Three Dams - 1908

By dhowell - Posted on 02 January 2008

Building on the east side of the Main Street dam.

Within less than a mile in distance Manchester had three excellent water powers; the upper dam, just below the Exchange Place Bridge was owned by Lonier & Hoffer and was used by them to carry on their extensive milling business and after the dam at the third power went out it was also used to furnish power for the electric lighting.

The upper dam had a fall of 13 feet, but a greater fall could be procured by proper dredging and repairing the embankments and dam.

The second dam which was formerly known as the "foundry dam" was owned by N. Schmid and was used to supply power for a saw mill and factory where all sorts of sawing, planing, etc. were done.

The third power was what was known as the "Premium Mills" power and is that which Mr. J. H. Kingsley sold to the village, together with his public lighting plant for $16,000.

All these powers were built in the 1830s and had been in operation over 70 years. In the early days the dams were built by laying trees and logs lengthwise of the stream and throwing on stones and dirt to the required height.

These crudely constructed dams would be carried away by the spring freshets and new structures were built. As the years went by the dams were constructed by driving piles, two rows across the river to which planks and square timbers were fastened and the space between the piles were filled with earth and stones. But the steady wear of the elements proved too much and in 1908 the lower dam went out on February 14, the middle dam on March 10, and a short time later the upper dam floated away. These were all severe losses to the village and the owners. The water power of Manchester was destroyed by too much water!

There were hundreds of people watching as the seething flood of water hurled over the dam. Then there was a dull roar and the middle of the dam gave way and the rushing flood rolled on unhindered.

The great body of water was like a tidal wave bearing great cakes of ice, floodwood and stone covered the land below. The corner of Kimble's factory was struck and barns and other buildings were flooded.

Scarcely had the water from the upper pond diminished and only the channel of the original stream was left, when subscription papers were drawn and before night $1,000 was raised to assist Lonier & Hoffer in repairing their loss. The damage to the three dams was impossible to estimate. The millers made preparations to repair the dam temporarily just above the old one. Farmers needed flour and feed.

The village was in the planning stages for a new concrete dam. The loss of the old one was estimated at about $2,000 and the loss of business to Lonier & Hoffer was around $4,000.

By putting in a temporary dam to raise the water 10 feet, the mill and the electric lighting machinery was put back in operation within a few days.

View of the Lower dam and bridge.