Pat Shingleton: "The First Flood Gate"
Completing my original column from Saturday, and engineer James Francis' recommendation to the city of Lowell, MA. Francis implored the city fathers of the need and the construction of a massive gate to deflect flood waters. The gate would drop in place to close off the entrance of feeder canals to the Merrimack River. The project was approved, as the design would be similar to gates used to defend castles against invaders in medieval Europe. His contemporaries ridiculed the idea but in April, 1852, the Merrimack was on-the-rise and Francis decided to lower the gate for the first time. On April 22, 1852, the river crested seven inches higher than the flood of 1785 and the gate, snug in granite, held fast. The massive gate deflected the flood waters, saving Lowell from destruction. Twenty-four hours later, a second wall of water, 28 feet high, bombarded the stone-bound gate and again it held. For more than 140 years, "Francis' Folly" is still used.