Grunewald painted several views of the aftermath of the devastating 1862 flood on the Lehigh River and Monocacy Creek. This natural disaster was the worst experienced to that time in the Lehigh Valley. This painting was done from photographic source material executed by Grunewald himself.
“The lumber piled in disarray at the site of the destroyed covered bridge on the Lehigh River in Bethlehem is not the wreckage of the bridge but new lumber . . . It might be understood to represent a hopeful symbol, placed there to commence rebuilding. However, if we were to investigate conditions north on the Lehigh River at White Haven, we would have found a major center for lumber production in the United States. Although rarely recorded in photographs, and never to be seen in Grunewald’s paintings or drawings, there was barely a tree left standing in the region; clear-cut deforestation had destroyed the watershed of the Lehigh River basin. When the great rain came in June 1862, the dams on the river—strategically placed to float the logs and rough-cut lumber to sawmills and tanneries as far south as Allentown, Bethlehem, and Philadelphia—were destroyed by hundreds of thousands of board feet pushed before the flood.”