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By Linda Emley
On Saturday, June 29, Author Kenneth Keiser will be at Ray County Museum from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. signing his book, “Missouri’s Great Flood of ‘93.” His book has a chapter about the Hardin Cemetery disaster. It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years since Ray County made the national news as our Hardin Cemetery washed away.
Kenny visited the museum last year and interviewed Steve Shirley, president of the Hardin Cemetery Association, and the Carmichael team of Darrel and Kevin.
I’ve visited the Hardin Cemetery a lot over the years, but it is very hard to remember what it looked like before 1993. It’s sad to go there now and see the changes and the big hole left by the flood. Last summer during the drought, the water level in the hole dropped and a few more tombstones were retrieved.
In 1993, I remember standing on the Hardin overpass watching the flood water rush over the top of the cemetery. Crews were working at the water’s edge below us but there was very little they could do. I had a friend who lives on the back road that goes between Hardin and Norborne. We sat on the deck and watched coffins go by on the back of trucks. It was a feeling that I will never forget.
I grew up north of Richmond and the back side of our farm has a branch of Crooked River running through it. If it rained hard all night long, we could wake up to find our bottom land covered by flood water. Sometimes you could hear the roar of the water before daylight so you would know what to expect when the sun came up.
The creek didn’t affect us because we used a different road to get to town, but there were a few times that water got over the road on B Highway. I remember one year we were cut off from civilization for a couple of days and our neighbors drove a motorcycle down the railroad track to Richmond. The trains were never stopped by the flood in our neighborhood, but they would slow down just to be on the safe side.
Ray County has been affected by many floods over the years, but the flood of 1951 was another big one. On July 20, 1951, The Richmond News published a letter headlined “Ray County Flood Disaster Committee sent to Washington D.C.”
Our Ray County guys didn’t waste time contacting their congressman, they went straight to the top. The Richmond News read, “Ask President for $250,000 For Flood Aid. – Telegram Sent to Truman Last Night Lists Extent of Disaster Here.”
The Flood Disaster Committee was a group of farmers from Orrick, Camden, Henrietta and Hardin. W.G. Calvert was the President, Luman Offutt of Orrick was the vice president, R.W. Eslinger of Hardin was the treasurer and Nelson Hill was the secretary.
“The Honorable Harry S. Truman, President of the United States, Washington, D.C. As you know from first-hand knowledge, the flood disaster in the Missouri River Valley is of such stupendous magnitude that local relief measures are entirely inadequate.”
They explained that 65,000 acres of crops had been destroyed and 400 farmers had suffered heavy loss. They also mentioned the health issues from dead animals due to the large number of animals that perished in the Kansas City stockyards.
They estimated the loss in destroyed crops in the bottoms of Ray County to be $4,000,000. The group’s letter closed with “The need is urgent, and the farmers of Ray County will deeply appreciate any assistance you can give them.”
After reading Ken Keiser’s book on the ‘93 Flood, I’m on another mission because it said that the Hardin Cemetery contains the graves of eight Civil War veterans. I see another long night as I look for the rest of the story about these guys.
You can contact Linda at firstname.lastname@example.org.