Maine Freshet, Mar 1846

The Freshet of 1846.

The melting of the snow and ice in the spring almost always produces a freshet in some portion of New England. In March, 1846, much damage was done by the rise of the water in several streams in New Hampshire and Maine.

At the great falls in Somersworth, in New Hampshire, on the Salmon Falls river, the dam was washed away on the morning of the twenty-sixth of the month, and on the same day the railroad bridge over the river at Saco, Maine, was somewhat injured the trains to and from Portland being hindered several hours. On the Andrescoggin river the greatest amount of damage was done a the flourishing little village of Livermore Falls, which was swept almost entirely away. Seventeen stores and houses with all that was in them were floated down the river. The rise of the water was so sudden that the people had no time to save any of their property. On the Kennebec river, the freshet was the most destructive ever known. In Hallowell, the principal street in the lower and central parts of the town was flooded, and the river was filled with floating ice and lumber. At Gardiner, the water rose with great rapidity until it broke up the ice which was two feet thick, and then covered the lower streets of the town, filling cellars, and carrying away lumber and several store-houses, barns and other buildings.

On the Penobscot river there was great destruction of property. At several places the ice had been broken up and great jams had been formed, which caused the water to flow its banks for a long distance back, doing great injury. As soon as the water was of sufficient height and weight if forced the ice-dam down the stream until it was again blocked, carrying away property as it proceeded on its way. Above Orono the mills were undisturbed; but below that town one of the jams removed from the place called the Basin, at some distance from the channel, a block of seventeen mills, which were among the most valuable ones on the river. They were owned principally by a New York company, but for several seasons had been leased to lumber merchants in Bangor. In the northern part of Bangor, immediately below the forty mills of the "Corporation," or "City mills," another great jam of ice formed, gently endangering the twenty-two saw-mills and a large number of clapboard, shingle and lath-mills below owned by John Fiske of Bangor. A part of the ice soon after gave way, letting down a considerable amount of the water, which relieved the mills.

The Franklin or upper bridge over the Kenduskeag river was carried down the stream, and the middle of Smith's bridge subsequently followed it, together with a portion of the lower of Kenduskeag bridge. A large wooden block on the east end of the latter bridge was taken off its foundation, and the water filled nearly the whole of the first story of the market house on the bridge.

The jam gave way about midnight, and passed partly by the city. This let the water down so much that it inundated the lower part of the town, including the whole of Market square, and Broad , Wall, and Exchange streets and a large portion of Maine street to the depth of several feet. The deluge came so suddenly that the people in the square at the time were obliged to wade through water a yard deep to reach dry ground. It rose five feet in five minutes, and continued to rise.

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