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The 1936 Flood in Cumberland, Hancock, and Williamsport

Banner for 1936 Flood; image of flooded Cushwas building near Potomac River; photo of Newspaper clipping "Cumberland's Worst Flood"


The 1936 Flood in Cumberland, Hancock, and Williamsport   

There had been general rainfall throughout the Potomac River Basin during the first two weeks of March 1936. Snow had also covered much of the watershed in early March. By mid-March, much of this rainfall and thawing snow had begun to find its ways into the region’s streams and creeks. But even with a saturated watershed and relatively high run-off, things were still relatively normal. On March 15th, a major storm which had originated in Texas began to move in a northeasterly direction, resulting in heavy downpours throughout the Middle Atlantic States and the Upper Ohio River Valley. Although the heaviest rainfall occurred on March 17th, the rainfall continued until March 19th with a total rainfall depth during this period of five inches in the Wills Creek and North Branch of the Potomac River areas. (The great Cumberland floods, Feldstein, 2009).   

Cumberland was devastated. Headlines read Cumberland's Worst Flood Paralyses Downtown ShopsCity Buried Under Tons of Mud and Debris, Damage and Losses May Total $3,000,000. In Washington County, headlines read Hancock and Williamsport Still Buried Under Water. The entire east coast was affected - Death Toll in Flood Area Mounts to 153.

Image of area of debris that was caused by the 1936 Flood
Flood damage
Cumberland Evening Times,
March 20, 1936

This collection comprises mainly articles from the Cumberland Evening Times, Cumberland Daily News, the Hagerstown Morning Herald and Daily Mail, together with photographs from various collections in the counties.   

Additional information on the flood is provided by the minutes from the Board of County Commissioners, Allegany County; and the report of the Maryland National Guard, Company "B", based in Hagerstown.   

Additional resources:   
Albert L. Feldstein. The great Cumberland floods : disaster in the Queen City, 2009   
Dan Whetzel. A photographic history of downtown Cumberland, Maryland : featuring Baltimore Street 1895-2005, 2005   

Western Maryland Regional Library is most grateful to Andrew Sparber and Rick Webb who conceived of the idea of this newspaper collection, and Albert L. Feldstein and Lenore Lancaster who provided access to the Cumberland newspapers. We are grateful to the Cumberland Times-News who gave permission for the use of the Cumberland Evening Times and Daily News; the Hagerstown Herald-Mail for permission to use the Hagerstown Morning Herald and the Daily Mail, and The Republican from Garrett County.   

Thanks also to the Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland for the article from The Republican; Western Maryland Room of the Washington County Free Library for Washington County photographs and newspapers; Marian Golden for the use of the photographs taken by her father, Arthur White; Joan Knode of the Williamsport Town Museum; the C&O Canal National Historical Park; Frank Woodring of the Maryland Cracker Barrel; the Board of County Commissioners, Allegany County and the Fort Ritchie - Pen Mar Archives and the Maryland National Guard.