Vermont’s Great Flood

Nov 5, 2017

On Saturday morning, when the waters began to recede, it became clear that this was an unprecedented catastrophe. To this day, the 1927 flood is considered the biggest natural disaster in Vermont’s history. But the flood was an even bigger turning point.

This Episode’s Featured Object: Rugbeater

Sarah Dopp: I guess they tried to take [the rugs] outside to just air for a while, and then of course they beat them with these rug beaters, but they were still heavy, heavy. It would be worth your soul to get them out of the house, much less hang them up, much less beat them.

I certainly remember handling lots of things in the house that were still gritty to the touch. You just had to look at the rugs and you could see that thin film of silt that was still left over that couldn’t be beaten out.

Related Artifacts

“Water Inundates Bolton” image. The Winooksi River overflows its banks and inundates a home on the south bank at Bolton Ferry in Bolton, Vermont. The view is looking north-northeast toward the village of Bolton. View more details about this image on the Digital Vermont website.
Illustrated excerpt from President Coolidge’s “Vermont is a state I love” speech. View more details about this image on the Digital Vermont website.

Episode Transcript

Late in the evening of Wednesday, November 2, 1927, it started to rain in Vermont.

Pauline St. Louis: Well, I was having a day off. And I was so happy in the morning because it was raining and I love to sleep when it is raining. I thought it was beautiful.

The water came down from the mountains and pooled in the valleys. By Thursday afternoon, rivers swelled their banks.

Pauline St. Louis: I went upstreet later in the day, and a friend of mine that lived across the road had his little Ford, and he said, you better let me take you home, because if you don’t you’re not gonna get back.

Plenty of early Vermont towns had been settled on high ground. But during the Industrial Revolution, town centers were built alongside rivers to generate power. By the late 1920s, more Vermont towns than ever were situated next to the water.

Read the full transcript.