Almont North Dakota

1906     Centennial     2006


I will start Sunday morning when we glanced out of the window in Mom's bedroom and noticed that the creek was way up!  Large chunks of ice were floating down the creek, and we were sure the ice had just broken.  We watched the ice until time to go to Sunday school and church, and we were sure it had all gone out by then.
It was a beautiful day, and luckily too, as it turned out we were outside all day.  Marge and Sig came in to church on a tractor that day. ( I think they were just curious to see how the creek was coming along). On the way to town they drove through a little water on the road by the two dams, and as soon as church was over they learned that the water was running over the road so high in that same place that they would have to drive on the railroad bed for a ways to get by it.
After church Sig decided it would be interesting to drive out to the Sharff bridge and see how close the water was to it, so the whole family rode along.  When we got there everyone told us we had just missed the ice jam and we were so sorry, but we hadn't been there five minutes before the ice started jamming against the bridge again.  Each huge chunk that would come down the swollen creek would hit with a terrific crash and jar that old bridge something terrible.  A few of the chunks managed to slip under the bridge and as they did the planks on the bridge would just rise up.
There was a crowd of people on both sides of the bridge by now with the Almont people on one side and the folks from the south country on the other.  The only folks on the south side who didn't belong there were the Bob Atkinson's, who were planning on having dinner that day at the Knutson's.  When they drove across the bridge everyone questioned their sanity and wondered why they would stay on the wrong side of the bridge to watch it go out, but they said they didn't believe it would go.  But---with those chunks hitting the bridge and the old frame gradually giving more and more, they must have thought it over and soon the whole family ran back across to the town side.  They didn't even take their car but Bob finally decided otherwise and went back and drove it across. (Lucky he did too, or it would probably still be on that side!).
Anyway, all the time this was going on the ice jam was getting bigger and bigger and we were getting hungrier and hungrier.  But would we go home and eat?  No sir!  We might miss something! We and about fifty other people out there!  Oh the money a person could have made with a hamburger stand out there at the bridge that day!  We finally decided we could take a few minutes to run into the cafe and grab a bite - except for Torge.  She would rather starve than leave that bridge!  And all this time I have been wearing spike heels and my feet were killing me!  I hadn't been home since church and wasn't about to run home and change!
After a quick lunch the whole family and Torge - whom we picked up at her house after she decided to eat - but before she got to! - drove out to the Art Feland bridge to see how that was fairing.  It was still there and in fine shape with no ice damage or backup, as the ice was all at the other bridge!  Art and Dolly were on their side feeling pretty bad about the whole thing because they were sure it would go out - and it had just been build the previous fall.  The Sims Creek had started running across the road pretty bad at another place on the road home to Sig and Marge's so he said they would have to start home soon, which made Marge sick as she thought she would miss all the excitement.
When we got back to the Sharff bridge the jam was back around the bend in the creek  and the ice seemed endless. There was also a nice bend in the bridge too that had just developed before we arrived!  Obert Barstad came hiking from the other side of the bridge with his suitcase in hand and everyone cheered him as he bravely - but rapidly - strolled across the bridge.  He had been across approximately three minutes when the men who were watching the ice from up on a small hill yelled "Move back!  There she goes!!!"  There was a very excited scramble as the huge crowd on both sides moved back away from the bridge.  Mom, of course, was one of those nearest to the bridge.  Anyway, the ice started moving then and we all just stood and watched as it just took that old bridge away down the stream with it. It seemed to go so easily too!!  That certainly was an odd sensation to see it go and it was not a very gay feeling, that's for sure!.  In fact I noticed tears in quite a few of the spectator's eyes, and as for me, I had goose pimples that seemed to be two inches high.  And no one had a movie of that event!!
We tore home then and got there just in time to see the bridge float quietly by, and then on the curve in the creek just beyond Mom's house it turned over.  It is still there now.
The creek was rising rapidly now and was about four feet from the top of the bank, which was about fifty feet from Mom's house!  We heard that it was quite bad up Curlew way and that a warning had been sent down to Almont that morning, But we never dreamed that it could go over the banks here.  It never had!
Marge and Sig decided it was time they were going home and they were going to stop again at the Art Feland bridge to see what happened when the ice got there, so Torge and I  decided to ride along on the tractor and hook a ride back.  It was only then that we decided to take off our Sunday-go-to-meeting clothes and put on jeans.
When we got to Art's bridge the whole crowd was already there.  Eddie was there too, having ridden horseback from Sig's place, and he said the water was too high now for Marge and Sig to even try to cross.  It had come up to the stirrups on his saddle when he came through.  After waiting about half an hour the ice started to come and jam at Art's bridge.  It was just a pity to see and hear those chunks hit unmercifully against the bridge.  Art and Dolly were on the other side, their side, just waiting and knowing what was going to happen.  Art did manage to rope a couple of planks from the Sharff bridge that floated by, saying that he should get something out of the deal.  Well, the bridge finally went but not as majestically as the other one.  Art had managed to tie it on his side so when it broke loose it just floated over to the side and stayed there.  Marge, Torge and I then hitched a ride back to town as Sig stayed to help the guys move some of Art's railroad ties away from the water before they floated away.
When we got to the house Harry was terribly excited and glad to see us as the water was backing up into the basement through the sewer faster than Mom could carry it out!  We all ran for the basement but met Mom halfway up the steps with a bucket of water, and just about played out.  She had been carrying it out as fast as she could but couldn't keep up.  We organized a 'bucket brigade' with two of us scooping and two carrying.  I commented that it was interesting watching the flood by the two bridges, but I never dreamed I would have to carry it out of our basement!!  (Sig had been sort of worried about that sewer backing up but Mom had jokingly said that if it did, he'd just have to sit on that hole in the basement to keep it from coming in!).  After we had hauled at least a hundred buckets of water out to our back yard, Al Stegmier came by and rescued us by pounding a fence post into that drain hole and plugging it.  We were certainly thankful as we would have soon played out!  
All this time the creek is getting higher and higher.  We kept picking out marks on the creek bank and when we went by we would say," Now when that rock there gets covered, it is really time to head for high country", but soon that rock would be covered as would others that we would pick out later.  The old creek was rising and rising, but Almont had never been flooded and we just didn't think it would happen now.
About this time we got word that the sewer had backed up in the school too and Mr. Shanks said there would be no school on Monday.  We knew then that conditions were really bad!
Next the basement at the cafe filled with water - from the sewer too - and they were busy trying to pump it out.  When the Willman boys ordered Ed Reef to take all the electric motors out of the basement of the store they all thought it was going just a little too far, but it turned out to be a very smart move.
( Note:  By this time, most of the buildings in Almont had septic tanks and those situated beside the creek, such as Mom's, sometimes had a drain from the basement floor directly out to the creek bank.  When water reached that level and above it of course flowed the other way up into the basement!  I am sure that some of the sewage was also disposed of in the same manner - there was no EPA at that time!)
We and most of the townspeople sort of settled in for the night right out by the creek bank, but Sig decided to go to bed so he would be rested, just in case he had to be up later. (We sure were glad Marge and Sig were in town with us!).  Before Sig turned in we all took one last tour of the flood situation.  It was about ten P.M. then and this little town was really humming!  At that time the water was coming up the ditch in front of Troviks, but that didn't seem to worry us as much as the area by Everett's and by our house - both right beside the creek.  When Sig turned in it didn't seem like the water was rising any more, but Torge and I kept strolling back and forth to downtown, just to keep posted you know. 
We tried to call Audrey and Leon to tell them about all this excitement but the long distance lines were out of order and then on one of our trips downtown Torge and I heard that Central had gotten a long distance message and all she heard was that there was a special flood warning for Almont, and then the line went dead!  That made us excited and we dashed home just busting to tell this news, and be darned if everyone wasn't in bed!  Marge wasn't sleeping though and had just crawled into bed with her clothes on so she, Torge and I went out to view the situation around town again.  We took the Kaiser this time and sure enough got stuck right by the Lutheran Church so had to go the rest of the way on foot.  We weren't alone though as most everyone was walking around town that night.  By now we found that the water had come into the ditch on the other side of Troviks, was across the street by the Catholic Church and had flooded the whole ball diamond!  We still didn't think the town would flood as the water hadn't risen.  We didn't realize it was just spreading out!
When we returned to the house we got a telephone call from Central telling us there had been a warning from Glen Ullin that three more feet of water were coming!  That really did scare us and Mom got up and we all went over to the Church and moved everything from the basement upstairs.  Then Mom and Marge went home and tried to get a little sleep.  Sig was still sleeping.
By now Donna had joined Torge and me and the three of us kept patrolling the streets.  At two A.M. we came home and made some cocoa and toast but soon were on our way again.  Each time we came back Marge was anxious to hear the latest.  The last time we walked around we saw the first trickle of water run across the street by the Catholic Church toward the other part of town.  We walked on up to Troviks and when we came back that trickle was a heavy stream and getting deeper!
We rushed home and told Marge this latest and then went downtown again.  We had just got to the Cafe - about three A.M. - when we heard the cars  that had been patrolling the streets begin to honk continuously.  We rushed out and were told this was the first alarm to wake the people up and be ready to leave as the water was coming in fast!  I can still feel that panicky feeling I had!!  We took out on the run for home and Marge decided it was now time to wake Sig up!  Mom was still sleeping.  Torge and I went with Thelma to take Mrs. Oscar Olin over to Torgeson's and when we got back from there Marge and Sig had gone out to look over the situation.  Sig had already pulled the Kaiser out of the mud.
Finally they came back and Sig said it was time that we left.  Everyone knew we couldn't go any further that the Almont Hill because water was over the road at Oliver Andersons.  We woke Mom up and told her we would have to leave.  We didn't want to scare here, and I don't think we did, but she sure was surprised!  Harry got up and dressed but he was so nervous he said his stomach hurt him so bad he could hardly stand it!  Sig shoveled some dirt over the basement windows and Marge, Torge and I carried some canned goods from the basement and we were off!  We didn't know what to take seeing as how we had never been in a flood before, but we did take some blankets and a little food - and Mom took her silver dollars!
In order to make more room in the car for some of the older people in town who didn't have a ride, Torge and I rode on the tractor with Sig.  That's an experience I'll never forget!  Leaving Almont at 4:00 AM on a tractor because the town was flooding!  It was so dark and the flood water you could see coming into town looked so black and 'inky'.  The water by the Methodist Church was so high across the street that the tractor barely made it through.
When we got up on the hill north of town we found all our neighbors and the rest of our family.  I had worn my good winter coat for that ride on the tractor and it somehow got caught on a nice muddy wheel and did it look a mess.  I had to keep wearing it too or I would have frozen - but I looked very much like the rest of the flood victims.
Well, there we were on top of Almont hill with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  It was just beginning to break daylight when Sig took the tractor back into town to get anyone else who may have been left or stayed in town. (He found Mrs. Otto Feland and Ragna but they refused to leave as the felt they had to watch their basement).  Torge and I just wandered around half frozen - and that wet coat didn't help much.  Finally we crawled into Knutson's car with Donna.  It seemed so funny because at first all the cars were parked way up on the hill where you couldn't even see Almont but gradually they all moved down further so they were closer to the city.  (That was Frances' choice to use 'city' in reference to Almont!!)
A number of tractors had been used to evacuate and they were kept busy all morning, going back to town on errands and getting food so everyone could have breakfast at Alfred Olin's, the only house in town that wasn't flooded.  That was quite a job for a cook, feeding breakfast to everyone in town in a little two room house.  I really wasn't very hungry but did want to dry off a bit so I wouldn't get double pneumonia, so we just walked in the kitchen and someone slapped a couple pieces of bread in our hands with a slab of butter and a hunk of meat.  Then someone else hands us a soup dish full of coffee - they had run out of cups long before - and we were on our way thankful for what we could get!  We kept thinking how nice it would be if we could drive to New Salem, but there was just no way we could get across that lake over the road about two miles north.
It seemed like it was about noon but it was only about 7:30 AM when someone said they didn't think the water was rising any more, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.  I had my portable radio along and on the first newscast it was mentioned that Almont was flooded.   And sometime during all of this Marge, Sig and Vernon were down at our house damming up the creek bank and saving the house from being flooded.  Thank goodness!!!
Finally about 9:30 AM when the sun had come out and everyone was beginning to feel a little better, the first car was able to make in down from New Salem, and soon there were quite a few showing up.  The County Commissioner came with his truck and wanted to take it downtown and tour the flooded city.  He said anyone could ride along so naturally Torge and I were right there.  We had a long tour of town but the truck had to be towed by a tractor as the water was too high to drive through.  It was right up to the door at every business place and over the door in the lower ones.  We toured and toured until I was getting anxious to get back to the good old 'hill', and tired.  We even got stuck while being pulled in one place behind the cream station and water started coming into the cab of the truck.  Torge and I were standing in the truck box right beside Mr. Hyde and he was so very nervous!  The water by his place was so deep we couldn't even drive over there so I am sure he was imagining what it was like inside!  A couple of high school boys were floating around on an old oil drum until they fell off, and Don Olin had brought a boat from Glen Ullin and was rowing around Main Street. Meanwhile Sig was busy putting back and forth on his new Diesel tractor.  It sure did get initiated.
Finally we got back to the hill and by then Mom and Harry had decided to go to Glen Ullin with Mildred so Torge and I decided to go along.  We were both dead tired and I guess looked like it too.  Everett and Mildred had been among the first people to come in from the north that morning on their way home from Dickinson - without being aware of the flood in town - so were quite surprised.  Everett drove us back across the high water on the highway but didn't go any further.  When we got to Audrey's she had just heard about the flood and of course was shocked and worried.  I think we shocked her more by our appearance when we showed up there - sun and wind burned and dirty!  Leon took one look and made a fast trip down town for three loaves of bread and a big package of meat, thinking we were starved. I guess we were, but Audrey did have a lot of bread around the house for a few days. 
After we ate, Mom, Torge and I laid down and we sure did sleep too but only for and hour and a half because then Leon came home at 3:30 and we started out for 'flood city' again.  Mom was kind of anxious to get back.
The water had gone down a little by the time we got there but not a whole lot.  Sig took Audrey and Leon on a tractor tour while we listed to two radio broadcasts which had been made right at Almont.  The both praised Almont for the fine spirit of cooperativeness, and said that we should be set up as an example for other communities. 
By the time evening came people were deciding when to spend the night.  New Salem people were ready to take everyone but a lot of folks, Mom and Harry included, decided to stay at home, even though there was no power in a lot of the homes.  Sig and Marge stayed with them and Sig got up once during the night just to make sure the creek wasn't getting any higher.  I could have stayed home too but Ervin Olin's asked Torge and I to go to New Salem so we did.  When we got there I guess we must have looked like flood victims because the New Salem people knew right away that were some of those' poor people from Almont'.  We made one more trip to Almont that night with Rusty so he could view the flood.
That about finishes my story.  We came home the next morning and I never knew a flood could do so much damage - caved in basements all over town!  We still boil out drinking water and on Saturday we found out that the water at school has bacteria in it too, and we had been drinking it for a week!  With the bridges out the only way into town from the south is across a foot bridge by Everett's.  It is in constant use and there are usually a lot of cars parked right on the other side. 
And now we have more snow!!