In the late 1950s, the
Thames River Flood Control acquired authority over West Thompson village through the process of eminent domain. Following
the disastrous impact of the floods in the past twenty years, people became aware of the need for protection in the Quinebaug
River Valley. In December of 1955, the temporary organization known as the Society of the Quinebaug was formed in order to
discover the assistance they required. On January 26, 1956, the Quinebaug-French Rivers Manufacturers Association was organized
and included approximately seventy-five businesses whose primary concerns existed in southern Massachusetts and northern Connecticut.
In 1962, government
officials and the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the dam and completed the project by 1965. The project required
tremendous excavation work and the rerouting of several local roads. The entire village of West Thompson had to be destroyed
in order for the new dam and the lake to be constructed. Only ten of the village’s buildings were relocated from the
area while the rest were razed in the early 1960s.
West Thompson resident
Alice Ramsdell refused to surrender her home to the federal government, using a loaded firearm in an attempt to save the land
that had belonged to her family for generations. Eventually, the Corps granted her permission to stay on her land until she
passed away because the property lay just above the final waterline of the new lake. The Army Corps of Engineers kept one
of the houses in West Thompson and use it as an office today.
The structure of
the dam is very elaborate and thorough, the top of the dam including a concrete spillway, dam invert, spillway weir, and a
graveled dike. The dam’s structure is designed to protect West Thompson, Mechanicsville, and Putnam along with other
towns and villages that lie further down the river valley.
In 1977, it was estimated
that the dam had already saved over $1,200,000 in damage. Also, as of 1977 the highest water level of the reservoir occurred
in March of 1968 after a two day period of rainfall accumulating 3.8 inches of water and snow melt runoff. The reservoir measured
up to 37.5 feet and reached 48% of its total capacity.