Manchester, NH Amsokeag Falls Flood, Mar 1859
March 18, 1859, the very flood-gates of the heavens seemed to have been suddenly opened, and for forty-eight hours the rain fell in torrents. The temperature was warm, and the frozen flooring of the river was so broken up by the storm that it resulted in the worst ice freshet the oldest inhabitant could recall. By the time the weather had cleared the river below the falls was comparatively free of obstructions, but above, during Saturday night, great cargoes of ice were swept down in huge floes that threatened to carry everything before them. Sunday morning, March 20th, while the people were at church, the news was spread that the bridge at Hooksett had been carried off and was coming down the river amid the icy debris of the flood.
A crowd gathered at Amoskeag to watch for the wreck, fearful that its coming meant the destruction of both dam and bridge there. The expected object came in sight about 2.30 o’clock in the afternoon, when excitement rose to a feverish pitch. An eyewitness, describing the scene, says: “The bridge came in sight in two pieces, looking in the distance, packed in among the floating ice, like two large ferryboats with monkey rails.” Suddenly one part took the current and went down the west side of the river, where the logs came from the boom, and the other took the east side, avoiding the main falls, and coming into the canal channel. As it came under the bridge it struck some boards with a crash, and at that moment a carriage came upon the bridge, and a woman mistaking the noise of the carriage for the sound of the departing bridge, screamed and ran, and the idea became general that the whole was going, and such a stampede, a rushing for terra firma!
“As the floating wreck struck the bridge it swung with the east side current and steered for the gate house, which seemed doomed to destruction for a few minutes. But the wreck, carried on like a helpless body, struck the high wall of the canal, and again swinging at the mercy of the flood, after a brief suspension on the brink, plunged into the boiling abyss below, coming out only in shattered fragments to be soon lost to sight.
“The scene at Amoskeag Falls during the afternoon was grand beyond description. It seemed as if the river would run itself to death, and such a flood of water, ice, wood, timber, rushed by. Most of the underpinning of the gate house was knocked away, “Ben’s bridge” at the island was saved only by the ice that backed up from below.”
The Amoskeag Manufacturing Co. of Manchester, New Hampshire: a history, pages 178-180