1810 - Runaway Pond
Coventry History

On the 6th of June 1810, an immense body of water, unexpectedly released from Long Pond in Glover, and pouring impetuously down a steep hillside, swept through the entire length of the Barton River valley, destroying whatever was in its course and completely changing the aspect and condition of the country. At the time of the event, the towns immediately affected by it were but sparsely populated, and in the valley of Barton River only six clearings had been made, all the rest being a dense unbroken wilderness. One of the six was in the southern corner of Coventry, near where Webster road today crosses the river. A clearing had been made there by Joseph Day, which at the time was sowed with flax and oats. There was a bridge across the river at this point, and another to the north somewhere in the vicinity of the current Coventry Station Rd. bridge.

It was around noon time that the pond gave way and the cascade of water made its way towards Lake Memphremagog. By late afternoon the rush of water had reached Coventry where it destroyed the bridge at the Day farm. The water approached near enough to Samuel Day's house to carry off his hog sty and its living contents and to give Mrs. Day a severe fright.

As tradition tells the story, she was a woman whose vocabulary was rich in invective, and that day she had been employing it to the exceeding discomfort of her family. The uproar of the approaching torrent, so terrific and so unlike anything she had ever known, suggested to her alarmed imagination that the day of judgement had come and that sentence against her evil works was to be expected speedily. The panic stricken woman rushed to her bed, buried herself under the clothes, and not so much as the tip of her nose did she show until the flood had subsided and she was fully assured that the world had not come to an end. (1,2)

At the bridge farther north, Mrs. Hannah Parker had a narrow escape. She had that day rode to Brownington on horseback alone. The road she travelled passed a distance of half a mile over the low land bordering Barton river, which terminated near Dr. Redfield's house in a bridge made of logs four feet high and more than thirty rods long over a marshy part of the way.
Runaway Pond Map
From Hale's Map of the New England states, 1849

While passing over this piece of road on her return in the afternoon she heard a loud roaring, which she supposed to be wind, indicating a shower near at hand, and hurrying home made report that the wind blew terribly when she was in the low land. The doctor said there was no wind, and soon going to the door, saw the long bridge afloat and torn to pieces, and the half mile of road covered with deep mud.(3)

Another version of this story comes from C.V Ryther who said that "When the waters of the pond had come down as far as East Coventry, there was a great rush attended with a loud noise. Mrs. Cobb who lived at Coventry Center, had just been over to mill and was returning along the causeway leisurely on horseback with a grist, and heard the noise; she looked up and saw a great wave coming, several feet high; she whipped up the horse and reached a rise of land just in time to avoid immediate and inevitable drowning." (4)

The pathway of the flood for the whole distance from Long Pond to Lake Memphremagog appeared as if swept with the besom of destruction. For many miles the entire forest was torn up by the roots, and the trees carried along by the current. At every bend in the stream and on all the land which was not deeply flooded the trees were left piled up, sometimes to the height of thirty or forty feet in the most inconceivable confusion. The water in Lake Memphremagog was raised about a foot, and roiled so that according to eyewitness Joseph Owen of Barton, the fish in the lake all went up the Black River, and at Coventry Falls, near to 5 tons of fish were caught. (1,2)

Runaway Pond Map
Dwight Map 1826

1. From: Runaway Pond, An Address Delivered by Rev. Pliny H. White At Glover, Vermont, June 6, 1860 Monitor Press, Barton, Vt., 1911
2. The Centennial Celebration of Runaway Pond, Glover, Vermont, Historical Address by Honorable F.W. Baldwin Monitor Press, Barton, Vt, 1911
3. Reminiscenses of the Early Times in Orleans County by Judge Parker of Coventry, Express and Standard, Newport, Vt, Feb. 23, 1875, reprinted in Runaway Pond: The Complete Story, Wayne Alexander, Glover Historical Society, Glover, Vt. 2001
4. Extract from Semi-Annual Meeting, Proceedings of the Orleans County Historical Society, Jan. 26, 1887, reprinted in Runaway Pond: The Complete Story, Wayne Alexander, Glover Historical Society, Glover, Vt. 2001