March 6, 1875       Columbian Register (New-Haven)
Stevenson Dam talk poster


An Account of its Ravages by an Eye-Witness

A correspondent furnishes us with the following account of the late disastrous flood in the Housatonic:

Owing to the severe winter, the ice in the river was unusually thick.  Thursday, the 25th Instant being foggy and warm, made a great impression on the river. Every small stream helped to swell it, until it became unusually large. The rain which set in toward night caused much excitement among the inhabitants along the river's banks as to what might happen before morning.  I will commence at Zoar Bridge, although I am informed that two bridges above that were swept away; but from Zoar Bridge I have been an eye-witness of the destruction caused by the flood. At 10 o'clock in the evening the ice above the bridge began coming down, and had caused great excitement, but as this passed without doing much damage, owners of property began to feel quite light-hearted that they had escaped so well, but at 11 o'clock another rush of ice came. This also passed without doing any damage.  After waiting a while, the crowds of lookers-on began to think the ice had all come down from up the river, and scattered to their homes. I believe only two were eye witnesses when it came to do the damage. At about three o'clock Friday morning the signal was given by the crashing of buildings and the smashing of ice.

At a little past 3 o'clock the ice struck Zoar Bridge and lifted it off its piers and carried it down the stream about one mile. Next the store occupied by Mr. Oscar Sherwood at the end of the bridge was struck and totally destroyed, and all its contents were swept into the river by ice cakes. What is left of the store stands about thirty feet from its foundation and in the road.

Next in the course of the flood was the house occupied by the Sherwood family. This is a mere wreck, as the ice took a portion of the house entirely off, and as the ice went through it, it took everything in its course. Mr. Sherwood in the afternoon thought there was danger ahead and had his family leave the house.  What few things were left in the house were ruined by mud and water.

        Next comes N. French, the blacksmith. His shop is entirely torn to pieces, and his carriage shop was moved off its foundation. The house across the road from the shop was full up to the camber floors.  Mr. French's children, a pair of twins, were asleep, and they took from their beds in their sleep and carried them to a neighbor's.

        The house occupied by Edward Curtiss was entirely surrounded by water and in the early morning Mr. and Mrs. Curtiss were seen making their escape by taking their pantry shelves and putting them on the ice cakes, and as they stepped from one taking them up and putting them ahead, and in this way the left the house.

        Next is Mr. John Dillon's. He and his family had retired when they were startled by the loud noise of the ice. Mr. Dillon sprang from his bed, ran to the barn to cut his horse and cows loose, and started them double quick for the hills, but he had not time to loosen two yearlings and two calves which were drowned. He merely had time to get to the house and get his family upstairs, when the water was three feet deep on the first floor. He had to sit by the window upstairs and hear the poor calves and yearlings bellow for help till they were drowned. Two pigs were swept off on the ice cakes, but they have since been recovered.  All his poultry are drowned. His house is from seventy-five to one hundred years old, and the river has never been near it before. 

        Next is Abraham Bassett -- water on his first floor. Next comes Robinson Hinman.  His house was the only one that escaped. He cordially invited the sufferers to house. Next is Mr. Upson's on lower ground. His house is moved about ten feet, and a total wreck, with all his furniture. 

        A little below a bridge is gone. Next comes James Radcliff. A nice evergreen fence is destroyed and the cellar filled. Edwin Tomlinson's carriage house was torn to pieces.  The ice from Squantuck bridge to Zoar Bridge is from five to twenty-five feet deep.