The Floods of Williamson County,
Texas 1921 1957 2007
In early September 1921 Williamson County had one of the worst floods on record - it was a terrible catastrophe.
Per Clara Scarbrough's book: (Land of good Water) Sept. 1921. Rains began on Sept. 8 and 9. Continuing through the 10th (Thurs. night through Sat.) Rains were the result of a hurricane that blew in onto the Texas Coast. Thrall recorded the greatest amount of rain at 38.21 inches in 24 hours. (Holy Cow!) Taylor had 23.11 inches in the same period. Up to that time Thrall had the most rain ever recorded in the US.
The flood killed 215 people in Texas (93 were in Williamson County), This flood was the deadliest ever in Texas and Williamson County.
As Claudie said "You just don't have any idea how much water".
(A special thanks to Darwin
for letting us post this
wonderful first person story about the flood.)
The Big Flood of September 8, 1921
By Darwin Machu
My grandmother, Frantiska Knezek Kveton , was born on October 10, 1869 at house number 609, in Frenstat, Moravia. This land is in the northeastern part of what is currently known as the Czech Republic. Her parents were Josef Knezek and Frantiska Majer Knezek. She had four brothers and five sisters. At the age of eleven, in 1881, she immigrated to America with Alois Petr, his wife, Marie, and their children. Her connection to the Petr family is unknown. After arriving in America, Frantiska lived with the Petr family until Alois died.
Vaclav (Venceslaus, Wenzel, Vince, Jim) Kveton (my grandfather), was born on September 2, 1857 at house number 63 in Stary Smolivec, Bohemia. Stary Smolivec is also now a part of the Czech Republic, located southwest of Prague. His parents were Matej Kveton and Marie Hlinka Kveton. Vaclav immigrated to Texas in November 1882.
Vaclav Kveton and Frantiska Knezek were married on November 18, 1889 at the Live Oak Hill Catholic Church in Fayette County, Texas. They farmed near Ellinger, Texas long enough to have seven children, two sons and five daughters. They then moved to Coupland, Texas where another son was born.
In March 1917, they moved from Coupland to Granger, Texas, where they bought a farm about six miles southeast of Granger, on the San Gabriel River. The house on the farm was similar to all the other farm houses of that time. It is assumed that there would have been a small kitchen, a small dining room and living room, two small bedrooms, and a porch, and was most likely built of lumber, with a tin roof. The house was located in a low spot on the south side of a hill, approximately 500 yards from the San Gabriel River. It was probably built in a low spot to protect it from the north wind. The barn, where the horses and cattle were kept, was built on higher ground, away from the house. I do not know whether the Kvetons build the house or if the buildings already existed on the farm when they bought it.
The story of the Flood of September 8, 1921 was told to my sister, Sadie Machu Blaha, and me, by my mother and father, Millie ( Kveton) Machu and Anton Machu. At the time of the flood, my mother and my father were not married.
In 1921 there was little news media, other than the newspaper. There were no telephones in the rural area where the Kvetons lived. Most of their information was received from the newspaper and from visits with their neighbors. It was not unusual for a neighbor to ride on horseback from farm to farm to report news. In researching the story of the Flood of 1921, I went to the Taylor, Texas Library to see what the Taylor Daily Press had written about the flood, and if there was any mention of the possibility of heavy rain heading toward the central Texas area. The only thing the newspaper reported, prior to the flood, was that there was a tropical depression in the Gulf of Mexico. There was no local forecast at all.
On Tuesday, September 6, 1921, it was reported in the newspaper that a hurricane, that had hit Galveston, Texas and dumped 21 inches of rain on that city, was on its way toward Williamson County. Of course that newspaper was not delivered until a week after the Flood. Wednesday, September 7 was described as a cloudy, misty day. A little rain had fallen the night before and the farmers were happy about rain, because they had not had a drop of rain since July 7. That morning, since it was too wet to do anything else, Grandmother and Grandfather Kveton decided that it would be a good day to go visit their neighbors, the Dobias family. So, after they finished milking the cows, feeding the livestock, and eating breakfast, they put on their rubber boots and went to visit the Dobias family. The Dobias family lived about a quarter of a mile to the northeast of the Kvetons, on higher ground. When they decided to go visit, they were unaware of any severe weather on the way. After they got to the Dobias farm, the rain started. Soon it was raining really hard. The sound of the rain was deafening, as it pounded the metal roof of the house. Night was approaching, but it was raining so hard that it was impossible to walk home, because they had to walk through some low places, where the water was very deep. There was no choice but to spend the night with the Dobias family. Naturally, my grandparents did not get much sleep, because they were worried about their daughter, Millie, (my mother) who had stayed at home. Although she was 20 years old, they were still concerned because the weather was not normal. It rained all night. Thrall, which was approximately six miles southeast of the Kveton farm, registered 38.21 inches; Taylor, approximately ten miles southwest of the Kveton farm, registered over 34 inches; and Granger, which was about six miles northwest of the Kveton farm, had over 30 inches. That record still stands as the most rain to fall on Williamson County in one 24 hour period.
September 8, 1921 was destined to become an important date in my family history. Anton Machu, who became my father, was a neighbor of the Kveton family. The Machu farm was located about a quarter of a mile to the northwest of the Kvetons on higher ground.
My father, Anton, his brother, Frank, his brother-in-law, Rudolf Rozacky, and Rudolf's son, Alvin, kept a vigil that night and morning. They were keeping an eye on the fast rising waters of the San Gabriel River. About ten o'clock in the morning, it became evident that the water was rapidly approaching the Kveton's house. They did not know the whereabouts of the Kveton family, and since there was no movement around the house, they decided to warn the Kvetons of the rapidly rising water. The sound of the River must have been very loud, but because the rain on the tin roof made so much noise, my mother (Millie) was unaware of the rising water. When the men arrived at the Kveton's, the water was already knee deep in front of the house. They found Mother and the Kveton's old Negro hired hand in the house, sitting beside the stove, trying to keep warm. For a lack of anything else to do, Mother had decided to bake bread that morning, and it was baking when my daddy, Uncle Frank, Uncle Rudolf and Alvin arrived. Mother told Daddy that her parents were not at home and she was worried about them, because they had not returned home from their previous day's visit with the Dobias family. Daddy told Mother that the River was coming up and everyone should leave the house and run to higher ground. Daddy then immediately took Mother into his arms and rushed her out of the house and put her on his horse. By that time, the water was up to their waists. They quickly rode away from the house, and, after riding about a hundred yards, stopped on higher ground and looked back. They saw the house begin to move. Then a wall of water swept the house away. The house floated only a few hundred yards before it hit a giant pecan tree. When it hit that pecan tree, the house exploded. As it sank, a big cloud of smoke, from the stove, spewed out of the water. The home and all of the worldly possessions of the Kveton family were swept away by the roaring river.
When Grandma and Grandpa were finally able to return home, they were shocked at what they found. The house was gone; all their belongings were gone; and their daughter, Millie, was gone! They did not know that she had been rescued by my daddy, and taken to the Machu farm where she was safe. When my grandparents finally found her, they were so relieved to find that she survived the great flood. Even though the entire family, including my mother's younger siblings, Aunt Lydia, aged 17, and Uncle Joe, aged 13, were all safe, Grandmother Kveton grieved for the rest of her life because she had lost all of the precious mementoes and photographs from her home in Frenstat, Moravia. The letters that she had received from her siblings, cousins, and parents, that she had saved and treasured through the years, were lost forever. But although my grandparents lost their home and all of the prized possessions of their younger years, they were fortunate to have survived. According to several newspaper articles, more than 200 people were reported to have died in that flood.
After their devastating loss, my grandparents somehow managed to build a new house on the grounds where the previous dwelling stood and they lived there until 1937, when Grandmother Kveton died.
Anton Machu and Millie Kveton were married on October 25, 1921 just forty-eight days after he saved her from the raging river. They had a small family, only my older sister, Sadie, and me.
The rescue of Millie Kveton by her future husband, Anton Machu was particularly important to me because, without his heroic rescue, I would not be writing this account of my family's survival of the Flood of the 1921.
The Flood continued to have a huge influence on my family. As far back as I can remember, my daddy was always on the alert when it rained real hard. Even though we lived three quarters of a mile from the San Gabriel River, on higher ground, he would always crawl up on the windmill to see how high the river had risen. The water never got closer than quarter of a mile from our house.
Narratives from the
Georgetown's Yesteryears Book
A special thanks to The Georgetown Heritage Society and Martha Mitten Allen for letting us post these wonderful first person stories.
view Foreword and Preface
"I Almost Died In
Claudie Mayo - Interviewer: Barbara Horan
Oh, gosh, yes. I remember [the] '21 flood very, very well. I almost died in it. Really. That's right. This friend, named Treuhardt, they lived way off down close to the park ... where the VFW is right there. Their home was right there. And that big rain [came] and it rained. And we lived down on College Street. Do you know on College there in front of College and 7th, that old house that man is restoring? We lived in that house. But, anyway, Treuhardt Johnny, he went to school every day and he come up from down there where they lived and he'd come by and pick me up and we'd walk up there to school and then we'd come back in the evening. We'd both carry lunch boxes. We had lunch up there, then we'd come back and stay awhile and he'd go on home. But, anyway, in that flood, it rained for days and days and the rivers got up and they just kept getting up. The Treuhardts were the only ones who lived down there. We decided that we'd better get a boat and see about the Treuhardts. They knew they was going to be covered up in water. So there was a fellow by the name of Lamar Swedene. It was his boat that we went and got first. We went off down there and we rowed that boat over to the Treuhardts. And, sure enough, their house was completely surrounded by water, and it was lapping up against the porch. And we loaded them all up in the boat and there wasn't enough room for all of us. Several of us said we'd wade. And we was going toward the railroad embankment which was east of the Treuhardts. And the river went on down, and the water wasn't too deep. It was about waist deep, I guess. But we waded out there and there was three or four of us, and I stepped off in a hole. That water was so swift that I lost my footing and I was just beating it out. And I caught some willow trees that was growing down there, and that let me get my feet back on the ground. I waded on to the side. I thought I was going on down the river. And if it hadn't been for those willow trees, those bushes, I would have. Those bushes let me get my breath and my feet back on the ground. And the water wasn't that deep, but it was awfully swift. I finally got my feet and I got to the bank, but I thought I was gone. The water never did get up any higher. They could have stayed there and been safe. Water didn't get into their house, but it got right up to the porch. They would have been safe, but we didn't know how much higher it was going to get. Now when the bridge washed away, we was standing down there and watching that bridge. A big old tree come along and lifted it up and just folded it over and washed it down the river. That was something to see. I've wished for a camera many times. That bridge, it just lifted up and lay over, floating away. They found pieces of it all the way. That was a catastrophe because people were living down on the river. Cows were washing down the river. Bales of cotton went down the river. Aw, gosh— it was swift.
You go down to the park, San Gabriel Park, and you look across at that high bank on the other side, and the water was up over that high bank. So you know the water was almost back up to 81. All that land was covered with water. That was a tremendous amount of water. You just don't have any idea how much water.
Yeah, I drove a big old nail in a tree down there, railroad spike. And this last big flood we had in the '50s, it was maybe about a foot taller than that was in '21. There was more water here then. But it didn't do as much damage as the first one, because people didn't build back after the first one.
also view the flood of 2007 a special thanks the Williamson County Sun for the article and photos
Taylor flood of 1921 deadliest in Texas
Written by Susan Komandosky Friday, 08 August 2008
(a special thanks to the Community Impact news paper and Susan Komandosky for this snap-shot of our history )
Flood in Granger, Texas
Cotton Wagon on Jonah Bridge over San Gabriel River,
bridge washed away in 1921 flood, Jonah, Texas
Flood of 1921, Looking South on Washburn St. Taylor Texas
Flood of 1921, Looking West on Austin-Hutto Road, Taylor, Texas