Writer’s Fodder: The Flooded Ohio River

Living on a river exposes many people to the challenges of rising spring waters, and this February has been no different. Many areas around the country are dealing with floods and the aftermath. Ludlow, Kentucky is one such area, which happens to be where my brother lives.




A pano of my brother’s front yard and street, just before the Ohio River crested at 60.53 feet on Sunday, February 25, 2018.



Bless his soul, not only does he have to deal with a flooded basement that forced him to cut power and gas to his house, he also has a writer as a sister. A writer whose current work in progress ends with the second highest flood in Cincinnati recorded history.



My story ends with the 1884 flood, which crested at 71.1 feet on Valentine’s Day, and if a disaster has to occur it couldn’t have occurred at a better time for this little writer. I am editing the scenes where that particular flood has a critical impact on my characters. (Do not take that to mean that I am not deeply grieved for those who are impacted. Disasters are no joke and I would never wish them upon anyone and am praying for those affected.)



Skatepark – 2/25/18



After texting pictures, videos, and questions back and forth, he finally just told me to come on over so I could see the flood first hand. Since this was the worst flood since the 1997 flood, I brought my boys along, because, hey! It’s history, right? Interspersed throughout are photos I took on my phone while walking only two or three blocks away from my brother’s house around sunset.




Some poor kid’s playset. Debris pushed against a tree. 2/25/18



So what was I looking for beyond the damage inflicted? This flood crested 12 days after my story’s flood, so believe it or not, water temperature was something that intensely interested me.




No, I did not let him get in. But we did touch the water. 2/25/18



You can’t interact with a flood and not get wet, so just exactly how cold did it feel? Cold enough that if you fell in you’d probably take a sharp breath and inhale some water. Cold enough that an extended stay in the water could most definitely lead to hypothermia – although perhaps not as quickly as I thought.




Someone else (not anyone I know) kayaking through the park. 2/25/18



When I saw this person kayaking around the park, I got way too stinking excited. As soon as they beached, I bombarded them with questions.

  • How bad was the current? Not bad, but don’t go past the fence. The current really picks up and becomes dangerous.
  • Did they have trouble controlling the kayak? Not here. There is a little current, but not much more than a pond or lake.
  • If they fell in, did they feel they could swim back to safety? Here the water was shallow enough they could stand up and walk back if needed.


In 1884, extra officers were on duty as well as extra regiments brought in to not only protect the people from danger, but also from themselves. Floods bring out the crazies (and I probably fall into that category, too). True then and true now. The picture below is of a young man who inflated a raft with a leaf blower and then proceeded to paddle his way out to the skatepark with a guitar. Yes, I said guitar.




It is zoomed in a whole lot, so not easy to see, but when he climbed on the top of a ramp, he proceeded to “play” his guitar. 2/25/18



Whether it be due to drugs (very rampant in our region) or just a goofy young adult, he made for an interesting night. He did make it back to shore and when my kids approached him (TMNT Momma was close and watching, don’t worry), he gave them the guitar and said it came from Johnny Cash. My youngest son asked him why he paddled with the guitar. His response? “Because it helps him train and stuff.” Oh my, but it is a memory my kids will have. Oldest wants to mount the guitar on his wall.




Busted but cool. 2/25/18



Despite the destruction and turmoil the flood is still causing and did cause, it produced one of my favorite pictures ever. Just like the rough times in our life can be overwhelming, there can also be moments of beauty.



Island House – They built it ready for a flood, but who would have guessed they’d test that out in the first year. 2/25/18


While getting some hands-on research was fun, it was sobering to see the damage and to watch my brother deal with the aftermath. His damage is limited to the basement, and many others have so much more they have to deal with. My prayers are with all.

Do you have any flood stories? Any experiences you would wish to share? I am always on the lookout for first-hand accounts. Connect with me in the comments.

TBT: Spring Grove Cemetery



Spring Grove Cemetery is one of Cincinnati’s beautiful attractions, which has drawn visitors for over 150 years. The inciting incident of my current work in progress is the death of the heroine’s grandfather, and what better location for his funeral and burial than this park like cemetery.

Should you ever get the chance to come to Cincinnati, I highly recommend walking through this beautiful cemetery. In fact it is so beautiful, wedding are often held at the Norman Chapel, which will be discussed in next week’s Throwback Thursday.

The Birth of a Cemetery

Cholera epidemics swept through Cicinnati throughout the 1830s and 1840s, filling small church cemeteries to the brim. Little comfort could be found in these places of crowded interment for the bereaved families and leaders of the Cincinnati community voiced their concerns.

Members of the Cincinnati Horticultural Society formed a cemetery association in 1844 and endeavored to find a suitable location for a cemetery they envisioned as being a picturesque park undisturbed by expansion.

They sought to acquire a large enough area to support funerals for an indefinite future, along with the embellishments of shrubbery, flowers, trees, walks, and rural ornaments. It was so important to them that they create not just a a funeral location, but also an area of great beauty, respite, and leisure, members of the cemetery association traveled the United States and Europe for examples of superior design.



When a farm of 160 acres was secured (and later added 434 acres), a consecration ceremony was provided for the community. These founders publicly proclaimed their hope that the natural setting would be a contemplative atmosphere conductive to consolation, commemoration, and education.

A Tourist AttractionSpringGroveEntrance

Given its popularity, today as much as then, I believe the founders achieved their goal. The
1875 issue of Cincinnati Illustrated described it as “a peaceful resting place for the dead and a beautiful park for the living.” Indeed, more than 150,000 people visited the cemetery in 1874 alone, not including those who were attending actual funerals!


Those who had family members interred in Spring Grove had tickets and were able to introduce strangers and come and go as they pleased. However, those who did not have family members interred there, were required to obtain tickets from the Secretary’s office in Pike’s Opera House.


Can you imagine walking through the Spring Grove entrance and someone saying, “Ticket, please?”


The broad and beautiful Avenue, with its magnificent trees, brings the living and the dead alike to the final abode of rest and release from strife and contention where there are laurels and roses for the blue, lilies and myrtles for the gray. After generations have passed away, the massy granite, embedded in green turf, shaded by trees then venerable with age, and embosomed in flowers may look down upon the graves of many whose lives have been as romantic, if not so sad, as Eloise’s – as deeply loved as Fatima’s. Then some poet like Pope or some noble romancer like Scott will arise and in another Epistle or another “Old Mortality” tell the tale of those who are gone.

– Cincinnati Illustrated, 1875, p 319

As a kid I would walk through our local cemetery. It was always so peaceful and quiet. As an adult, I attended a funeral at Spring Grove Cemetery and it was beyond beautiful. Almost two centuries later, it is still the contemplative atmosphere the founders hoped for.

What about you? Do you enjoy walking through cemeteries or do they give you the heeby geebies? Would you purchase a ticket to walk through one? Have you actually done it?



Kenny, Daniel J. Illustrated Cincinnati; a Pictorial Hand-book of the Queen City, Comprising Its Architecture, Manufacture, Trade. Cincinnati: R. Clarke, 1875. Print.

Want to see more pictures? Visit Spring Groves Photo Gallery.

TBT: Cincinnati’s Incline Planes

Welcome to my first ever Throwback Thursday, where I share gems from my research for my novel.


The setting of my current Work In Progress (WIP) is a city with a wealth of history to pull from, Cincinnati, Ohio. Cincinnati is known as the Queen City and more important to today’s post, the City of Seven Hills.


Drawing by Geneva South, 1972

The terrain for Cincinnati is very hilly as you can guess by the name, but not the gentle rolling hill kind where kids spend all summer rolling down until they become too dizzy to stand. Cincinnati’s hills are of the variety where trees and ravines impede your progress, where semis turn their hazard lights on because the climb to the top reduces them to a crawl.


Now step back to the Industrial Revolution, about one hundred-fifty years ago. Factories clogged the air with soot and smoke. Tuberculosis was rampant. The stench of the Erie Canal was far from pleasant. People looked to the hills for relief.


Omnibuses drawn by horses were the first transit system devised to struggle up the hills. However, drivers often had to hop out, block the wheels, and allow the horses to stop and rest before proceeding to the pristine air above. An alternative was desperately needed.
Responding to the need, business partners, Joseph Stacy Hill and George Smith, opened Cincinnati’s first incline plane on May 12, 1872. Hill top resorts, like the Lookout House and Highland House, opened and regularly drew in crowds of up to 10,000.  (An upcoming post will describe the Highland House.)


Mt. Adams Incline


By the time my novel opens in 1883, Cincinnati had 4 operating inclines: The Mt. Auburn Incline (leading to the Lookout House), the Mt. Adams Incline (leading to the Highland House), the Price Hill Incline (the only double incline – one for freight and one for passengers), and the Bellevue Incline.


Interesting Tidbits and Stories


  • In 1884, the price of a ride was 5¢.


  • A one-way trip took 2 minutes and 20 seconds. This was repeated six times every hour, 19 hours a day.


  • The Mt. Adams Incline made the trip in about 90 seconds.



Mt. Adams Incline (1906): A car is lowering down the track and will eventually become flush with the ground.

  • All full crew consisted of an operator, an engineer, a fireman, two gatemen, and two carpenters. The gateman’s job was to take the tickets from the passengers in the waiting room and then escort them onto the lift.


  • A telegraphic system of signal bells between the operating engineer in the powerhouse at the top of the hill and the attendant at the bottom of the station. Two bells meant “ready,” one bell signaled the doors were closed and locked (“alarm”), and three bells rang for “start.”


  • The Bellevue Incline passed by McMicken Hall, the first college of the University of Cincinnati. A medical school shared a freezer for cadavers with a brewery down the hill, and young students often got a thrill from waving body parts at passengers who passed by on the incline, in particular passengers of the female variety.

Bellevue Incline: You can see McMicken Hall in the background on the right.



Although the Cincinnati inclines are no longer around, the last one having closed its doors on July 25, 2008, they are still a fascinating part of history.


What was your favorite tidbit? Do you have any tidbits? How do you think inclines might play a part in my Work In Progress?


*All pictures were retrieved from: http://retro.cincinnati.com/Topics/Gallery/Cincinnati-Inclines#The Highland House. Visit there to see more pictures.

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