The Reservoir Disaster.
We give on our outside a connected account of the terrible disaster in Hampshire
County. Below we give other incidents.
A funeral took place here Monday which is without parallel. Among the arrivals
of bereaved and lonely mourners at Leeds, was one young man named Fitzgerald,
of New Haven, who started as soon as he heard of the disaster to ascertain the
fate of an aged father, mother, grandmother, and seven brothers and sisters.
He found the homestead swept away, and was told by a surviving neighbor that
all his kindred were drowned. The bodies were among the first recovered, and
all were buried twenty or twenty -fours hours before his arrival. The remains
of the mother were found with the lower limbs separated from the body, and one
of the limbs was buried by itself before it was known whom it belonged.
The most wholesale destruction of life is reported in the case of Andrew Finnessey,
a merchant of Leeds, whose family numbered thirteen, all but three of whom,
including the father and mother, were lost. The oldest surviving child, a Miss
of 16, applied to the Committee of Relief for clothing herself and two sisters,
and was supplied.
Hardly any more convincing evidence of the violence of the flood is furnished
than by the fact that but two bridges remain along the ten miles' course which
the waters swept, and these two- the Connecticut River railroad bridge and the
old traveled bridge at Northampton- are the very end of its path. But one dam,
that of the Nonotuck silk factory at Florence, is left upon the stream.
A little babe, seven month old, was found near the Williamsburg depot so disposed
among the wrecks as to be entirely unharmed.
Detailed estimates for repairing the highways and bridges in the devastated
villages have been prepared, and are considerably in excess of the first statements.
The figures presented for the consideration of the legislative committee, were
as follows: For new road from Williamsburg to Ashfield, $20,000: for restoring
Bullard's and Hills' bridges in Williamsburg, $3000 and $800 respectively: for
restoring Mill street and the Mill street bridge, $11,000: for a new street
from Mill street to the Williamsburg depot, including two bridges and protections,
carrying them above high water mark, $30,000: for a new road from L. W. Carr's
house in Williamsburg to Haydenville center, $25,000: and for three bridges
on the same road, $15,000: three bridges in Haydenville, $18,000: road through
Haydenville to Northampton line, $7000: total, $137,000.
Some idea of the vast amount of soil washed away, by the breaking of the reservoir
may be obtained from the fact that upward of four inches of soil earth deposit
was left on the carpets of houses, the floors of which were flooded by water
only two feet in depth. This amount of sediment gathered where the water was
in the rooms scarcely fifteen minutes, probably half the sediment held in solution
being carried away with the retiring flood. The huge deposits on the meadows,
showing like a desert on every hand, also indicate the vast amount of earth
and sand swept from the valley above. The farm of John F. Warner, located about
midway between Florence and Leeds, suffered damage by the flood to the amount
The disaster has again demonstrated the great value of the Northampton dike,
but for which the entire territory within its limits would have been submerged
from three to six feet deep, and a stream of water three or four feet in depth
would have swept the entire length of Maple street, causing great destruction
of property, if not loss of life. The dike, however, proved a complete barrier,
and the people and houses within its limits were just as safe as if they had
been on a high hill. To the dike is also due to safety of the South street bridge.
When the dike was enlarged, after the break in the meadows, several years ago,
the bridge was raised two feet to meet the grade of the road and dike, and that
elevation of two feet alone saved the bridge from being swept away when the
iron bridge came against it.
All the bodies thus far recovered at Williamsburg were taken from the cove
near the depot, most of them being found under piles of household furniture,
etc. About two-thirds of the bodies lost in the villages below Williamsburg,
have been found in the Warner meadows, about midway between Leeds and Florence,
where they are found lodged in the debris, thirteen of the bodies recovered
being taken from one huge drive.
To prevent imposition, no aid is granted to any in the devasted region without
a written order from the local committee of that district.
Mr. Charles Harthan, who was charge of the booms of the Holyoke lumber company
in the bend of the river above the city, had crossed the logs of the cross-boom
from the upper end of the island to the main-land, when he spied floating into
the boom what seemed to be a feather bed on its bedstead; and upon it the clinging
figure of a girl 12 or 14 years, with the left hand tightly gripped onto the
bed and the right upon the headboard. Knowing nothing of the dread calamity
of the Mill river valley, the sight shocked him so that he staggered on his
insecure footing. But recovering himself instantly, he leaped to the outermost
log, a slender spruce, and with his boat hook caught the bed. As he did so,
unluckily, it lurched down, the dead body lost its nerveless grasp, she disappeared
beneath the boom, leaving Mr. Harthan only the feather bed, which he took up
to the saw mill.
THE LOSSES AT WILLIAMSBURG.
The town of Williamsburg itself suffers a direct loss of $75,000 in the damage
to highways and bridges. The highways were never in finer condition than just
before the disaster, $45,000 having been expended upon them in the last ten
H. L. James' cassimere mill uninjured but on account of power taking a new
channel, a damage of $5000; wool stock valued at $15,000, partly recoverable:
tenements' $10,000; total not over $30,000. W. H. Adams' flouring mill, with large
stock of wheat and all the book accounts
of the firm, $15,000. O. G. Spellman's dam, button factory and saw-mill, $10,000.
Dr. Johnson's house and premises, $6000: Hiram Hill house, barns and stock,
$5000: Spencer Hannum, house damaged, $1500: H. H. Tilton's house, $600: Albert
Montague of Sunderland, the house occupied by Conductor Chandler, $4000, furniture
owned by the tenant, $800: Culver's house and shop, $2000: Wm. Bardwell's house
and premises, $1000: Norman Grave's house, $400: Jeremiah Ward's premises, $2000:
Widow Rice's house, $1500: E.C. Hubbard, damage to real property $3000, considerable
loss besides in bonds and personal property: E. G. Kingsley house and buildings,
$1000: E. D. Kingsley house and buildings, $3000: Michael Burke house, $1200:-Cahill
buildings, $600: P. Ryan house $1000: Kingsley & Wait store, $5000: furniture
in tenements, $3,500: house and privilege owned by Doland of Holyoke, $2000:
P. Scully house, $1200. This makes a total in this village of about $100,000.
Below Williamsburg village but within the town, that is, the village of Skinnerville
and Haydenville, the first statement of losses is very closely confirmed the
summary being as follows
Wm. Skinner's silk factory and twelve tenement houses destroyed, $130,000:
other houses and barns, $13,000: total loss, about $150,000.
Hayden, Gere, & Co., brass works, savings bank building and tenements swept
away, $250,000: Hayden Tobacco Company's mill, carried off, 7000: Hayden
Foundry and Machine Company's works, damaged: $5000: other houses and stores,
$30,000: gas works, $8000 total loss, $300,000.
Nonotuck Silk Company, dam broken and several buildings and houses carried
away, $25,000. Geo. P. Warner button factory destroyed an three tenements, $100,000.
Other houses, barns, etc., $20,000. Northampton emery wheel company, damage
$2000. Total loss about $150,000.
Florence Manufacturing Company brush factory, damage in stock, $3000: Nonotuck
Silk Company, silk mill partially torn away, and damaged stock, $8000. Total
losses about $12,000.
PROSPECT OF BUILDING.
"Cast down but not destroyed" is applicable to the village and industries,
which were so quickly overwhelmed with ruin and disaster on Saturday. The already
announced determination of Hayden, Gere & Co. to at once rebuild their works
and have them in running operation as soon
as possible insures the restoration of the village of Haydenville. At Williamsburg,
Mr. Henry L. James is preparing to resume his woolen manufacturing business
on a larger scale than before, and his employes will soon be at work again.
Mr. O. G. Spellman will rebuilt his button factory, making it larger than before,
and it will not be long before the two villages will take on much of the old
time look of activity and prosperity. Mr. Horatio G. Knight of Easthampton offers
to furnish $25,000 toward rebuilding the Critchlow button factory at Leeds and
the remainder of the necessary capital will doubtless be quickly furnished.
The Nonotuck Silk company will also repair their losses at Leeds and build new
tenements quickly as possible. The Emery Wheel company was but slightly damaged,
and altogether Leeds' prospect of a new lease of industrial life are very good.
The damage to the water power at Skinnerville by the washing out of the former
channel for the river will probably prevent Mr. William Skinner from rebuilding
his silk mill there, but he will resume business somewhere, and probably at
no great distance from his old home. Mr. Skinner is credited with having endowment
life insurance policies to the amount of $100,000 which will soon fall due.
A REMARKABLE EXPERIENCE.
Young Dunning of Leeds had a most wonderful experience. When the alarm was
given he was at work in the spool room of the Nonotuck Silk Works. Rushing out
of the mills, his first thought, of course, was for his family. He found that
his father, wife and three children had all left the house. He shouted to them
to run for their lives at the same time pointing to them what direction to take.
His wife and children obeyed, and were saved, but his father, an old man of
78, thinking that something might be got out of the house before the flood reached
it, went back. In dashed young Dunning, begging him to leave the doomed building
and why he knows not, raising one of the windows. As he did so the floor gave
way, beneath their feet and his father disappeared from sight. The young man
had just time to clamber out of the window and as the house tipped, crawled
up its side to the roof, just as the building broke up, leaving him but a fragment
to cling to for his life, and on he went sailing down that awful flood, in full
sight of his wife and children, who, as they looked on in terror and agony,
expected momentarily to see him sink beneath the surging mass. In a few seconds,
his frail raft was crushed like an egg shell, but his presence of mind never
left him, and he jumped for another, and when that was gone yet for another.
He was hastening down with the current at terrific speed, and intent on the
fearful task he had in hand, never at once thought of the dams toward which
he was hastening. The first one was reached in the awful crash and jam. He was
hurled seemingly twenty feet the first time far beneath the waves. As he came
to the surface again and clasped another piece of drift wood, he realized with
an intensity unimaginable by those whose lives have never been imperiled, that
another and higher dam was but a short distance below, and that he absolutely
no hope for life unless he escaped from the flood before that point was reached.
Most fortunately the swollen mass of water and debris at that point swung towards
the shore, and seeing an opportunity which seemed to be providentially presented,
he clambered across some broken roofs, which served him as a bridge, and with
a leap again had a fast hold on the earth. The feelings of a man who like him
had scarcely a hope of life, on finding himself escaped from the jaws of death,
cannot be depicted. Mr. Dunning describes
as the most appalling incident of the memorable ride the heartrending screams
and groans of women and children in houses that were swept down with him, and
seemed to be beneath him.
In April 1840, a dam on the Pochasset brook, in Rhode Island, gave away about
five o'clock in the morning, and the water rushed down upon a factory village,
bearing away two houses and several other buildings, rooting up trees and spreading
destruction all along its course. There were five families occupying the houses,
and but one family escaped in safety, out of the twenty-seven members of the
remaining four families only nine were saved, eighteen being drowned. About
the same time of year, ten years later a very large reservoir in the eastern
part of Ashburnham, Mass., swollen by a heavy rain on the preceding day, burst
its bounds, and the water rushed with terrible power through the Center and
Blackburn villages, destroying an immense amount of property, but without loss
of life. Its force was expended considerably after passing Rockville in Fitchburg,
though much damage was done to roads and bridges in that town also. The loss
to Ashburnham was so extensive as to elicit aid from other places, but in the
sequel the new impetus given to business there was such that in less than a
year the loss was counted a gain. In each of these instances the reservoir
were used for storage purposes by manufacturing establishments below, and the
dams were washed from the top instead of the bottom, as at Williamsburg.
Perhaps the nearest approach in this country to the Williamsburg disaster,
in amount of damage done and number of lives lost, was the bursting of its banks
by a mountain torrent upon Cherry Crook, Denver, Colorado, in 1864, by which
fifty houses were destroyed and thirty persons drowned.
A disaster dwarfing that of Williamsburg and even that of Sheffield, England,
which Reade describes, was the breaking of the reservoir Estrecho de Rientos
near Lorea, Spain in 1802. Six hundred and eight persons were drowned on that
occasion and $37,000,000 of property damaged.
A touching incident of the recent disaster is the experience of a young mechanic,
who lived two miles north of Haydenville and was the accepted love of Miss Grace
Cogan. He was on his way to Mrs. Cogan's residence at Leeds on Saturday morning,
when he heard of the disaster, and he hastened on to find the house swept away
and also Mrs. Cogan and her daughters Grace and Annie. He secured a team and
carried the grief stricken surviving sister of his allianced to his mother's
house and then sadly joined the searchers for the dead.
The statement prepared by the various district committees, for the use of the
general committee, show that there are in all about 150 destitute families,
made up of 710 persons, in the devastated villages, the number being divided
as follows: Williamsburg, 33 families of 130 persons: Skinnerville, 21 families
of 125 persons: Haydenville, 54 families of 200 people: and Leeds, 42 families
of 255 people. Tents are to be pitched at the various villages to furnish shelter
for the homeless until houses can be erected. The first was put up at Haydenville,
Friday. From 20 to 50 people will be accommodated by these tents at Williamsburg,
Haydenville and Leeds.
The Boston subscription now reaches $44,473?, and the total subscriptions reported
foot up considerably over $73,000. The relief committee remain firm in the conviction
that this sum should be increased to $100,000 at least.