April 20, 1852

Freshet

Tues April 20th

1852  Storms again to day and nearly as hard

as yesterday.  rained poringly last night

Mr Packard came at half past three and Mr Ames

went to the hoe & knife shop to raise planks 

the water being very high  The highest that

has been known for years  Augusta spent

the afternoon  Worked all the forenoon cleaning

out grease from the buttery

The Nor’easter continued.  The Queset Brook, which ran behind the Ames compound, the Shovel Shop Pond and other local bodies of water threatened to overflow under the deluge of rain. The water came down “poringly” and, according to Old Oliver, “it raind about all day.”* To use a word that is not often encountered in the 21st century, a freshet was imminent.

A freshet is a sudden overflow of a creek or stream brought on by a heavy rain and/or the sudden melting of snow. It was a potential hazard that people who lived near waterways worried about every spring, and on this day the fears of such folks in Easton came close to being realized.

The water rose “the highest that has been known for years,” threatening to flood the hoe and knife shops. The men, led by Oakes Ames, responded quickly to adjust the wooden planks at the site of the dams on the pond. Local historians Dwight MacKerron and Frank Mennino corrected this editor’s initial misinterpretation that raising planks meant lifting machinery off the floor, the latter suggesting instead that:

“raising the planks referred to actually allowing water to leave the ponds under a controlled flow via a secondary sluiceway that was employed in most dams just for that purpose. In the case of the hoe shop there was a man made canal that would serve that purpose. It takes pressure off the dam, and might avert a catastrophic failure which would certainly have severe consequences.”

Sydney Packard may have been the man who came to assist Oakes. He was a 40 year-old father of eight and long-time employee of O. Ames & Sons.  Some twenty years later, Packard would be one of the pallbearers at the funeral of Oakes Ames.

So far in 1852, the Ames family had endured first fire and now flood, and their troubles were not over.

Thank you, Dwight MacKerron and Frank Mennino for your input on the workings of waterways of North Easton.

6 thoughts on “April 20, 1852

  1. Another possibility: When I read “to raise planks,” I thought that by raising the planks IN the dams at those two spots, (which would slide up or down in grooves) they thereby kept more of the water up there and not coming down to flood the center of town. The same thing could have been done at the Great Pond shop and the Flyaway, assuming that they had the same plank arrangement. The current outlet up at the Great Pond has this sliding plank arrangement, or at least it did several years ago.

  2. Dwight, I think you’re right. Your interpretation would mirror an account I read somewhere (can’t put my hands on it) of a later flood that Oakes Angier Ames dealt with – sometime in the 1880s, I think. Many thanks. I’ll rework the post – thanks.

  3. I believe that raising the planks referred to actually allowing water to leave the ponds under a controlled flow via a secondary sluiceway that was employed in most dams just for that purpose. In the case of the how shop there was a man made canal that would serve that purpose. It takes pressure off the dam, and might avert a catastrophic failure which would certainly have severe consequensces (think of Flyaway Pond failing in 1968).

  4. Yes, the whole situation made me recall what I have learned of the Flyaway collapse in 1968. I can also understand taking off the pressure on the upper ponds by lowering their levels, which works, as long as your lower ponds can handle the load. The next pond down is the one just north of Main Street, then under the street to Shovel Shop and on to Langwater. I wonder where the worst pressure points were. Yes, the Hoe Shop eventually had both the stream and the Canal. Do we have a date for the construction of that canal? Old Oliver must have taken an interest in this as well. Does he comment?

  5. Oddly enough, Old Oliver makes no reference to the high water today. His entry: “the 20th it raind all last night + is a raining this morning and it raind about all day. a part of the time pritty fast”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s