more homes under water to the second floor for several days, thereby ruining household effects. Traffic over the city bridge was suspended for over a week.
This look back has been provided by the Schoolcraft County Historical Society whose members strive to remain accessible and communicate the history and its connection with today. Interested individuals are welcome to visit the society on Facebook as there are daily updates with never-seen-before pictures and news from the past. Visit www.facebook.com/SCHistoricalSociety or www.cityofmanistique.org/schs.