Derby, CT Freshet, Feb 1857
One of the most disastrous ice freshets, it is believed, ever known in Derby occurred February 9, 1857. Factories, offices, stores and dwellings were flooded, and the damage estimated to different parties in the town was at least $125,000. The water in the Ousatonic, from the blockade of ice at the "Point of Rocks" just below the Narrows, rose twenty-two feet and three inches above the ordinary level of the river. On the business floor of the Manufacturers Bank, which then stood a the foot of Main street, it rose six feet and two inches, burglariously entering the vault, and many a good note that day went under protest through a thorough and good soaking of water. At the Narrows the water was one foot over the counter of Capt. Z. M. Platt's store. In some places the ice was from ten to fifteen feet over the railroad track, the lower story of Capt. Kneeland Curtis's old residence near the river was stove in and literally packed with ice, and the "Derby Building and Lumber Company's" property with great loss was at least twenty-two inches thick, and the weather for several days had been rainy, foggy and warm. With the great devastation and ruin caused by this freshet, the heavy covered bridge across the Ousatonic at Birmingham known as "Judson's bridge," which had stood the fury of floods for twenty-six years, was carried away. As the water rose with its ponderous load of ice, the bridge was raised bodily two feet and three inches from its piers, and there it remained for hours. The citizens by hundreds flocked to see the bridge go off, but tired of watching for the sight, being assured by Mr. Lewis Hotchkiss that it would settle down again upon it foundations when the waters abated, they retired to their houses, but William B. Wooster, E. C. Johnson, William Hawkins and Dr. Beardsley remained as lookers on. At precisely one o'clock in the morning, the ice cakes began to hurdle like so many dancing topers. Johnson put his cane upon the bridge with a "good-bye," and the writer exclaimed, "It's painful to see it go after crossing it so many time." Slowly and gracefully at first it moved down without a break about twenty rods, then yielding in the centre, forming a half moon circle it parted, the eastern half swinging near Birmingham shore, while the western portion took the current, looking like a train of cars with lights burning but no passengers, going with railroad speed down the river upon the swift and angry waters. The moon shining brightly upon the glistening ice afforded a most magnificent spectacle to the beholders. The toll grumblers never realized the value of that old bridge until the next day, when they gazed upon its naked piers standing as monuments of its great public convenience. The bridge was rebuilt by its owners in the summer of 1857.
The History of the Old Town of Derby, Connecticut, 1642-1880, pages 341-343