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January 16, 2017 / Joanne Yeck

1901: Slate River Floods


Roaring Slate River (2011), Photo Joanne Yeck


1901 brought damaging rains and death to Buckingham County, first in June and again in August. Property on Slate River was particularly affected where the river swelled to new recorded heights. On June 1, 1901, Richmond’s The Times reported from “Allen’s Level” in Buckingham County:

Owing to the great freshet I have received no paper for nearly a week. Slate River at Dowdy’s mill was six feet higher than it was ever known before. The farmers along that river and along its tributaries have plowed up their land and planted as a general thing, and have been damaged thousands of dollars.

Mill dams and county bridges have been washed away on many of the streams. The county will probably sustain a loss of from five to ten thousand dollars by the bridges that have been swept away. The bridge at Dowdy’s Mill, which was built in 1852 is gone. Only two bridges are left in the county.

On June 6th, The Richmond Dispatch reported from Scottsville that a hail storm followed the rain, “beating down wheat, grass, and young corn terribly.” Additionally, many farmers’ fowl were killed by the hail.


Again in August of 1901, rain soaked central Virginia. In Salem, near Roanoke, heavy rain flooded a block on Salem Avenue with two feet of water coming down in an hour. Richmond’s The Times reported that “two blocks of the city is converted into a lake. The damage will be considerable.”

On August 12th, a report came from Farmville that a farmer named “Hardaman” drowned while trying to cross the Slate River. He was on his way to county court in Buckingham. The Times stated that “one of the heaviest rains of the season had just fallen, which caused a very rapid rise in the creek.”

On August 14th, the Alexandria Gazette and Virginia Advertiser noted, “Two citizens of Buckingham county, named Stauffer and Taylor, respectively, while returning from court Monday were drowned in Slate river by being washed down the stream by high water.”

Does a Slate River Ramblings reader know more about the men who died? If so, please comment.

Special thanks to Mary Carolyn Mitton for finding and sharing the story of the 1901 floods.


Leave a Comment
  1. Susan Shames / Jan 16 2017 10:14 am

    The floods reported in the June 1st Richmond newspaper likely happened at least ten days before the published article. My grandparents were married in Buckingham on May 22nd of that year, and I was always told that several people invited to their wedding couldn’t attend because of the high water that left them unable to get across creeks.

    • Joanne Yeck / Jan 16 2017 10:32 am

      Susan — The Buckingham Correspondent no doubt couldn’t get the news to Richmond. My Chambers family has a similar story about high water and an unattended wedding. It certainly happened from time to time. Joanne

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