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"Harper's Weekly Journal of Civilization" illustrations of Mill River Disaster Flood
(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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The Mill River flood of 1874 captured the imagination and sympathy of a nation preoccupied with disasters. Three weeks after the flood (in which a reservoir dam failed in western Massachusetts and killed 139, making it the most deadly dam failure in the U.S. at the time), the national magazine "Harper's Weekly" (circulation 160,000) featured the flood's heroes on its cover. When the dam's gatekeeper, George Cheney, saw the dam begin to crumble, he raced downstream on his bareback horse to warn residents of the coming disaster. Collins Graves, a milkman on his morning route, picked up Cheney's alarm and sped ahead of the flood to warn residents in the villages downstream. Cheney and Graves saved the lives of hundreds and achieved national celebrity. Harper's correctly asserted that one of the affects of the flood would be the permanent distrust among people living downstream from man-made reservoirs.
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