OLD WINFIELD LANDMARKS - Panel Ten Winfield Public Library Exhibit

Hole’s Grocery and the Flood of 1928

(as related by Ruth (Archer) Sparks of 1716 Millington,
daughter of Amanda & N. Mood Archer)

In the early 1920s, Mary Edwilda (Taylor) Hole, wife of bedridden Clifford Hole, had turned her living room and front bedroom at 300 North Main into a grocery store. At about the same time, she obtained bricks salvaged from the old Hackney depot to build a string of tourist cabins near the Hole home and extending from Main back to the alley. The Winfield Aquatic Center now occupies much of that site.

The store was operated by the family until the late 1930s and the cabins continued in operation by another owner into the 40s.

Mary Edwilda had come to Winfield from Indiana in a covered wagon when she was six years old. She died in 1960 at the age of 88.

On that fateful day in 1928, Mary Edwilda received an urgent telephone call from her sister, Amanda (Taylor) Archer, wife of N. Mood Archer, who lived three miles east of town. They had heard that the Timber Creek dyke was about to be broached. Mood and his 19-year-old son, Clay, hitched up a pair of mules to a box wagon and headed for the Hole home.

But by the time they got to the fire station on East Ninth the rapidly rising water engulfed the mules and wagon and they began to float. Albert Kratz Greenwalt, a young man, was also caught by the rapidly moving current but he managed to grab onto a lampost next to the fire station. The wagon floated near enough so he could jump into it.

The ever-growing current swept the wagon and mules - "mules are better in water than horses" - with the three men aboard across East Ninth and the courthouse lawn and against the high steps of the courthouse. The water was about halfway up the steep steps. Mood grabbed a spare chain from the wagon bed and secured the wagon to one of the lightposts about half way up the steps. He unhitched the mules "and they just stood there."

"There were a lot of people who had sought refuge on the steps, including a young mother with a tiny baby. I’ve always wondered what happened to them."

As darkness approached, some men in the group of castaways pried off the frame of the courthouse door so they could seek shelter inside. "My father told how the secured wagon floated and bumped against the steps all night long. But he had had the presence of mind the secure the box to the wagon frame with chains before leaving home, or it would have floated off with them in it."

Six-year-old Ruth Archer was home with her mother while all this was happening, and "momma was frantic" for hours until someone brought the welcome

news, "They’re safe in the courthouse!" When Ruth was downtown with the family a day or two later she saw a chicken coop float by with a speckled hen perched on top. I so much wanted to rescue it," she said.

(Ruth is the wife of Henry Sparks, who retired in 1969 after 22 years with the fire department.)

Howard Buffum April, 2000