The rain began as a gentle shower. An hour later, six people were drowned and the damages amounted to half-a-million dollars. They called it the Globe flood, but the official government name was the Pinal Creek Flood, since it was the creek that did the flooding, not the town.
Small raindrops started to fall lightly about 5:30 p.m. on August 17, 1904, but the rain turned into a cloudburst within minutes, accompanied by a “brilliant electrical display.” The storm only lasted about 45 minutes, but the flooding continued during the night. Pinal Creek began to rise about 20 minutes after the rain started and reached its high point around 6 p.m.
When it was over, rain gauges in the pioneer mining town registered a little more than two inches. According to O. T. Reedy, a federal employee reporting to the United States Geographical Survey (USGS), the rainstorm covered about 30 square miles. He estimated that 80 million cubic feet of water moved through the area during the flood.
Six people drowned in the first few minutes. Arizona pioneer Addison T. Epley was probably asleep in his adobe home when a wall of water washed it away. W.K. Mitchell, his wife Johanna, and three boarders – Ella Brashears Hurd, Josie Moody and a man named Symes – were trapped in Mitchell’s boarding house. It was on low ground near the smelter, but they might have escaped if they had heeded the warning.
Reedy said that when the flood hit there were eight people in the house. One went to high ground, and the owner’s son went to get rope to rescue the others. Three who remained were women, and one was a cripple. “Before he could return, the house and its occupants had been swept away,” said Reedy. Five bodies were recovered that night several miles from town, and the sixth was found six miles downstream the next day.
In downtown Globe, buildings were lifted off their foundations and carried across the street, while others accumulated 18 inches of water in their ground-floor rooms. A dozen small houses washed away, as well as 20 businesses, according to an August 21, 1904, article in the Sunday edition of the Phoenix Republican (the paper did not change its name to the Phoenix Republic until several years later).
“Buildings occupied by H.H. Pratt, fruits and confectionary; Jenkins and Zellner, pianos; and W.A. Crawford, barber; were moved into the middle of Broad Street. The Pratt building and stock is a total loss,” said the Republican reporter.
The principal damage was to the Gila Valley, Globe and Northern Railway, taking out railway employee cottages, stockyards, five bridges, a mile of track and culverts. The damages were estimated at close to $20,000, which would equal half-a-million in today’s dollars.
Fifty years later, on July 29, 1954, another flood hit Globe. That one dropped 3.5 inches of rain in 40 minutes.
- Jim Turner. Photo courtesy of the Gila County Historical Society.