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Quincy Hill Water Tank Disaster, 1909

Time Capsule-Historic Images and Recollections (Images and Recollections)


Quincy Hill, once known as Prospect Hill, is a neighborhood located between Quincy Street and Shattuck Street in Parkersburg. This neighborhood was the sight of one of the biggest disasters in the region when two water towers on top of a hill burst and released two million gallons of water, causing a sudden flood that claimed several lives.

Southward View of Quincy and Shattuck Avenue and the wreckage and remains of the tanks.
Corner of Tenth and Avery Street. View of the wreckage caused by tanks.
Modern view of Tenth and Avery from the top of Quincy Hill
Children playing on the remains of one of the tanks.
People searching for dead bodies in the wreckage on Tenth and Avery


At 5:10 a.m. on March 19, 1909, one of the city’s two reserve tanks failed. The resulting gushing of water at destroyed the supporting truss of the adjacent tower. With both tanks releasing their contents, two million gallons of water to spilled down the hill into the town below. 

The waters destroyed several houses along Avery Street, including one on the hillside that contained newlywed couple Mr. and Mrs. Wigal. The couple was likely crushed to death in their bedroom by the weight of the water that caused the roof to collapse on the couple as they slept. This small cottage on the hillside was the closest house to the two tanks. The bodies of the newlywed couple were found by a search group at 10 a.m. and were taken to a local morgue. The body of a third victim was recovered but their identity was either not identified or recorded in the local press. 

The water proceeded to the St. John’s Lutheran Church on Avery and 9 ½ street. The houses surrounding the church and the sanctuary were completely demolished. Surrounding streets were filled with wrecked buildings and debris as the water carried down at least six blocks. The water reached the downtown area but only caused water damage. Residents recall that after the waters receded, there were at least two inches of mud on the floor of Blennerhassett Hotel. 

The disaster united residents in the task of searching for survivors, cleaning the debris, and rebuilding homes. Some questioned whether foul play was involved as the tanks were only 26 years old and should not have failed. No evidence of foul play was ever discovered. The tragedy is remembered by a group of well-kept hedges that were planted to commemorate the couple that lost their life in the sudden flood. 


Jim Dawson, Quincy Hill Water Tank Disaster, (accessed 7/20/16)

Quincy Street
Parkersburg, West Virginia 26101
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This location was created on 2015-12-08 by Noah Grogg, Marshall University; Instructed by David J. Trowbridge.   It was last updated on 2016-07-20 by Clio Admin .

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