Derby, CT Freshet, Nov 1853
Mr. John Whitlock, a manufacturer of Birmingham, has kept a faithful record of the heights of freshets for the last thirty years, and some of the most notable are here given. November 13, 1853, the water rose in the Naugatuck, seventeen feet and seven inches. This was one of the most destructive freshets known in town. The water was one foot higher than in the great freshet of 1841, the flats and principal streets of Ansonia being completely submerged. The new bridge at Ansonia built two years prior to this was carried off about seven and a half o'clock Sunday evening, the immediate cause being the undermining of the middle pier. It went unexpectedly, and several persons were on the bridge when it began to reel and totter form its foundation. Two young lovers, John Allen and Georgiana Bartholomew, failed to escape from the bridge and were carried down the stream, to an island some rods below partially covered with clumps of alders and overflowed with water seven feet deep. This unfortunate couple clung to the slender bushes, shouting for help, their frantic shrieks being distinctly heard a great distance. Their situation was perilous in the extreme, not much less than the man who about this time lost his life on the island near the Falls of Niagara. Men and a boat in a wagon were quickly on their way from Birmingham to the scene, manned by Charles Hart, A. Kimball, Fred Smith and Herman Baum, but all efforts, with desperate hazard, to reach the sufferers, after repeated trials through the torrent of waters rushing and gurgling with lightning swiftness, proved a failure. After clinging to the bushes for nearly three hours with the most piteous cries for assistance, while growing fainter and fainter, they finally sank to rise no more. Oh, what a sermon the shrieks of those youthful hearts proclaimed to the thousands who stood through those long, dismal hours on the banks of that maddened river, gazing into the gates of eternity, which God in his providence had opened to the victims of that dreadful night! Men and women wept bitterly, their hearts melted within them, but their right arms and prayers could bring no relief to that perishing girl and young man.
The damage in this freshet was immense. Railroads, bridges, houses, barns and factories were swept away. Every bridge north of Birmingham as far as New Milford, was either carried away or greatly damaged. In Ansonia a man from a distant town who held a heavy mortgage upon a house and lot near the river, on visiting the place, found to his great surprise the house not only down stream, but the lot had gone with it. Since that time a dyke has been built along the borders of the Naugatuck to prevent the freshet overflowing the village.
The History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880, pages 341-343