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The great disasters of Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids - (WZZM) - With all the talk of the world ending tomorrow, which it won't, we thought we would look into Grand Rapid's past to find the cataclysmic events that seemed like it might be the end of the world for the people who had to live through them.

Tim Gleisner is manger of local history and special collections at the Grand Rapids Public Library. He talked with us about the top three GR disasters starting with the great fire in 1873.

"130 families were displaced by this fire north of Michigan Ave. and in Holland burned down," explains Gleisner. "You might think it was the end of the world."

The great fire of Grand Rapids came around the same time as the great Chicago fire. "The cause of it here in Grand Rapids and else where was because the largest industry was lumber," says Gleisner. Add to the fact that, Grand Rapids had a lot of furniture factories with sawdust that could easily catch fire.

The second disaster is the great log jam of 1883. This is when logs headed to Chicago through the Grand River got stuck.

"The logs got stuck at Ann Street and you had million of tons of wood sitting in the river and people are watching the wood to see what is it going to do," says Gleisner.

The log jam was over 5 miles long and destroyed most of the bridges crossing the Grand River when it finally broke free.

The third disaster was the Grand River flood in 1904. "Basically, you had the whole west side under water," explains Gleisner. "There was enough water to cover all the way to John Ball Park. People were literally rowing down streets. Boys were catching large catfish outside their front yards it was devastating time for that side of the city.

These are just three of the many disasters that have befallen the area. Some others include economic disasters like the great depression or the tornadoes that killed 18 in the Standale area in 195, but just because some bad things may have happened it doesn't mean it is the end of the world.


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