The Great Flood of 1913 and the Polks
By SHAY DAVENPORT
Alongside the graces of town is an extensive history behind several of the older structures in the city of Belton.
First established in 1850, Belton has had a lot of promise and heartache throughout the years.
Locals say that some events have lingered in an “eerie” and “paranormal” instance, even today.
Ghost Wagon Tours drive through the city to show different historical attractions. One story very popular on the tour is Yettie Polk Park on Davis Street. The area located right off Nolan Creek is now a park and pavilion for the public. However, the land is named after the alleged past of Mrs. Yettie Polk.
In 1913, “The Great Flood” washed away the majority of the town, but the tragedy didn’t stop there. The city was struck with problems with destroyed property, which unfortunately took a toll on a large chunk of the land.
Yettie had a large family and property with her husband, William Charles Polk and five children: Yettie, James, Florence, Marion, and William.
Earlier on the day of the flood, her husband and son William went into town in boats to help the locals build bridges, pulley systems to transport goods over the water, and offer assistance to the people. While Yettie and four of her children stayed at home during these stressful hours, water had washed over the three main business bridges over the town, also washing away her home.
After a day, the land was visible and the house was relocated as the bodies of the entire Polk family were found dead, besides her husband and oldest son who had survived the flood.
Although tragic, their memory resides in the historical landmark of Yettie Polk Park; a family-friendly place popular with dog training companies, musicians, and regular local gatherings.
Open to the public, the Bell County Museum on Main Street in Belton has a variety of books and pictures regarding many interesting events about the area. One story in particular stands as another historical landmark in town on North Pearl Street in what used to be the old Bell County Jail.
Today the building stands as a tax advisory office, but in the 1870s it was built for the purpose of keeping horse thieves, murderers, and other vigilantes. However, a jailer and his family lived on the top floor of the building, leaving the second floor for the entrance and prisoners on the first floor.
On May 26, 1874, a mob of about 200 or more vigilantes on horseback surrounded and later ambushed the jail. The criminals filed into the prison armed with axes, hatchets, guns, and crowbars. Being the only people on the top floor, the thugs transported the jailer and his daughter out of the jail for a 24-hour period.
Behind iron bars, the prisoners were made to believe they were being rescued. Instead, the mob shot nine of the vigilantes to death. The next day, the bodies of the deceased were piled into a wagon and transported to the cemetery to be dumped into a common grave. Stories have been told about the certain ghostly experiences inside of the building. The book “Bloody Bell County” by Rick Miler explains the local history in a whole new depth.
When looking through town today, many old buildings are still standing and operational. Several attractions around town can teach anyone interested in the beautiful, intriguing, and even spooky sites of Belton, Texas.
Courtesy Photo/Bell County Museum
As shown, the citizens of Belton formed a systematic pulley system in order to exchange materials with other people across the water.
Courtesy Photo/Bell County Museum
A photo shows the Polk residence, moved miles away from the property after a flood, and later found resting in what is known today as Yettie Polk Park.