Remember When? Palm Sunday flood inundates Manistique

MANISTIQUE – It was on Palm Sunday 74 years ago on March 28, 1920, that the city of Manistique suffered one of it worst disasters with the Flood of 1920. It is considered to be the most catastrophic event to occur in Manistique other than the fire of 1883. Floodwaters began pouring over the flume walls in the early morning of Palm Sunday.

The immediate cause of the flood was an ice jam on the Driggs River that backed the river up. When the jam broke, the water and logs in the river rushed into the Manistique River.

Since the winter had an exceptional snowfall along with warmer than normal temperatures and several days of rain, the rivers draining into the Manistique River were already swollen.

With the torrent of water, a west bank wall broke, causing water to rush over the flume walls and into the west side of Manistique all the way down Deer Street and Chippewa Avenue.

More than $1,500,000 in property damage was reported as many city streets were beneath one to four feet of water. The disaster overwhelmed the industrial west side of Manistique, as the Goodwillie Brothers Box factory was badly wrecked with a loss of 125,000 feet of lumber. Waddell Lumber Company was completely wiped out, and the paper mill practically destroyed. A lime works, chemical plant and many saw mills were badly damaged.

Huge piles of timber ready to be cut into lumber, pulp wood for paper and other wood for chemicals were swept into Lake Michigan and lost.

Many homes were ruined leaving dozens of family’s homeless, while 20 more homes were under water to the second floor for several days, thereby ruining household effects. Traffic over the city bridge was suspended for over a week.