Photograph of Lewiston during the 1896 flood Lewiston Public Library

When it began to rain on Saturday, Feb. 28, 1896, a foot of snow lay across Androscoggin County. Farmers and tradespeople rushed to get home before the roads got so soft, slushy and muddy that travel would become difficult or perhaps impossible.

Nobody knew that “the most malicious of Maine freshets” had just begun.

The rain kept up, hard and heavy, for several days, turning the Androscoggin River “wild, angry and revengeful,” as the Lewiston Evening Journal put it.

Both the north and south spans between Auburn and Lewiston were carried away by the wild, turbulent waters that held “logs, trees, bridges, cabins, household effects, ice ground into powder” and more between the two cities connected only by two iron railroad bridges that stood above the frothy scene, the paper reported.

A drawing in the March 2, 1896, Lewiston Evening Journal.

Phone, gas and power lines were all knocked out.


Everything seemed “topsy turvy,” the paper said as it speculated that the Lord was reviving the days of Noah.

“Water poured in one even, level mass over Lewiston Falls, the rocks all being submerged,” the paper noted.

Buildings near the river were shoved off their foundations and tumbled to pieces in the rushing tide from well upstream past Brunswick.

A drawing in the March 3, 1896, Lewiston Evening Journal.

Before the storm let up, it turned into a blizzard so fierce that it froze much of the mess in place, a whopping tangle of logs, wires and debris.

The Journal said that Lewiston lay in darkness in the aftermath, but its spirit remained strong.

“Out of it all – the sorrow, the distress, the financial loss, the homes swept away, the business ventures tossed into the tide, the water powers flattened to the bed of the river – out of it all, the Yankee pluck arises and the people smile at each other and say to the waters, ‘Come again.’

“And in the meantime, we come forth from the ark and build altars to the Future. May they stand against flood and fate and be propitiatory of better days to come,” the paper said.

A drawing in the March 2, 1896, Lewiston Evening Journal.

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