February 28, 1902: Historic Deluge Leaves Devastation and Ruin


By Margaret Leidy Harner from her book One Day at a Time: A Social History of Boyertown, PA.

February 28, 1902: A rain storm unparalleled in the history of Boyertown has hit here, leaving devastation and ruin everywhere. Heavy showers, flooding, cellars underwater, washed away bridges and burst dams are wreaking havoc in the Boyertown area.

Walter Spohn, age 12, was drowned when the iron bridge that spawned the Manatawny collapsed as he was crossing it. At Forgedale, flood waters washed away the hut of Mrs. John Eline and her 12-year-old grandson, who lost their lives trying to escape the raging torrent. Irwin Landis, the Reading stage driver, made his way to Boyertown with great difficulty, risking his life to deliver the 8:00 mail. He crossed the Manatawny bridge near Earlville against the warning of many, and the water entered his wagon. At Morysville, the Ironstone Creek is so high and the current so strong that the east end of the trestle work was washed out just after the noon freight train had passed over it to Boyertown, barely dodging a wreck.

The 2:00 milk and mail train was signaled just in time to avoid great tragedy, but passengers on that train were obliged to walk the rest of the way to Boyertown in the storm. The railroad bridge over the Manatawny was also found unsafe to cross, so that trains were stuck, unable to reach either Boyertown or Pottstown.

The trolley track from Gabelsville into town is under water. Many of the wires in the area are down. Bahr’s dam in Gabelsville broke, submerging the first floor of Gabel’s mill, the basement barroom at the Union House had to be abandoned, a number of homes were flooded to the first floor.

H. F. Schear’s new blacksmith shop was entirely washed away, as was the rattler house at the Colebrookdale Iron Works and employees narrowly escaped being drawn into the swift current. The works had to be shut down, and many valuable patterns were lost, with damage estimated at $10,000.

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