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The West Thompson Dam

Rampaging Waters

Memories of West Thompson
Rampaging Waters
The Hurricane of 1938
Controlling the Elements
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~ The Floods of 1936 and 1955 ~

Courtesy of Thompson Historical Society

~ The Flood of 1936 ~

On March 19, 1936, a major flood occurred in West Thompson. The result of heavy rainfall and melting snow in the river basin above the French and Quinebaug Rivers, the flood washed out roads, bridges, and even home foundations.


~ The Flood of 1955 ~

After several days of continuous rain, West Thompson residents were warned of the potential for high waters. By 10 a.m. on Friday morning of August 15, 1955, however, panic began to set in as reports of dams collapsing and bridges being swept away reached West Thompson residents. Only two hours later, the speed of the rampaging waters was clocked to be between 50 and 60 mph.


As the water seeped into the lower levels of the Mechanicsville mill, it came into contact with various chemicals resulting in several explosions. The mill ignited into flames and was inaccessible to the fire department due to the high water levels. The fire department, unable to fight the flames, watched in despair as the once beautiful mill burnt to the ground. The flood also affected other mills of Thompson, resulting in the destruction of most of the other textile mills.


The flood left people without homes, food, clothing, jobs, transportation, communication, light, electricity, and water. Relief stations were set up various churches, private homes, the Knights of Columbus Hall, the American Legion Hall, and the Tourtellotte Memorial High School. Fortunately, no lives were lost during this chaotic time.


Firemen, policemen, Civil Defense, Red Cross workers, the Salvation Army, the Army Engineers, the National Guardsmen, nurses, doctors, and numerous volunteers came to aid those in need. Due to his concern of a potential outbreak of Typhoid fever because the sewage systems had overflowed, local Dr. Walter Rowson swam in the torrents to give inoculations against the disease and to provide care for those who were ill or in shock.

Seeking Refuge at the Town Hall
Courtesy of Thompson Historical Society

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