The Great Flood of 1886

In the great flood of 1886 this town did not suffer so heavily as some other towns did, but the event was one which is not soon to be forgotten. An account given at the time draws the following picture:

"As long as they live, the youngest people of the present generation will never forget the exciting experiences of the great freshet of February, 1886. Early Friday evening the pouring warm rain upon the large amount of snow on the streets of the village, and the fields and roads in the vicinity, brought apprehension of a severe freshet to many minds, especially to the agents and others connected with the manufacturing corporations. By 10 o’clock Main street and the sidewalks were a river. At the corner of Spring Street and near the Monument, the water was high enough to cover rubber boots, and pedestrians who were out at that late hour reached their homes in the west part of the village with difficulty. Saturday morning the walks on either side of Main Street were covered with light clay that must have come from a considerable distance.

"At early daylight a tide of people began to move toward the iron bridges across the Five Mile river, where the mad rushing waters seemed bent on the greatest possible amount of damage. Hundreds of people were at this spot all day, and one seemed fascinated as the surging tide rushed against the abutments and swept in a wild current over the dam, then under the bridges and dashed against the rocky impediments below. One crowd would leave the spot and move on to the Quinebaug river, where even a more fascinating spectacle would meet the eyes of the spectators, only leaving space for other groups; and so the procession kept passing through the day. The mills were stopped on account of back water, and in fact business of all kinds seemed to be suspended in the village for the day.

"Early in the day Selectman Burlingame sent a party out for two long timbers, and these were joined to the upper iron bridge by heavy chains, and this precaution was not taken any too soon, for in a few hours one side of that bridge began to settle. These heavy timbers alone saved it, and probably both, for if one had gone the other would probably have followed it. The loss will be only hundreds of dollars instead of thousands by this timely move.

"In the Quinebaug river the volume of water was immense, and as cakes of ice, wood and other heavy things struck the piers and embankments of that long bridge, there seemed danger that it might succumb to the furious assault, and that communication between Danielsonville and Brooklyn people-who have so many interests in common-would be imperiled for a season. And the danger began to be more imminent as the waters began to make a perceptible breach in the northwest embankment. By evening half of this embankment, reaching back more than a dozen feet, had been swept away, and the north side of the bridge hung over the river without any apparent support. The break, however, stopped, and the bridge is saved, to the surprise and gratification of the people of both towns. About noon, Saturday, the footbridge across the Quinebaug River, belonging to the Quinebaug Company, after quivering for a time from the attack of ice, etc., gave way, and the debris went on its rapid course toward Long Island Sound. Water entered the old Tiffany Mill, belonging to the Quinebaug Company, until it was nearly three feet deep in the first story."