Maurice River Recollections Project
River Reaches

Statement Concerning Millville Dam
Probably Sam Souder's Report to C. H. Bigelow

Seemingly when Mr. Richard Wood conceived the idea of building a dam, he looked around here for somebody to engineer and follow it up and found a man in Bridgeton who was a surveyor—I forget his name now.  He made arrangements with him to come here and do the leveling and surveying and what was necessary, and he leveled around the entire place where the water would rise and set his stakes, and where the lake was the water came all around the plan he had surveyed and taken in. Then he came out and made some plans seemingly for the construction of a wall—his idea of building what we called a wier.  Meantime, Mr. Wood, that is, Mr. Richard D. Wood, made a contract with a man by the name of Patrick McAdam to come here and fill—put the earth under the dam and he made a commencement. I was going to give you an idea of how he raised the bank, but not very much. He worked out there for perhaps a couple of months or so and I guess he got that dam perhaps 4 or 5 feet, put on in strata a couple of feet thick.

Q: Just sand?
A: Nothing but sand. It was brought from the left side of the lake.

Q: Was it gravelly?
A: Some gravel mixed through it, that is our common gravel.

At this meadow I sold Mr. Wood was a kind of cranberry bog there and a very soft quagmire for say 10 feet deep and they kind of got into trouble with that and they got a man by the name of John Hampton to come there and they drove some sheet piles across this muggy place in the meadow. They didn't remove that mug supposing this sheet piling was all that would be necessary.

Q: How long was that?
A: I am not positive but I should think it was perhaps a couple of hundred feet. They were driven by hand and the man who did it was not in the habit, or accustomed to doing that kind of work and it probably wasn't done in the best of manner. Then they piled their sand in over this dirt I think probably 4 or 5 feet deep and then Mr. Wood had some sort of misunderstanding or wasn't satisfied with the way the work was going on or the character of the work, I am not prepared to say but Mr. ----- (I don't remember his name) worked out a plan, or, in fact, made drawings of his idea of a wier for the water to pass over and that was to simply make a slope or a bank there with a suitable slope. (I don't remember how much, but that was his idea) and then cover that over with cement or stone about 18 inches or 2 feet thick and let the water run down.

Q: The whole length of the dam?
A: No, only for the wier. So Mr. Wood got dissatisfied with the way it was going on. In the meantime I was engaged in the Dye Works; so he came in after me and told me to look at it, so I did so. This was, I think, in 1867 that I went out; and then I looked after the putting in of the sand and building the wier and I don't recall—perhaps Mr. George Wood would know that himself—but I don't remember whether we worked that out ourselves about deciding the length of the present wall, or whether he didn't consult some engineer by the name of Smith. He had him here once and I think it is possible that he gave Mr. Wood some idea about the size and dimension of the present wall, but, be that as it may, we settled on just about what we have there, he and I, Mr. George Wood and myself, and, of course, we carried it out. Well, the work then went on fairly well I guess. In the meantime we were having a good big force of men out west of the dam, where the stone was quarried. The whole wall was built out of native stone in the first place, none was imported except the coping on the top and they weren’t cut down. It was level all the way across. As we went up to the wall we carried sand up and we puddle that sand with gravel. We put that in back all the time and pumped the water from there and kept that full all the time. Then we kept the dam practically level all the way across. We would run a layer across the dam about 2 feet deep and in that way it was practically built all the way up to the top after we took charge. When we got the wall up to the present height and the bank as well we then hadn't made any provisions to take care of the water after it fell over the wall, and Mr. Richard Wood seemingly was pretty hard to convince that there would ever be any water running over the wier. His idea was that he would consume about all the water that would come down and he thought we got the wier wider than it was necessary. However, he didn't seemingly be willing for us to spend much money to prepare a bottom for this water to fall on.

The main wall and inner wall were all done by hand, and sheet piling had been put on a floor that was spread all around piles, as shown on the plan. There was no filling of any kind originally put down in front of the wall. As originally designed there was nothing but sheet piling, and piling, nothing else.

Then the only provision made for the water to fall on after it went over the dam was on some Jersey pine railroad ties that Mr. Wood had on hand from the Forest Grove Hill and they were placed at the lower side of the wall and secured by means of staken and occasionally a sheet piling secured as best we could under the circumstances. And there was one row of sheet piling 12 to 14 feet long, 4 x 12", put down with a steam hammer on the down stream side of the main wall, as shown on the plan.

After we dammed the river off at the pier, up at the proper line, the main wall was completed and the bank was completed. The river was shut off and at length rose so much faster than we had anticipated that we didn't get as much time as was required to place those ties under the face of the dam, and the consequence was that we had to hold the water back for at least 2 days to give us time to fix a place for the water to fall. During that 2 days the water rose very fast. We held it back by means of a cofferdam and at the expiration of about 2 days we out that weir and let the water tumble over. The consequence was it knocked everything out of there like chaff. Then the only thing apparently left for us to do was to get rid of this water.

In the meantime we were drawing all we could through the canal. It being in February, and a pretty wet February, the stream was very large, and as I said, we then resorted to cofferdamming on the top of the wier, half way across the wier and then went in behind this coffer dam and tore the top of the main wall off down stream at a depth of about four feet, after which we cut the cofferdam that was in front and turned the stream over this low place in the wier. Then went on opposite side of wier and did likewise and cut that down still 4 feet lower than this side and alternated that until we got it down 12 feet. Of course that got the water down very rapidly. (We had discovered that the wall was moving a very few hours after the water was turned on and then we resorted to the cofferdamming.) 

We never stopped that day or night until we got it down. I think I was there 2 or 3 days and nights without coming home. We threw the stone that was there thrown off to fall between the row of sheet piling that were 12 feet away from the wall. They were held there and made a good break. We worked the wall down for 12 feet and then we found it remained and didn't seem to move any further.

Then we went to the western end of the dam and cut the dam and let the water go down the old original course into the lake and it was permitted to run there until such time as the dam was taken up again and reconstructed. Then we started in on the wall again and we trimmed off the face of the wall through the center as much as we felt it prudent to do in order to get our line straightened up again and built it up again about on the same line it originally was other than it had a bend down stream; but we built the wall up to its original height save in the center and we left a depression in the center of 18 inches, after which we put boards on there to take care of it (as shown on the model).

Then we went down below the weir and erected these four buttresses and they were set upon round Jersey Pine piles. The first pier we started with we put them in about as close as we could get them together; later we spread them about three feet apart each way. Then the stone was filled in between the piles solid, then the main heavy stone were put on this and abutted against the main wall.

After we had the piers up we then commenced at the bottom of the main wall on the downstream side and put in a white pine flooring 5" thick, 28 feet long. It reached out on the extreme end of the piers, perfectly tight.

Q: Were these all one thickness? Or did you have several thicknesses?
A: They were all 5 inches and 28 feet long.

Then we commenced on top of the floor by placing timbers parallel with the main wall, about four feet apart and built up on top of those a regular cribbing, which if I remember right, was about four feet high, as shown on the plan, and built in as closely as they could be, packed with stone between the timbers.

The top layer of timbers on this floor was composed of white oak logs, hemlock logs and yellow pine logs, and the water was allowed to fall on these logs for, I should say, six or eight years, at which time we put a layer of 6" Carolina Planking on top of those logs parallel with the main wall, 6" thick. We then commenced at the extreme end of the floor and buttresses and put down a cribbing, the top of which was level with the bottom of the floor, extending down five feet deep and 10 feet wide, all under low water, same being held up with stone.

When we got the wall rebuilt and ready to raise the lake again we then made some provisions to take care of the water in the lake other than running over the wier, by putting in five 32" wrought iron tubes, 83 feet long, at the extreme western end of the dam, after which we filled in on top of these pipes and built the dam up to its original height, which raised the water of the lake again, and since that time it has taken care of itself.

Then after we had the weir all completed and the water back into the lake again we were then in shape to take care of the water through these wrought tubes that had been put in and if there was anything developed about the dam satisfactory we could hoist the gates and lower the lake a little, which we did do in several instances.

After we had it repaired and raised out lake it showed weakness, began to slide, the far part of it. The dam showed indications of slipping and it slipped a second time on the western end at this muggy hole where this piling was put in by Mr. Hampton. Then we held the water down a little in the lake—not very much and we took out the mug on the lower side of the dam and as close to the base as we deemed it prudent to work—blocks about 12 x 15 feet square and 8 to 11 feet deep down to hard gravelly bottom, filled the same up with clear sharp sand from the east side of the canal and we did that for at least 200 feet.

Q: You put that in where the swamp was, and stopped the sliding?
A: Yes, right away.

The dam had two places that I used to have little fears of and that one about 100 yards this side of the pier and for 100 yeards long, that is, the muggy place over there.

Q: Were there any leaks through the wall?
A: Nothing, only a general teeming through which water necessarily will do on the bank when the pressure gets it, but no general leak.
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About one-third of the dam is on a quick sand.

Q: How deep?
A: Twelve feet

Q: How far below the surface?
A: From the base of this wall the quicksand runs down about 12 feet.

Q: How far does it extend?
A: It runs up and down. Quicksand, if you can hold it, is as good a bottom as anything you can get. We held it in with sheet piles.

Q: What kind of piles did you use there?
A: We used sheet piles, a lot of yellow pine.
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I told Mr. George Wood I didn't know how to do anything to protect the bottom without putting a floor down there and I guess he thought about the same, but Mr. Wood, his father, he, as I said before, thought he would use about all the water that came down and he had a lot of old railroad ties and we used them the best we could.

All the stone that was thrown down from the top of the wall which I told about before, was taken out, and the cap stones were put back on top of the dam.

Q: Has the flow of water ever been four feet?
A: No.

Q: Two feet?
A: About the time we were holding it back, but never since.

Q: When you filled up behind the dam did you use gravel or rubble?
A: Gravel, just as you see it there.