Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Mary Fellows tried desperately to contact her son. She told her daughter-in-law what had happened, and Wilda said she’d do everything possible to find Dutch.

It was June 6, 1947 and the flooded Des Moines River was near its first crest. Aaron (Dutch) Fellows and George Sellers had been trying desperately to save the Douds Stone Quarry from inundation. They had worked all night sandbagging, had driven most of the trucks out to higher ground, and then had narrowly escaped on a catwalk when a huge wall of water came crashing through the sandbag dike they had built and poured into the quarry caverns.

Soon after this dangerous adventure, word reached them that I was seriously injured and it was necessary to get me to a doctor in Ottumwa.

A three-foot high wooden fence separated Mary’s property from the Methodist parsonage next door. I reached with my left arm to brace my fall, as I tumbled from the top of the fence while playing with some neighborhood children. I screamed with pain as they led me to the back door and yelled even louder when my grandma touched my arm. She took me across the park to Sam Lynn’s house behind the school. The superintendent confirmed that my left arm was broken.

Dutch Fellows lifted me onto his shoulders and carried me to the river bridge through waist-high water on the Leando side. As we crossed the bridge, we could feel it shake and could hear the scraping of large trees against the bridge floor as they were carried underneath by the current. Awaiting us on the other side was a rowboat.

I sat in the boat clutching my injured arm tightly to my chest as my uncle rowed through town to the railroad track. Water was up to the tops of windows in some houses. We passed by floating debris that included tree branches, furniture, and dead animals.

George Sellers had his car waiting at the railroad tracks and drove us swiftly to Ottumwa which we entered from the north side. At Dr. Cook’s office I was treated for Break-Bone Fever, given ether, and my arm was set and put in a cast.

We spent the night on the living room floor of Dale Ratcliff’s home north of Douds. I was only six years old, was very sick and nauseous, and I wanted my mother. Uncle Dutch did his best to comfort me until I finally fell asleep.

Because of the emergency situation I have vivid memories of the Flood of 1947, and at age 96, my uncle still vividly recalls his traumatic experiences during the high water.

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick