March 1913, The Great Dayton Flood. Rising waters drove people to treetops and attics. People were spotted on rooftops, stranded, but were not able to be rescued. Survivors recount tragic tales, including watching a two-story house floating by, a man, woman, and child stranded helplessly at their front door. As the house was swept along with the current, on an ill-fated journey into the Dayton View Bridge, the man closed the front door suddenly. Moments later, the distinct sound of two gunshots was heard from inside.
Enter William “Bill” G. Sloan.
Bill Sloan was a left-handed pitcher for the Marcos, one of the 8 teams to form the Negro National League in baseball. Although a lot can be said about his athletic accomplishments, his actions during the flood were enormous.
Seeing the increasing damage, Bill felt he had no choice. Spotting an unused steel-bottomed boat, Bill first asked the owner of the boat if he could use it, when the owner refused, Bill had to commandeer it at gunpoint.
Over the next 68 hours, Bill worked tirelessly, rescuing 317 people – including his own son James, who was roughly a year old at the time.
A year after the flood, Bill was hurt in a construction accident, which, according to his son, “caused his mind to go bad.”
Bill died in 1931, at age 41. He was buried in Woodland Cemetery in an unmarked grave until 2013. An anonymous donor paid for the stone after hearing Bill’s story and learning he had no marker where he is buried. The Good Samaritan wishes to remain anonymous, wanting the focus to be on Bill and his actions during the flood.
The stone reads:
William G. Sloan
Southpaw pitcher for the Dayton Marcos
Hero of the 1913 Great Dayton Flood
Saving over 300 Souls
“I wanted the epitaph to capture who he was,” the Good Samaritan said. “If 100 years from now somebody walks by that tombstone and tries to figure out who the guy was, I wanted enough gems to be there to catch their interest and maybe they’ll do some research of their own on him. Hopefully, he won’t be forgotten anymore. A guy like that shouldn’t be lost.”