(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved. Contact us for information about using this image.
After the Mill River flood, the stories of Cheney and Graves racing downstream ahead of the floodwave to warn the valley captured the nation's attention. Their tales were repeated in newspapers, magazines, and in a small book. In a civic ceremony held in Northampton, Cheney and Graves (and two others) were honored with music, speeches, and gold medals engraved with images of them racing down the valley. Poems praised them as heroes for the ages, in a league with Paul Revere and Civil War hero General Philip Henry Sheridan. When the Williamsburg reservoir dam broke on May 16, 1874, it flooded a valley lined with factories and farms and killed 139, making it the deadliest dam failure in the U.S. at the time.