Submitted by Phyllis Stewart   

The flood of 1986 surpassed the flood of 1951 by 6 feet. This will be a flood that will never be forgotten. It rained 1 inch an hour for 24 hours. The water came up fast and people were moving things to higher ground. The date was September 28, 1986.

Papinville was hit the hardest in Bates County. It was surrounded by water and became an island.  There were several homes that were destroyed in the area plus many acres of crops that had not been harvested.

Charlie Swarnes lost his house and Ed Hink’s trailer was 3/4th covered with flood water within 24 hours. The residents begin sounding their alarms telling people that the flood waters were coming up fast and to start moving personal and furniture items to higher ground.

By 9:00 a.m. the next morning the water was a foot deep in the Swarnes home. It was located across the road east of the Papinville Bridge. Neighbors were helping neighbors to move things fast. After the flood waters went down, Ed Hink was able to save his place but, the Swarnes family lost their home. There was 6 feet of water inside the house. (Back in 1860 this was the Richerson Hotel).

The Bates County Commissioners wanted people to contact them as soon as possible about their flood damage. The county had received a letter from the State Management Agency telling them to compile the damage done to the county roads and bridges. They were to notify the mayors of the towns to let them know of the damage in their towns so they could turn it into the state. The state office would then turn it into the federal office to get disaster relief for the county.

Farmers lost their crops and hay, grain bins ruptured because of the water getting inside and swelling the grain. Bridges and roads were destroyed and livestock was lost. The farmers had to turn in the losses to a farm agency. People that had over $250.00 worth of damage turned their losses into the county. Losses could be vehicles, home, home furnishings and buildings.

This was flood water that was held up because Truman Dam was not releasing the water as quickly as it was coming in. I found a newspaper article about the flood. C.A. Moore came out to Papinville and interviewed Shorty Klinksick and Shorty had this to say. “The water was high this time but I am sure there will be times in the future when it will be higher”.

During this flood the children had to be boated to the school bus. This was at the curve as you come into Papinville. The mail was brought into Papinville by boat. Some of the tombstones in the cemetery were covered by floodwaters, many with just the top of the stones sticking out of the water. Let’s hope we will never have another big flood like that again. The 2007 flood was just 4 feet less than the 1986. You will have that story in the newspaper next week.


The flood of 1995 happened in July and took the bridge out on the Drainage Ditch south of Papinville. What caused this to happen? There was a drift pile lodged underneath the bridge. The high water was falling in Papinville, but up at Pomona Lake in Kansas they were releasing their flood waters causing the Drainage Ditch to start rasing. The pressure of the water rising pushed the drift under the bridge and lifted the bridge up off the metal pillars and trusses. It floated down the Drainage Ditch on top of the drift pile for 4 miles hitting the bridge on M highway. Charlie Hatton was there watching the bridge and was able to get pictures as it broke loose.  They decided to leave and head to the M highway bridge to see if it got that far. The bridge hit the M highway bridge, went under the bridge, and came to rest just east of that bridge.

The bridge was out for a year or more. A new bridge had to be built in Papinville because the old iron bridge would not be strong enough to handle the heavy equipment it would take to build the Drainage Ditch bridge.

John and Phyllis Stewart donated the land south of the iron bridge in Papinville for them to build the new bridge. Farmers had to get to their property that was down in the bottoms. A lot of people had pecan groves to harvest and there were owners of duck hunting lakes that had to get to their properties.

The new bridge in Papinville was finally finished and it was time to start on the new bridge over the Drainage Ditch. Both of the new bridges were built wide enough so farm equipment could go over it without touching the rails. They also arched it up high enough for drift piles to go under it without hanging up and collecting underneath the bridge. We call that bridge the Papinville Arch.

I can remember there were many times that the Papinville men would get together to try and get the drift piles from under the old bridge to save it.  They had their boats, rope and chainsaws out trying to get the drift loosened up to go under the bridge. They were working on the bridge the day it floated down the river. Ron Marquardt and Jerry Harkrader were there working when they heard the bridge cranking and popping. They just got off the bridge when it was loosening up. Ron went to get a camera and by the time he got back it was floating down the river. Thank goodness the Hattons were there taking pictures so we could have a display for the museum.

Next week the flood stories will be on the 2007 and the present flood. As I am typing this story the river is rising again because of the heavy rains last week. The flood waters have been out for 4 months. We don’t want any more rain.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the Papinville Picnic on September 28th. We hope for no RAIN OR FLOODING.  You will get the rest of the story next week.