Hilltown Families


The Williamsburg Woodland Trails Committee is about to begin construction of a new trail that will provide public access to the ruins of the dam that caused the disastrous flood on May 16, 1874. The trail will traverse land that is part of a 250-year-old farm, and will also be used to tell the story of that farm and of local agriculture and forest management. The trail will include several footbridges, kiosks, interpretive signage, benches, and striking views of the gorge that the river follows below the failed reservoir. The community is invited to help and to be an exciting part of the creating of a community-based resource that will support the interests and education of residents and visitors to the area.

On May 16, 1874, an earthen reservoir dam in Williamsburg, Massachusetts broke, thanks to hubris and human error. One hundred thirty nine people died, and some 600 million gallons of water and debris destroyed factories, homes, and bridges along an 11-mile path, ending in a broad plain in Florence. The tragedy, the first major dam disaster in the United States, was a big story nationwide, and photographers flocked to document it.

The Debris Flow: A Meditation on the Mill River Reservoir Disaster in 1874 by Rebecca Muller at Historic Northampton is a mixed-media exhibition based on stereopticon images of this historic disaster.

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