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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

A Rescue from the 1838 Flood

by Albert Baxter

It was on a bright spring-like day early in February. Suddenly, without warning, while we were at dinner, the waters began to rise about the little knoll on which our log house and the block house adjoining stood. The cracking, jamming ice arose in threatening, jagged masses all about us, and forced the water of the river into a new channel to the east cutting us off entirely from the main land. My father, Major Abel Page, was absent from home as was also Mr. John Almy (afterward Judge) who lived in the next house. Mrs. Almy (sister of John W. and Peter R. L Pierce), and her friend, Miss Harriet Fish of Geneseo, N. Y., were in their house; and my mother, the three children, Harriet, Abel, and Aaron, my husband (Wm. A. Richmond), and myself were in our house. The alarm spread on shore, of course, but for some reason no boat was available. The water rose so that we were driven to the roof, and the case looked very desperate when away above was discovered a boat on the ice which had been brought down by the flood. The brave, warm-hearted Jacob W. Winsor, at great peril to himself, finally reached that boat and brought it to our rescue amid the huzzas of the people on the shore.  When the first load reached the shore, some of the excited young men waded out and carried the living freight bodily to terra firma.

The above, from Albert Baxter’s History of the City of Grand Rapids, pg. 65, is Mrs. William Almy Richmond’s story of the breaking up of the ice in Grand River in 1838, and the rescue of those surrounded by the flood at the old fur trading station.

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