This building has been replaced with a newer home and storage buildings at Shuy Corner. Notice the pulpwood and other debris. Submitted photo

Lower Park Street at Shuy Corner, with floating wood, old cars and spectators. Submitted photo

Some friend or relative gave this writer a one-year diary for 1934, being only 10-plus years of age, regular or dated items were recorded intermittently. A five-year diary was given to me the next year and daily writings or recordings were constant. Regular or daily writings have continued in my diaries to the present time. Weather conditions or natural events occupy about two-thirds of the space for each date.

Perhaps that is why I was contacted about recording and reporting local weather conditions on January 17, 1971. The following morning turned out to be the coldest morning reading ever recorded on that date, two mornings later on March 20 was seven degrees colder. Weather reporting continues into my 51st year, with notebooks loaded with historic weather related data.

From memory in those diary entries leading up to, during and after the most disastrous flood in countless years, an attempt will be undertaken to make this essay informative and hopefully interesting.

The start of the snow season was with seven inches of snow from four different storms in November, rain was recorded on four dates. December snow deposits totaled 18 inches and no rain. January had five snow deposits that totaled 33 inches, with rain on three dates. February seemed to have varied storms, with snow on three dates early in the month and mixtures of snow and rain on four dates between February 17 and 28. Snow deposits measured 11 inches. These figures seem important because they were part of the weather conditions contributing to the flood.

The March 3 diary entry reveals five inches of new snow, followed by melting conditions. Heavy rain on March 12 and 13 created an ice jam on the Androscoggin River below or South of Livermore falls. Floodwaters covered both bridges at Shuy but receded quite quickly. Maureen on March 16, 17 and 18 elevated the river’s depth and width to the highest recorded levels. Shuy flat, an area of several 100 acres had water depth varying from three to four feet.

Record Foundry, an abandoned box mill, a butcher shop, Burnham and Morrill Cannery, New England Vinegar works, Goding’s small store, the abandoned fairgrounds, dozens of buildings and homes were damaged. Extensive damage was done to the International Paper company’s buildings and dams. The trustees of the company disclosed that the properties damaged would be too costly to repair.

Fortunately the local mill had a relatively new manager with Irish determination, who informed the higher executives that this area had the best work habits, determination and great families any place on earth. He insisted that the dams, buildings and damaged equipment be repaired, replaced and back manufacturing paper as soon as possible which did develop.

A neighbor that moved from Aroostook County to be with his family that had lost a loved one, had a powered Bolt, some called it a Rangeley, canoe. It was said to be unsinkable because it had a ring of cork half the size of a football circling the entire boat close to the top edge. He placed it into the floodwater and my older brother boldly took a ride in the turbulent water … later punished by my parents. The swift current near the center of the flooded river had floating logs, pulpwood, uprooted trees, bushes and dead animals causing boat travel to be hazardous.

My diary writing indicates that March 20 was the height of the flood and flood water started to recede gradually on March 21. No more rain was recorded until March 27 and again more snow on April 3 that measured five inches.

With the disappearance of the floodwaters, pulpwood, logs and other debris, also there was close to half of an inch of silt, dirt, and sewerage deposited wherever the water had reached. Two area Teamsters with their teams of horses and using scoots or drays gathered up the logs and pulpwood and perhaps other material.

Apparently, most of the pulpwood pile at the lower mill was removed by the flood water. Along the edge of the highwater mark numerous wood matches remained, apparently from the flooded Diamond match company in Peru. Residents were fearful that children would play with them and cause fire but luckily these matches fail to light, ruined by water.

If I’m correct I believe control dams were constructed after that flood to help control the tributary streams and head waters of some main rivers. I am familiar with the dam on the road to Wilson’s Mills, called the “Aziscohos dam” that had a large body of water contained behind it. Those informed of river control relate that after the fall rains those retained bodies of water are released gradually and by the time of spring runoff much water could be retained again.

Fortunately, there has been no flood of that magnitude since 1936. The lesser flood of 1987 was bad enough. I was told some buildings got flooded by the 1987 flood but not by the 1936 flood. That statement was never confirmed.

The writer has experienced other noteworthy events starting with the complete solar eclipse of a long-lasting duration in the later August of 1932 or 33. It got so dark that the laying hens at the Souther Farm went to roost near 3:30 p.m. There was a devastating heavy snowstorm near the May 9 and 10 in 1945 that toppled over 3,000 utility poles in New England. Then the terrible forest fires in the fall of 1947. Perhaps I could write an essay about that memorable period at a later date. This area experienced a devastating ice storm in January 1998 and some older trees still reveal damage.

What the future holds, one can only guess but we should know that, “God holds the future.”

Harold Souther has been providing the Nature-ly column and the weekly weather for many years. He wishes his penmanship was better, but says he is fortunate to be able to see and write as he is approaching his 97th birthday.

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