Flood of 1884

The disastrous flood of 1884 is remembered by a large number of citizens of York County. It occurred on the night of June 25 and the morning of June 26, of that year. The amount of water precipitated greatly exceeded the rain fall of 1817 and any other previous one known in the history of York County and the devastation caused by the flood which followed, was much more widespread. York and Adams counties in Pennsylvania; Frederick, Harford, Baltimore and Carroll counties in Maryland, included the area over which the largest amount of rain fell on this occasion. It began to fall early in the evening, gradually increasing in amount until 9:00 pm, when the water came down in torrents and was continued without cessation until 3:00 am, when it gradually ceased. The amount of rainfall in certain parts of York County was twelve inches, a precipitation never before or since equaled in the United States, in seven hours. The only parallel case in America was the rainfall at Honduras, in Central America, within the limits of the tropics. It was a phenomenon hard to explain even by the best hydrographers in this country.

The actual loss to York County occasioned by this flood was not less than $700,000; a vast amount of this loss was to the borough of York caused by the Codorus overflowing its banks. The course of the stream through the built up portion of the town measures about one and a quarter miles. The Codorus, usually about eighty feet wide through Market Street, on this occasion was fully one-fourth of a mile wide, extending from the middle of the square between Water and Beaver Streets to the middle of the square between Newberry and Penn Streets. An area of one hundred acres within the borough was under water. The stream rose rapidly about 5:00am. Fortunately there were no lives lost at York, but there were many thrilling adventures and escapes. One by one the bridges across the Codorus were taken away; at 7:00 am all were gone. Bridges from up the stream, buildings, farming implements, furniture, dead and living animals were seen in the passing waters. The stream rose so rapidly in headlong rolling waves, that many people were soon imprisoned in their houses, on the second or third stories. The Codorus at York was twenty-five feet above the usual stage.

The destruction of bridges and the tearing up of railroad tracks was most prominent along the Hanover Junction and the Hanover and York Railroads. The trains could not run over them for several days. The devastation was widespread along Muddy Creek, Conewago and the Little Conewago. The grain crop was injured and hay that was lying on the ground spoiled. The entire county suffered heavy loss.

The commissioners of York County, Haines, Keifer and Bentz, placed wooden bridges at the following places, where the flood had taken away bridges previously placed there; across Codorus Creek at Sprenkle’s Mill, at the New Salem Road and Hyde’s Fording; iron bridges across the same stream at Penn, Princess, King, Market, Philadelphia and George streets, in York; two at Loucks’ Mill in Spring Garden Township, at Myers’ and Brillinger’s Mill in Manchester Township; across the Little Conewago at Emig’s and Neimans’s Mills; across the Big Conewago at Gross’ Fordings; one across Bermudian Creek in York County; across one of the many Beaver Creeks in York County at Masemer’s Mill, two across Mill Creek in Peach Bottom and two across Oil Creek near Menges’ Mill. The cost of these bridges was $91,000.

History of York County, Pennsylvania

Prowell Vol I 1907