The recorded history of the Ohio began in the late 17th century when French explorers reached the Ohio River, a river the Iroquois called O-y-o or “great river”. For many years the majestic Ohio has bestowed Aurora its many gifts along with its rage. Through the years Aurora has experienced numerous floods gifted us by the great Ohio; 1881, 1883, 1913, and 1993, just to name a few. The most memorable one was in January 1937.
The 1937 Flood is one of the greatest disasters in Aurora history. The heavy rain began on January 9th and continued through January 23rd stopping for only brief intervals. This, combined with melting snow, raised the river well above flood stage. Aurora, along with communities throughout the Ohio Valley, was overwhelmed, without electricity, and short on basic needs. The scale of this flood surpassed all previous floods and left extensive damage throughout the town. Cleanup and reconstruction began immediately, but unfortunately took years to complete.
In 1937, the water level at its highest was 81 feet, reached to the front door of the Aurora Public Library, and forced our library to close. There was no loss of books but there was heavy loss of materials stored in the basement. Also, the flood affected the train depot which now houses the Local History Library. In 1937, the building was a working train depot and the railroad tracks were owned by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Both libraries have the plate showing the height of the water on the building.
The Baptist Church, a large brick church on Main Street was finished in 1875. It was one of the finest churches in southern Indiana. The Church survived the ’37 flood waters only to be destroyed by a fire June 4, 1937, due to electrical damage caused by the devastating flood. For over a year, Sunday morning services were held in the Palace Theater (currently the Fusion Salon & Day Spa) on Second Street.
These are just a few of the intriguing facts about Aurora during the 1937 Flood. Visit our Local History Library @ The Depot to learn more about this and other floods that plagued our city throughout the years. The Local History Library is located at 510 Second Street near the railroad tracks. The hours are Tuesday and Thursday 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM and the third Saturday of the month 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM. Come with your questions and plan on visiting for awhile!