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"A History of Williamsburg in Massachusetts"
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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When the Williamsburg, Massachusetts, reservoir dam broke, it flooded a valley lined with factories and farms and killed 139, making it the deadliest dam failure in the United States at the time. Over the years the reasons for the Mill River flood of 1874 have been muted, softened, and even ignored. In the 1940s, local historian Phyllis Baker Deming compiled this account of the flood for her "History of Williamsburg." While it is not the style of local history to lay blame, Deming barely mentioned the flood's cause, writing that "the direct cause of the disaster, aside from the general weakness of the dam, must remain a subject of speculation." After the flood, the coroner's jury and professional engineers firmly established that the flood was due to inadequacies in the dam's design and construction and negligence by the mill owners who owned the dam.
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