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TILL the middle of July, the summer of 1830 had been very cold and wet in Vermont. The weather then suddenly and greatly changed, and the hottest July temperature prevailed, with a clear, calm sky. The thermometer stood at from ninety to ninety-four degrees during the succeeding week. Three days later there was a remarkable freshet. The rivers were swollen to a height never known there before, their banks being overflowed, and much property, including many bridges and mills, was destroyed. The flood desolated and ruined the fields, badly washed highways, and destroyed bridges, greatly delaying travel. Some of the streams formed new channels. A person wrote from Burlington at that time that he doubted if any manufacturing establishment of large size remained within fifty miles of that place. 

The freshet was also felt to a considerable extent in New Hampshire, and the Merrimac river was much swollen by the rains, some damage resulting from inundations. 

On Saturday, July 24, the day the storm began, the air was sultry, the wind being south. Rain commenced to fall between eight and nine o'clock in the evening, and continued all night, A great deal also fell on Sunday, by which time the mountain streams had become very much swollen. That night and all day Monday there were frequent and very heavy showers, which continued without much intermission until the following Thursday noon. During these five days at Burlington over seven inches of water fell, and more than one half descended on  the twenty-sixth. Much of the time the rain poured down in torrents, and the heaviest sheet of rain seemingly that any one ever witnessed fell on Sunday night at about a quarter before twelve. Thunder and lightning accompanied it. The lowlands on the borders of all the streams were inundated, causing desolation and ruin, destroying property and human lives. The flood was as disastrous on the New York side of Lake Champlain as in Vermont. 

The banks of the Missisqui and La Moille rivers were considerably inundated. At the great falls in Milton on the latter stream, where the river descends one hundred and fifty feet in fifty rods, the bridge, a trip-hammer shop, a fulling-mill and one other building were carried away, and the valuable grist-mill there was much damaged. 

Winooski, or Onion, river was greatly raised by the rain, being most affected of the Vermont streams. The river passes through a wild and romantic country, and as it leaves the mountains on its way to the lake flows down with great rapidity. At Northfield, the mills and Pine's factory were much damaged. In Berlin, on Mad river, not a mill was left standing, and on Dog river all the bridges were carried away, the intervales being overflowed and crops destroyed. A man by the name of Grant was drowned in the deluge of waters. In Montpelier, which was then a small village, the water rose higher than it had ever been known to rise before, and caused considerable damage. Two of the bridges across the branch of the river in this town were swept away; and that at the upper mills and the arched bridge across Onion river suffered to some extent. A barber's shop that stood near the lower-branch bridge was carried away, and another building was swept down the stream and finally lodged in the top of a tree about half a mile below the village. Many people had narrow escapes from death, but the only life lost in the village was that of a man named Bancroft, who belonged in Calais, he being drowned near Shepherd's tavern. A great amount of damage was done at Middlesex, the mills, carding and cloth-dressing works and the bridge over Onion river being all destroyed. From this place to Lake Champlain not a bridge was left standing on the river. At Moreton, a number of houses and barns were carried away, and the wife of Capt. Harvey W. Carpenter, in attempting to leave the house for a neighbor's, was drowned. In Bolton, where the river passes through the Green mountains, the house and barns of a Mr. Pineo were carried away. His family escaped by fleeing to the mountains just in season to save their lives. At Hubbel's falls in Essex, the toll bridge belonging to the Essex bridge company, the clothing works and carding machine of a Mr. Haynes, and Capt. R. Butler's hemp machine and saw-mill were destroyed. The stone grist-mill there, which had been erected by John Johnson, Esq., in 1819, successfully resisted the whole current of Onion river, which for several hours rushed against it to a depth of twenty-five feet with incredible velocity. In Colchester, the bridge at F. Brewster and company's works, which was nearly new, having cost eighteen hundred dollars, was carried away. The works there consisted of a saw-mill, oil-mill and woolen factory, and were valued at ten thousand dollars. They were all destroyed by the flood, but the principal part of the machinery, and the cloth and wool were saved. At Burlington, part of the then new bridge at the lower falls, and the whole of Messrs. Catlin's plaster-mill, blacksmith shop, coal-house and the dam above their upper fall were destroyed. It also broke away Messrs. Eddy, Munroe and Hooker's boom, letting about four thousand mill logs down the current. The saw mill of Messrs. Sinclair and Chittenden, with a large quantity of boards and other lumber, was also destroyed. The turnpike from Royalton to Burlington which follows the course of the Onion river, forming a romantic drive, was made absolutely impassable a great part of the way, and for a considerable distance was washed away entirely. The intervale lands on both sides of the river were so flooded that they were made desolate. Crops of every description were almost entirely destroyed, with most of the fences and many buildings. A small part of the grass had been cut, but the stacks and barns containing much of the hay were swept off. The intervale farm lands along the river in Burlington for a long time appeared like a lake. The wrecks of bridges, fences, barns, houses, mills, furniture, etc., constantly passed down the river, being thrown upon its banks, or collected in the eddies below the lower falls at Burlington. 

On the White river, and also on its upper branch, all the bridges from Roxbury to Royalton were carried away. At Braintree, three saw-mills were taken into the stream and swept down its current. In West Randolph, Ford's woolen factory and grist-mill, with all their machinery, and two houses were destroyed. At the village of Bethel on the upper branch of the river, Mr. Harvey's store was demolished and the fragments swept away, most of the goods being saved. 

On the Middlebury river. Freeman Parkell of Cornwall lost a flock of about a hundred sheep, which were drowned. Both Otter creek and Lemon-fair river cross this town, and at their junction they were considerably raised by the rain, two bridges being carried away. At Weybridge, Chase's saw-mill with the bridge near it on the turnpike was swept off, and a farmer named Hurd had more than a hundred sheep drowned on the flats. The dams at Lincoln and Bristol gave way before the immense body of water. The greatest amount of damage, however, was done at New Haven. After leaving the mountains the river flows with a rapid current through an open country, forming fertile intervales until it reaches New Haven where the stream becomes narrow, with rugged precipitous banks, and thus continues about a mile until it enters Otter creek.

At about the time the sun was setting on Monday, a very dark and, dense cloud settled over and around the lofty mountains at Bristol, and rain fell in torrents on valley and mountain accompanied by incessant and vivid lightning which enlivened the scene for two hours, A flood of water rushed down the stream from the heights, causing the river to rise ten or twelve feet higher than it was ever known to be before. At twelve o'clock it was at its height. Dams burst before it, and like a great tidal wave it rushed over the banks of the stream, flooding the country on either side. 

Just above the mills at New Haven, where the river makes a short turn to the north, a small rocky island divides the stream into two parts, known as the east and west, which however unite again before they reach the Wilson mills, as they were called in those days. The branches are four miles apart, and upon each had been erected mills, around which had grown up small villages, known as East Mills and West Mills. 

The small hamlet at the West mills was terribly affected by the flood. Just above the village the river had been dammed by an erection formed principally of timber. On Monday night, when the rain fell in such great quantities, the water rushed down the stream, tearing away every barrier, and overflowing its banks. It filled the intervale on the east side of the river, where the cluster of residences was situated, and carried off about twenty buildings. In the southeast part of the town two houses with a saw-mill were swept away, one family narrowly escaping with their lives. 

A few rods below the Wilson mills the river makes a short turn to the west and dashes through a narrow passage between rocks which is known as the narrows. Between ten and eleven o'clock that night the water there rose rapidly. John Wilson, who resided on a flat only a few rods from the stream, became alarmed for the safety of his property, and some of the neighbors came to assist in its preservation. Just above the Wilson mills there was a narrow bridge, and on it Miles Farr and his son crossed the river for the purpose of assisting Mr. Wilson and his son Erskine. While they were busily at work in and about the mill, saving what they could from destruction, the water was rising rapidly in all directions around them. A few minutes later the bridge over which Mr. Farr had come, together with the grist-mill and clothier works was swept away. The floating mass paused a moment at the lower bridge, which gave way, and all was thrown down on the lower mills and dam. The men soon decided that they could do nothing more to save the mill and its contents, and that it was dangerous to remain in the building any longer. They started to go to Mr. Wilson's house, and were greatly astonished to find that a powerful stream of water was rushing along between the house and the high ground beyond. The Farrs went to the Stewart house near by to assist the family to escape from their imprisonment, and Mr. Wilson and his son went to their house, within which were Mrs. Wilson, her daughter Anna, two young children, and Mrs. Wilson's sister. After Mr. Wilson had looked around and observed how fast the water was rising around them, he became alarmed for their safety. They tried again and again to make their escape, but failed each time. Becoming utterly discouraged, Mr. Wilson told his son that they would go into the chamber where the rest of the family were, and if they must perish they would all go together. They accordingly retreated to the upper story, and had been there but a little while when the cellar wall was heard to give way, the chimney falling almost instantly afterward. Erskine was thrown into the water below through the aperture where the chimney had stood, and arose near the place where he fell in, being helped out by his father. He was severely bruised. They watched the water as it speedily undermined the house, and the father and son went to the door that looked toward the road, knowing that they must immediately make an effort to save themselves and the family or they would all be lost. They had stood at the door but a moment when they felt the house move from its foundation. Being frightened and with the instinct of self-preservation, both leaped into the water and struggled to reach the shore, which they finally succeeded in doing. As soon as they were on land they looked after the house. Erskine discovered his sister Anna holding the youngest child in her arms on what seemed to him to be the chamber floor. He distinctly heard her call him by name several times, imploring him to save her and little Sarah. He told her to throw the child into the water toward them, as far as she could, and then jump in herself. Either she did not understand him, or had not the courage to perform such an act, or else she failed lo discern a chance of escape by doing so. The house was rapidly approaching the narrows. The father and son ran along on the land as fast as they could, hoping that the current would bring the house nearer the shore that they might be enabled lo save the inmates. Anna grew frantic with fright, as she saw that they could not save her. They saw the house enter the rapids as she was still beckoning to them, but they never saw her again, all of the five persons in the house finding a watery grave.

Near Mr. Wilson's house stood the home of Nathan Stewart, a blind man, who had a family of seven. When the Farrs and Wilsons came from Wilson's mills, the latter went to their own house, and the Farrs to that of Mr. Stewart, knowing that as he was without sight he would probably need assistance as the water was rapidly rising. Lemuel B. Eldridge, Esq., another neighbor, was already there, having ridden on horseback through the current, but with such difficulty and so much danger that he considered it very hazardous to attempt to return that way. With him had come his son, of about twenty years of age, and his hired man by the name of Somers. The family had already left the house, and were seeking refuge in the barn, which stood on ground that was a little more elevated. Mr. Eldridge conceived the idea of a raft on which to take off the family, and the men immediately commenced to build one at the corner of the woodhouse, using the barn doors and other materials at hand for that purpose. They were soon joined by one of the Stewart boys from the barn, who assisted them. The raft was completed, and they were about ready to take the family upon it, when the woodhouse was raised from its foundation, and swept down with the current. At that time they were all on the raft, except one man who was holding it just as the building started. He could no longer restrain the craft from being carried down the stream, and accordingly leaped upon it with his companions. The six men were hurried along toward the narrows, and all maintained their position upon the raft until they had reached that frightful place where in a moment it was dashed into fragments, which were scattered here and there, and all the men were thrown into the seething waters. With his right hand, Mr. Farr grasped a plank that had formed a part of the raft, and soon found some other fragments which he seized with his left. Holding to these as his only hope of escape the current carried him down to the flat about half a mile below the mills, where he lodged against a large pine stump that had come down the stream and grounded. He had found something now, he thought, that would be safer than his planks, and he let them float away from him; but in a moment a quantity of flood-wood came against the stump, and all were driven down the current. He was exhausted and felt that there was no chance of escape, yet he would not give up without one more struggle. He had succeeded in clearing the flood-wood away, when the stump again grounded. There he clung to it until morning came, and he was taken off by friendly hands. Mr. Eldridge was carried nearly through the narrows before he could grasp anything to help support him above the water. Then he fortunately found a board, which enabled him to rest himself. He was driven out of the channel of the stream in the direction that Mr. Farr had been carried, and over a field of corn. There he could touch bottom, and feel the stalks of corn, which he grasped, their roots being strongly enough embedded to enable him to successfully resist the current. Mr. Farr's son and young Stewart had been carried by the force of the stream to a point a little below where Mr. Eldridge was, and there they secured their safety. They caught a clapboard and some pieces of flood-wood, and cut up their suspenders, lashing them together, by means of which they extricated Mr. Eldridge from his position. When morning broke they saw Mr, Farr near them, and assisted him on shore. Of Mr. Somers nothing was ever known, and he must have been drowned soon after the raft broke up. Young Eldridge was helped by his father, who caught him in his arms several times, being repeatedly torn away by the violence of the current and the wrecks of buildings, and at last they separated to meet no more.

When the raft started down the stream the Stewart family were still in the barn, There were Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, and four of their children, the oldest son having been carried away on the raft. They were helpless where they were. They had hoped that the raft which their kind neighbors had made would be the means of their preservation, but that had been driven away from them down the turbulent stream and destroyed, with their son on board, who, as they thought, must have perished in the rapids. The water had now risen so high that they sought refuge on a scaffold, which soon after fell, probably killing some of the family, and intact it was forced out into the current. In passing through the narrows it was crushed to pieces, and all the family perished except the fourteen-year-old son, who was wonderfully saved by being driven against the top of a small tree, to the branches of which he clung until he was rescued the next morning. He said that his mother was confined by some of the timbers of the barn, and that when they were in the narrows, just as the scaffold was dashed to pieces, she had hold of his hand and spoke to him. It was midnight darkness, and he saw her no more. 

Two families by the name of Farr had been taken from their houses on rafts in the midst of the storm and the darkness, one of them from the windows of the second story. In Col. William P. Nash's residence, where his wife was confined to her bed by sickness, the water filled the lower part of the house, and the family remained all night in the upper rooms. Outside they heard, but could not see on account of the intense darkness, the water surging and beating around them, and they passed the night in doubt and dreadful suspense. In the midst of the raging and increasing flood, which threatened at any moment to sweep them all into it, certain death seemed to be awaiting them, and there was apparently no means or possibility of escape. But the house held together, and they were saved.

Another family had an interesting experience. They went to bed unconscious that such great danger lurked around them, and in the night the father, Mr. C. Claflin, was aroused by the noise of the water about the house. He went to the door, and discovered that it had risen so high they could not escape. He could not see over the raging flood, but heard it as it came rushing down, apparently growing higher and stronger as he stood there. Something must be done and that quickly. He thought of an elm tree that stood near, and conceived the plan of conveying his family into it for safety, feeling sure that if the house were carried away the tree would hold, He accordingly, at that midnight hour, placed his children in it, and fastened them there by means of a rope that he took out of a bedstead. He also successfully aided his wife and their youngest child who was only a few weeks old into the tree, and then climbed up into it himself. There they waited in this uncomfortable situation, perched among the wet branches of the elm in the darkness of night, knowing that each moment the water was rising higher and higher around them. After several long weary hours had dragged away, the morning light broke, and rescuers came to their relief. 

Many people were on the shores of the inundated territory that night, and they heard cries of distress, and shrieks and supplications for assistance from their perishing neighbors and friends without being able to afford any relief. The night was intensely dark, and the waters lashed furiously against everything with which they came in contact,

Fourteen persons lost their lives in the water at this little village on that night, and twenty-one buildings were carried away with all their contents. Among the buildings destroyed were the mills of John Foot and Champlain's storehouse, and the latter and his wife narrowly escaped drowning. 

On Tuesday noon the river had fallen more than twelve feet, but a vast body of turbid water was still rushing over the very spot where the houses and gardens of the unfortunate families had stood the night before, and nothing remained but naked rock. 

At the East mills, the bridge and dam, and a valuable woolen factory, a grist-mill, a saw-mill, and other mills there were all swept away. The damage done in the county to individuals alone was upwards of sixty thousand dollars. 

Crops on the smallest streams even were greatly injured. A week before, farmers rejoiced in an abundant harvest and in the prospect of the plenteousness of later crops. Now, many a tiller of the soil was in despair at the desolation that had assailed him in barn and field. Source: Historic Storms of New England by Sidney Perley, 1891

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