1903 Heppner Flood

On Sunday, June 14, 1903, at about 5:00 p.m., a cloudburst broke over the hills south of the small farming community of Heppner. Overloaded creeks rushed toward the town, picking up debris from the farms through which they passed. At the south end of Heppner, a steam laundry crossed the path of the water. Debris built up behind the laundry, effectively damming the water until the building could not withstand the pressure. When the water broke free, it hit Heppner with a force unmatched in the history of the state.

After the flood waters subsided, the task of finding and burying the dead began. Bodies were dug out of the debris and, in some cases, brought back to town from several miles downstream. A temporary morgue was set up in the stone Roberts Building, one of the few structures left relatively unscathed on Main Street. Fatality counts varied; some people simply disappeared and were never accounted for, some bodies were never identified. The final count was "approximately 250 dead."

Flood Links

Letter to Mayor Gilliam from Colfax girls

Flood related headstones located at Heppner Masonic Cemetery

Victims from many flood victim's lists

Newest translation of Chinese flood victim's headstones

Translation of Chinese flood victim's headstones

Flood Photos

Copy of the front page of the June 18, 1903 Heppner Gazette

"Weight of Flood" from the East Oregonian, June 30, 1903

Flood Poem

offbeat Oregon history article by Finn J.D. John - April 19, 2010

The Oregon Encyclopedia article