Town lore always includes a weather event or two that can be recalled by any old-timer when the weather turns foul. For many years around here, that was the Flood of ’36. It’s easy to talk about so-called “perfect storms” whenever Mother Nature wields her wrath but indeed a killer combination of back-to-back torrential rainstorms, fast melting snow and rudimentary dams made this one a flood for the ages.
Following a major downpour from the previous week, a second rainstorm swept through Milford again on the afternoon of March 18 and by evening, the Souhegan River burst through the High Bridge Dam in New Ipswich. Water gushed down into the valley, jumping banks and carving new paths. The arches at the Stone Bridge were filled to the brim and the whole structure was sent rocking. Water raced through Endicott Park carrying away the scoreboard and chunks of ice floated down river and smashed into windows. 14-year-old Elizabeth Leonard, suffering from scarlet fever, was rescued by Police Chief Kimball as waters rose around her. Souhegan Street’s Patrick McFadden sped off in his car just before his garage was swept away. Meanwhile, hundreds of onlookers gathered to gawk as a barn was sent downriver, a house was torn from its moorings and the entire valley from Elm Street to Mont Vernon Street was flooded.
In the Cabinet Press Building office, five feet of water flooded the newsroom floor in just half an hour ruining some four tons of paper. A pile of newsstock swelled so high that the middle of the building was lifted two inches, bursting the main steam pipes. Even more serious was the state of the Milford Textile Mill, where thousands of dollars of clothing were ruined and men waded into shoulder-high water to save bales of cotton. Priceless machinery and motors sunk beneath the water and the entire building nearly tipped into the river.
Thankfully no one died in the storm, but tens of thousands of dollars were lost and the “Flood of ’36” would be talked about for years to come.