Header Graphic
After the Deluge



A pictorial review of the work done by Packard vehicles and Packard men in helping to relieve the distress which followed the Dayton flood of March 25, 1913.  The pictures showing trucks in action were made by staff photographers of the Packard Motor Car Company


Copyright 1913 by the




Dayton, Ohio, March 29


Packard Motor Car Company,

Detroit Michigan


Can you loan us eight three-ton trucks?


John H. Patterson,


Aide in charge of Southern Military District, of Dayton Ohio



Detroit, March 29


John H. Patterson,

Dayton, Ohio


Your telegram requesting loan of eight Packard trucks to assist in relief measures at Dayton was received one hour ago.  The trucks are being shipped this afternoon.  We are also sending expert traffic men to supervise their operation in the flood district.  You may be interested to know that in two hours’ time Packard employees contributed sixteen hundred dollars toward the relief of flood sufferers.  We are all anxious to help.


Packard Motor Car Company,


Alvan Macauley,

General Manager




            On Sunday morning, March 30, the people of flood-swept Dayton found themselves facing a seemingly impossible task.  In the wake of the receding waters had come the work of caring for the homeless, rebuilding parts of the city and preparing the rest of it for rehabilitation.

            With the majority of the inhabitants practically destitute, there was a continually growing demand for food, drink and clothing.  The torrent, which had swept through the downtown streets at an average depth of eighteen feet, had completely paralyzed business and besides starvation and suffering from exposure, and epidemic seemed imminent.

            The city, once called the garden spot of Ohio, was a tangled mass of wreckage and debris.  It looked as though some gigantic hand had lifted hundreds of houses from their foundations and scattered them, contents and all, through the streets.  Traffic was blocked, even on the widest thoroughfares, by bodies of dead animals, together with an impassable jumble of everything from water-logged grand pianos to huge granite blocks, torn from office buildings and carried away by force of the flood.  Pedestrians found it almost impossible to make way through the confusion.

            Over all was spread a liberal coating of muck which had been carried in from the rich farming country.  Cellars were filled with filth and mud.  The city government had been replaced by martial law and after the curfew, which rang at six o’clock, nobody, except the militia men, was allowed on the streets.  Candles and lamps, used in lieu of the wonted gas and electricity, were ordered extinguished by eight o’clock, after which time the city was in total darkness except for the flickering lanterns carried by the guards.

            This was, in brief, the situation in Dayton on the Sunday after the flood.  But it was on this day that the sun, which for a fortnight had been held in abeyance by the dark clouds, burst through the overhanging mist, and feeble rays though they were, they did much to dispel the gloom that seemed to have settled over the city to stay for all time.

            And along with this first bit of cheer came another good omen, —a message in the form of eight big Packard trucks—telling that the outside world was anxious to assist in every way possible.  They had been sent on a special train from Detroit to help put Dayton back on the map.

            The day before, John H. Patterson, president of the National Cash Register Company, had sent urgent messages to the large automobile manufacturing companies of the middle west, asking for immediate shipments of motor trucks for relief work, as a loan to the military authorities in direct charge of the situation.

            Two hours after the telegram had been received by Alvan Macauley, general manager of the Packard Motor Car Company, eight heavy duty trucks, four two-ton and as many of three-ton capacity, were on freight cars bound for Toledo where the special train that carried them into Dayton was formed.  With them went factory-trained drivers prepared for hard service.

            In Toledo a special car filled with Red Cross nurses was attached to the train and a dangerous run over loosened tracks was made at a high speed to Springfield, where the train was held until eight o’clock Sunday morning waiting for an engine which would haul it into Dayton over tracks of the Pennsylvania railway.  Another delay occurred at Xenia and still another at the outskirts of Dayton where a stop was made to allow a train load of refugees to leave the city.

            But in spite of there delays the Packard trucks were in Dayton and ready for duty within twenty-four hours after the request for them had been received in Detroit.

            The first truck taken from the cars was put into immediate action and carried the Red Cross nurses to the plant of the National Cash Register Company where hundreds who had escaped from the flooded district had taken refuge and where the headquarters of the Red Cross and Relief Committee had been established.  As rapidly as the other trucks could be unloaded they were manned by their drivers and put to work hauling capacity loads of supplies from the relief trains which were choking the freight yards, into which only a few cars could be brought at one time because of the condition of the tracks.

            Long hauls were made to the receiving station at the National Cash Register Company and thence to the twenty or thirty relief stations throughout the city, which had been opened in school buildings and other places not reached by the water.

            The cleaning up process was started in earnest on Monday morning, March 31.  Several of the three-ton trucks were taken away from the work of hauling supplies and detailed for removing the bodies of animals.  Squads were sent into all parts of the city with orders to move carcasses from barns and piles of debris so that once the trucks had started work they could finish it with as much dispatch as possible.

            The trucks worked in pairs, loading each other by means of a heavy rope and skid.  They went up one street and down another, picking up the bodies as they found them.  When four or five animals had been loaded onto a single truck they were hauled two miles into the country to be cremated.  A few wagons were also detailed to work on this task, but where a large wagon could haul ten carcasses a day, a truck could haul fifty.

            Within three days there was not a dead animal left in Dayton.  Sixteen hundred horses had been removed in addition to the carcasses of hundreds of other animals which had been drowned in the flood and swept into the city from the surrounding farm districts.

            For weeks, the big trucks worked twenty-four hours a day.  Several of the drivers were in their seats for forty-eight consecutive hours after they jumped from the steps of the relief train.  No attention could be given to the trucks except the necessary refilling of gasoline tanks and an occasional oiling.

            The nearby towns were canvassed daily for food supplies.  But one railway line was running into the city.  Telephone service was gone, trolleys through that section of Ohio were all down and it would take weeks to make the railway tracks fit that service.  The motor trucks were the only available means of transporting supplies into the beleaguered city and the condition of the roads was such that one hundred percent efficiency was required by the test to which they were put.  It took a powerful truck with great staying powers to make good.

            Hard does not adequately describe the usage given the trucks by the militia.  The army Red Cross, the sanitary corps and the relief squads kept the machines running night and day through water up to the radiators and along roads that were so bad it seemed almost hopeless to attempt locomotion over them in any sort of vehicle.

            After the army officers had worked for a few days with the “big fellows” as they called the Packard trucks, they couldn’t say enough in their praise.

            “If I were to tell you half the things that the trucks have been doing here in Dayton, you wouldn’t believe me,” said Captain Cyrus W. Mead, who acted as Adjutant General during the hardest part of the work after the flood had subsided.  “Now that I can look back a little, I wonder how they ever stood the strain.  The officers who have been in command of the relief and sanitary squads say they simply could not have done their work had it not been for the Packards.”

            Captain E. M. Leary, U.S. Cavalry, who was rushed to Dayton from Columbus, where he is doing detached service, was in command of the large relief station established at the Fair Grounds just on the edge of the district.  He was instructed to take particular note of the work done by the motor trucks and make a report on the subject to the Secretary of War.

            “I found the truck well nigh indispensable in so great an emergency,” says Captain Leary.  “Packard truck Number 16, with Fred Stevens, a most efficient driver from the Packard factory, worked under my direct supervision from the fourth to the fifteenth of April in the flooded district, transporting supplies and disinfectants to various relief stations.  Besides that, I accompanied the truck on several trips to Miamisburg and Carrolton, which made a round trip of one hundred miles over the roads which conditions forced us to take.  We carried loads from fifty-five to sixty-five hundred pounds and averaged twelve miles an hour.  The service given by the truck was most satisfactory in every respect.”

            Lieutenant H. B. Arnold, of the New York Coast Artillery, was standing in the Pennsylvania Depot, New York City, when the first relief train from the metropolis started to pull out for Dayton.  A dash through the gates and a flying jump put him on the rear platform and when next heard from he was in charge of the sanitary squad in the thick of the work.  Several Packard trucks were allotted for his use and after several weeks of personal observation, here is what he has to say:

            “The Packard trucks placed at my disposal have given most excellent service.  Although the condition of the streets which had to be traversed was beyond description, the trucks plugged along just as if conditions had been normal.  Had it not been for the trucks, with all other transfer facilities crippled as they were, there would have been infinitely more suffering.  They were a great factor in restoring the city to a sanitary condition.”

            Special comment upon the work of the drivers sent with the trucks from the Packard factory was made by Captain McStayer, of the Madison Barracks, New York, Captain Whaley, of Fortress Monroe, Virginia, and other officers who had opportunities of seeing their work.  The men were pronounced courageous, patient, skilled and alert.  Officers who commanded them say they faced hardships and privation in a way that commanded the admiration of the soldiers.  No provision had been made for them during their stay in Dayton and several slept in their trucks while others bunked in the garage of the National Cash Register Company where the trucks were kept.

            The men particularly mentioned are: Arnold Haener, Samuel Albright, Louis Hethke, W. A. Strohauer, Henry W. Welsh, Frank Gallinger, Edward Kissling, Harry Huntington, Clarence Guyman and Fred Stevens.

*           *           *

            But the trucks rushed from the factory of the Packard Motor Car Company were not the only ones to see active service in Dayton.  Before the request for aid had been received in Detroit, other Packards were playing leading roles in some of the most dramatic incidents of the flood.

            The National Cash Register Company is one of the large manufacturing concerns which have found in the Packard the solution of the hauling problem.  When the Mad and Miami rivers were threatening to burst their banks, there were standing in the large N.C.R. garage six Packard three-ton trucks; four Packard two-ton trucks; seven Packard Thirties which had been rebuilt and equipped with extra heavy rear springs to be used as one-ton delivery wagons; one 1910 “30” phaeton; three 1911 “30” touring cars; three 1912 “30” touring cars used as service cars to carry passengers; one 1913 “48” limousine; one 1913 “48” touring car for special work; one 1910 “30” equipped as a chemical fire patrol, and one 1912 “Six” fitted with an ambulance body.

            When word was sent through Dayton that the danger of the levees breaking was imminent, John H. Patterson gave immediate orders to G. B. Cross, superintendent of motor transportation, to send the entire battery of truck to the breweries for the large barrels which could be filled with water.

            “We can get along without food and clothing,” said Mr. Patterson, “but if the levees go, we will need water that’s fit to drink.”

            Within an hour, five hundred barrels filled with pure water were standing in the garage.  A few minutes later the rivers burst their banks and flooded the city’s reservoirs with filth, making the water useless for drinking purposes.  Dayton drank from these five hundred barrels from Tuesday, the day the flood began, until the following Sunday when the first relief train brought a fresh supply.

            When the flood was at its height, the Packard ambulance made trip after trip through water so deep that it was found necessary to cover the radiator with tarpaulins to prevent flooding the engine.  George Lucas, the driver, was in his seat for three days and as many successive nights without a minute’s rest.  When he finally collapsed under the strain, his place was taken by another and the ambulance kept right on working.  It averaged between fifty and sixty “stretcher” calls a day, making its way into all parts of the city by devious routes on account of the impassability of the majority of streets.

            A most impressive exhibition of a Packard truck’s real strength was given on the Main street hill, not far from the plan of the National Cash Register Company.  It was here that the full force of the flood was felt and the loss of life was particularly heavy.

            On one of the corners just at the foot of the hill, an explosion occurred in an automobile supply shop when the water reached a quantity of carbide on the floor.  The flames spread to the adjoining buildings and threatened to jump across the street to a group of frame dwellings in which one hundred and fifty people were marooned.  The unfortunates within were threatened both by fire and water.  If they took to the water their chances of escape were small as neither man nor boat could stem the swift current that was tumbling down the street.  If they remained behind, death from the flames stared them in the face.

            Several unsuccessful attempts at rescue were made by running a cable from one of the houses to higher ground and then sending boats across the pulley.  But the frail boats were dashed to pieces against the houses and finally the rope parted, putting an end to the maneuver.  A number of those marooned jumped from second story windows to the telegraph poles and made their way to safety by walking several hundred feet over a conduit, clutching the wires as they went along.  Those who were not equal to this feat remained behind, calling loudly for help and pleading with those on the hill to do something to get them out of their predicament.

            As a last resort a powerful “dinky” engine used by building contractors, backed a train of four flat cars down the street railway tracks into the flood until the water was on a level with the floors of the cars.  Ropes, thrown to the houses, were soon made fast to the roofs and in a very few moments, one hundred and fifty men, women, and children had slipped down to the cars and were standing ankle deep in water calling frantically to the engineer to pull out before the rising flood swept them all into eternity.

            But because of the slippery tracks and the lack of sufficient steam pressure, the engine unequal to the task and could not move the heavy load.  Conditions did not appear to have improved materially for those who had been taken from the houses.

            A hurry call was sent to the N. C. R. garage half a mile away, for a three-ton Packard truck and one was immediately sent to the scene where it was coupled to the endangered train.  In a few minutes, the four cars were on dry ground and the passengers were doing their best to overwhelm the Packard’s chauffeur with protestations of gratitude.

            Tuesday night Mr. Patterson reached his Cincinnati agent by telephone and ordered him to get all the Packard trucks he could find in that city and ship them on a special train.  Ten trucks which were kept in the garage of the Citizens Motor Car Company, were confiscated in the name of the Relief Committee and hurried to Dayton.  They were immediately put into use carrying supplies to the district relief stations and rescuing families from the houses on the edge of the flood where the water was not so deep that it prevented making headway.

            A Packard truck could not withstand the terrific current to a certain depth while a horse or a man could not stand for an instant in places where the water was more than two feet deep.  Many persons in houses which were comparatively safe, were cut off from their sources of supply as effectually as those in the heart of the flood, and forced to sit with folded hands and wait until someone discovered them and came to the rescue.

            Three tank cars of gasoline, each containing 5,000 gallons, were sent from Cincinnati at the urgent request of the Relief Committee, to keep the trucks running.  All automobile drivers were allowed to help themselves to fuel so long as they were working for the relief of the flood sufferers.  A carload of tires also came from the same city.  These too were distributed free of cost.  There was no time to be wasting fixing punctures.  If a tire flattened it was thrown aside and a new one was put on in its place.  No questions were asked of men who demanded either tires or gasoline.

            More than fifty Packard vehicles were kept at work in Dayton, bearing the brunt of the heavy hauling that made so great a part of the work of cleaning and rebuilding the city.  They have been given a real test of efficiency at a time when efficiency was needed.

            The people of Dayton know that when necessity calls, the Packard delivers.







The National Cash Register Company


office and factory; dayton, ohio

branch factories; london, england, berlin, germany

toronto, canada


Dayton, Ohio.  April 9, 1913


Mr. Alvan Macauley,

            General Manager, Packard Motor Car Co.,

                        Detroit, Mich.

Dear Mr. Macauley:

            Your letter of April 2nd is received, and I take the earliest opportunity of writing to thank you on behalf of the Dayton Citizens’ Relief Committee, for the excellent assistance rendered by the Packard Motor Car Co., in our time of stress.

            At the time we appealed to you, motor trucks were our most pressing need, as we had the greatest difficulty in getting provisions for hungry people to the different points in the city for distribution.  Your promptness helped to save the situation.

                                                Sincerely yours,

                                                            John H. Patterson



Dayton Military District

dayton, ohio


Dayton, ohio, April 17, 1913.


Packard Motor Car Co.,

            Detroit, Mich.


                        We are both pleased and grateful to report that during the past three weeks of most extraordinary service, Packard trucks have rendered invaluable and continuous service.  The work has been continuous day and night over almost impassable streets

                        Without motor trucks it would have been impossible to have distributed relief supplies.

                        Very truly yours

                        [unknown signature]

                        Adjutant General.







Arnold Haener                                        Henry W. Welsh

Samuel Albright                                                 Frank Gallinger

Louis Hethke                                                     Edward Kissling

W. A. Strohauer                                     Harry Huntington

Clarence Guyman                                              Fred Stevens


            These men were commended by Captain McStayer, Madison Barracks, N.Y., Captain Whaley, Fortress Monroe, Va., Lieutenant Arnold, of the United States Army, and other officers in charge of the relief work at Dayton, Ohio.


            The officers stated that the Packard men showed great courage and faced the hardships with as much fortitude as was shown by the soldiers of the regular army.


            Members of the Citizens’ Relief Committee also made honorable mention of the Packard men detailed for service in Dayton.