Swift River Rising, was an Animation I started to work in the Spring of 2013. The animation was based on the real-life story of the Quabbin Towns. The towns were located on the Swift River Valley, these towns were: Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and, Prescott. The reason of why these towns were the focus of the animation is because these towns were disincorporated from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to build a reservoir for the City of Boston.
The issue of the need for more water for Boston arose as the city was rapidly expanding around the mid-1800’s. After research done it was decided that the construction of a gravity aided reservoirs would supply enough water to the city. The usage of reservoirs was deemed appropriate as local rivers didn’t supply enough water nor sufficiently clean for consumption. By early 1900’s the construction of the Wachusett Reservoir among others were nearing completion or were already in operation.
In 1922 a study endorsed the construction of a reservoir on the Swift River Valley damming the Swift river to create it. The Swift River was fed from upstream bodies of water in New Salem which came from three streams, the Swift River, the Swift River Middle Branch and the Swift River East Branch. The river continued southward towards Ware and then turning westward draining onto the Connecticut River. In the valley the towns of Dana, Enfield, Greenwich and Prescott were located. These towns were small in size but were interconnected with their surrounding cities. Walking or horseback riding were the primary methods of transportation, the towns also had connections with both the Boston-Albany Railroad and the New London Northern Railroad.
Once the construction of the reservoir started so did the displacement of thousands of residents on the valley. This move was controversial for the residents of these towns, there were protests and a legal lawsuit from the State of Connecticut but were unsuccessful. Some of the buildings were moved to nearby towns, the rest were razed and later submerged. The remaining of the former Township’s land was then given to the nearby communities up to the shoreline of the new reservoir. The destruction of these towns embedded itself into Western Massachusetts culture in which native residents might show distain towards the Boston area or legislature that seems to favor the State Capital and its nearby cities.
The animation surrounded the events of the announcing of the reservoir, the reaction of the citizens of those towns and the subsequent protests and later demolishing of said towns. The story started white the leader of the community of Enfield, Mr.Adams receives a telegram requesting a meeting with a state representative at his mansion in the Town of Amherst. He expecting him and greeted him from his staircase and asks him to come to his office. There he reveals the plans of constructing a reservoir were their towns lay. After this revelation he instructs him to break the news to the townsfolk in a town meeting.
At said meeting he stood in front of his peers and revealed the news, he was met with opposition as he had expected. Later at his office he met with the meeting’s moderator and discussed the matter further. The moderator reminds him that the townsfolk will not go out without a fight and that he should go and meet with the representative once again. He seems hesitant but still agrees to do it. On his way home he a child approached and asked him about the issue and if he would do something. He gave a surrounding yes as to not let the child down. Once home he is having supper with his wife, she also looked shaken by the news. She pleads to him to see the Representative, he finally agrees in an truthful matter and buys a ticket the next day. After a ride to Boston he meets the representative at his State House office looking over at the protestors with disgust. He tells annoyingly that he cannot do anything the plan is set in motion he suggest to discuss the matter with the main town representative of Amherst.
On his way back home he meets this “Female Fatale” archetype on the train’s lounge cabin. After some small talk she warms him and tells him to leave the matter alone, he disagrees. Next day he arrives to Amherst on the hopes he might find support on rescuing his town from destruction. Sadly his hopes weren’t met as this town didn’t have enough power to sway the opinion of this construction. That if anything he should reach the support of the county seat of Northampton. On his way out he sees the Femme Fatale waiting for him in her car she approaches him and told him that his search for help on this matter should stop. He ignores her while he gets on his vehicle, on his way back he encounters a vehicle full of men shooting at his vehicle. He continued running away until he reached palmer, there he lost control of the vehicle, crashing. Injured, he flees towards the railroad yard. There he is trapped between a warehouse and a rail cart. The men encountered him and shot him on the spot. Last scene is of his funeral subsequently his headstone is shown with a pan looking at the burning towns on the horizon.
The reasons why this animation wasn’t finished are many ranging from scheduling, story and, direction. During the time of production I was just entering College and I was seeking a Pre-Law degree and was still debating on the future of me doing animations at all. After a semester I decided to switch majors to Digital Media and most of my concentration was dedicated towards my education.
When later revisited I felt it wasn’t worth continuing. A lot of my “long length” animations are created because there is an obstacle, something I need to learn. This animation did not fulfilled that ambition as well as other animation like Robbery. Additionally my skill were low and my workflow was trying to emulate Hanna-Barbera production style of using recycled elements. I wanted to go back and change the style by improving the animation quality and adding 3D elements. This extended the production time and was ultimately canceled.
Another reason that came after distancing from the project was its appeal. The issue that this story talks about is obscure, the collective memory of these events are faint. The arguments are also weak and shallow and I didn’t felt anyone could relate to it. So I don’t plan to revisit this project in the future.
A good take away from this project was learning more about the local history of Western Massachusetts, gaining an interest in photo restoration & colorization and, modeling detailed buildings. In overall I wouldn’t call this project successful but I gained some positives from it.
The Images below are extra Imagery from the Animation :
Enfield Town Hall
Enfield Congregational Church, The Church Burned down uncontrollably in the middle of the night from an unknown cause.
North Dana Goodman Hat Factory
Enfield from the River