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Paula Fielding Green Weddle
Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Department of History
During the autumn of 1870, a massive flood engulfed parts of Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. The turbid waters claimed over 100 lives and left communities and residents along the James, Shenandoah, Potomac, Rappahannock, Anna, Rivanna, Maury, Middle, South, Staunton, Rockfish, Tye, and Pamunkey Rivers in varying states of distress. At least one quarter of Virginia was affected by the storm and subsequent flooding, making it significant to multiple areas of the State through the loss of life, property, and infrastructure.
This thesis examines the flooding event in detail through both a written thesis and website component. The written thesis is broken into two parts, each of which focus on different aspects of the flood. Part 1 provides a detailed record of the storm and the flood damage combined with analysis of the flood’s place in history. This part examines the destruction as a regional event rather than a sectional local history, following the flood along two paths; from Staunton, Virginia to Georgetown, Maryland along the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and Lexington to Richmond by way of the James River and its tributaries.
Part 2 examines the subject of relief for the sufferers of the 1870 Flood. While the majority of relief came from nearby neighbors and residents of the region, there was also a statewide Legislative Relief Committee. The examination of charitable aid further illuminates the impact of regional property destruction and loss, while also illuminating post-Civil War disaster relief practices during Reconstruction. This part delves into four instances of local relief committees and how they interacted with the Virginia Legislative Relief Committee.
Finally, as an ongoing project, 1870flood.com will examine the flood through both individual stories and broader historic scholarship. Through a comprehensive casualty list, the website will attempt to tell the stories of those who lost their lives and the family members who were left to pick up the pieces. By combining the traditional thesis analysis and the website public history project, this research aims to begin filling the historiographical gap while also illuminating the impact of the Virginia Flood of 1870.
Weddle, Paula F.G., ""Ruin and desolation scarcely paralleled" : An examination of The Virginia Flood of 1870’s aftermath and relief efforts" (2015). Masters Theses. 70.