Mill River Flood 150th Commemoration

Mill River Flood 150 Year Commemoration

Local events commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Mill River flood disaster are listed below. Events taking place at Meekins will also be added to our calendar. Click here if you would like to download a printable PDF. 


Cascade of Bells
May 16, starting at 12:10 P.M.

Listen to the relay of church bells from Williamsburg to Northampton, ringing a total of 139 times, once for each flood victim.

  • Williamsburg Congregational Church
  • Haydenville Congregational Church
  • Our Lady of the Hills
  • Leeds Chapel
  • Florence Congregational Church
  • Smith College Change Bells
  • First Churches, Northampton
  • Smith Handbells (in front of First Churches)

Floods Past and Present
May 16, 5:00-6:30 P.M.
Grow Food Northampton Community Farm, Florence, Mass.
Registration begins April 1 at

John Sinton and Gaby Immerman of the Mill River Greenway will lead a discussion on the natural and human-driven hydrologic cycles of life on a floodplain farm. From the era of Glacial Lake Hitchcock through 10,000 years of Indigenous land stewardship, to the colonial era, and to our current period of global warming, attendees will reflect on the natural cycle of flooding along the Mill River.

The 1874 Mill River Flood
Talk by Eric Weber
May 16 at 7:00 P.M.


Mill River Flood historian Eric Weber will give a public lecture on the 150th anniversary of the Mill River disaster. For decades, Weber has searched archives and libraries to locate all photographic stereoscopic cards made of the destruction. Over 450 different stereoviews were marketed to the American public, which was eager for news of the catastrophe. Based upon the photographic record, Weber has a detailed knowledge of the path of the flood.

Commemoration of the Mill River Flood
May 18 at 2:00 P.M.
First Congregational Church of Williamsburg, 4 North Main St., Williamsburg, Mass.

The program will feature new musical compositions by Nick Reid and Louise Mosrie, the “May 16th, 1874” ballad by Lynne Bertrand and Penny Schultz, with cellist Stephen Katz, and the story of the disaster in the words of witnesses (arranged by Elizabeth Sharpe) with a reading of the victims’ names. A re-enactment of dam keeper George Cheney’s frantic horseback ride to warn the village will follow on North Main Street. Two trees will be planted at the church honoring the first two victims of the flood.


Leeds Commemoration Gathering
May 19 at 1:00 P.M.
Church lawn, 195 Main St., Leeds, Mass.

There will be a recounting of Myron Day’s heroic ride warning Leeds, a reading of the names of the 51 Leeds victims, and the performance of an original song by John Daniel. River-inspired art pieces by Leeds artists, original illustrations from Millicent and The Day it Rained Buttons by Nancy Meagher, and an art piece made by the Leeds After School Enrichment River Arts Club will be on display. A memorial tree will be planted to honor Myron Day.

Who Was Responsible for the Mill River Disaster?
May 31 at 7:00 P.M.
June 1st at 1:00 and 4:00 P.M.
Old Hampshire County Courthouse, Main Street, Northampton, Mass.
Registration at

A readers’ theatre presentation about the coroner’s inquest into the cause of the Mill River disaster will take place in Hampshire County’s historic courtroom. The audience will be invited to participate by reading some of the testimony and commentary from the inquest. Elizabeth Sharpe, author of In the Shadow of the Dam: The Aftermath of the Mill River Flood of 1874, will narrate.

Paintings by Frances Kidder
Mill River Disaster of 1874

May 1 - May 31
Meekins Library, 2 Williams Street, Williamsburg, Mass.

Frances Kidder's paintings of the Mill River Disaster will be on exhibit at the Neil Hammer Gallery at Meekins Library. Living beside the Mill River in Williamsburg, Kidder was moved to create artwork as "an elegy to those who suffered."  

Gallery Talk by Frances Kidder
May 11 at 1:00 P.M.
Meekins Library, 2 Williams Street, Williamsburg, Mass.

Artwork and Poetry Exhibit by Dunphy School 3rd Graders
Curated by Nancy Meagher

May 1 - May 31
Meekins Library, 2 Williams Street, Williamsburg, Mass.

Artifacts pulled from the Mill River after the 1874 Flood inspired ten third graders in Nicole Derby’s classroom at Anne T. Dunphy School to learn about local history.  Their research and the artwork and writing they created helped them to further understand the  Mill River’s history, and its connection to the production of silk thread, brass faucets, buttons, and more.  Enjoy an exhibit of their artwork and writing at the Meekins Library during the month of May.

Guided Walks to the Dam Ruins
May, June, and September
Registration at

Historians, naturalists, and engineers will lead walks and discuss the design and construction of the dam, the dam break, and the changes in the natural landscape.

The trail is approximately 1.5 miles total, of moderate difficulty, with some steep, slippery and rugged portions.

Registration is required.
Each hike is limited to 20 participants.

Videos about the Flood
May and June
Historic Northampton, 46 Bridge St, Northampton, Mass. 
Wednesday to Sunday, 12:00-4:00 P.M.

Visitors to Historic Northampton can select from among five videos about the disaster, its impact, and its artistic representations, including the 18-minute 1993 film by Art Donahue for Chronicle, WCVB-TV Channel 5 Boston.

Follow the Flood - 76 Historic Markers and Online Story Map
May and June

An interactive, online story map, designed and hosted by Smith College, will show the length of the Mill River, the span of the flood, and the locations of 76 historical markers that describe what happened at each site. Markers will be posted in the villages of Williamsburg, Haydenville, Leeds, Florence, and Northampton and at victims’ graves in five cemeteries. The markers will be on display for two months. Click here to access the online Story-Map.

Photo Exhibit in Former Faces Store Windows 
175 Main Street, Northampton, Mass.

Large historic photographs will show the path of destruction from Williamsburg to Northampton.

Flood Memorial Tree Project
May 2024 - 2029

A total of 144 trees (one for each of 139 victims and five heroes) will be planted along the river as a living memorial. Each tree will be dedicated to an individual flood victim, the entire family that perished, or a hero of the day. The plantings will take place over five years as the Mill River Greenway shared-use path along the river is developed.

Two red maples will be planted at the Williamsburg Church on May 18, 2024, for the first two victims of the flood: Sarah Collyer Bartlett, age 24 and her daughter Viola Collyer, age 3.

Project Partners

       Leeds civic association         The Mill River Greenway       Williamsburg Woodland Trails
       Mass Cultural Council     Williamsburg Libraries      Smith College