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In the Shadow of the Dam: The Aftermath of the Mill River Flood of 1874

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  35 ratings  ·  10 reviews
Early one May morning in 1874, in the hills above Williamsburg, Massachusetts, a reservoir dam suddenly burst, sending an avalanche of water down a narrow river valley lined with factories and farms. In just thirty minutes, the Mill River flood left 139 people dead and 740 homeless -- and a nation wondering how this terrible calamity had happened.In this compelling tale of ...more
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published May 4th 2004 by Free Press
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Michael Adamchuk
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
The book started out as a Master's thesis by the author. She did a great job of research, description and narrative in developing this into a complete novel. A mill dam in western Massachusetts gave way on May 16, 1874. As it ran through the Mill Valley consisting of several small manufacturing towns and villages, it destroyed everything in its path and left 139 people dead. The narrative contains heroes, those locals who took to their horse or milk wagon and warned the residents of the dam's br ...more
Claire
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Impeccably researched and written, this gripping history of the Mill River Flood of 1874 is essential reading for Pioneer Valley residents. It is fascinating to see how many places in our area are named after industrialists who were so cavalier about public safety that they built a dam so shoddy that it collapsed less than a decade after it was built and killed 139 people.
John
Dec 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this, though I am a bit biased because I lived and went to school near where the flood took place and I am a historian (and I know the author). Still, though, it's a good book. Sharpe does a great job describing this fascinating time when there was small-scale industry just up and down these little river valleys in Massachusetts. So many little factories making silk and buttons and brass and whatnot. And unfortunately, it was also a time when the men who ran these factories coul ...more
Cat
Apr 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I wish I could write history as well as Elizabeth Sharpe. Very well researched and detailed. An interesting look at an industrial town that isn't as well known as Massachusetts eastern cities, Lowell and Lawrence, Sharpe explained what was unique about these small towns in relation to the mills.

Highly recommended for anyone interested in industrial history, 19th century history, dams, civil works projects, disasters, etc. Even if someone isn't a history buff, this will prove engaging.
Kevin Hodgson
May 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I live here, near all of this, but never comprehended the scale of the disaster. I wander by the river and fields, and old factories, now with a new view of my community, layered by this deep and well-researched book.
Patti
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
read years ago and just remembered. very interesting!
Bill
Jan 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A dam is poorly built, it collapses, property and lives are lost .... and in the end no one suffers consequences for this disaster. Sounds familiar, except this happened 150 years ago. It's the same old story. This proves once again that money talks. This is a well written highly readable book and should be read by anyone interested in New England history.
Laura Garcia
Aug 28, 2014 rated it really liked it
I loved this book. It did not hurt that it describes much of the formative history of the valley in which I've lived for the past 30 years and that I pass by many of the sites in the book multiple times a week. It also does not hurt that it describes a compelling, dramatic event that is inherently tragic and fascinating. Beyond that however, the historical events recounted in the book are chronicled meticulously and in a compellingly vivid fashion. The description of the actual flood is a stay-u ...more
Barbara
Apr 21, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A really interesting history. A lot of primary source material (is that the right term?): letters, diaries, etc.
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Mar 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
ehh just okay...
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