Most often the rivers here brought prosperity. They are the reason humanbeings settled here; established a land portage to connect with the Wabash River system; and attracted the canal followed by rails, highways, industry, and homes. They brought good, industrious people such as Johnny "Appleseed" Chapman, who was seen in 1830 arriving near this point on the Maumee River with his small boat laden with apple seeds. One significant flood recorded in the Three Rivers area occurred in 1790, four years before there was a Fort Wayne; the Native American settlement of Kekionga suffered from the disastrous combination of a rapid spring thaw and heavy rains. In the years before dikes were built, the average flood level was about fourteen feet. When engineers built dikes to protect riverside neighborhoods and businesses, the flood levels rose steadily. By the 1920's, floods were more frequent; and the average flood stage moved to nearly twenty feet. The worst flood on record was in March 1913, when the Maumee rose overnight from seven feet to over twenty-six feet. Fifteen thousand people were made homeless, and six lost their lives. Mayor Jesse Grice organized an heroic relief effort, and martial law was declared with orders given to shoot looters. Fort Wayne saved itself then, as it would again in 1982, when an immense volunteer effort protected the dikes against the second-highest flood waters on record. Again in 1985 and in 1991, floods inundated the area. In the wake of these disasters, plans for allowing flood-waters to wash across the great bend in the St. Mary's River assumed increasing importance. At the groundbreaking ceremony of Headwaters Park on October 26, 1993, the Fort Wayne Bicentennial Commission acknowledged the cooperative efforts of all segments of the "City That Saved Itself."
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