The Great Reservoir at Williamsburg breaks its bound.- As Immense Flood poured
through Williamsburg, Haydenville, Leeds and Florence.- Scores of Mills and
Dwellings swept away .- Whole Families carried down by the current.- About two
hundred lives lost.- Only Three Houses left standing in Leeds.- The Loss of
Property nearly a Million Dollars.
The most fearful disaster which has ever befallen Hampshire county, or, indeed,
Western Massachusetts, occurred Saturday, from the breaking away of the reservoir
in the town of Williamsburg. The reservoir gave away about 8 o'clock in the
forenoon, and the water came rushing down the hills, carrying everything before
it. It struck the southeastern portion of Williamsburg village about two miles
north of Haydenville, carrying away a large number of dwellings. Thence it swept
into Skinnerville, where it carried off Skinner's large silk mills, with several
female operatives. Skinner's boarding and dwelling houses were also swept off.
Continuing on its track of destruction, it struck the large brass manufactory
of Hayden, Gere & Co., at Haydenville, sweeping it away in an instant. The
flood then struck the village of Leeds, where a large number of shops, dwellings,
etc., were swept away, including Warren's button factory, of which only the
chimney remains to mark the spot.
The first intimation of the trouble at Leeds was a terrific roaring like a
freight train passing a bridge, and in an instant down came the flood. No water
was visible, but a wall of drift wood, thirty feet high and several hundred
feet wide, was seen sweeping down the valley at a rate of 20 miles an hour.
The flood first carried off the dam and a portion of the works of the Silk Company,
and then struck the company's boarding house near the upper store. Here Capt.
Vaughn, the depot master, and three women lost their lives. The bridge and lower
dam went west, and the flood then struck Main street, leaving only three homes
standing. Here was the greatest loss of life. Women and children rushed out
of doors only to be swallowed up in the fearful flood. Only two minutes notice
was given to the hands in the silk mill, but nearly all escaped, though eight
or ten met death on the street. Only the chimney remains of all the building.
The woolen mill was seen to lift up in the center and then crush together like
an eggshell, and in a moment the brick wall crumbled as if built of dust. The
boiler was carried nearly ten rods.
Mr. Dunning, an old man, was found drowned in the Warner button factory, with
several others. The drowned at Leeds also includes a French family of six children,
named Brouette, Mrs. Robert Fitzgerald and children, Edward Hannon, wife and
children, Gamwell Davis, Patrick O'Neil and Mrs. Hurley. Mrs. Hurley's daughter
was swept away, but was recovered and will survive. Eveline Sherwood, Mrs. Bonney
and her sister, Mrs. Jonathan Ryan, and two children, were also drowned. Twelve
houses at Leeds were swept away and part of the silk mill is gone.
Among those drowned at Haydenville were Mr. Kaplinger, a shoemaker, Jacob Hill,
Mrs. Jerome Hillman, three children of Samuel Miller, two children of E. H.
Thayer, a boy named Brodeur, Mr. Hitchcock and a son of Capt. Joseph Hayden.
At Haydenville, the stores of Elam Graves, M. Eams, and C. Rice were swept
At Williamsburg, Superintendent Birmingham, E. Hubbard, Dr. Johnson and his
wife and children were drowned.
H.L. James's woolen mill at Williamsburg is standing, but all around is swept
clean. Only two houses are left standing at Skinnerville. Skinnerville is a
suburb of Haydenville. The Hayden Manufacturing company's cotton mill stands.
Fennessey's lower store at Leeds is gone. The clerk, Charles Brady, was carried
down the stream. He caught a tree, and went over Hook's dam. He was afterwards
found alive in the Florence meadows.
At Northampton the iron bridge on the hospital road was swept away, taking
the Canal railroad bridge in its course. I stopped at the South street bridge.
One hundred people are homeless at Leeds alone. There are comparatively few
relatives to search for their dead as the flood usually carried off whole families.
The total loss of life was at least two hundred.
At fast as the bodies were found in the Florence meadows, they were taken to
William Warner's carpenter shop on the Florence road for identification. The
scene here was perfectly heart rendering. On the floor, in irregular order,
lay eighteen corpses of all ages, from a child two years old, to the woman of
70. Near the door with a tearful gash in the forehead, was the body of Ralph
Isham, the book-keeper of the Critchlow button mill. Over in the corner was
the widow Fitzgerald, while all around were blackened corpses, with their clothes
half torn off, and in some instances terribly mangled. Twenty-two bodies had
been found on Saturday in the Florence meadows, and six at Leeds. Scores of
corpses are doubtless buried in the debris that covers all the meadows from
Florence to Williamsburg.
The total loss cannot fall below $800,000, and may amount to a million. A.
P. Critchlow and his son-in-law, George Warren, lose $100,000: the Nonotuck
Silk company $25,000: W. F. Quigley, $10,000. in house, barn, and stock.
The town of Northampton loses about $50,000 in bridges and roads. The Williamsburg
reservoir which was only built about six years ago, and contained 100 acres,
averaging 15 feet deep. It was situated about three miles above the town. A
man ran his team into Williamsburg ahead of the flood, and gave the alarm, and
his horse dropped dead as soon as he arrived, so fast was he driven.
We learn the following additional names of the drowned: Williamsburg- Elbridge
G. Kingsley, Elbridge G. Kingsley, Jr., wife and two children, Mrs. E. Johnson,
Mrs. Hubbard, daughter (Mrs. Wood) and child, Mr. Adams of grist mill: Leeds-
Mr. Vaughn, Mr. Hitchcock: Haydenville- Mrs. Chandler and child, Mrs. Roberts
and children, Spencer Bartlett and wife, Mrs. Kiplinger and two children, Mrs.
Jacob Hill, Mr. Burmingham, wife and daughter, Capt. J. Hayden and son. There
is a long list of missing. Yesterday upwards of 160 bodies were found, many
of whom could not be identified. Thousands of people, from towns within radius
of many miles, flocked to the scene of disaster, and the roads were blocked
with vehicles. The horrors of the terrible catastrophe are beyond description.-
Gazette and Courier.