NSB Kings Bay Community

NSB Kings Bay
Miles J. Freeman: A Lifetime of Service for the Buffalo District

Miles J. Freeman: A Lifetime of Service for the Buffalo District

Story by Jess Levenson on 03/11/2019

“I came here in 1948, a week before the Corps of Engineers started to build this dam,” says Mr. Freeman with a pride resembling that of parenthood. “If the dam weren’t here, half the people in the [Genesee] valley would have been flooded.” [1]

The Mount Morris Dam is situated deep in the Genesee River gorge near the northern end of Letchworth State Park in Livingston County, NY, and Miles J. Freeman was its Chief Operator from its construction in 1952 until his retirement in 1980. Without his decades of expertise and care, the destructive power of Mother Nature would have wreaked havoc on the lives of countless Genesee Valley residents.

“He loved his job and sharing it with others,” said his daughter, Martha Mann.

“The Genesee River at its orneriest cannot get past the dam without reckoning with Freeman at least it hasn’t so far.” [2]

“In 1947 or 1948 he was given the opportunity to supervise crews in the construction of the Mt. Morris Dam and we moved to Livingston County, N.Y. We loved everything about it,” she said. “In 1952, the dam was completed and dad was appointed the Chief Operator. He took such great pride in conducting tours through the dam to groups, and explained how the dam prevented damaging floods.”

“A lot of folks think this is just a big hunk of concrete and that we have nothing to do,” says Miles Freeman, referring to the Mt. Morris Dam, of which he is the resident engineer, and the technicians who maintain it. “They should see some of the instruments and gauges it takes to run this place. Why, they’re more delicate than your watch.” [3]

During the winter months, Mr. Freeman supervised construction projects at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Buffalo District facility. He worked on dredging projects in the summertime after ice on the Great Lakes melted sufficiently.

“I recall that when he was involved with a long term project in the summer months, he would drive my mom and I to the area so we could rent a place and enjoy a vacation of sorts, while he and his crew did their work in the area,” said Martha Mann. “When my older brother was in his late teens, our dad hired him to join the crew for a summer job. When he first started he was so sea-sick, dad wanted to terminate his job and take him home. My brother insisted he could weather it out and overcome it so he stayed on. He loved working with my dad that summer.”

“An interesting story began in 1960 after serving in the Navy, I married Richard Mann, whom I’d met in high school. His first job was with the Corps of Engineers in the Buffalo office,” she said. “He spoke with my dad every morning to review the river level and determine adjustments of the flood control gates. It was wonderful to be able to pass messages via that daily chore.”

“I have been able to make sure that my four children were able to visit the dam and I personally have made that visit in recent years to see the wonderful facilities now available to the public,” she said. “It is a marvel to review the wonderful career my father had and to contribute so much.”

“We are indebted to Miles J. Freeman, the spry, self-assured and well informed operating foreman of the damAs he conducts a visitor through the long gallery deep inside this monstrous concrete creation, he snaps his fingers and whistles happily. All is well.” [2]

[1] Buffalo Evening News Magazine, Saturday, March 19, 1966
“Mt. Morris, State’s Biggest Flood Control Dam” by Bob Buyer

[2] Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, Saturday, August 10, 1963
“‘Can’t Giant Dam Be Put to Other Uses?'” by Homer W. King

[3] Buffalo Courier-Express, Sunday August 11, 1963
“Mt. Morris Dam Object of C-E Tour” by Bill LaMale

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