BRIDGEWATER — Stories and eyewitness accounts of historic flooding in June 1949 were passed down generations and for the 70th anniversary, those stories will come back to life.
The Bridgewater Historical Society and the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain have partnered to present “Flood of 1949,” which will take place Sept. 11.
The program will take place from 2-3:30 p.m. at the Bridgewater Presbyterian Church.
Guest speakers Nancy Sorrells, with the Augusta County Historical Society, and Lynn Cameron, co-chair of Friends of Shenandoah Mountain, will present a series of stories promoting the understanding of the events that took place on the Shenandoah Mountain and the Stokesville area.
“It was a major event,” Cameron said. “I am hoping people who attend will learn about this historical flood and the impact it had on people and the land and how people helped each other.”
Cameron said she started looking into the flood of 1949 after the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain proposed to make the Shenandoah Mountain a national scenic area. After looking into the area further, she began her research.
Cameron and Sorrells, as well as Caroline Whitlow, a James Madison University social work major, conducted interviews with survivors, searched through local newspaper archives and heard countless stories over the course of several years.
The flood was started when a cloudburst dropped torrents of rain on saturated ground in Little River, Hone Quarry, Briery Branch and North River, according to Friends of Shenandoah Mountain’s website.
The United States Forest Service estimated that 15 inches of rain fell on the Little River area on June 17, 1949. The Forest Service also documented 75 landslides in the Little River watershed alone.
The mixture of heavy rainfall and wet conditions led to severe flooding in Bridgewater and obliterated Stokesville.
The only building to survive the 21-dwelling community of Stokesville was the church, which remains standing today.
No one died during the flood. According to Friends of Shenandoah Mountain, Stokesville lost roughly $1 million worth of personal property, 1,900 acres were destroyed, 35 miles of farm roads were damaged and 1,200 acres of crops were lost.
The stories, photos and memories of the Cramer family, the Michael family, the Emmett family, Barbara Randolph Wagner, Dr. Harry Jopson and several Augusta County 4-H club members who were camping at the North River Recreation Area will be available to view during the program. Those wishing to read their stories can do so on the Friends of Shenandoah Mountain’s website.
The program will also reflect the aftermath of the flood — specifically how communities came together to restore the area.
“The community helped each other out,” Cameron said.
The program is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.