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.