Log Cabin Chronicles


© 2011 Gordon Alexander
Run, Chamberlain, Run!

Gordon Alexander
Posted 08.04.11

Tiny Vermont town fondly remembers its pond that left for good

GLOVER, VERMONT | It happened more than 200 years ago, but the memory of Runaway Pond is strong in the hearts and minds of local Vermonters here in the Northeast Kingdom.

One of the Vermont's summer not-to-be-missed events is Glover Day, held the last Saturday every July, during which the some 1000 residents here celebrate the tsunami-like flood two centuries ago in pioneer days when a small lake poured through the village, picking up mud and fallen trees in a relentless race north to Lake Memphremagog, on the Canadian border.

What could be more fun than that?

According to accounts from Thompson's Gazetteer of Vermont, it began on June 6, 1810. Summer had been dry and the Barton River, which supplied the power for grist mills in Glover and northward, was running very low.

At the request of Aaron Wilson, the local Glover gristmill owner, some sixty men and boys attempted to dig a new north outlet from Long Pond to the Barton River. Instead, they unintentionally caused the banks of the pond to give way resulting in a flood throughout the Barton River Valley.

The valley drops 600 feet from Runaway Pond to Orleans for an average of about forty feet every mile. The water ran out of the pond in one hour and 15 minutes, but the mud flowed for hours.

The water reached Lake Memphremagog in four hours and reportedly raised the level of that 30-mile long lake one foot.

An engineer has estimated that the pond must have contained nearly two billion US gallons of water. It was about 1.5 miles long, 0.5 miles wide, and averaged from 80 to 100 feet deep and 150 feet deep in the center.

The initial surge took trees and huge boulders with it, building up a logjam, stopping the flood temporarily until the water pressure behind the jam backed up, causing another breakthrough. This scenario kept recurring in the flood's progress down to Barton

The hero of the day was of the laborers, Spencer Chamberlain, who ran ahead of the flood just in time to save Aaron Wilson's wife, working at the mill. In fact, no lives were reportedly lost. This event is commemorated each year on Glover Day (the last Saturday of July) by a 5.5 miles (8.9 km) road race following the path of the flood.

The wayward pond was thereafter called Runaway Pond.

One of the biggest draws for Glover Day is the Runaway Pond Road Race called (Run, Chamberlain, Run!) where participants choose to run or walk the 5.5 mile course.

There's a separate bike event -- the 15th Annual Tour de Glover a bike race on dirt roads with two killer climbs and three screaming descents over at 12.5 mile stretch of road. This year, some thirty-four peddlers riding all styles of bikes took the challenge.

The running and walking events starting at long pond 5.5 miles away from town, was conducted on a busy Route 16 comprised of regular traffic and fleets of cement trucks that were pouring cement on a construction job on the outskirts of town.

To make the event even crazier, a life-sized two-person-operated Pink Elephant from the Bread & Puppet Theater ran through the traffic and the runners, pursued by an screaming male bearded actor in a tight skirt wearing high heels, apparently trying to get the elephant's autograph.

© 2011 Gordon Alexander
Remembering Runaway Pond

Heralding in the runners at the finish line were some dozen-plus musicians from the Bread and Puppet theatre in unusual costumes playing an assortment of trumpets, saxophones, tubas, and drums with spirited renditions of various Dixieland tunes. The number of musicians increased as the morning raced by.

© 2011 Gordon Alexander

copyright © 2011 Gordon Alexander/log cabin chronicles/8.11