April 24, 2014

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A Quincy Hill Disaster

It's been more than a 100 years since a major disaster in Parkersburg, but does anyone remember what happened on Quincy Hill anymore?

This is my own personal blog, and does not represent the opinions of the station nor anyone but me.

Now, I've been up on Quincy Hill in Parkersburg plenty of times, either for a news story or a look to the west, or to see the stars, or admire the view.

And it has occurred to me that it is unusual that so nice a view has not been populated with houses, as one of the best views in the region.  But the wide empty spaces never intruded on my mind much, until just this last week.

My daughter had stayed up a bit later than normal and had watched a show on the Travel Channel. Leaving the TV set on, she went about her business, and was surprised when the next show mentioned Parkersburg West Virginia.  She looked up.

The series is called "The Dead Files", and it's a bit of a piece of showmanship where two ghost hunters approach the same case from different angles and only compare notes at the end during the big reveal.  At least, that keeps the interest alive to see if they find the same things or will they have divergent explanations.

This case dealt with a tragedy that happened about 5 a.m. on the morning of March 19, 1909 on Quincy Hill.  Some say that the two water storage tanks that stood there were struck by lightning. Some say it was a structural collapse.  Others may speculate that it was sabotage.

But the point is that thousands of gallons of water descended the hill and washed away houses, killing two newlyweds, and another woman. There were reports that the water flowed to  the Little Kanawha, though I don't see how that would happen... I would think it would go to the Ohio just as easily.  And there were reports of mud in the basement of the Blennerhassett Hotel.

There are dozens of black and white photos available, and they can be found through a simple Internet search.
But it struck me that the hundred year anniversary of the event had come and gone without so much as a peep in the local media.  I would have thought that someone would have remembered or a retrospective might be done.  Maybe I just missed it.

The damage certainly looked like the Johnstown flood, though there it was nowhere near the scale of damage... about twenty-one years later, in fact.

So, I was a little bit fascinated with the tale of the two tanks, one north and one south.  And I went up to the hill to look around. All was still and quiet up there, except for the drone of the power transformer for a cell tower, and the only life was a couple that were parked in a truck, talking or necking or something.  But I could see no evidence left of where the tanks had been.

And some of the old black and white photos were not much help: Too many trees, too many newer  houses.  Except the view down the hill to 10th street was very familiar. Several of the structures are still standing.  You can see them in many of the photos.

So, I'm looking for more help to learn about this disaster, if anyone has any leads.  I think it's too interesting to forget, just like that.

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