A record, remembered
by Ashley Fuller
afuller@cherokeetribune.com
September 27, 2009 01:00 AM | 2871 views | 0 0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The ‘Canton Cotton Mills: A Pictorial History’ book by Mick Wagner includes several images from the flood of 1946 in Canton, which still holds the record for the highest Etowah River levels even after this week’s flooding. The caption for this photo is, ‘View of the rear of (Canton Cotton) Mill No. 1 in 1946, looking west. As testimony to the severity of the flood, the objects in the center of the photo are the roofs of the mill’s storage buildings.’
The ‘Canton Cotton Mills: A Pictorial History’ book by Mick Wagner includes several images from the flood of 1946 in Canton, which still holds the record for the highest Etowah River levels even after this week’s flooding. The caption for this photo is, ‘View of the rear of (Canton Cotton) Mill No. 1 in 1946, looking west. As testimony to the severity of the flood, the objects in the center of the photo are the roofs of the mill’s storage buildings.’
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As parts of Cherokee County recover from last week's flood, some Canton residents still can recall the time the Etowah River reached its record high more than 60 years ago.

The river reached its all-time peak on Jan. 7, 1946, when it reached 26.7 feet, according to the United States Geological Survey.

According to the Southeast River Forecast Center in Peachtree City, the Etowah River crested at 20.7 feet during the recent flooding.

Ray Smith of Canton said he was 25 years old at the time of the 1946 flood. The river flooding was not a rare occurrence during that time, he said.

"Anytime we would get a day or two of rain, the Etowah River would come out," he said.

The Etowah had reached close to that record high a few times, according to the geological survey. The river hit 25 feet once in January 1892 and was nearly at 26 feet in June 1916. The river rose to 25.2 feet in December 1918 and a year later reached a high of 26.3 feet. It swelled to 25.2 feet in December 1932.

Smith said, at the time of the 1946 flood, people did not panic too much.

"It was an inconvenience," he said, adding that boats were needed in order to get into town. He said boat owners would, for a fee, ferry people across the water.

J.T. Holbrook of Canton, who was 20 years old at the time of the 1946 flood and working at the Canton Mill, said the city had been doused with heavy rain in the days leading up to the historic event.

"We had a lot of rain. We didn't have the deluge that we had Monday, but we had a couple or three days of hard rain," he said.

According to a Jan. 11, 1946 article from the North Georgia Tribune, which today is called the Cherokee Tribune, six homes near the bridge spanning the river from Canton to North Canton were surrounded by water. Canton Cotton Mill No. 1 shut down part of its operations for four days. Water was estimated to be five to six feet deep under the weave room, and the carpenter shop was underwater.

Flood water one foot deep covered the floor of the Georgia Marble Company plant. Water was knee deep in the Etowah Creamery, and the basement of the North Canton Drug Company was flooded.

The cause of the flooding was attributed to saturated watersheds and excessive rains.

"If the river had gotten out like it did back then, there is no telling how much damage would be done" today, Holbrook said.

Despite the high level of the river, Smith said the flood of 1946 is nothing compared to what the county just went through.

"You didn't have those buildings up and down the highway," he said about Canton then, adding the worst of the damage in 1946 was in the Sandy Hook area of Canton. "I've never seen it rain like it did last week, and I hope I never do again."

Norman Sosebee of Canton, who was 20 years old at the time of the 1946 flood, remembers finding a boat floating on the water and paddling it around the flooded area.

Highway 5 was under water in a few areas. Sosebee said to get to Ball Ground meant "a little detour" through Waleska.

"It was more of a fun-type experience," he said about his impromptu recreational opportunity.
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