December 31, 2018 was wet and windy from start to finish, producing temporary ponds in backyards and streets, but little serious damage. That was not the case more than 180 years earlier.
The last several days of 1846 saw heavy rain nearly each day, and by New Year’s Day nearly every creek and stream in Indiana and Ohio was overflowing its boundaries. Dayton and Columbus newspapers were full of descriptions of the destruction.
The damage was severe in Wayne County as well. Floodwaters inundated farms, destroyed fences and buildings, and carried away livestock. An important part of the county economy was based on the large number of water-powered mills, and many of these were heavily damaged. The coverage from the Richmond Palladium specifically mentioned that “Brightwell and Brown’s splendid new dam, which cost them nearly $2000, has been nearly swept away.” The National Bridge (the first Main Street Bridge built in 1835) was also damaged, but presumably not badly since it remained in service until the mid-1890s.
More importantly, the White Water Canal, which passed through Cambridge City on its way to Cincinnati, was heavily damaged. “The report says that the aqueducts, bridges, locks, and embankments, from Cambridge to Laurel, are either swept away or greatly damaged.”
Richmond’s “canal” was damaged, although it was still under construction. The Richmond and Brookville Canal Company was the effort of businessmen on the east side of the county to cash in on the canal craze that by 1840 was already petering out. Only a few miles of the proposed canal had been excavated by 1846, and the company was short on funds. This flood wiped out much of the work that had been done, and Richmond decided to concentrate instead on the new technology on the horizon, the railroad.