The winter of 1937 was especially severe over the entire nation. Unusual snows fell in the Northwest and blanketed the country for many days. But it was in the East that tragedy really struck. Heavy and protracted rains fell steadily for weeks, feeding the many tributaries that flow into the great Ohio River which drains the large area west of the Appalachians.
Gradually the level of the river passed the flood stage. Large populations living on the banks of the Ohio noted this with no little apprehension and alarm, yet they saw no sign of abatement in the flood of water that sought outlet down the valley. Day by day the waters continued to rise. Dikes and levees were strengthened, but the people knew that a break-through need occur at only one point to allow the water to fan out and flood the vast areas of farmland and even the cities that had been built along the river.
On the north bank of the Ohio River, opposite Louisville, Kentucky, is the city of Jeffersonville, Indiana. Of all who lived in the city, to none perhaps did the ominous threat of a flood appear at a more inopportune time, than to William Branham. His wife had contracted a serious lung infection while shopping across the river at Louisville. Because of this circumstance, his whole attention and interest was centered on her recovery. But now news reached them, as well as the other inhabitants of the town, that the crest of the flood was slowly moving downstream, and to all appearances the softened levees could not take much more. It appeared that Jeffersonville was doomed; still many of the people stayed on.
Remember, it was six months previous that William Branham had prophesied to his Church congregation that he saw a Angel come down from heaven with a large measuring rod and measured 22 feet of water on Spring street in Jeffersonville. Now the reality of his prophecy was dawning - no doubt those who laughed at the prophecy, now watched in fear as the flood waters began to rise.
As night fell, William Branham was on duty, working with the rescue squad as they patrolled the angry waters of the rising river. At midnight their worst fears were realized. The whistles began to blow, warning everyone to leave the city. Sirens at the fire stations screamed out into the night. The Branham family, and thousands of others were forced to flee for their lives.
The wife, being seriously ill and in no condition to be taken out into the storm, had to be removed to a temporary hospital set up by the government, which was located on higher ground. The exposure resulted in both of their babies becoming seriously ill with pneumonia. The father took them to the hospital also, where they were taken care of on hastily improvised beds, where scores of other victims were awaiting the attention of the overworked staff. It was a terribly poor place for a hospital, and to make matters worse the doors kept swinging back and forth; people were rushing in and out, crying hysterically, their homes having been swept away in the strong current.
Much as he wanted to stay by his loved ones, the young minister realized that he had a responsibility to go back and assist the rescue squad which had been working frantically night and day. Tragedy was being enacted at many points as the waters relentlessly poured through the city and out over the countryside.
He was told to go to a certain street where the
water had shaken the houses from their foundations. Maneuvering his boat
down through the raging waters of this area, the young minister's
attention was diverted to a pitiful scene. A mother and her children,
standing on the upstairs porch of a house, were waving frantically, and
calling to him for help. At this dramatic moment in the narrative, we
shall let Brother Branham describe in his own words the things
I heard someone screaming, and looking up, saw a mother with her children standing on the upstairs porch of a teetering house, the big waves dashing against it. I had lived on the river practically all my life, and I thought perhaps I could help rescue the woman, even if it meant risking my own life for her and her little children, so I started toward the house. After I finally got them all into the boat, the lady almost fainted... She kept moaning something about her baby and I thought maybe she had left her baby in the house. So after I had gotten them safely on high ground, I tried to go back. But it was too late; the water was coming too fast now, and I was caught in the current.
Oh, I'll never forget how I felt then. So many things passed through my mind; how I tried to live a good Christian life, preach the word, do the best I knew how, but it seemed that everything was against me now.
When I finally got my boat under control and landed it, I tried to make my way to the government hospital (it had been four hours since I had left), but upon arriving found that the water had broken in behind there and all the people had to be evacuated. I didn't know where my wife was and no one could tell me. Oh, how sad I was in that hour. I kept inquiring and was finally told by an officer that they had been sent out on a train that was going toward Charlestown, a city about 12 miles above Jeffersonville, where I rushed quickly to see if I could get to them.
A little creek just above us had overflowed its banks, making about five miles of swift rushing water between there and Charlestown; washing the farmers' homes away, and I knew that the train would have to go right through this territory. I had no way of knowing whether it had gotten through before the water broke or whether it had been washed off the track...
For quite some time I was able to learn nothing, but then I heard that the train made it through. I got a speedboat and tried to go against the waters, but it was just too much. The water pinned me in and I was marooned in a place called Fort Fulton with several friends for almost two weeks. Our food supply was very low and I was still in the dark about my wife and babies.
As soon as the waters went down enough for me to get my truck through, I went out to look for her. I didn't know whether my wife, babies, mother and brother were dead or alive. There God kept talking to my heart, and I could just imagine what it must be for those that have no hope in such an hour.
The next day I crossed the waters and began my search in Charlestown. No one there knew anything about a train coming in, or had heard of anyone by the name of Branham. Heartsick and burdened, I began walking down the street, not knowing what to do or where to go. It was then that an old friend, Mr. Hay, walked up to me. He threw his arms around me and trying to encourage me, he said, "Billy, we'll find them somewhere!"
I went down to the office of the train dispatcher and inquired when the train had come through, and where it had gone; but he was no help either. It had been two weeks before, and there had been more and more washouts, and he thought it went farther up in Indiana somewhere. An engineer standing nearby spoke up and said, "Oh, I remember that case. A mother with two little sick babies. We put them off at Columbus." He said, "Young man, you can't possibly get up there, as the waters have all trains cut off."
But I was going to find her anyway. I just started walking down the road, crying, with my hat in my hands. Oh, my! This brings back vivid memories again to think of it. But i hadn't been walking long when a car pulled up beside me, and the voice of a good friend exclaimed, "Billy Branham! Get in. I believe you are looking for your wife and babies!" I answered, "Yes." He said, "They're at Columbus in the hospital. Your wife's nearly dead.
"Is there any way we can get there?" I inquired frantically.
He answered, "I can take you there; I have found a way through some back lanes, by-passing the water." We got to Columbus that night.
His Wife Is Into Glory
An intern asked me, "Aren't you a friend of Dr. Sam Adair?" I said, "Yes." Turning to look at me he said, "I must tell you, Reverend; your wife is going." I was just a young man - I pleaded, "Surely not." With a sad look on his face he said, "Yes", and turned away.
Having given up all hope of survival for my wife, Dr. Adair gave me permission to take Hope and the babies home. I returned to the house, and tried to clean it up as best as I could from the results of the flood. My heart was heavy but I tried to make the place as comfortable as possible for them. I fought a hard battle to save them. No specialist could do anything for them... It was just useless; they were too far gone. But I'm sure my wife didn't know this at the time.
She was brave all the way through. We returned her to the hospital so she could get the right kind of treatment. Nothing would do any good. We took an X-ray and found tuberculosis creeping deeper and deeper into her lungs.
One day they called me from work... (I was working, trying to get out of debt. I had to go hundreds of dollars into debt.)... I was told, "If you want to see your wife alive, you'd better come now!" I got into the car and rushed to the city as fast as I could. I rushed upstairs and down the hall, and the first person I saw was my little friend, Dr. Adair. We had been just like brothers, all our lives. I knew when I looked at him that he had bad news. He said, "I'm afraid she's gone now." He covered his face and went into the little anteroom. I struggled to hold myself together; I pleaded, "Come, go in with me, Doc." "I can't," he answered, "she was just like a sister to me. I can't go back in there, Bill."
I started in alone, and he called a nurse to go in with me When I saw her I felt, too, that she was gone. The sheet was pulled up over her face. I pulled the sheet back. She was only a skeleton of her former self... so thin and pale... Oh, my! I took her in my arms and began to shake her. I cried, "Honey, answer me!... God, please let her speak to me once more." She was already crossing over the line...
But suddenly she turned to look back at me. She opened those big, lovely, soft brown eyes. She started to raise her arms to receive me, but she was too weak; so I got down closer to her. I knew she wanted to tell me something. Friends, let tell you a little of what she told me. It will be in my memory until the day I meet her.
She said, "I was almost home. Why did you call me? I was being escorted Home by Heavenly Beings" I told her I didn't know I interrupted anything. She began telling me about the paradise I had called her from, how it looked... lovely trees and flowers, birds singing, not a pain in her body. For a moment I thought that perhaps I shouldn't have called her... (But, bless her heart... she's been enjoying that place a long time now.) She revived for a few moments and told me how she was being taken home by some Angelic Beings. She heard me way off in the distance calling. Friends, there is a land beyond the river, somewhere in the far beyond. Maybe millions of light years away, but it's there... and we're traveling that way. She described how beautiful it was. She said, "Honey, you've preached of it, you've talked of it, but you can't know how glorious it is." She wanted so much to go back.
She studied a moment and then said, "There are two or three things I want you to know." Weakly whispering she told me of the time that she had asked me to buy some chiffon stockings for her. I had bought rayon - I didn't know the difference. Not wanting to embarrass me, she gave them to my mother and bought the right kind herself. In her dying hour she wanted to make it right.
Her life was slowly ebbing away, but there were things that she just want to tell me. She said, "You remember the rifle you wanted to buy in Louisville and we couldn't afford it?" (How well I remembered... I've always been a hunter, and when I saw that particular rifle I thought how much I would like to have it.) "Yes," I said, trying to keep the tears out of her sight. Still whispering she said, "I've been saving my nickels and dimes to buy it for you. Its just about over for me, but when you get home you'll find the money lying under a paper on top of the old sideboard."
You'll never know how I felt when I found that six or seven dollars she had been putting back all that time for that rifle. I bought it and still have it, and intend to keep it as long as I can, and then give it to my little boy.
Her Last Words
"Don't think I'm beside myself", she whispered. "Billy", she said, "Do you know where we made out mistake?" Kneeling down beside her I said, "Yes, Sweetheart, I do."
She said, "We should have never listened to Mama. Them people were right. Promise me that you'll go to them people and raise my children like that." Then she nearly broke my heart when she said, "Promise me that you'll not stay single. Marry some good, Christian girl to raise my children." Turning to the nurse she said, "I hope you will have as good a husband as I have had." Looking back to me she said, "Bill, God is going to use you."
I said, "Darling. when you get up to the New
Jerusalem... look for the east side of the gate and start calling my
name... When you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Paul and Stephen and all of
them coming up, I'll be there, Darling." She pulled me down to her and
kissed me good-bye... Then she went to be with God.