I live in this area and really enjoyed this book I would also recommend In the Shadow of the Damn which is also about the Mill River flood. American Phoenix is a fascinating read Sarah Kilborne brings her insightful prose to the story of the historic flood that killed 139 people leaving 700 homeless when an earthen dam burst above the town of Williamsburg, MA,in 1874 devastating thetowns of Williamsburg, Skinnerville, Haydenville and Leeds Although an excellent historic account was written by Elizabeth Sharpe In the Shadow of the Dam the aftermath of the Mill River Flood of 1874 , Kilbourne brings the history of silk manufacturing in New England to light with a personal tale This engaging chronicle of William Skinner s escape from a life of poverty in the Spitalfields of London where Huguenot families spun and wove silk for the rich is an eyeopening account of the silk trade of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries Kilbourne s story has helped me personally to visualize the place and time of the flood clearly Living in the town where the dam broke and traveling the path of where the water went, brings this story closer, but Kilbourne s insights hone it sharper, as she brings us stories of neighbors and mill workers A wonderful read go to your local library and check it out. To be fair, I wasn t really sure that I was up for a biography type book My main subject for reading is typically sci fi or survival stories That being said, I was very pleasantly surprised to find this book quite good.From the start, I was drawn into William Skinner s life, and found myself wanting to know what happened to him next The writing sets up the pictures in my head perfectly, and easily let me imagine what he saw and went through The writing also does an excellent job of putting me there , in that time, and seeing the whole picture.The author did an excellent job researching and using sources to weave into the timeline There is a rather large bibliography in the back of the book to show just how dedicated she was to providing the slew of necessary details I particularly liked that the author also included bits and pieces of Mr Skinner s faults as well, not giving him the full visage of perfection.The book flowed easily, with no real jumps or odd direction changes, which made it very easy to keep reading just one chapter If I had to quibble about anything with the book, it s that it spent a good portion of time painting the scene for the disaster and it s immediate aftermath This is NOT to say that it detracted from the book in the least, just that you are going to know nearly every detail that one could know without actually being there This is only bad in that it makes it almost feel like the book was written about the flood itself so than Mr Skinner This is easily forgivable as it is obviously a major part of Mr Skinner s story.I highly recommend this book if you like reading about how a man thinks, overcomes, and perseveres when things are at their worst. The author happens to be a friend from college This is a story of the author s great great grandfather or some such relative He comes the the US poor as dirt from England But he has worked in the silk business dyeing and whatnot , and so has some expertise He is able to build himself up to be a successful, semi wealthy factory owner in central Massachussetts Then a catastrophic flood wipes everything out Like everything the factory is just gone afterwards By knowing the right people to be able to get loans, he builds himself back up The start of the book is a quick overview of the silk business worldwide, a bit about the state of the silk business in the US in 1874 And then a chapter describing what happened on the day of the flood These are really the most interesting parts of the book It then goes through how William Skinner got to that point That s sort of interesting, but the sources seem too sparse to really get into it The aftermath of the flood is a little less interesting to me I just didn t care much about who would get the blame That seems beside the point I would have preferred about the long term aftermath after he decides where to re locate than the particulars of what happened in the year after the flood The story is certainly a good hook into a particular piece of American history, and it s worth reading. The Remarkable Story Of Nineteenth Century Millionaire William Skinner, A Leading Founder Of The American Silk Industry, Who Lost Everything In A Devastating Flood And His Improbable, Inspiring Comeback To The Pinnacle Of The Business WorldIn , Penniless William Skinner Sailed In Steerage Class On A Boat That Took Him From The Slums Of London To The United States Because Of His Unparalleled Knowledge Of Dyeing And An Uncanny Business Sense, He Acquired Work In A Fledgling Silk Mill In Massachusetts, Quickly Rising To Prominence In The New Luxury Industry In The United States Thereafter He Opened His Own Factory And Soon Turned His Silk Into One Of The Bestselling Brands In The Country Skinner Was Lauded As A Pioneer In The Textile Industry His Business Grew To Sustain A Bustling Community Filled With Men, Women, And Children, Living And Working In The Mill Village Of Skinnerville, Producing America S Most Glamorous, Fashionable Thread Then, In , Millions Of Tons Of Water Burst Through A Dam Several Miles North Of Skinnerville An Inland Tidal Wave Tore Through The Valley, Destroying Everything In Its Path, Including Skinner S Village Within Fifteen Minutes, His Entire Life S Work Had Been Swept Away, And He Found Himself One Of The Central Figures In The Worst Industrial Disaster The Nation Had Yet Known In This Gripping Narrative History, Skinner S Great, Great Granddaughter, Sarah Skinner Kilborne, Tells An Inspiring, Unforgettable American Story Of A Town Devastated By Unimaginable Disaster An Industry That Had No Reason To Succeed Except For The Perseverance Of A Few Intrepid Entrepreneurs And A Man Who Had Nothing And Everything To Lose As He Struggled To Rebuild His Life A Second Time, With Just One Asset To His Name The Knowledge In His Head I received an advance uncorrected manuscript of this book for free through Goodreads First Reads I recommend the book to anyone interested in this remarkable historic event, and the man who helped his town and people carry on.As a Rhode Islander who grew up surrounded by textile and cotton mills, I was very interested to read about William Skinner and his silk mill town Sarah Kilborne quickly draws the reader into Skinner s life and the disaster which ruins Skinnerville The author skillfully intertwines the story with primary sources in order to give a true picture of people and events I did find a couple of chapters to drag a little Kilborne s strength lies in the descriptions of action and the human reaction to events, especially the chapters which take place during The Flood and After the Flood As much as the text should be about Skinner, I felt like the best parts were the actions which happened within the town.Overall, a slow read, but a good one. Great story about a remarkable man, William Skinner, his original rise to fame and fortune in the silk industry in western Massachusetts in the mid 19th century and then his recovery after a devastating flood wiped out everything His great great granddaughter does a wonderful job telling his story I only wish that we were a part of that Skinner family I can t wait to visit Wisteriahurst and soak up of this family s spirit and I look forward to Ms Kilborne s book about her great great aunts Libby and Belle Skinner who followed in their father s footsteps by becoming 20th century pHilanthropists. American Phoenix is an excellent read about an event that, probably, few people outside of Massachusetts know about, but which had a significant impact on the early US industrial economy It is also a great story about an era of America s history when immigrants with little than a marketable skill, a solid work ethic and keen business sense forged the foundation that set the US on its path to becoming the leading industrial nation of the world. Picked this book up in a favorite bookstore back in Rhinebeck, NY It is an Industrial Revolution story, set in western MA, specifically Skinnerville Holyoke Fascinating both due to the topic and the setting Very much enjoyed. wow I sell books on and quite a few pass through my hands every day for some reason I chose to read this one it s amazing becoming completely immersed in a subject I had never been interested in now I am looking for books to supplement this one well done to say the least.