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Fayston, VT Landslide, Jul 1897


One Hundred and Twenty Acres of Land Swept from Mountain Top to Valley Below.


Fortunately No Person Was Injured Though Several Families Were in Imminent Peril--Crops Badly Injured--Mr. Mehuron's Experience.

RUTLAND, Vt., July 31.--The tremendous force of the avalanche, or landslide, Wednesday hurled 120 acres of land into a valley below, and the people living at the base of the mountain narrowly escaped destruction. The avalanche ran over a three-mile course. The devastation wrought in Mad River Valley by the recent floods and the havoc and ruin left in the track of the landslide of Lincoln Mountain, in Fayston, Washington County, near the centre of the State, and some thirty-six miles from this city, are almost beyond description.

Bad as was the flood of last week in the Mad RiverValley, this was no the firs time that section had been visited by high water. The worst flood in the history of the valley was in July, 1830, when it carried off the dam at Wartsfield, a near-by village, and a large portion of the land lying in the valley between Wartsfield and Moretown was under several feet of water. Again, in July, 1850, and in October, 1869, disastrous floods swept through the valley, ruining all the crops, carrying away bridges, mills, and dwellings and tearing out the highways.

The farmers along the Mad River suffered very little damage by the high water, but after the river leaves Moretown the effects fo the flood are still plainly visible. In the lower portion of the valley but a small amount of hay had been mowed, and a careful and conservative estimate shows that at least 300 acres of heavy grass, corn, oats, and potatoes were practically ruined. The muddy water deposited sediment in the hay, which renders it unfit for feed and worthless except for bedding for domestic animals. On one of the most fertile farms the owner would be glad to give it therefrom. When the current of the river was not swift, potatoes were not so badly damaged, but the corn is prostrated, and under the most favorable circumstances from now until harvest will be poor and stunted, yielding but half the usual crop.

The Fayston Landslide.

An occasional elderly resident of Waitsfield or Fayston can be found who recalls a great landslide of June 3, 1827, when about 100 acres of heavily timbered land slid off of Fayston Mountain and was deposited in the valley beneath. But it will be many a year before the "oldest inhabitant" of that section of Central Vermont will cease to talk of the occurrences of last Wednesday morning, when one of the most extensive avalanches ever known in Vermont and possibly New England, without warning came rushing down Warren and Fayston Mountain.

A reporter visited the scene and climbed the three miles that intervenes between the immense mounds of debris in the valley to its starting point far up the mountain. After a drive of four miles from the village of Waitsfield, the home of Hollis Mehuron, near the foot of the mountain, was reached. Mr. Mehuron's farm buildings were directly in the track of the avalanche, and it seems a providence that about 100 rods toward the mountain, from his buildings, the avalanche took a sharp turn, following the course of a brook and passed between the buildings of Mr. Mehuron and Julius Hickory. Mr. Mehuron lost a large portion of this crops.

The top of the slide was in the town of Warren. An immense rock, estimated to weigh nearly 200 tons, fell that morning, a distance of ten rods from a nearly perpendicular height and where this immense boulder struck was the beginning of the slide. It started nearly at the top of the mountain at two separate points, and after a distance of about 100 rods the two come together and the combined avalanches went thundering and crashing down to the foot of the mountain, nearly three miles, and its momentum carried it nearly a mile further upon comparatively level ground. A small brook trickles down the mountain side in this valley that was swept by the landslide, and this stream was swollen to a raging torrent. Nearly 120 acres of heavily wooded spruce timber land went down in the slide, leaving the rocks behind almost perfectly bare. The average width of the avalanche was twenty rods, and at several points near the top of the slide it was at least sixty feet deep. The noise was deafening, and was heard at a distance of five miles or more. The avalanche made two sharp turns--one about a half a mile from the top of the slide and again as it left the forest just back of the residence of Hollis Mehuron.

Peril of the Bettis Family.

The last house under the mountain is occupied by Charles Bettis. The slide passed so close to his dwelling that the trunks of the huge trees that were carried down came within a very few feet of his barn, and during the fifteen minutes that the seething mass was passing his home his feelings and those of the family can only be imagined. They supposed the whole mountain was coming down upon them, and expected every moment that their cozy home would be crushed and themselves hurled into eternity.

About half way from the starting point to the valley below, the force of the avalanche was so tremendous that it tore out the logs, rocks and debris deposited in its path by the old landslide of seventy years ago. The logs, were in a remarkable state of preservation, and bore the appearance of having lain only a very few years.

The land that was swept out of existence was owned by C. A. Mehuron, G. M. Billings, and Fred Parker, and although it was covered with heavy spruce timber, so far was it from civilization that these gentlemen estimate their loss a the surprisingly low figure of $100 each.

By actual measurement, it was 3,894 feet above the level of the sea when the slide started, and 1,478 feet above the level of the sea when it was deposited in the valley, making an actual fall of 2,461 feet.

Mr. Mehuron's Experience.

Mr. Mehuron and his son talked freely of the experiences through which they had passed. Mr. Mehuron said: "I was working in my potato patch, right in the track of the slide, when I heard an awful noise, which I first thought was thunder, but I soon discovered that something was coming down the mountain. About this time my women folks came running over the hill to where I was, and told me to come back, that the mountain was all sliding down upon us. I ran back to the house, and by that time the thing was in sight. It was heading right straight for my buildings, and I expected nothing but that we would all be killed and the buildings crushed, but the slide followed the course of the brook, and we were safe. My potatoes, my grain, and my mowing were all ruined, but I am happy to think we are all alive and safe."

Just beyond Mr. Mehuron's across the valley, which the avalanche followed, is the home of Julius Hickory. He and his family suffered a terrible fright, as they expected every moment to see their buildings swept away but, aside from the damage to his land by the flood wood, Mr. Hickory was not a sufferer.

The force of the avalanche was shown somewhat when it was attempted to cut through the mass that was left in the highway between the two residences. The logs, limbs, roots, boulders, gravel, and mud were all in such a compact mass that it was impossible to tear them apart with horses and oxen, and in order to clear the highway it was actually necessary to cut a passage through the mound that was left directly in the road. Mr. Mehuron is of opinion that he will be compelled to use dynamite to loosen the heaps or mounds that were left in every direction scattered over his fields.

A trip through the canyon that was left in the track of the slide gave an added idea of the tremendous force. Birch, spruce, and hemlock trees two feet and more in diameter were twisted off, and the churning process which they went through before they reached the level land where they were deposited stripped them of bark and limbs as clear as it could have done with an axe.

The Fayston landslide of 1897 will pass into history as one of the most notable events in the history of Vermont during the closing years of the nineteenth century.

The New York Times, New York, NY 1 Aug 1897


Landslide.---The most remarkable event during the July flood was the landslide on Faysotn mountain. This was one of the heaviest avalanches ever known in the State. The top of the slide was in the town of Warren. A rock estimated to weigh nearly 200 tons fell ten rods from a nearly perpendicular height, and where this immense bowlder[sic] strcuk was the beginning of the slide. It started nearly at the top fo the mountain at two points, and after a distance of about 100 rods the two came together and the combined avalanche went crashing to the foot of the mountain, nearly three miles, and its momentum carried it nearly a mile farther upon comparatively level ground. About 120 acres of heavily wooded spruce timber land went down in the slide, leaving the rocks almost bare. The average width of the avalanche was 20 rods, and at several points near the top of the slide it was at least 60 feet deep. The noise was heard five miles and more. The actual fall was 2,416 feet.

Appletons' Annual Cyclopaedia and Register of Important Events, 1899

article | by Dr. Radut