The Mill River Flood
Wednesday, April 17
1:00-3:00 at the Garden House
Tickets are $10 each and available by calling 413-584-5457
In the immediate aftermath of the Civil War, eleven Mill River manufacturers banded together to build a dam and reservoir in Williamsburg that would collect water at times of high stream flow to be released during the drier seasons, thus enabling mills and factories to run at or near full capacity year-round. The dam leaked from the beginning, and on May 16, 1874 it failed catastrophically, killing 139 residents of four downstream villages, making front-page headlines across the United States. It was the worst disaster of its kind in North American history up to then, and it raised important questions about the responsibility of those who design, build, inspect and approve large engineering projects to assure that they are safe.
Eric Weber, President of the Williamsburg Historical Society, has digitized some 350 stereo images of the disaster’s aftermath and analyzed what they tell us about the dam, the flood, and the experience of those who lived through it. Drawing on those images and on Elizabeth Sharpe’s award-winning “In the Shadow of the Dam,” Eric will tell the story of the Mill River Disaster and answer questions about it from the audience.