Flood of Kinderhook Creek
From Stephentown Genealogy: Roots & More
Roy Moon Is A Hero Monday, July 22, 1945 started out much as any other day for Roy Moon and his family. They awoke early, so that the four young children could get their hunger taken care and spend some time with their dad before he had to go to work that afternoon. It was raining outside, but the Moon family were safe inside. "The rain will stop," Roy told his wife, Dorothy, instilling his usual confidence in her as well.
All morning, he kept looking out the windows, checking on the rain. He hated to have to get out in all of the weather, but the cows on Mr. Avery's farm wouldn't wait to be milked. It would be short day, just doing what needed to be done, but it HAD to be done.
About 1 in the afternoon, he checked the weather again, and discovered that there was not relief in sight. He called Dorothy to the window, and showed her how the Kinderhook Creek was rising. She, being a bit of a nervous person, asked him not to go out in all that rain. "Stay away from that, it looks dangerous," she told him.
Knowing he had to go, he figured he should so he could get his work done and get back. He reported to work at Mr. Avery's along with George McFee, an older gentleman of 75 years of age. They did their chores quickly, so that they could each salvage what was left of the day. Little did they know, that they didn't have much of this or any other day left - as fate and the weather had other plans.
The following is the newspaper account of that fateful day, so many years ago. ROY MOON AND GEORGE McFEE DROWN AS HOUSE COLLAPES
Frothing torrents that left thousands of dollars worth of damage, ruined crops, cut off interstate transportation and killed two men in Hancock, were graduallysubsiding into peaceful Berkshire trout brooks today as New York and Massachusetts State Police, volunteers and Red Cross workers worked by the hundreds to clear roads and rescue the homeless. THREE HUNDRED YARDS DOWNSTREAM
Three hundred yards from where the Charles Gary home toppled into the swollen Kinderhook Brook yesterday, the body of Roy Moon 35, who with George McFee, 75, had been removing valuables from the house, was found downstream. McFee was found by state police early this morning 100 yards down the river. Both men were trapped when the building collapsed.
Damage to utilities was not high, though the already serious Berkshire food problem threatens to take on the aspects of a crisis. Hundreds of acres of corn, beans and potatoes were swept away, along with fields of ready-to-be-cut hay. Transportation of Albany and Boston sources of local meat, seemed uncertain this noon.
This is the remnants of the Cary home in Hancock, where Roy Moon and George McFee lost thier lives. This photo was found in The Berkshire Eagle issue on July 23, 1945.
HIGHWAY DAMAGE $22,000
Although a washed out bridge on Route 20 at the bottom of Lebanon Mountain is rerouting traffic to Albany along mushy back roads, the stae highway department office in Pittsfield was fairly optimistic. They thought that traffic will be able to move generally throughout the county by tomorrow and estimated bridge and road damages in the Berkshires at about $22,000.
All train schedules had returned to normal last night. The only difficulties caused by the storm were the washout at Cheshire on the New York Central Line, which was repaired at 7, and the ever-flowing streams at Chatham Center, N.Y., threatening delay late in the afternoon. Bus lines through Lebanon Valley to the Richmond Road, and over the Taconic Trail through Williamstown.
Equipment was tied up all afternoon and night, and several travelers spent the night at the Interstate Terminal, waiting for temporary schedules to be arranged. Other bus services, except through the Lebanon area, are operating today.
In North Berkshire the flash flood yesterday afternoon at 3 claimed the life of a $25,000 Jersey bull at Mount Hope Farm, drowned a score or more livestock in Wiliamstown and New Ashford, completely isolated the town of New Ashford and washed over many roads, and small bridges on main highways.
The bull, owned by Col. E. Parmalee Prentice, was in the paddock behind the stone barn when the flood waters swept it away. Mrs. Prentice is the daughter of the late John D. Rockefeller.
At the Fairfield farm, owned by Daniel Galusha, at least 17 young cattle were drowned. The body of a horse was seen floating in the Green River and its owner was not known.
The storm broke about 3 and lasted for about 15 minutes. Within a short time Green River, which normally is only threee or four feet in depth, rose to about 20 feet at its crest according to Wiliamstown residents. Police Chief George A. Royal contacted state police to aid in directing traffic and assisting with the flood efforts. About 100 persons visiting in New Ashford including many youngsters on a swimming trip were stranded when the four bridges were washed away.
Martin pierce, superintendent of the Williamstown division of the state highway department ordered employees to throw a foot bridge across Green River at Rockwell Pond.
Damage to Northern Berkshire Gas company property in the area was estimated at $1000 by Richard E. Pierce, manager of the company, which supplies both gas and elctricity to Hancock and the greater part of New Ashford. He said eight poles were lost.
Repair men had to travel 58 miles last night to complete restoration of service to Hancock. Fourteen men were at work this morning in fixing lines which had been knocked out throughout the Hancock-New Ashford section.
Service from Williamstown southerly to Steele's Corner in South Williamstown was restored by midnight. Minor damage was done by high water on the Green River Road in South Williamstown.
Pittsfield utility companies were not hit hard. The Western Massachusetts Electric Company had most of its trouble in Windsor, which was without lights yesterday from 5:15 PM to 9:10PM as the result of lightning striking and lowing out line and transformer fuses.
HANCOCK MEN KILLED
McFee and Moon were swept to their deaths when they were assisting Charles Gary to remove belongings from his house. Gary got his family to safety and then went back. He was clear as the foundations began to crack. Moon was seen climbing out a window just as the building toppled, while McFee was trapped inside. The house split up as it tumbled down stream and each body ws found in a separate partition of the building. Both men were married and Moon was the father of four children.
State Police Lieut. Michael Noonan of Northampton, assisted by Sergeants Michael J. Sullivan and Francis J. O'Connell, are directing police efforts in the Berkshires.
LEBANON VALLEY DAMAGE
Probably leaviest lebanon Valley loser was Mrs. Arthur Larabee, who is managing Crossroads Poultry Farm while her husband is in the Army. She lost 1500 chicks, valued at $1.00 each, when the chicken house became flooded. The school swimming pool was filled with mud and silt as a nearby brook overflowed its banks. Garage at Bucky Sullivan's twisted out of shape and front porch of his home swept away. Rutland Railroad tracks were undermined at many places. The bridge on Route 20 at food of Lebanon Mountain caved in, halting all traffic to albany. Several other bridges throughout town washed away. Homes of Irving Virge, Raymond Squires and Ira Roberts only a few of the many having water on the first floor. Mrs. Nellie Dayton, aged woman, rescued from home but drive of car went off road, making it necessary for her to be carried to dry land. Looking from Lebanon Mountain down onto valley, it looked like one big lake. Fortunately the bridge on Route 22 near Valley House did not give out, because when water receded traffic was sent that way.
HANCOCK HIT HARD
The summary of other reported losses in the town of Hancock follows:
The local wood-working mill lost several steam boilers that ran the sawmill. The recently-built mill bridge was carried away and still has not been found.
A large cow barn on the Stickles farm is hanging over a brook, with half its foundation gone. Milking equipment there washed down the brook.
The Gardner place is pure chaos. A privy belonging to the Post Office was deposited at his back door. His tool shed and chicken coops, with contents, were lost. Three barrels of fuel oil are down the Kinderhook brook and his garage is hanging on thin air.
Mrs. Julius Rathbun waded knee deep with her four girls to safety. One child received a severe cut on her foot struggling out.
AID FOR THE GARYS
The county Red Cross announced this afternoon that it would supply clothing immediately to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Gary and their five children, who lost all of their wardrobe in the flood. The Garys will visit the Red Cross production center at 346 North Street this afternoon for fittings."
In a later issue of the Berkshire Eagle, there was a small article, on a page the the back of the issue, in very small print, announcing that the community of Hancock, Massachusetts, had collected the sum of $112.00 for Mrs. Roy Moon and her children. That was it.
THE ROY MOON FAMILY
Roy Moon was born on February 16, 1910 in Stephentown, to Charles Henry and Clara Houghtling Moon. He was the second of eight children of a farmer and his much younger wife. Roy was a farmer all his life, working on other people's farms in the Stephentown/Hancock, Massachusetts area. He started out on his own, in 1927, when his father died in 1927 and he went to work for James Henry Carpenter, and was indentured to Mr. Carpenter for three years. He was only 17 years old at the time, and was on his own.
I have no information on his first meeting Dorothy Mae Hoffman, but they were married on June 4, 1932, when she was but 17 years old and he was a 22 year old orphan. She was the daughter of John Hoffman and Eunice White of Stephentown.
It is known that Roy didn't make alot of money, but evidently enough to support his family. At one time he did work for Dalton Adams, in Cherry Plain and lived in a house nearby. Relatives remember that he was in Mr. Adams' employ for sometime. There is some evidence that Mr. Adams was a family friend, as in 1900, Roy's father was found on the census living with the Adams family.
There is no story that I am aware of as to how this young family ended up in Hancock, to place Roy in the position he was in on July 22, 1945. However, it is certainly known that he was there, poised to enter into his last act with total unselfishness - with thoughts only of helping a neighbor. I think that it is fair to say that he didn't suspect that his life was in danger, but he knew that the creek was rising, and that something unforeseen could happen. He and Mr. McFee heroically entered the Gary home to save some of their belongings. Though the word "HERO" is thrown around so freely these days, these two gentlemen personified the true meaning of hero - to put ones self aside for the better of others.
In 1997, I met with Dorothy Hoffman Moon Miner at her small apartment in North Adams. She was a frail, tiny, 82 year old woman at that time, not well, but very happy to have company that July afternoon. It was the first time that I had ever met any relatives of my Grandmother, as you see, Roy Moon was my great-uncle, dead five years before I was even born.
She was very happy to meet us, and was quite forthcoming with some stories of my grandmother, Florence Doris Moon Sweener, sister of Roy. One such story was that Gram was with Dorothy when her first child, Thelma was born and gave her her first bath. Thelma happened to be there that day, some 64 years after her birth, along with her two daughters, Eunice and Charmaine LaPier, products of her only marriage to Harvey LaPier, who had passed away many years before.
I talked to her quite a bit about the Moons, a family that is still a mystery to me and other family researchers. She didn't know much, as Roy didn't tell her very much, (and she couldn't remember if there was anything else) except that his father had red hair. However, she knew her husband, and was happy to talk of him, some 52 years after his death. She told me that he was a loving man, who liked to play with his children, worked hard, and loved to kiss and hug his family, especially her. She was quite emotional when talking about Roy, and kept saying, "I told him not to go down there, but he just wouldn't listen." The account at the beginning of this page comes from her words.
I asked her if she had any pictures of Roy, and she said that she only had had one picture of him all these years, and it was only a small photo, about the size of a wallet-size picture. We were allowed to make a copy of that picture, which we did and it is pictured here. The picture shows the Roy Moon family, with a young Thelma, who was about 3 years old at the time, having been born on April 29, 1933. I asked her if she had any other pictures, and she said that they were poor people, who didn't have any money for a camera.
By July, 1945, Roy and Dorothy had welcomed four other children into their family - Patricia, who died very young and is buried in Garfield Cemetery right next to her Dad; Carl Dalton in November, 1939; Joyce Elizabeth in October, 1943 and Gloria Jean in November, 1944. Dorothy didn't work outside of the home, Lord only knows, she certainly had her hands full.
In a recent conversation with Thelma, I learned a bit more about Roy. I found out that when he would take a wagon into the woods to get firewood, Thelma used to ride the horse and go with him. She also remembers that her parents loved to dance. One very touching memory is watching "Daddy go down the hill the day of the flood, and then he never came home again."
She also related to me how Roy worked very hard, and that though they moved quite a bit, they would stay a long time in places. As she recalled, they lived:
In Garfield, where they lived in the Freling Smith house, which was at that time a three tenant house. At the time they lived there, Erma Graham and her mother lived upstairs, and the Wolford's lived downstairs. It was from this house that they moved to Hancock.
It is Thelma's recollection that after Roy finished his chores on July 22, 1945, Mr. Avery asked him and George McFee to go down to the Gary's and help out. She said, "If it wasn't for Mr. Avery, my Dad wouldn't have gone down there and he wouldn't have died."
The Berkshire Eagle reported on the flood and it's aftermath for much of the following week. In the articles, it states that Mr. Gary and his family weren't home, but at a movie when the rains started. They arrived home to see Roy and George McFee in house. Mr. Gary was standing near his home, and saw that it was about to leave its foundation. He was heard shouting to the two men to "forget the appliances, get out and save your lives." Roy was seen jumping out of the window and hitting the embankment, which gave way immediately. His body was recovered some 200 yards down stream, caught on a tree limb. Mr. McFee never was able to get out of the house before the whole house washed away.
Dorothy told me that sometime after 5 o'clock on the afternoon of Sunday, July 22, 1945, someone came to her door, and informed her that Roy had drowned in the brook. She said that she grabbed her babies and ran down the hill. She said "It was lucky that I didn't kill all three of us, because I was running so fast." When she reached the book, she handed the babies to someone on the bank and started to go toward the brook to look for Roy. She was held back from doing so.
Many years have passed since that fateful day in July of 1945, but Dorothy's love for her lost mate hasn't diminished. She kept telling, "I wish I had him here with me right now." Her life hasn't been easy. She married again, to a man named Avery Miner and had a set of twins, Connie and Kathy. However, that marriage didn't work out, and Dorothy was again left alone, to raise her children. It wasn't an easy life, and still isn't. There was never much money, making life difficult at every turn.
She is now (April, 2004) 89 years old and according to Thelma, has great difficulty getting around. She does life alone and has several people who come in each day to care for her needs. Thelma calls her twice a day to check on her. Her sister Gloria and her husband live nearby and see her often.
As with all of us, Roy was more than a name in a newspaper. He was important to many people and THE most important person to someone in particular. I venture a guess to say that he still is - to Dorothy. I'd say that that is quite a legacy for a man who has been dead for nearly 59 years.
Flood in July 1945, along Main Street in Stephentown.
Above photo sent in by Craig Bateman, from his father's personal collection. You can see people standing on the steps of the Post Office (right), with Syke's Store to the left of the P.O.
Syke's Store now
Chauncey Bateman's store front with door broken in by flood waters. The "Old Hotel" on left of Chauncey's (Craig Bateman's father noted that building to the right of Chauncey's contained Agnes Walsh's apartment. Mike Brown notes that Agnes Walsh was the sister of his great-grandfather, Leo Fitzgerald (1892-1935)