On the 17th of March of that year commenced a flood, unprecedented for the height of the water, and the amount of damage done, not only at Milton, but at all other points along the river. The following account of the havoc at Milton is from the Miltonian of March 26th, 1865:
”On Wednesday of last week, the river commenced to make a gradual swell, which slowly continued on Thursday, through the effects of rain and melting snow among the hills, until Friday, when the rise became more rapid, first filling the river-bank full. But still it rose and rose, higher and higher, not caring for any former precedent as to height, until, Saturday morning, it had risen to such a depth that Front street, in some places, contained over six feet of water, and Saturday morning, the good news came that the water was falling. This glad news was welcomed by one and all. Each then wore a cheerful face. It was Noah’s dove returning to the ark!
“It was a sad sight to see such a destruction of property - bridges, houses, household furniture, stables, fences, etc., came floating down the river in confused masses.
“On Friday it was perceptible, to each one’s eye, that the Milton bridge could not much longer withstand the pressure brought against it by the accumulating logs and debris of all kinds. The western portion was swept away some time on Friday night. The eastern portion, or that nearest to town, left about three o’clock Friday afternoon. Many aching hearts witnessed the grand scene! Just previous to starting, her creaking timbers made loud throes of agony. By the bridge breaking in two, and swinging round towards either bank, she floated grandly down the river, never to return. The middle bridge - that between the two islands - was swept from the piers about the same time, but, lodging against trees, moved only a few rods down the river.
“To enumerate and individualize the Iosses experienced by different ones in this locality, would be impossible in a newspaper article. The families on the river-bank, in the upper portion of the borough, as well as the lower, were compelled to forsake their homes, without much loss however. Many of those in the lower part of the town took refuge in the German Reformed Church, reminding one of those sad, rebellious times, when refugees are driven from their homes - while others were provided for in other ways.
“There is but little injury done in the upper portion of the town, as the water had little or no current. In the lower portion, however, where the current was swift and strong, it washed out streets and did great damage.
“Mr. John Datesman, of West Milton, is a heavy loser in grain, which became wet, and may nearly all be destroyed by not being made dry. We are informed that about two thousand bushels had to he taken from his warehouse, and through the kindness of friends and neighbors, was hauled to the different barns in the country to dry. It is stated that, while the goods were being removed from his store, some rascal robbed his till of all the money it contained. Such a man will steal from the devil, when he can.
“John Halter, on Mrs. Marr’s farm, had his house swept away and his furniture all lost. He also lost two crops of tobacco, leaving him penniless. Mrs. Marr also lost tobacco to the amount of a thousand dollars and over. But there is loss, more or less, by each family residing along the river, and we cannot now enumerate. Farms lying along the river were swept of all fencing, which proves a very heavy loss.
The rebuilding of the bridge was now the serious question. The disaster had been so great that the stock of the company was nearly extinguished. It was declared to be depreciated four-fifths, which left a total of only about five thousand dollars in existence, while sixty thousand more than this sum was necessary for rebuilding. The old stockholders were unwilling to pay the assessment of eighty percent, and there seemed to be no new takers of stock. The prospect for a new bridge seemed gloomy enough, and, indeed, it could not have been accomplished - perhaps four years - but for the unwearying and persistent exertions of Colonel Thomas Swenk, and a few other individuals, who were determined that Milton should suffer no such blow as the permanent loss of her bridge. At last, the company was rehabilitated, and the contract for the new bridge was given to Benjamin Griffey, who employed David Starick to build the necessary stone-work. The entire cost of the structure was sixty-five thousand dollars. During the construction, a ferry, to partially fill the place of the bridge, was run across at the lower end of the islands.