The Wheeling Flood That Created a Beautiful Disaster

Can you imagine the Ohio River filled with floating pumpkins, gourds, and corn shucks? Well, that’s precisely what many Wheeling residents experienced during The Great Pumpkin Flood of 1861. According to a report in the Wheeling Daily intelligencer, residents living along the Ohio River in 1861 awoke to find their fall crops had vanished overnight. The report explained that “the weather crept up like a thief in the night, wound around the low places in the cornfields, and carried away the shucks and the pumpkins, the squashes and the gourds, of which the river was full all Sunday.”[1]

While the pumpkin flood of 1861 was indeed a bizarre occurrence, it wasn’t entirely unheard of at the time. In fact, Wheeling experienced similar pumpkin floods in 1811, 1831, and 1852 [2]. Check out our latest comic that illustrates this unique piece of Wheeling’s spooky season history.

The Great Pumpkin Flood, October 1861
There had not been a spooky season flood in over 20 years.
The night brought heavy rain, submerging the pumpkin patches.
It swept pumpkins, gourds, and shucks out to the rising river.
What a festive disaster.



[1] “Pumpkin Flood 1861,” Wheeling Daily Intelligencer (Wheeling, WV), Oct. 1, 1861

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[2] Newton, J. H., Nichols, G. G., and Sprankle, A. G. History of The Pan-Handle; Being Historical Collections of the Counties of Ohio, Brooke, Marshall and Hancock, West Virginia. (Wheeling, WV: J.A. Caldwell, 1879), 249. 

• Natalie Kovacs is an illustrator under the moniker Shapelessflame. She has a bachelor’s degree in English literature and a minor in graphic art from Carlow University of Pittsburgh. In her spare time, you’ll find her frolicking through the woods, reading and collecting countless books, crowd surfing at concerts, or testing out new vegetarian recipes. She lives in Bethesda, OH with her husband, son, and their four mischievous cats.