Popular Science Monthly/Volume 26/April 1885/Correspondence
IN the November issue of your valuable "Monthly" I have read with much pleasure and profit Mr. S. W. Powell's article entitled "Drowning the Torrent in Vegetation"; and, in closing, he writes, "In the recent Ohio floods the States which suffered most—Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois—were not those where most of the deforesting was done which caused the floods."
While I heartily agree with him that the removal of our forests adds largely to the destructiveness of the floods, yet I do not agree with him that to that cause can be attributed the greater portion of their destructiveness, and especially in Western Pennsylvania and Ohio, where the larger portion of the water came from that did the damage in Cincinnati and the Ohio Valley above.
My theory is, that the increasing destructiveness of the floods in the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys is mainly due to the rapid increase of tile-drainage throughout Pennsylvania and Ohio, and in small portions of West Virginia, and the entire country drained by the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries.
The facts are, that the increase of destructiveness of the floods in the Ohio Valley has been in a ratio corresponding with the increase of tile-drainage—as near as the statistics obtainable concerning the latter will show.
It is not the writer's purpose to discuss the matter at any length in this letter, but merely to call the attention of the reader to its probable truth or falsity.
It is a well-known fact that a goodly portion of the land lying between the Alleghany Mountains and a line drawn north and south through Dakota, Kansas, and Nebraska, and bounded on the south by West Virginia, Kentucky, and Arkansas, is more or less of a swampy nature, retaining the water as it falls—somewhat as a sponge would—and has, until very recently, been left in its natural state.
The rapid increase of population of the country has caused an increased demand for land, and, taken in connection with the improved machinery for making tile having reduced the price of tile to a mere nominal figure, has caused farmers to improve their damp and swamp lands, as well as much uplying land, by tile-drainage.
The effect of this has been to cause the water from melting snow and rain-storms to immediately discharge itself into the water-courses; whereas formerly from these swampy lands it ran off very slowly, and the same volume of water, that with tile-drains is discharged now in twenty-four to forty-eight hours, originally took from seventy-two to one hundred and twenty hours to discharge.
The best statistics obtainable show that tile-drainage has doubled since 1878, and will undoubtedly continue to increase very rapidly, because it has been found to prove advantageous to all lands, and I am informed that there is one farmer in this State who has, during the year 1884, laid upward of eleven miles of tile-drains upon his farms.
The writer predicts that but few years will pass before several of the lower streets of Cincinnati will be abandoned to the flood, and that many towns along the valleys will also be partially swept away and not rebuilt.
The only things which will prevent this will be slight rainfalls and very gradual thawing of the snow, whenever the latter falls to an extent to produce an amount of water that will cause a flood.
Farmers will not slop laying tile, because they have found it to be a paying investment, rendering swamp-lands tillable, and increasing the yield and sureness of crops upon the upland, as well as rendering it much more easy of cultivation. Consequently, it looks to us as though the dwellers in the "bottoms" must go.
|Yours truly, James F. Slater.|
|Highland Park, Illinois, November 22, 1884.|
It may be of interest to state that our severe winter in this locality has been as unexpected and unprepared for by our small four-footed friends the musk-rats as by the human population. For many years our weather-wise people have based their predictions of severe or open winters on the manner in which the musk-rats built their houses. Last fall's indications were for a mild season, as the houses were exceptionally light and unsubstantial. Now the poor rats arc suffering for their lack of foresight, and run about in the daytime, seemingly bewildered and dazed by the extreme cold, and fall easy victims to the small boys, who capture them with little trouble.
I have never been a believer in the superior knowledge of animals in foretelling weather, and this corroborates my ideas upon the subject.Respectfully,
|E. G. Mason.|
|Madison, Wisconsin, February 19, 1885.|
Referring to Dr. Hamilton's excellent article on "Medical Expert Testimony" in the March "Science Monthly," I am reminded of a very amusing incident reported in the "Daily Register" of this city a few months since. A negligence case was on trial in one of our courts. A physician was called as an expert, who testified that the plaintiff was suffering from the remote effects of an injury to the vaso-motor system of nerves, and would in time become insane. Being cross-examined with some severity, the doctor was asked, among other things, concerning his familiarity with Gross, "On the Recent and Remote Effects of Head-Injuries"; Lanery, "On Injuries of the Head"; Zehmayer, "On the Subsequent Effects of Nervous Shock"; and Carson, on "The Surgery of the Head," and he testified that he had read these books, and his library contained them all.
The opposing counsel called to the witness-stand a clerk from his office, who testified that the works above named were fictitious, and the titles were invented by him to expose the doctor's ignorance! In addition to Dr. Hamilton's very logical protest against the proposed appointment of a board of experts to be used on all occasions like a court crier or interpreter, I know of no more forcible protest than the above incident. These pedantic "experts" would be the only physicians who could afford to accept the position for its slender emolument, and men of Dr. Hamilton's caliber, who are the only men who ever should be called, would be wholly excluded!
|A. W. Gleason.|
|New York, February 20, 1885.|