Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from letters written during the summer of 1951 by the late Mary Hayden, a North Lawrence land owner and farmer, who was married to Will H. Hayden. The Haydens lived on the north side of U.S. 24-40, one mile north of Lawrence. Mary's daughter, Pauline Nunemaker, and her late husband, Eugene (or "Gene"), lived on ground referred to as Bismarck Grove, 1 1/2 miles south of the Haydens' farm.
Tuesday, July 17
We came home yesterday after going to Tonganoxie and getting our second typhoid shots. It seemed good to get home even if we do have to do with out electricity and telephone and have to carry (by pickup) water from the Woods because the wind won't blow and I go next door (to cook) because they have a butane gas stove. I asked them if I might use it. They won't be back for a while.
This evening the river stage is down to 23.85 feet. Just about 2 feet higher than in '35. There is sticky gooy gommy mud everywhere the water has been.
Pauline and babies will stay with Martha at least until we have electricity again. Gene has been coming over every day.
Today I went to the Grove with him. And that is such a pitiful desolate sight. Gene had told us how it was but one's mind couldn't paint such a bad picture as it was. All the small buildings are gone. Shop, hen house, oil house, brooder house, and office. The two box cars out by the tracks are still there just because they were loaded with a new car of protein feed, which now is a total loss. The inspection barn has all of its sides gone except for the east by the corn crib.
The water still has quite a current through there and all the first cutting of hay was washed away. ... The driveway just looks like one big river. The new Fergerson tractor only a week old, and the old pickup and some other things were put out where the picnic table used to be. The water got up over the engine of the tractor.
... The old barn by the tracks has the north boards all gone and the old grainery in the northeast corner is all topsy turvy. We weren't close to it. The sheep barn looks in pretty good shape except the east pen is caved in. A big elm tree north of the house went down while we were there. Box cars on the railroad track were on their sides.
The new house seems to have stood the pressure pretty well. Water was up to the windows in it. Someone's big butane tank is out in the grove. The foundation is washed away under the southwest corner of the house and some boards are off of the east end. The mud was as high as the porch, at the back and inside of the house is almost too bad to be described. Mud is as much as 15 or 18 inches in places. The water had gotten as high as the door knobs clear over Pauline's buffet in the front part of the house. Gene had put the refrigerator up on chairs and the water got up to the handle. There was a 3-inch layer of mud on top of the stove. Both tables were about to fall to pieces. We couldn't get the drawers of the buffet open so just pulled off the top which was all warped anyway. Everything in it was covered with mud. Gene put the table cloths etc. in sacks and took them to Martha's then they will send them to the laundry in Tonganoxie. Maybe if they are washed before the mud dries they will be all right.
The rug was put across the arms of the old davenport after it was raised up about 8 inches. The rug was completely soaked. The dresser was on its back and the mirror broken. The mattress had floated off the bed. Of the furniture there will be very few pieces worth keeping.
Thank goodness we bro-ught our record books and some of the very important papers up here. For no matter how high we put things they seemed not to be high enough.
There hasn't been any loss of life due to this flood here at Lawrence and a great share of the credit for such a record must go to the radio station KLWN. They have done a wonderful job.
This letter was contributed courtesy of Mary's daughter, Pauline Nunemaker. A full text of Mary's diary is available on the Web at www.ljworld.com/section/51flood.