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Fifty years ago on April 23, 1973, Marion County residents, workmen and volunteers, including Boy Scouts, lost their fight against a rising Mississippi River as the levee about four miles east of Taylor broke, sending swirling water into the business section of West Quincy.
Some 14,000 acres of land were suddenly a gigantic lake. Heavy rainfall was compounded by an already swollen river.
Crews fighting the rising waters in the South River drainage district reported some narrow escapes, but were able to contain it after the break in the levee in West Quincy took some of the pressure off.
During that time and the days that preceded it and followed the break in the levee, volunteers came together to continue the fight and help evacuate those affected.
Various church organizations offered spaces for people to store their belongings.
Food preparation was being undertaken by the ministers in the community and volunteers undertake preparing food and other services for the flood workers and victims.
Authorities had closed the Memorial bridge at West Quincy Monday afternoon as sandbagging operations could not keep pace with the rapidly rising river.
Hannibal was hard hit by the flood as previous records fell and water rapidly crept up to Third Street. The official measuring device was calibrated only to 28 feet and the water passed that mark at one point during the night, reaching a depth of 28.5 feet.
Late Monday evening, the Mark Twain bridge at Hannibal was closed as flooding conditions on the Illinois side prevented any travel to the east.
The Western Telephone Company’s West Quincy exchange was abandoned at 1:14 a.m. Tuesday as flood waters reached vital switching equipment.
Boats and trucks were dispatched to bring stranded employees to safety.
A mass exodus had begun starting Sunday afternoon as many residents began to make a serious effort to evacuate, and when the order from the Corps of Engineers to evacuate came, a mass exodus began in earnest.
Easter traffic filled with sightseers hampered much of the evacuation efforts, and the attitude of many that the levees would hold found many caught with last minute moving preparations.
American Cyanamid and Missouri Farmers called in employees from their Easter Sunday activities to begin moving offices and operations, including large quantities of fertilizer, to higher ground.
Crews of Northeast Power were also on duty Easter Sunday to begin sandbagging operations to reinforce the levees. To assist, all volunteer youth from the Palmyra Schools were taken to the Northeast Power plant to assist with the filling of sand bags.
The rising water on the Mississippi eclipsed earlier flooding in the Palmyra area as torrential rains on Friday night sent North River to a record high completely closing state highway 168 between Palmyra and Philadelphia.
Reports from county road crews indicated the roads were in a deplorable conditions and workmen were working as rapidly as possible restoring major traffic avenues.
The Spectator reported in the May 2, 1973 edition that residents of Wester Quincy and Taylor were beginning the job of mopping and cleaning up as the waters started to receded on Wednesday and continued to fall over the weekend. Much of the debris was from stores and businesses in the West Quincy area which were unable to complete moving everything from their shelves.
It was noted also that farmers in the area should seek assistance through the ASCS office.
The Burlington Northern Railroad also had their trouble as flooding cut away the right of way under the tracks and left sections dangling in mid water. Extra crews were working long hours, hauling dirt and rock to repair damage.
It would not be until Monday, June 19, the highway in West Quincy would be open again to traffic.