Leavenworth, Indiana, was a small settlement situated on the banks of the Ohio River. Damage from the flood waters was severe in this town. The population of Leavenworth was 418 people. Of this number, 400 were forced to evacuate.

The following data will show the existing conditions:
145homes in the town
20homes floated away
65homes moved from foundations but still in the vicinity
1brick building collapsed
100cellars flooded
125wells inundated
75privies gone

High-water mark

All streets are blocked with buildings and debris and the cleaning of mud from streets will be necessary to facilitate work of removing buildings.

The following is estimate of cost of cleaning and repairing:

Demolition of buildings$20,000.00
75 privies @ $50.00$3,750.00
50 cellars to pump @ $8.00$400.00
125 wells to disinfect @ $15.00$1,875.00
1.5 miles streets to clean @ $250.00 $375.00
Removal of debris$1,250.00
2 mi. repair of streets @ $1000.00 $2,000.00
Removal of dead animals$500.00
No damage to public buildings

(Video clip, 732k)

Instead of cleaning and rebuilding Leavenworth on its existing spot, thereby rendering it vulnerable to future flood waters, a decision was made to move the entire town to higher ground.

The achievement of the WPA and other rehabilitation agencies in Leavenworth was so outstanding that it drew the eyes of the nation to the little Ohio river community. WPA workers built a complete new town on land high above the river and out of reach of future rampaging flood waters. (video clip, 780k) On December 16, 1938, Col. F. C. Harrington, Governor M. Clifford Townsend, and other dignitaries attended ceremonies dedicating the new Leavenworth. Speaking to the town's citizens, State Administrator Jennings said:

"During those dark days of January, 1937, when all about you here was confusion and dismay, there was little to be found that could inspire your gratitude or even stir your hope. It would have been difficult to have convinced you then that out of a loss so appalling, there would come results for which you would some day be thankful, certain transitions that would render your community bigger and better for having transpired. Yet that is exactly what has happened.

"Your town of Leavenworth is planned anew and built anew, with proper and sanitary sewage improvements, necessary gutters, and improved streets. Your homes are new and modern and they have been moved from the constant flood peril of the old location below to this new one hero high above the threat of the rampaging Ohio. These improvements and bettered conditions have all arisen from the waste and devastation that faced you some two years ago.

At that time it would have taken an extravagant sense of optimism to have envisioned the scene which lies before us here today. But it seems today that destiny has some inseparable union with compensation, In those hours of life when our loss seems most overwhelming there invariably comes some source of compensating reward. I suppose it is this faith which creates and sustains the faith which man possess in God and nature.

"Now that it is all over and we look back with our vision tempered by the passing months and new conditions, I believe we may paradoxically say that Leavenworth is rich for having experienced the greatest disaster in her existence."

(Sources: Leavenworth -- Report of Flood Conditions in the Evansville District and Estimate of Work to be Done in Rehabilitation Program, 1937. Work Relief Under John K. Jennings, 1931-1939. Chapter IV, Indiana WPA Director.)

Back to Ohio River Flood page

WPA Exhibit Homepage

Lilly Library Homepage || Lilly Library's History Collections