Williamsburg, MA Mill River Dam Break and Flood Catastrophe, May 1874
TERRIBLE CATASTROPHE !!
BURSTING OF A WATER RESERVOIR IN MASSACHUSETTS !!
EVERYTHING CARRIED BEFORE THE TORRENT !!
FOUR VILLAGES ALMOST DEMOLISHED !!
NEARLY 200 LIVES LOST !!
ABOUT $2,000,000 WORTH OF PROPERTY DESTROYED !!
Northampton, Mass., May 16. -- Not far from eight o'clock this morning the peaceful residents of Williamsburg were startled by the appearance of a horse dashing madly through the streets, while his rider shouted to the people to escape for their lives, for the reservoir had given way and the waters were coming down upon them.
Scarcely comprehending the dreadful tidings, but with the instinct of self-preservation strong within them, the people began to rush from their homes, while the foam-flecked animal that had so gallantly brought the messenger sunk to the ground, utterly exhausted. Another horse was quickly secured, and the messenger was borne to other villages but the alarm was so sudden that all did not hear it, and scores were caught by the swiftly rolling waters and grand dames, innocent children and strong men were alike overwhelmed by the flood or crushed beneath the falling walls of their houses. Up among the hills of Goshen there was a large reservoir of about one hundred and four acres in extent, where the various mill operators of Williamsburg, Skinnerville, Haydensville and Leeds were to store their summer supply of water. People living in the vicinity of the dam say that it has been leaking more or less for several weeks, and it is believed that having thus gradually undermined the dam, the water acquired strong headway, and suddenly the dam gave way and the immense body of water poured out in its strength, carrying everything before it. The torrent rushed upon the doomed villages with a loud roar, apparently a large advancing billow of underbrush and debris issuing rapidly through the deep gorges to a height of forty feet, and again spreading out a wide expanse of seething angry waves as it reached the more open country.
Reaching the beautiful village of Williamsburg, some two and a half miles distant, it struck a small button factory, sweeping it out of existence.
Next a saw and grist mill was attacked and melted, not a vestige remaining. Houses, barns and shops followed like grass before a scythe, and men, women and children were caught and borne away, struggling and shrieking in vain.
On the waves swept to Skinnersville, two miles distant, a silk factory being hurled down, a huge iron boiler being carried nearly half a mile and landed high and dry. In Haydersville, about one mile further on, the bank building, a three-story brick structure, was swept away, scarcely one brick being left upon another, the money in the vault sharing the same fate.