Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

smoothness of a stalactite ; while the lower was rough and uneven, embodying pebbles, sand, weeds, and other coarse substances, on which the calcareous deposit, at its first commencement, had settled. The fracture, to use the sprightly language of my principal informant, one of the individuals concerned in letting off the water, resembled frozen gravel.

This hard-pan reached out from the shore into the lake, for a breadth of five or six rods, resting on the bottom; and was found along the whole northern extremity. Being rather feebly and doubtfully sustained by the mass of sand underneath, on which it lay as on an inclined plane, it supported the superincumbent water, and formed the only solid barrier which prohibited the contents of Long Lake from descending into Mud Lake.

Mud Lake was originally three-fourths of a mile in length from north to south, and half a mile in breadth. Its shores, both on the western and eastern sides, soon rose into high grounds; between which, and over the bed of Mud Lake, the waters of Long Lake, if let out northward, must necessarily pass.

The bottom of Mud Lake was a mass of thick deep mud, tough and gritty, of a rusty dark blue, many feet in thickness; and, when dry, becoming of a pale blue, and of a hard solid texture. This lake was originally deep, though less so than the other. Barton River, its outlet, descended very rapidly through a rough uneven country, over a bed of sand and pebbles, for about five miles, and then more gradually, and with a margin of meadow on each hand, for six miles, to the village in Barton. All this distance, with the exception of a few .cleared spots at Keene-Corner, and in Barton, the country was, in 1810, a thick forest, on both sides of the stream, to its very banks. At Keene-Corner, four miles from Mud Lake, stood a grist-mill and a saw-mill, both owned by a Mr Wilson ; but the stream was so small that, in the dry season, the supply of water was insufficient for the mills. About seven miles lower down, it unites with a still larger stream from the right, the outlet of Belle Pond, a beautiful lake in Barton. Two miles further down was another grist-mill, owned by a Mr Blodget ; and three miles lower, were the mills of a Mr Enos.

The insufficient supply of water at Wilson's mills, was a serious inconvenience to the inhabitants of Keene-Corner, as well as to the proprietor himself. The comparative elevation of the water in the two lakes, and the nature of the ground between them, had long been known at the hamlet, and had frequently provoked discussions of the question, Whether it was not practicable to let out a part of the water of Long Lake into Mud Lake, and thus furnish an additional supply to the mills on Barton River ? These discussions always ended in an affirmative decision ; and the disposition to test its correctness regularly gaining strength, as the practicability and importance of the measure were more and more developed, it was at length resolved, in out-of-door convocation, that the thing should be done ; and the 6th of June 1810, the day of the general election of New Hampshire, which, out of respect to their parent state, they had usually observed as a holiday, was selected for the purpose.

On the morning of that day, about 100 individuals from Glover, Barton, and several of the adjacent towns, assembled at Keene-Corner, with their shovels and spades, their hoes and axes, their crowbars and pick-axes, and their canteens, and voted that they would march to Long Lake, and there have " a regular Election Scrape.”* They arrived at the scene of action about ten o'clock; and, having selected the spot which seemed most feasible, began to cut down the trees, and to dig a channel for the water across the belt of sandy earth which constituted the northern boundary of the lake. At three o'clock, a trench five feet wide, five or six rods in length, and seven or eight feet deep, was completed. It began within a yard of the water, and reached to the brow of the declivity, towards Mud Lake; yet gradually descended in its line of direction ; so that, when the small remaining mass of sand in the trench should be removed, they might see the waters of the lake flow out without interruption, to increase the mill-stream of the village.

At length, the command being given that all hands should leave the trench, the mass of sand left in it, with a portion of that under the hard-pan, were removed ; and as large a piece of the hard-pan' as their pick-axes would reach, was broken off. The water issued at first through the chasm thus made, with a moderate degree of force; but, to the great surprize of the workmen, it did not run off into the trench. One fact, having an important bearing on the ultimate success of their enterprize, had escaped their observation. The sand under the hard-pan was a species of quicksand ; and the issuing stream, instead of flowing obliquely towards the declivity, began to sink perpendicularly beneath the hard-pan, and to work down a portion of the quicksand, so that it disappeared with the water. In a few moments a large amount of the sand under the hard-pan was washed from beneath it; and the portion of the hard-pan, thus undermined, being unable to sustain the immense pressure, gave way. This occasioned a violent rushing of water to the deeper outlet thus formed; which, in its turn, sinking under the hard-pan, and washing down a still larger portion of the sand on which it rested, occasioned a still broader and deeper fracture of the hard-pan, and prepared the way for a still more violent gushing of the water, and a still wider and deeper gulf in the sands beneath, until all traces of the original trench had vanished. This process was repeated a considerable number of times, every fracture of the hard-pan being more extensive than the preceding; until, by the undermining force of the water, a deep gulf was worn where the trench had been, several rods in width, and descending immediately and rapidly towards Mud Lake.

* Scrape, in this sense, is a colloquial Americanism, and denotes a frolio.

Just as the efflux of the water commenced, four or five of the workmen pushed out into the lake upon a raft; intending to cross its northern end, and on their way to sound an hurrah becoming the occasion; but, the alarm having been given, they put to shore, and had barely left the ground on which they landed, when it disappeared. One of the others, having remained too long at work in the trench, was struck by the torrent; and the ground being washed from beneath him, he would have been carried away, had he not been caught by the hair of his head. Another, waiting too long to witness the violence of the water, was forced partly under the earth ; and it was owing probably to the momentary resistance presented by the roots of a large tree, against which he was driven, that he, and those who came to his assistance, were saved. These accidents induced the workmen to retreat with rapidity from the sides of the widening gulf. In the language of one of them, they felt the ground beneath “ quiver, quiver, quiver," as they ran away with all possible

speed to save their lives. Having all at length got out of danger, they stood on firm ground near the lake, and on both sides of the widening chasm, and observed the progress of the deso lation.

As the water rushed from the southern towards the northern extremity, it forced up upon the shore a large mass of soft, oozy mud, several rods above the existing water-level, on either side of the outlet. This mud remained stationary for some time, and on its surface a large number of the fish of the lake lay snapping and flouncing. Just as one of the workmen was venturing into the mud to secure some of the fish, the water having chiefly run out; the two masses of mud, being no longer pressed upward by the force of water, slid down at once into the gulf, and were immediately swept away. This process of undermining and fracturing successive

portions of the hard-pan having been continued about twenty minutes, a passage was forced through it, down to its lower extremity ; and the superincumbent water of the lake, being thus left wholly without support, flowed with such impetuosity towards the northern shore, that it all gave way to the width of more than a quarter of a mile, and the depth of 150 feet. The whole barrier being thus removed, the entire mass of waters rushed out with inconceivable force and violence; and, the northern end being the deepest, it was but a few moments before a volume of water, a mile and a half in length, about three-fourths of a mile in width, and from 100 to 150 feet in depth, had wholly disappeared.

The liberated mass of water made its way down the declivity, to the valley of Mud Lake, tearing up and bearing before it, trees, earth and rocks, and excavating a channel of a quarter of & mile in width, and from 50 to 80 feet in depth. With the immense momentum which it had gained, it flowed into this val. ley, forcing forward, with irresistible impetuosity, the spoils which it had already accumulated ; tore away masses of earth from the high grounds on each side of the lake; excavated the whole bottom of the valley, including the shores of the lake, to the depth of perhaps 30 feet ; and, with the additional mass of water thus acquired, made its way down the channel of Barton River.

Mud Lake had originally a narrow outlet, and rising grounds of moderate height bounded it at the northern end. The accumulated torrent, bearing along the gathered spoils of its own desolations, broke away this mound in a moment; and following the course of the river, rushed down the long and rapid descent of five miles towards the flats in Barton. Through all this dis tance it tore up and carried away the forest trees, and hollowed out to itself a path in the earth, varying from 20 to 40 rods in width, and from 20 feet to 60 in depth, so that every trace of the original bed of Barton River disappeared, and the river was left to choose for itself a new bed, many feet below the old one in the bottom of the gulley. In some instances the excavation was narrower, in consequence of huge rocks on both sides, which the torrent could not move; but, in such cases, amends were made in its greater depth. Where an immoveable rock was found on one side only, it usually altered the course of the torrent, without materially diminishing its breadth. Wherever any such obstruction made an eddy, by stopping momentarily the torrent's progress, the effect was still observable in deposits of sand, immediately above the obstructions, varying in depth and extent with the time during which the water paused, and the surface which it covered at the moment. Some of these are an acre or more in extent, and 20 feet in depth. In these cases there was usually a deposit of the floating forest trees.

At Keene-Corner, it not only swept away the grist-mill and saw-mill of Mr Wilson, with the mill-dams, but the mill-sites, with the ground beneath them for many feet, as well as the bed of the river by which they had been imperfectly supplied. A man in one of the mills, hearing the noise of the approaching flood, ran to save himself; and had but just escaped from its path as it went by. His horse, tied at a post near the mill, was swept away, and was afterwards found a great distance below, literally torn to pieces.

About a mile below the mills the torrent entered a more level country; where the river had been wont to gļide through a broader valley, and was generally bordered with flats or intervals of some rods in width, covered with forest trees. Here this moving mass of trees, earth and water, expanded itself as the country opened, and with the velocity acquired in its long de

« ПредишнаНапред »