August 28 marks the 186th anniversary of the day seven members of the Willey family, and two of their hired help, perished in a mudslide that thundered down the mountain towards their tiny cabin. 1826 was by all accounts a dry year, but two days prior to the slide a powerful storm brought torrential rains to the area, raising the nearby Saco River by 24 feet.
The family, lead by the father Samuel Willey, fearing the rising river and the ensuing mudslides fled their home only to be swept up in the mud never to be seen again.
This is where the story gains its legend. Ironically if the family had stayed in its house they would have all survived. Just up the mountain from their home a giant boulder split the slide in two, protecting the house as the mud poured down either side of the home, leaving it completely intact.
The really bizarre thing that I noticed was that when people came to check on the Willey family, they noticed in the house that their Bible was open to Psalm 18, which reads in part:
"I will love you, LORD. In you I am strong. The LORD is my rock and my fortress. He gives me help. God is my rock. I run and hide in his shadow. He is my shield. He is the one that saves me."
Now I am no religious scholar by any stretch of the imagination, but having read that passage, which is in the Book of Samuel by the way, I would think they had their sign to stay in the house behind the safety of the boulder. But alas they did not know the power of the mud and all nine of them died.
Today 186 years later the legend lives on deep in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. The site of the Willey House remains a destination for more than just the Willey family, although I am not quite sure why people would stop there if you aren't a Willey. The house burned down a long time ago but it is commemorated by a plaque showing exactly where the house stood. While its not the most exciting destination, it is kind of cool to see your family being recognized.
It would be nicer though if they were remembered for the way they lived.
By the way another storm of epic proportions blew through here causing equal devastation exactly 185 years to the day. Hurricane Irene brought flooding and mudslides to the area, but there were no Willeys lost that day thank God.