Robert Paugh Recalls the Flood and Snowstorm of 1950
By John G. Wolfe
Not too long after the storms last year, I wrote in my column about how mild they were in comparison to some other natural disasters that hit the area. I recall writing about the 1950 flood, which left many dead, including the first wife and children of my Uncle in the Smithburg community.
Recently I was contacted by the activities director at Crestview Manor in Jane Lew telling me that a resident there wanted to speak with me about the 1950 flood and more, so a week or so ago I drove out to meet Mr. Robert Paugh, who at the young age of 87, had vivid memories of the 1950 flood and the tremendous snowstorm that hit the area that same year.
I have to say that for a man who has endured medically what Mr. Paugh has, I can't think of many people I have met that so friendly, genuine and full of life. Mr. Paugh told me that he had lived in the Kincheloe area most of his life, and he told me of his family and the family farm.
He also told me that I had written about a woman drowning in that are in the cloudburst that hit during the night of June of 1950. He said she was a, "Bailey" woman. "There house was washed away with parts of it washed upstream two or three miles. Her husband had managed to grab a tree and was trapped there all night." Paugh said the man's name was Arch Bailey and that he had a small store in Benson.
Paugh and others helped rescue the woman's husband early the next morning. "We took a horse to rescue the man, threw him a rope and told him to put it around his waist and to jump. We pulled him to safety." The family helped the man as much as they could and later were able to recover the body of Mrs. Bailey.
Recalling the rapidly rising water, turning a run into a raging river, Bailey said,"We could hear a bumping sound hitting the side of the house, I was a board of some kind. When we looked out the window to see what it was, there was water everywhere. The water also swept away my car. Then water started coming into the house so we took the kids to higher ground into a cellar house and waited for the water to recede."
Paugh said the water was so swift it "knocked the windwall off of the cement bridge that crossed Kincheloe Creek. It also leveled all the trees in its path.
During our conversation, we often switched topics from the flood to the big snowstorm that hit the day after Thanksgiving in 1950. At that time, and for most of his life, Paugh worked at the Palace Furniture Store in Clarksburg. He worked as a shipping clerk, buyer and in sales at the business for 36 years. He said that the day after Thanksgiving, he worked until 8:30 p.m. and started his journey home southward on Rt. 19 to Kincheloe. The snow had covered the road and reduced it to a one lane road, making it difficult even with snow tires and chains. "The Goosepen Road at Good Hope hadn't been plowed at all," he said. "My wife and mother had gone to the cannery in Weston where they got stuck, and my sisters were taking care of our babies. I got to near my dad's house at about 11:30 p.m. and the snow was up to my headlights. I couldn't get all the way to the house. My dad worked for the state road and couldn't get back. The only way to get anywhere was by horse, and when the snow ended it was up to the horses belly. My dad made it to the covered bridge on Hughes Run and we had to use horses to go and get him and a co-worker there. We were so exhausted we slept well into the next day. That was a snow many will never forget."
For 66 years, Paugh has been married to his wife, Ethel Ruth Benedum Paugh. They raised four children, two boys and two girls. They have seven grandchildren and 19 great grandchildren. They lived at the home place in Kincheloe until 2011, when declining health forced them to both move to Crestview Manor. There they share a room and try to enjoy life as much as they can. "If we make it to September, we will have been married for 67 years." Paugh believes they are the oldest couple from around the Kincheloe area. His wife is from the same hometown, and they attended Unidas High School together.
"I have lived in two houses in the Harrison/Lewis County area all my life except for two years when we first got married," he said. "For a couple of years we lived in an apartment in Clarksburg, but came back and I bought a farm near my father's place where we lived until we came to Crestview."
A proud West Virginia, Paugh recalled going to the State Fair for the first time, also in 1950. "You would have thought we were going to church. We were all dressed up and it was an all day affair. People dressed up back then to go to the fair. There were no hotels or many places to eat, so we fixed some fried chicken and ate along the way." Paugh said that on West Virginia Day, they always liked to go to fairs.
At the end of our conversation, Paugh took me to meet his wife and they posed for a photograph. Two very nice folks who helped make writing this column more fun this week.
I'm not sure if my memory is as good as Robert Paugh's, but if I can remember I will try to make it back to Crestview in September to say "hello" and to wish the couple a Happy Anniversary. In the meantime, thank you Mr. Paugh. It was a pleasure meeting you both and I hope you will forgive any errors I may have made in recounting your stories.
Robert Paugh and his wife, Ethel Ruth Benedum Paugh at Crestview Manor.