THE GREAT ICE STORM.
People who were living in Norfolk and vicinity at the time, will not soon forget the ice-storm of February 20 to 22, 1898. The effects of that storm are still plainly seen in the broken shade-trees, fruit-trees, and forests, in this entire region; many tall young forest trees which were then bent to the ground by their load have never raised their heads since, and never will.
The local papers said, “An ice-storm, the severest in the memory of the oldest inhabitants, visited Northwestern Connecticut, entailing thousands of dollars loss. Trees that are old landmarks, and others, are spoiled for years to come, and a great deal of the storm’s damage is irreparable.”
“Twigs an eighth of an inch in diameter had an overcoat of ice an inch and a quarter thick.”
“An ice coated twig weighing one and a half pounds, minus the ice weighed two ounces.”
“The big elms and fruit trees suffered most. One of the big elms split in the middle, one half falling on to the town hall.”
ACCOUNTS OF OTHER COLD & SNOWY WINTERS IN NEW ENGLAND
“The records of hard winters in Connecticut during the past two centuries, which stand out conspicuously, will be looked back to with considerable interest. During the winter of 1872-3, there were thirty-six zero mornings, and 102 days of sleighing in Hartford. The winter of 1856-7 was very severe. The winter of 1837-8 was noted for deep snows. The winter of 1815-16 was also noted for its terrible snow storms. In February, 1791, a snow fall of four days duration occurred, the snow falling six feet on a level. The winter of 1761-2 was very cold, with deep snows. The winter of 1741-2 was famous throughout New England for deep snows and intense cold weather. The first deep snow fell on the 13th of November, giving good sleighing which lasted until the 20th of April, making 158 successive days of good sleighing in Connecticut. In February, 1717, occurred the greatest snow storm ever known in this country. It commenced on the 17th and lasted until the 24th, the snow falling from ten to twelve feet on the level. This snow made a remarkable era in New England, and the people in relating an event would say it happened so many years before or after the great snow. In February, 1691, a terrible storm occurred. In February, 1662, the snow fell so deep that a great number of deer came from the woods for food and were killed by the wolves. It will be noticed that all of our great snow storms have occurred in February.”
1641—50 days crossing Connecticut river on ice.
1664—Large comet seen in New England.
1669—In February, deep snow storms.
1691—Terrible snow storms.
1717—Snow 11 feet deep; one storm commenced 17th lasting until 24th.
1740—Sleighing Nov. 13 to April 20.
1761—Very cold; deep snows.
1773—Very severe winter.
1774—Largest snow storm known.
1780—May 19, the dark day in Northern states; winter very severe; Long Island sound frozen over.
1784,1786,1788,1792, 1796 and 1799, severe winters.
1791—One snow storm of four days; snow 6 feet deep.
1793—Feb. 4, 34° below zero.
1800—Snow 3 feet deep, three months.
1803—May 8, snow fell over a foot in depth—freezing for two nights.
1807—Cold so intense Feb. 7, that forest trees cracked like reports from guns firing.
1816—Jan. 15-17,snow four feet deep; cold summer; frost every month in the year.
1818—May 17, snow lasted five days.
1821—Intense cold so long and continuous that Long Island sound was frozen over.
1823—Nov. 6, first snow; sleighing for 151 days. .
1827—Oct. 17, snow fell fifteen inches deep, and in all New England; a few miles above Hartford it did not go off until spring opened. Thousands of bushels of potatoes remained undug until spring, when they were found in good condition.
1835—Cold winter of this century; February, from 1′ to 28° below zero, with deep snows.
1837—Was noted for deep snows.
1841—Oct. 3, snow fell one foot deep.
1856—Below zero 47 times, and crossing the ice on Conn, river, to near the sound, was continuous until the the 1st day of April, 1866, inclusive, and the next day steamboats steamed up to Hartford.
1867—Jan. 22-24, for 42 consecutive hours it was 18° to 30° below zero.
1859—Jan. 9-12, from 2° to 27° below zero. July 4 mercury was 36°, and a slight frost in several towns.
1861—Jan. 13 and Feb. 8, 18o below zero.
1866—.Tan. 8, 18° below zero.
1871—Feb. 6, 12° below zero.
1873—Jan. 80, 32° below zero; 86 zero mornings this winter, and 102 days sleighing.
1874—April 25, 28-30, snow storms.
1875—Jan. 10, 10° below zero.
1878—Jan. 9, 18° below zero. May 11, snow in several states; frost in Conn, for three successive nights.
1879—Jan. 10,10° below zero.
1880—35 snow storms and 43 inches snow fell. Several times below zero.
1881—Jan. 1—12° below zero.
1882—Jan. 24, 16° below zero. Feb. 4th, a severe snow storm that drifted so as to universally stop all traveling—many churches were not opened for service.
1883—Dec. 22, 18° below zero.
May 29, 30,1884, there were severe frosts throughout all New England and western states. Ice formed from $ to 1 inch in thickness, killing early beans, potatoes, corn, etc. Thermometer 24° in this city. A snow storm in Litchfield county. The frosts extended southerly to Virginia. It was’ a huge polar wave that made a “Black Friday” for the farmers.
June 15,1884, another severe frost, killing all tender vegetables, throughout the most of New England and the West, Aug. 25, another frost; but September fol lowing was intensely hot.
1885—Last of January and month of February, Intensely cold weather, from zero to 20° below.
1886—January 10-13, 10 to 20° below zero.
The Historic Winter of1716-1717.
IN December, 1716, snow fell to the depth of five feet, rendering travelling very difficult, and almost impossible except on snow shoes. The temperature throughout the winter was moderate, but the amount of snow that fell that season has never been equalled in New England during the three centuries of her history.
Snow fell in considerable quantities several times during the month of January, and on February 6 it lay in drifts in some places twenty-five feet deep, and in the woods a yard or more on the level. Cotton Mather said that the people were overwhelmed with snow.
The great storm began on February 18, and continued piling its flakes upon the already covered earth until the 22nd; being repeated on the 24th so violently that all communication between houses and farms ceased. Down came the flakes of feathery lightness, until
“the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse,”
within whose walls,
“. . all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.”
Whittier, in his “Snow Bound,” has pleasingly described the coming of the snow in the country. The east wind brought to the settlers the roar of the ocean rolling up on its frozen shore ; as night came on, the chilly air and darkened sky gave signs of the coming storm; and soon the blinding snow filled the air.
“Meanwhile we did our nightly chores,—
Brought in the wood from out of doors,
Littered the stalls, and from the mows
Raked down the herd’s-grass for the cows;
Heard the horse whinnying for his corn;
And, sharply clashing horn on horn,
Impatient down the stanchion rows
The cattle shake their walnut bows;
While peering from his early perch
Upon the scaffold’s pole of birch,
The cock his crested helmet bent,
And down his querulous challenge sent.
“Unwarmed by any sunset light,
The gray day darkened into night,
A night made hoary with the swarm
And whirl-dance of the blinding storm,
As zigzag wavering to and fro
Crossed and recrossed the winged snow;
And ere the early bedtime came
The white drift piled the window frame,
And through the glass the clothes-line posts
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
“So all night long the storm roared on;
The morning broke without a sun;
In tiny spherule traced with lines
Of Nature’s geometric signs,
In starry flake and pellicle,
All day the hoary meteor fell;
And, when the second morning shone,
We looked upon a world unknown,
On nothing we could call our own.
Around the glistening wonder bent
The blue walls of the firmament,
No cloud above, no earth below,—
A universe of sky and snow!
The old familiar sights of ours
Took marvellous shapes: strange domes and towers
Rose up where sty or corn-crib stood,
Or garden wall, or belt of wood;
A smooth white mound the brush pile showed,
A fenceless drift what once was road;
The bridge post an old man sat
With loose-flung coat and high cocked hat;
The well-curb had a Chinese roof,
And even the long sweep, high aloof,
In its slant splendor, seemed to tell,
Of Pisa’s leaning miracle.”
During the storm enough snow fell to bury the earth to the depth of from ten to fifteen feet on the level, and in some places for long distances it was twenty feet deep. The twenty-fourth was Sunday, and the storm was so fierce and the snow came in such quantities that no religious meetings were held throughout New England.
“No church-bell lent its Christian tone
To the savage air, no social smoke
Curled over woods of snow-hung oak.
A solitude made more intense
By dreary voiced elements,
The shrieking of the mindless wind,
The moaning tree-tops swaying blind,
And on the glass the unmeaning beat
Of ghostly finger-tips of sleet.
Beyond the circle of our hearth
No welcome sound of toil or mirth
Unbound the spell, and testified
Of human life and thought outside.
We minded that the sharpest ear .
The buried brooklet could not hear,
The music of whose liquid lip
Had been to us companionship,
And, in our lonely life had grown
To have an almost human tone.”
Indians, who were almost a hundred years old, said that they had never heard their fathers tell of any storm that equalled this.
Many cattle were buried in the snow, where they were smothered or starved to death. Some were found dead weeks after the snow had melted, yet standing and with all the appearance of life. The eyes of many were so glazed with ice that being near the sea they wandered into the water and were drowned. On the farms of one gentleman upwards of eleven hundred sheep were lost in the snow. Twentyeight days after the storm, while the search for them was still in progress, more than a hundred were found huddled together, apparently having found a sheltered place on the lee side of a drift, where they were slowly buried as the storm raged on, being covered with snow until they liy sixteen feet beneath the surface. Two of the sheep were alive, having subsisted during the four weeks of their entombment by feeding on the wool of their companions. When rescued they shed their fleeces, but the wool grew again and they were brought back to a good degree of flesh. An instance of a similar nature occurred the present winter (1890-91) in Pennsylvania, where during a snow storm three sheep were buried in a hollow twenty feet under a drift. After twelve days had elapsed, they were discovered, and shoveled out, all being alive. They had not a particle of wool on them, hunger having driven them to eat it entirely off each others’ backs. With proper care they were restored to their usual condition.
Other animals also lived during several weeks’ imprisonment under the snow.
A couple of hogs were lost, and all hope of finding them alive was gone, when on the twenty-seventh day after the storm
they worked their way out of the snow
bank in which they had been buried, having subsisted on a little tansy, which they had found under the snow.
Poultry also survived several days’ burial, hens being found alive after seven days, and turkeys from five to twenty. These were buried in the snow
some distance above the ground, so that they could obtain no food whatever.
The wild animals which were common in the forests of New England at this period were robbed of their means of subsistence, and they became desperate in their cravings of hunger. Browsing for deer was scarce, the succulent shrubs being buried beneath the snow, and when evening came on those in the forests near the sea-coast started for the shore, where instinct had taught them that they would be likely to find more food. Another, and a greater reason, perhaps, was, that there were other starving animals in the woods beside themselves of which they were afraid. Bears and wolves were numerous then, and as soon as night fell, in their ravenous state they followed the deer in droves into the clearings, at length pouncing upon them. In this way vast numbers of these valuable animals were killed, torn in pieces, and devoured by their fierce enemies. It was estimated that nineteen out of every twenty deer were thus destroyed. They were so scarce after this time that officers called deer-reeves were chosen in each town to attend to their preservation. These officers were annually elected until the country had become so densely populated that the deer had disappeared and there was nothing for them to do.
Bears, wolves and foxes were nightly visitors to the sheep pens of the farmers. Cotton Mather states that many ewes, which were about to give birth to young, were so frightened at the assaults of these animals that most of the lambs born the next spring were of the color of foxes, the dams being either white or black. Vast multitudes of sparrows also came into the settlements after the storm was over, but remained only a short time, returning to the woods as soon as they were able to find food there.
The sea was greatly disturbed, and the marine animal life was in a state of considerable excitement. After the storm ceased, vast quantities of small sea shells were washed on shore in places where they had never been found before; and in the harbors great numbers of porpoises were seen playing together in the water.
The carriers of the mails, who were in that period called “post boys,” were greatly hindered in the performance of their duties by the deep snow. Leading out from Boston there were three post roads, and as late as March 4 there was no travelling, the ways being still impassable, and the mail was not expected, though it was then a week late. March 25 the “post” was travelling on snow shoes, the carrier between Salem, Mass., and Portsmouth, N. H., being nine days in making his trip to Portsmouth and eight days in returning, the two towns being about forty miles apart. In the woods he found the snow five feet deep, and in places it measured from six to fourteen feet.
Much damage was done to orchards, the snow being above the tops of many of the trees, and when it froze forming a crust around the boughs, it broke most of them to pieces. The crust was so hard and strong that cattle walked hither and thither upon it, and browsed the tender twigs of the trees, injuring them severely.
Many a one-story house was entirely covered by the snow, and even the chimneys in some instances could not be seen. Paths were dug under the snow from house to barn, to enable the farmers to care for their animals, and tunnels also led from house to house among the neighbors if not too far apart. Snow shoes were of course brought into requisition, and many trips were made by their aid. Stepping out of a chamber window some of the people ventured over the hills of snow. “Love laughs at locksmiths,” and of course, says Coffin, in his History of Newbury, Mass., will disregard a snow-drift. A young man of that town by the name of Abraham Adams was paying his attention to Miss Abigail Pierce, a young lady of the same place, who lived three miles away. A week had elapsed since the storm, and the swain concluded that he must visit his lady. Mounting his snowshoes he made his way out of the house through a chamber window, and proceeded on his trip over the deep, snow-packed valley and huge drifts among the hills beyond. He reached her residence, and entered it, as he had left his own, byway of a chamber window. Besides its own members, he was the first person the family had seen since the storm, and his visit was certainly much appreciated.
In the thinly settled portions of the country great privation and distress were caused by the imprisonment of many families, and the discontinuance of their communication with their neighbors. Among the inhabitants of Medford, Mass., was a widow, with several children, who lived in a one-story house on the road to Charlestown. Her house was so deeply buried that it could not be found for several days. At length smoke was seen issuing from a snow-bank, and by that means its location was ascertained. The neighbors came with shovels, and made a passage to a window, through which they could gain admission. They entered and found that the widow’s small stock of fuel was exhausted, and that she had burned some of the furniture to keep her little ones from suffering with the cold. This was but one of many incidents that occurred of a similar character.
The Historic Winter of 1740-41.
THE summer of 1740 was cool and wet. An early frost injured much of the corn crop, and the long season of rain which followed hindered its ripening. One-third of it was cut when green, and the rest was so wet that it very soon molded. There was, therefore, very little seed corn in New England for the next spring’s planting, and the amount of dry corn for the winter’s consumption was also small. The rain of the summer and fall flooded the lowlands of the country everywhere.
The rivers of Salem, Mass., were frozen over as early as October, and November 4th the weather became very cold. In that year the thirteenth of November was observed as Thanksgiving day. It was then severely cold, and all that day snow fell, continuing until the fifteenth, when in Essex County, Mass., it measured a foot in depth.
The weather remained cold until about the twenty-second, when its rigor relaxed, and a thaw, accompanied by rain, came on. The rain continued to fall for nearly three weeks, during the day only, the stars shining brightly each evening, but the morning following, rain would be falling again as energetically as ever. The snow melted, and a freshet occurred in the Merrimac river, nothing like it having been experienced there for seventy years. At Haverhill, the stream rose fifteen feet, and many houses were floated off. In that part ot Newbury, which was afterwards incorporated as West Newbury, was a piece of lowland at Turkey hill, known as Rawson’s meadow, which was covered with water to the depth of twelve feet. In another part of Newbury between the mill and the residence of a Mr. Emery, a sloop could have sailed. The freshet carried away great quantities ot wood, which was piled along the banks of the river, and from the shipyards located in that part of Newbury now included in the city 01 Newburyport considerable timber that was lying ready to be formed into vessels was also floated down the harbor, much of both wood and timber being lost. To save as much of it as possible, the dwellers on the shores of the river turned out, and for fourteen days worked from the banks and in boats, securing large piles which were scattered for miles on both sides of the river and the harbor. It was estimated that two thousand cords of wood were also saved at Plum Island.
The freshet was also very disastrous at Falmouth. On the twentyfirst of the month the Rev. Thomas Smith of that town says, in his diary, that he rode to Saco, where he lodged with his father. He was there forced out of his lodgings “by vast quantities of ice, which jambed and raised the water eighteen inches higher” than his bedstead.
Plum Island river was frozen over on December twelfth, and remained so until the end of March. The Merrimac river was also closed by the extreme cold, which continued so severe that the ice very soon became thick enough to support teams, and before the end of the month the river became a great thoroughfare. Loaded sleds drawn by two, three or four yoke of oxen came from the towns up the river, and landed below the upper long wharf near where the ferry was then located in Newbury. From twenty to forty such teams passed down the river daily from Amesbury and Haverhill, and people travelled down the harbor as far as half-tide rock. On February 28, for the purpose of ascertaining the thickness of the ice in the Merrimac, Wells Chase cut a hole through it at Deer Island where the current ran swiftest and found it to measure thirty inches, although people had constantly sledded over it for two months. No one then living had ever heard of the river freezing so hard before.
As far south as New York, the harbors were so frozen that vessels could not come into them, and those already in were compelled to remain until a thaw should come to their release. The sea was also very much frozen, and people travelled out long distances. In Boston harbor, a beaten road through the snow was kept open on the ice as far out as Castle William. Over this course horses and sleighs, and people on foot continually passed up and down, and on the way two tents for the sale of refreshments stood invitingly open. Loads of hay on sleds were drawn nearly straight from Spectacle Island to the town.
The ice formed so solidly around some mills that they could not be operated, as at Byfield parish in Newbury, where Pearson’s mill was stopped from February 3 to March 31, and the people of Newbury had to go to Salisbury to get their meagre grists of corn ground.
The reign of cold seemed to be broken on January 10, when the weather moderated and a thaw began; but it continued only three days, and the low temperature was resumed.
Not only was the winter severe in temperature, but great snows came until, in the estimation of the people then living, taking it as a whole, it was the most rigorous season that had been experienced here since the first settlement. There were twenty-seven snow storms in all, most of them of good size. February 3, nearly a foot of snow fell, and about a week later there were two more storms, which filled the roads in Newbury, Mass., and vicinity to the tops of the fences, and in some places the snow lay to the depth of from eight to ten feet. On April 4, the fences were still covered, and three days later another foot of snow fell. In the woods it was then four feet deep on the level; and there were drifts on the islands off Dorchester, Mass., not quite melted on May 3. The snow remained so long that the spring was very backward; and when the ground was ready for planting, the farmers were almost discouraged, thinking of the failure of the corn crop the year before.
The Historic Winter of 1747-48.
THE old people of to-day think that we do not have as severe winters as they had when they were in their youth, and they certainly have good reasons for such conclusions. The winter of 1747-48 was one of the memorable winters that used to be talked about by our grandfathers when the snow whirled above deep drifts around their half-buried houses. There were about thirty snow storms, and they came storm after storm until the snow lay four or five feet deep on the level, making travelling exceedingly difficult. On the twenty-second of February, snow in the woods measured four and onehalf feet; and on the twenty-ninth there was no getting about except on snow shoes.
There seems to have been more snow in Essex County, Mass., than in other parts of New England, and it came there very early in the season. On December 14, it had become so deep, and the wind blew it so fiercely that John Bowles was smothered to death on the Neck at Salem.
There is an incident connected with this winter’s weather which will fix it in the minds of readers. In the west parish of Newbury, on majestic Crane Neck hill, lived a family by the name of Dole, their little son, but six years old, lay sick with a fever as the storms of December raged, and on the twenty-second of the month he died.
“Their kindred slept a mile or two away,
The snow lay deep in drifts upon the ground,
The roads unbroken no one could discern,
Twas hill and vale of deep untrodden snow.
‘Where should the little boy belaid to rest?’
Was asked by anxious hearts. ‘He must lie there,
Where generations gone beneath the sod
Repose in peace, beneath the hallowed ground,’
Was answered by the father.
“Across the fields And pastures, down through the vale they started The saddest Christmas morn they yet had known. They soon stopped, the horses wallowing deep Were fastened in the snow.
Now on again They move, but in a moment more they stop, They start and stop, and start and stop again, And fail to gain upon their funeral way. Discouraged in his vain attempts to reach The sacred burial-place so far away, The father said, ‘We cannot further go; Let us bury our dead here where we are.’ And there beneath the deep snow
they laid him Alone upon the valley’s broad expanse, Then turned their faces back to their lone home, From which the light had gone, no more to shine At least on earth.
“Around the little grave others laid their dead, till in that lowland scores lay buried. To-day it is a place where antiquarians love to wander; And hunting round for the oldest gravestone they find this one of Micah Dole’s, whose date is seventeen hundred forty-seven, And looking farther down they read that he was first of all to lie upon that lea.”
The Historic Snow Storms of December, 1786.
THE winter of 1786-87 set in very early. At Warren, in Maine, on the fourteenth of November the St. George’s river was frozen so hard and thick that the ice bore horses and sleighs as far down as Watson’s Point, and on the following day to the mouth of the stream. It did not break up until the latter part of the following March. The sloop Warren, lying at the wharf in Thomaston and loading with a cargo for the West Indies, was frozen in and compelled to remain there all through the winter. By the twentieth of November, the harbor of Salem, Mass., was frozen over as far out as Naugus Head; and the Connecticut river was congealed so quickly that, at Middletown in that state, within twenty-four hours after boats passed over it the ice had become strong enough to bear heavy weights and people were driving on it with their horses and sleighs. Frozen into the river were between thirty and forty vessels that had been prepared for their voyages, the masters expecting to sail before the river was closed by ice. The month of December was unusually severe, and snow storms came frequently and terrifically, great quantities of snow covering the earth to a depth that impeded travel in all portions of the country. The remainder of the winter was also severe, and in the vicinity of Rockland, Me., snow remained on the ground as late as April 10, so deep and hard-crusted that teams passed over the fences in every direction without obstruction.
The first storm in the month of December began about noon on Monday, the fourth. The weather was very cold, and during the forenoon a piercing northeast wind blew. About noon snow-flakes began to fall, and they increased in number so fast that soon a blinding snow storm was raging in all its fury. The strong wind brought in the tide, until it became one of the highest that was ever experienced on our coast. On the salt marshes, stacks of hay were lifted from the staddles and floated away, most of them never being recovered, while much that was saved was so wet that it was worthless as fodder. On the marshes of Rowley, Mass., hundreds of tons of hay were floated across the river and marshes to the lee shore of Ipswich, most of it being lost. The storm continued all Monday night, through the next day and until another evening, without intermission, so much snow falling that it lay six feet deep in Boston. The newspapers of that time said that it was as severe a snow storm as had been experienced for several years.
The tide was so high on Tuesday that at Boston the water overflowed the “pier” to the depth of several inches and entered the stores on the lower part of it, greatly damaging the sugar, salt and other articles that were in them. The wharves generally were overflowed, and from them quantities of wood and lumber were floated away.
Several vessels were expected to arrive in Boston at the time of the storm, and their owners and the families of the crews were very anxious concerning them. They all, however, afterward came safely into port, with the exception of two or three that were wrecked. One of these was the brig Lucretia, Captain Powell, master, owned by Messrs. Boiling and Sharp of New Haven. She had come from St. Croix, had weathered the storm during Monday night and reached the entrance to Boston harbor when, about nine o’clock on Tuesday morning, in the violent wind and blinding storm she ran on Point Shirley. There were eleven persons on board When the vessel struck, Mr. Kilby the mate, two of the crew, a Mr. Sharp, who was a merchant, and a negro jumped into the foam, at the risk of losing their lives in the terrible surf, and succeeded in reaching the shore. They travelled through the deep snow and endeavored to find one of the houses on the point; but being exhausted by their terrible struggle with the waves they were not able to battle with the storm, and they perished in the snow. Captain Powell and the five men who remained on the brig continued there until the storm abated, when they made their way to the shore in safety. The vessel was so strained and racked that it was bilged, but the cargo was saved. Mr. Sharp’s body was brought to Boston, and his funeral was held at the American Coffee House, on State street, at four o’clock on the afternoon of Tuesday of the following week, it being attended by a large number of the merchants of Boston and other people.
On Monday night, the sloop Thomas, from Baltimore, which was commanded by Jonathan Smith, was wrecked on Marshfield beach, and the captain and mate were frozen to death before assistance could come to them. The cargo was saved, but the vessel was cracked so much that it was bilged.
A day or two before the storm a sloop, owned by Jacob Curtis, sailed from Arundel, on the coast of Maine, for Salem; and on Tuesday, in the violent snow storm, was driven on Plum Island and wrecked. There were only three persons on board, and two of them, Mr. Curtis and Benjamin Jeffries, died from the effects of the cold. Mr. Curtis left a wife and eight children who deeply felt the loss of the husband and father of whom they were in so much need. Mr. Jeffries was about twenty-two years of age and unmarried. The survivor of the crew was severely frozen, but after good treatment and months of suffering he recovered. On the next day, the bodies of the lost mariners were found under a stack of hay and brought to Newburyport, where a jury held an inquest. The remains were properly interred on the following Friday afternoon.
Among the several incidents of this storm is one that is curious and interesting. Where the river which flows down through the marshes of Rowley, Mass., empties into Plum Island sound, is a tract of upland known as Hog Island, on which at the time of this storm was a hut belonging to Samuel Pulsifer and Samuel Elwell, both of Rowley. They had gone down the river on Monday morning with the intention of spending the night there, a practice which has ever since been common among the people of the towns bordering on the marshes. Fresh, succulent clams constitute the principal food of such excursionists and these men had been digging their supply on the flats of the sound off the island during the forenoon. After obtaining the quantity they desired they returned to the house. The snow storm had already begun, and it increased so rapidly that they concluded to give up the idea of staying there in such a storm as appeared to be beginning and return to their homes. The tide was now low, and they started across the marshes and creeks, but soon lost their way in the blinding storm. Finding no landmarks to direct them across the level marshes that stretched away for miles, they wandered about for some time, bewildered and tired. At length they found a stack of dry hay in which they dug a hole, and concluded to encamp therein until the storm should be over in the morning. They passed the night as well as the circumstances and severe cold would permit. At length morning came, but the storm had not abated. It still raged as fiercely as when darkness closed in upon the marshes the night before. To their astonishment, the men found the tide had risen so high that it wet the hay around the place in the stack where they had spent the night, and they were obliged to go to the top of the stack to keep above the water. They began to consider the new dangers of their situation, which had become truly alarming. How much higher would the water rise, and would their weight be sufficient to keep the stack upon the staddles if the water rose much higher, were questions which arose in their minds, and they had but slight expectations that the result would be in their favor. The questions were soon answered. A huge cake of ice struck the stack, jarring it off the staddles, and it floated away with its human freight through the sea that was raging around them. The snow was falling so thickly and the clouds were so heavy and dark that they could see nothing but the water that covered the marshes. The points of the compass were entirely unascertainable, and they could not tell the course in which they were being driven. Around them only the turbulent waters could be seen. Sometimes they went directly forward, and at intervals the stack whirled around, threatening every time to go to pieces or throw them from it into the freezing waters where they would become benumbed and quickly perish by drowning. At length, with horror, they felt the stack suddenly disintegrate beneath them. But their hopelessness was turned to joy as another stack of hay, large and solid, came along so near to them that they leaped upon it. They were driven along on this new stack, exposed to the extreme cold, snow and wind, and the water which continually dashed upon them, for two hours longer. During their inactivity they became almost stupefied with the cold, and began to feel sleepy. In this semi-conscious condition they chanced to look about them and saw land only about four rods away. Toward this the wind had driven them. Between them and the land were cakes of ice, which hindered the stack from approaching nearer the shore. The place was Smith’s cove, so-called, at Little Neck, in Ipswich, situated between three and four miles from the place where the men were set adrift on the first stack. They made no exertion to get ashore, but lay there a considerable time. After a while, they discovered that they were being carried out to sea by the wind and tide. This brought them to their sense of self-preservation. Mr. Pulsifer immediately threw himself upon the ice and advised his companion to do the same. Mr. Elwell was so stupefied with the cold that it seemed impossible for him to ever reach the land; but after considerable endeavor he managed to get on a floating cake and reached the shore in safety. Mr. Pulsifer succeeded in getting near enough to the shore to touch the bottom with his feet; but his legs were so benumbed by the cold that he could not step. For a while it seemed that he must die though only a rod from the shore; but before it was too late he conceived the idea of moving his legs ahead one at a time by his hands, as if they had been sticks. By this means he reached the land safely. Now they felt themselves saved, and the thought of their preservation invigorated their faculties. They ran a few rods to get warm and recover the full use of their limbs. But where were they? They had not given a thought to the location of the land where they were. The fact that it was the solid earth was enough to satisfy them for the first few moments they were upon it. Probably they had but a faint conception of the distance and direction they had been driven while on the stacks of hay. On looking about they found that they were on an uninhabited island, and though the mainland was not far away it was impossible to reach it. They must either freeze or starve to death if they remained where they were. They found a stack of dry hay and into that they crept for warmth. At length, they came out and went upon the highest part of the island and with what strength of voice they had they shouted for help, that being the only thing they could do. After a while a man was seen on the mainland by Mr. Pulsifer, and feeling that by him was a way of escape from their dangerous situation they made a vigorous demonstration; but in vain, the man unheeding passed out of sight. They now became utterly discouraged, and death seemed to be their inevitable lot. They had had nothing to eat for about two days, and the pangs of hunger intensified their hopelessness. Their hopes again revived, however, when three quarters of an hour later Maj. Charles Smith of Ipswich, with his two sons, came within sight of the island in search of some stray sheep. One of the men stood upon the stack of hay, waved his hat, and hallooed for assistance. One of Major Smith’s sons saw him and the father, who knew of a causeway leading to the island which was then covered with water about a yard deep, waded through it to the place where the men were. They were assisted to Major Smith’s house, which was some little distance away, and he provided them with everything necessary to their comfort. On Thursday they returned to their homes, thankful that their lives which had several times seemed lost were preserved.
On the night of Friday of the same week another terrible snow storm with a furious northeast wind began. It continued through the next day, increasing as night came on, and abated Sunday morning. The snow was already very deep, and this storm so increased its depth that it was estimated at this time there was more snow on the ground than there was in the winter of the great snow, seventy years before. Travelling was extremely difficult and in many places it was totally stopped. In Boston, on the day following that on which the storm had cleared off, a number of people were employed in “levelling” the snow in the streets, and the next day the Massachusetts Gazette of the time said, “It is hoped they and many others will turn out this day for the same laudable and necessary purpose.” Up to this period the roads and streets were not cleared of snow, except in a few unimportant instances, and they remained in the condition in which the storm left them, whether the snow came on a level or in drifts. And it would seem that even in Boston it was unusual for the people to remove, level or path the snow. The roads were completely filled from wall to wall throughout New England. The people could not get to the churches on Sunday on account of the great drifts, and so of course no religious services were held.
This was one of the most difficult storms to withstand that was ever experienced. Several persons who were out in it became lost and were smothered to death in the snow, or, becoming exhausted, sank down and perished with the cold. A man living near Portland, Me., left that place for his home and was never again heard from, it being supposed that he died on the way.
On Saturday evening, Thomas Hooper and Valentine Tidder, jr., of Marblehead, Mass., who had been in Salem during the afternoon, started in the storm on the return home about dark. They did not come, and it was supposed by their families and friends that they had forborne risking their lives in the cold and snow, remaining at Salem over night and that when the storm abated and travelling became practicable they would return in safety. But before the storm had cleared, news came that the men had been seen in the evening on their way to Marblehead. Then their families knew that there was but little chance of their being alive, for if they had reached Marblehead they would have come home. A searching party, consisting of a large number of their townsmen, was formed and during Monday they searched the snow in the road over which the men would be most likely to travel on their way home; but night came, and they had not been found. The search was renewed on the following morning, and this time it was successful, the bodies being found in the fields at some distance from the road and apart, as if the men had become separated and wandered from each other. The funeral of one of them took place on Thursday and of the other on the Friday following. Mr. Hooper left a wife and a large number of children, and Mr. Tidder, who was considerably younger than Mr. Hooper, left parents and a wife and child. The bereaved were very deeply affected by the sad and sudden deaths.
A sadder case than the foregoing occurred on the same evening at Litchfield, Conn. The storm
was very severe there, the snow
came in great quantities, and the wind blew a gale. A man by the name of Elisha Birge lived in a house which was so old and decayed that his wife Mary, who was naturally timid, thought it could not withstand the tempest. She was afraid to remain in it through the night, and on this Saturday evening, in spite of her husband’s persuasions, started out to go to a neighbor’s to spend the night. She soon lost her way in the blinding storm
and wandered about in the cold and whirling snow,
floundering in the great drifts until she knew not where she was. She had not been gone long when her husband repented letting her go off on her hazardous journey alone and started after her. He soon overtook her, and together they tried to find the house she sought. But after wandering about for some time in their fruitless search, she sat down by the trunk of an ancient tree to rest. Mr. Birge suggested that they had mistaken the road and urged her to return. She made no reply, and looking at her he discovered that she had fallen asleep, cold and exhaustion having taken away her senses. He tried to arouse her from her stupor, but it was too late, and she expired in his arms.
The storm was very severe along the coast. In Long Island sound, many vessels went ashore, and some were entirely lost. All the vessels at Stonington, Conn., were driven ashore, except a small schooner which was forced out to sea and never heard from. At Newport, R. I., ten or twelve ships, brigs and other vessels of the larger build were driven from the wharves and forced on shore at Brenton’s Neck, and a considerable number of small craft were dashed to pieces. A small schooner bound from Freetown to Newport foundered, and several people that were on board were drowned. Two sloops went ashore at Nantasket beach, and a small schooner was cast away at or near Cape Ann, its crew perishing.
A sloop, engaged in coasting between Damariscotta and Boston, Capt. John Askins, master, was driven on Lovell’s island in Boston harbor. There were thirteen [A later report said that there were fifteen, and that thirteen of them were lost, but failed to give the names of the other two] persons on board, twelve men and one woman, all of whom perished. Their bodies were found, and on the Thursday following brought up to town. Besides the captain, the persons lost were John Adams (or Adamson) of Medfield, two young men by the name of Cowell, a Mr. Grout of Sherburne, Samuel Ham of Durham, N. H., Miss Sylvia Knapp of Mansfield, Henry Read of Boothbay, Joseph Robeshaw of Wrentham, two men by the name of Rockwood, Capt. Oliver Rouse and a sailor belonging in Nova Scotia, whose name is unknown. All the bodies were soon found except those of Captain Rouse and John Adams, which were not discovered until the second day of January, more than three weeks after the disaster, when they were dug out of the snow and brought up to the town. Adams was buried the same day, under the direction of the coroner. Captain Rouse had been an officer in the American army in the revolution, and his body was conveyed to the house of his friend John McLane, on Newbury street, whence the interment took place on the evening of Sunday, the next day. The next year the Massachusetts Humane Society erected on this island a small house for the relief of shipwrecked mariners. It stood on the northwest side of the island, about sixty rods from the shore.
On Cape Cod, a schooner, belonging to Boston, Captain Godfrey, master, while on a trip from the eastward, was driven ashore, and all on board perished. On Sunday morning, the schooner Nancy of Salem, Mass., Captain Fairfield, master, bound from Port-au-Prince to her home port, was also cast ashore there, about three miles from Province town. The storm was so terrific that the waves washed over the deck and filled the cabin and hold, and the men were obliged to leave the wreck at ten o’clock in the evening. In the deep snow they travelled all night in search of shelter, but in vain. Eastick Cook of Salem perished in the search with the cold, and the limbs of the rest were much frozen. In the morning the other men returned to the place of the wreck, and found several persons there, they having observed the vessel and come down to it to render what assistance they could to the needy mariners, if they were still alive. They treated them very humanely and furnished them with clothes from their own backs, affording them every assistance in their power. The vessel was wholly lost, but the cargo was saved.
A coasting sloop, Capt. Samuel Robbins, master, bound to Plymouth, sailed from Long wharf, Boston harbor, between one and two o’clock on Saturday morning, it being deemed that the impending storm would not be very severe. There were several passengers, who with the crew made the number on board sixteen, among whom was Rev. Mr. Robbins of Plymouth. When they started the wind was blowing from the northeast, but after they had sailed about six miles beyond the harbor light it veered to the east-northeast, the heavens suddenly grew dark, and a squall of snow set in. They concluded to return to the harbor, and endeavored to do so, but the compass being out of order they could not find the harbor light again in the blinding snow. After sailing in what they supposed to be the right direction for about half an hour it was thought to be very hazardous to proceed further toward land, and the sloop was again headed in the opposite direction. The storm increased until the wind blew with great violence, splitting the mainsail, and with extreme difficulty they kept off the shore until morning. They hoped that daylight would bring some one to their rescue, but such a hope had no fruition. They could not discover land. It seemed that the only probable means of saving any of their lives was to run the vessel ashore, and at about eight o’clock in the morning it was solemnly agreed to do so, though they knew not where they were. The reader can, perhaps, imagine the thoughts that now came into their minds. There was but slight hope of being saved, and death seemed to be certain. As one of them afterward said, “Heaven appeared for us!” The order was given to run ashore, and a solemn and awful interval of ten minutes elapsed before the vessel struck. Each one gave himself up for lost. They had reached the border line of time and must immediately appear before their Maker. They saw the terrible breakers on shore, and the faint-hearted among them grew pale and weak as they gazed at them,— ” dread harbingers of their approaching destiny.” A shudder ran through their already chilled bodies and hearts when the helmsman (though mistaken) cried out, ” Nothing but rocks! The Lord have mercy on us, not a single life to be saved.” A minute later the sloop struck upon a sand-bar and was carried over to a point within two hundred feet of the shore. When the vessel stopped, her boom suddenly broke and fell upon the deck among the people, but fortunately only one person was injured, and that one but slightly. Thinking that the sloop would beat to pieces in a very short time, the boat belonging to it was immediately gotten out and by means of a long warp, one end fastened to the boat and the other to the vessel, the people reached the boat in safety. By making three trips, every person safely reached the shore. The success of the undertaking, considering its dangerous nature, the surf being heavy and the undertow exceedingly powerful, was almost wonderful. They found themselves on the beach at the northern end of the Gurnet peninsula, several miles from any human settlement. Though wet and cold, they travelled about to keep from freezing, being perfectly ignorant of the locality. The storm became more severe, and the cold seemed to be driven through their very vitals by the piercing wind. After all but two of them had been travelling about a mile in a northerly direction, as they thought, at about eleven o’clock in the forenoon they found a small hut that had been erected by some gunners as a temporary residence. In it they discovered a loaded gun, by means of which they made a fire ; and but for this some of them at least must have perished. The others of the shipwrecked company upon landing took an opposite course in quest of shelter, and at length arrived at the Gurnet lighthouse. One of the assistants there was despatched to seek the other members of the company. He came to the hut, found them and told them where they were, offering to conduct them to the house. All but five, who spent the succeeding night in the hut, seeking rest before travelling so far, set out with him. They travelled in the whole a distance of nearly seven miles, in the violent snow storm, for five hours on the desolate beach, suffering from inexpressible fatigue and being wet, cold and hungry, some of them having eaten nothing for more than twenty hours. They all, finally, arrived at the friendly house of Mr. Burgiss on the Gurnet, where they received every attention and kindness that compassion and generous hospitality could afford, until means were obtained for their safe return home.
The Historic Long Storm of November, 1798.
THE long and severe winter of 1798-99 began on the morning of Saturday, the seventeenth of November, 1798, with one of the severest snow storms that has ever been known in New England. On Sunday it became quite moderate, and for a time appeared to be clearing off, but when night came on the snow began to fall fast again, and the wind blew from the northeast with the force of a gale. The storm continued all day Monday and Tuesday and until the night of Wednesday, when the weather cleared, the wind ceased to blow and the snow to fall.
The great quantity of snow that fell was unprecedented so early in the winter, and in but few instances had the settlers experienced such a snow storm during any part of the year. The mail carriers, or postboys, as they were called, were obliged to ride through fields for miles at a time, the roads being impassable in all parts of the country. The snow was so deep that in some places where the highways had been shovelled out the banks of snow on both sides of the road were so high that men on horseback could not look over them. Many houses were so deeply buried in the snow that the families which lived in them found it very difficult to make an egress without tunnelling through the drifts.
The snow fell so densely, and the wind blew so terrifically, that great damage was done to the vessels along our coast. One of them that sailed from one of the northern ports for the West Indies a few days before the storm began was commanded by Captain Hammond. He was in the height of the storm off Cape Cod, and though his was one of the vessels that weathered the gale he was nearly driven on shore, all but one of about forty horses that formed part of the cargo perishing on the deck. As soon as it was possible the vessel returned to the port from which it had sailed.
Many vessels were wrecked on the Cape, and seven of them went to pieces, all the people on board being lost. The bodies of twentyfive of the men who lost their lives here in this storm washed ashore, were found and buried. One of the ill-fated vessels was the schooner Rachel, of one hundred tons burden, nearly new, and commanded by Capt. John Simpson of Frenchman’s bay, Sullivan, Maine, who was then about thirty-five years of age. He was the sole owner of the craft. With a cargo of lumber he sailed from Sullivan for Salem, Mass., about the middle of the month, his crew consisting of William Abbot, mate, Zachariah Hodgkins, Stephen Merchant, and James Springer. There was also on board a passenger, Paul D. Sargent, a young son of Paul D. Sargent of Sullivan, who was on his way to attend a school in Salem during the winter. As far as Herring-gut harbor, St. George, Maine, they kept company with another schooner, which bore the name of Diana, whose commander was a brother of Captain Simpson. The weather had then become quite threatening, and the wind began to blow very strongly from the northeast. The two schooners were so near each other at this time that their captains discussed the situation. They were of diverse opinions, and the result was that the Diana made a harbor, while the Rachel kept on its way before the wind, its captain believing that the strong breeze would enable him to reach his destined port before the storm should come upon them. His calculations proved to be erroneous, for he had accomplished but a small part of the distance when
“The black clouds the face of heaven defined,
The whistling wind soon ripened to a storm,
The waves tremendous roared, and billows rolled.”
Snow began to fall, and blasts from the northeast swept the craft on through the blinding storm. Fearing the wind would drive them ashore they steered away from the land as far as possible, and though the general line of the Massachusetts coast was cleared they did not escape the sandy peninsula of Cape Cod, that great arm of the Commonwealth that is thrust out into the sea as if to grasp the vessels as they pass. With many others the schooner was driven upon the beach a short distance below where the Highland lighthouse at Truro stands, between the second and third sand hills. Every person on board was lost, all their bodies being found, some on the wreck and the rest on the beach. That of the captain was easily recognized by his clothing and the articles found in his pockets. The young passenger was identified by his apparel, which was better than that of the crew. Many little things belonging to the captain were found, carefully preserved and forwarded to his family. There were among them a small trunk covered with sealskin, also a pearl-handled pocket-knife and a small handkerchief, the latter having been put into his pocket by his five year-old daughter the day he sailed from home. The bodies of the drowned were all tenderly interred in the old cemetery at North Truro, where there has been erected to their memory a tablet of fine Italian marble set in a base of granite, quarried near Captain Simpson’s home in Sullivan.
The brig Hope, commanded by Capt. James Hooper, sailing from Demerara, British Guiana, South America, was off the coast when the storm commenced. A harbor could not be made, and at length the gale came on so terrifically that they were in the utmost danger. They cut away their mainmast and dropped both their anchors, but were still driven before the blast. Fearful that they would run upon some rocky shore and be dashed to pieces, the captain and his crew left the vessel and embarked in an open boat, hoping that it would live among the furious billows. They were then about six miles from the nearest lighthouse in the direction of which they sailed, and finally reached a harbor in safety. After they left the brig it parted both cables, and at last was driven upon the beach at Hampton, N. H. The seamen remained at the place where they were until the storm was over and they had learned the fate of their vessel, when the captain with the owners went to Hampton, where the brig was found high on the beach in an upright position. Its hull had suffered but very little damage, and the cargo, consisting of rum, coffee and sugar, was but slightly injured.
The Great Snow Storm of February, 1802.
THE winter of 1801-02 was very mild, the month of January being so warm that on the twenty-fourth, the ice on the Merrimac river began to move down the stream, and on the twenty-eighth, at Salem, Mass., the thermometer indicated sixty degrees above zero. It was the warmest January that the people remembered. There had been but little snow, and they congratulated themselves upon the pleasant winter and the prospect of an early spring.
On Sunday, the twenty-first of February, the aspect of the weather wholly changed. The first part of the day was remarkably pleasant, but the wind soon changed to the northeast, and a fierce snow storm came on. The storm continued for nearly a week, covering the earth with snow and sleet to the depth of several feet. Intense cold prevailed, which produced much suffering among all classes, and caused the sleet to freeze upon the snow, forming a crust so hard and thick that the people, not distinguishing the location of the roads, drove in their sleighs across lots over fences and walls. Hon. Bailey Bartlett, Ichabod Tucker and several others of Haverhill, Mass., drove from that place to Ipswich, a distance of sixteen miles, in a large double sleigh upon the crust of snow across fields and pastures. The mail carriers were also greatly interrupted in the performance of their duties.
This was one of the winters to which the old folks of two generations ago were wont to refer, when no roads were broken out, and the farmers dragged their grists of corn on hand sleds upon the crust of the snow across fields, through woods and over fences and walls to the mills to get it ground.
The storm proved very disastrous to the vessels along the coast of Massachusetts. A schooner came ashore at Plum island, and a brig and a sloop were cast away at Cape Ann. On Chelsea beach a ship and a schooner were wrecked. The brig Eliza, commanded by Captain Ricker and owned in Berwick, Maine, while on its trip from Demerara to Boston, by way of the Vineyard, was driven on shore near the place of its destination on Monday, the twenty-second. Two schooners were also cast ashore at the same time and place, one of them being from Havana and bound to Salem, and the other belonging in Marblehead. Fortunately, no lives were lost from either vessel. Two pilot boats belonging to Messrs. Cole and Knox were driven ashore in the bay at Braintree, and a schooner, bound from Halifax to Boston, was wrecked on Cohasset rocks, one or more of the crew perishing. At Marshfield, the ship Florenzo, commanded by Captain Ham, bound from St. Ubes to Portsmouth, N. H., by the way of New York, was driven on shore, a pilot, whose services they had secured at the Vineyard, and three of the crew being lost. Cape Cod, however, was the scene of the principal shipwrecks, among them being that of a schooner from Martinico, which was driven ashore at Sandwich, her crew and cargo of molasses being saved.
Fifty years ago, the storm
was best remembered by the people living on Cape Cod, on account of the wrecks there of three East-Indiamen, from the port of Salem, Mass. They were all full-rigged ships, and were named Ulysses, Brutus and Volusia, being commanded by Captains James Cook, William Brown and Samuel Cook, respectively. The first two were owned by G. Crowninshield and sons, and the other by Israel Williams and others of Salem. On that lovely Sunday morning, the three vessels proudly passed down the harbor of Salem, the Brutus and Ulysses being bound to Bordeaux, in France, and the Volusia to a port in the Mediterranean. A few hours after their departure, snow
began to fall, the temperature descended very quickly, and before the next morning dawned, the wind blew a gale.
The storm came on so suddenly and was so furious that the people in Salem, to many of whose families the officers and crews belonged, were anxious to learn something from the vessels, and their owners also were interested as the ships and their cargoes were valuable. The first information that was received indicated that all the vessels and their crews were lost. Gloom rested upon the faces of the people as they conversed about the probable accuracy of the report.
“There is waiting, anxious waiting, for the tidings of the missing— And tearful eyes are looking in sadness to the shore;
And the mother’s heart is aching as the child she’s fondly kissing
Whispers softly from its cradle,’ Will papa come no more?'”
They were kept in suspense several days, and not till the fourth of March did they begin to learn the particulars of the great disaster that had come to the vessels and their crews. The story has been told thousands of times around the hearth-fires of a past generation, always being listened to with great interest. A warm summer-like day in February would bring the tale to the minds of those who remembered how lovely that quiet Sunday was, and what a terrible storm
sleet and wind immediately followed.
At sunset on that beautiful day, the ships were about ten miles south-southeasterly from the Thatcher-island lighthouse at Cape Ann, the wind was blowing lightly from the southeast, and all three vessels were sailing together toward the east northeast. Snow began to fall soon after, and a storm seemed to have begun. During the latter part of the evening the captains spoke each other, and discussed the situation. Had they better return and wait until suitable weather came, or push out to sea as fast as possible? They finally concluded to continue on the voyage, and turning their prows toward the east added to their sail. They made but very little progress, however, as the breeze was so light it had but slight effect upon the canvas, and at times seemed to leave them entirely. They continued together until midnight, when the snow fell faster and the wind grew strong, having suddenly changed to the northeast. The weather had now become so threatening that the captain of the Volusia regretted that he had consented to continue on the voyage, and at half past two in the morning, concluding to risk the trip no farther, he put about on his return to Salem. The other vessels were so far from him that he could not see them, and he therefore started back without informing them of his change of mind and course.
Before the Volusia could reach Cape Ann, the snow fell so thickly, and the wind blew so hard that it was found impossible to enter the harbor. Thwarted in their design they were now under the disheartening necessity of running before the wind, and endeavoring to keep the ship away from the dangerous coast. With reefed top-sails they managed to do this through the early morning hours and most of the forenoon, though the wind was blowing a gale from the east-northeast. At eleven o’clock they saw land to the leeward, which was immediately recognized as Cape Cod, whose perilous shores they knew full well. They saw that it was almost impossible to weather the cape, and that the only thing they could do would be to tack and try to run into the cape harbor. Just then the wind parted the fore-top-sail sheet and tore the sail into shreds, at the same time carrying away the slings of the fore-yard, which brought the yard down on deck, and rendered the head sails useless. Their hope of reaching the harbor was now utterly gone. They could do nothing but let the vessel drive on shore, and if they succeeded in reaching it all would be well; but how little hope any of the men had that they would survive the terrible breakers and the powerful undertow. They had spent their lives on the ocean and knew how slight their chance of preservation was. They thought of Salem, of their homes, their wives and children, that they would probably never see again, and they seemed to love them all then with an affection that was a thousand-fold stronger than they had ever felt before. Kindred thoughts filled their minds during the ten minutes that elapsed before the ship struck the bar, about a mile from the shore, off Truro near the Peaked hills. The crew had already cut away the mizzen-mast, and now the main lanyards were severed, and the main-mast fell over the side of the ship. After a short time the vessel beat over the bar, and was driven quite near the shore. Hope came to them again. They knew at what time of the day low-tide would occur, and so they patiently waited until the afternoon when the tide was at the lowest point. Many of the inhabitants of the cape had gathered on the beach, and with their assistance the land was successfully reached by the entire crew. The vessel and part of the cargo were also saved, although much damaged.
Let us now return to the Brutus and the Ulysses that the Volusia left in the night, plowing their way oceanward in the storm. The Volusia had left them at half-past two in the midnight darkness of the early morning, they not being aware of what had become of her. An hour later the captains of the two vessels spoke each other, and now agreed that the safest plan would be to tack to the north-northwest till daylight came, and then endeavor to run out of the south channel. They accordingly changed their course, and continued in the proposed direction until six o’clock. The Brutus then turned to the southeast, but the Ulysses headed for Cape Ann as the Volusia had done earlier in the morning. Captain Cook of the Ulysses kept his course until eight o’clock, then brought the ship round and stood out of the bay, under as much canvas as she could possibly carry. The gale increased, and they were obliged to reduce the amount of sail in the afternoon. At five o’clock they sighted the highlands of Cape Cod, and immediately tacked to the westward. The sky was dark and gloomy, the snow was falling thickly and the wind blew with so great fury that the only canvas the ship could carry were her foresail and mizzen-top sails. They did not dare to expect that they would weather the shoals, and thought they must strike immediately. The waves dashed over the deck carrying away from the bows one of the anchors, and more than an hour was spent in heaving it into place again. At ten o’clock in the evening the ship struck on the bar at the northern pitch of Cape Cod. The bowsprit and foremast were soon carried away by the wind and waves, and the main-mast, the mizzen-mast, the boats and everything on the deck followed a few moments later. The hull only remained, and the crew fled to the cabin for protection. The ship lay thumping upon the bar but a few minutes, when some gigantic waves lifted it over, and carried it toward the beach. There they remained all night in almost utter hopelessness. The ship had bilged, and the men watched it fill with water until the floor of the cabin was covered. Their situation was now most serious, as the vessel was filling with water and they were far from shore. Before morning dawned, the tide had reached its extreme ebb, and the ship was happily left on the beach, near the water’s edge, only about a mile from the wreck of the Volusia. The crew easily reached the shore, and received assistance from some of the people of Provincetown. A part of the cargo was saved, though it was much damaged, but the vessel finally went to pieces.
When the Brutus separated from the Ulysses at six o’clock on Monday morning, it changed its course to the southeast, carrying all the sail it possibly could. It weathered the gale all through that day, but was constantly driven shoreward. During the day Andrew Herron, who belonged in Salem, while engaged in reefing the foresail was blown from the yard, and fell, being instantly killed. He was a foreigner by birth, and a prudent and industrious young man, who by hard labor had accumulated considerable property. He was engaged to be married to a worthy lady of Salem, who was greatly affected by his death. About eight o’clock in the evening, the^hip struck on the bar, two miles from the lighthouse and near the place where the Volusia and Ulysses came ashore. She remained on the bar some time,
and at length was lightened by throwing overboard a large part of the cargo. The waves then carried her over, and she ran upon the beach. The mizzen-mast was now cut away, and a few moments later the main-mast also. Hardly had this been done, when the crew were horrified to discover that the ship was parting in the middle. They must get on shore immediately, or perish in the waves. But how could they reach the land? Fortunately, the main-mast had fallen toward the beach, and on that they crawled as far as they could, Captain Brown bravely leading the way. He was the first man to get on shore. The two mates followed, and then came the seamen. All but one man, George Pierce of Marblehead, reached the beach in safety. He was overcome by the terrible waves, and drowned. The men were wet and cold and exhausted, and it seemed to be as fatal to remain on the beach as to have staid on the vessel. Something must be done for their preservation immediately. They determined to keep in a body, and if possible to cross the neck of land and seek a place of shelter. This was the coldest night of the winter, the temperature being below zero, and the strong northeast wind pierced them through and through. Captain Brown was very thinly clothed, having lost his thickest garment as he left the ship. He soon succumbed to the intense cold and the fatiguing march through the deep snow, which was too exhausting for his weak limbs to continue further. Mr. Ruee, the first mate, and the other seamen tenderly assisted him as well as they could, but they could not rally his waning strength and will. When they had reached the western side of the bay, about a mile from Provincetown, between that town and Truro, the captain gave up entirely, and soon after expired. It was now nearly midnight. One by one the men began to give out, Jacob Ayers of Manchester, the second mate, a worthy and promising young man, being one of the first to perish in the snow. Soon after, several others of the crew, becoming exhausted, dropped into the drifts, and froze to death. The survivors travelled about, not knowing whither they went, till about four o’clock in the morning (Tuesday), when they discovered a lighthouse. The party was now reduced to five persons only. They had wandered about, back and forth, in the course of the night, more than twenty miles. With limbs stiffened by cold and fatigue, they were just able to drag themselves to a small house situated in the vicinity of the lighthouse. They made their presence known to the people within, who opened wide their doors, and assisted the wretched mariners to enter. Here the sufferers received the most humane treatment. Search was immediately begun for those who had fallen in the snow during the night, but not one of them was saved. Had the wrecked seamen varied their course either to the right or left, they would have seen either the town of Truro or Provincetown, and probably fewer of them would have been lost. One of the men, Benjamin Ober, who belonged in Manchester, was found buried in the sand and snow, after having been there for thirty-six hours, being all that time in his full senses, and perceiving people continually passing near him, but powerless to move his body or make the party of rescuers hear his feeble voice. At length he held up his hand through the snow, and a boy saw it. Willing and strong arms immediately bore him to a warm room, but it was too late to revive his feeble life, which soon ebbed away.
The following is a list of the names of the crew of the Brutus. Those that perished were William Brown of Salem, captain; Jacob Ayers of Manchester, second mate ; and Benjamin Ober of Manchester, Andrew Herron of Salem, Samuel Flagg of Andover, George Pierce of Marblehead, and three negroes belonging in Salem, named Benjamin Birch, John Lancaster and John Tucker, seamen. The five men who survived were Thomas Ruee of Salem, first mate ; and Joseph Phippen, jr., Robert Martin and William Rowell, all of Salem, and Daniel Potter of Marblehead, seamen. The bodies of those that perished were found the next day, and properly interred. Captain Brown, being found near Provincetown, was buried there, but the rest of the men having perished near Truro, were there given their last resting place. Captain Brown’s death was sincerely mourned by a large number of people, as he had been a most valuable member of society.
During an easterly storm in 1880, the waves washed away a portion of the bank where the wreck of the Brutus had lain, and under it was found the skeleton of a man, who was supposed to have been an officer of that ship. With his bones were found some silver coin, and a watch that had stopped at two o’clock, which was shortly after the hour that the wreck occurred. The author of the History of Truro adds, “The wheels of the watch and the wheels of life stood still, and had been wrapped in their sandy winding-sheet for seventy-eight years.”
Historic Storm of October, 1804.
AT about nine o’clock in the morning of Tuesday, October 9 r1 1804, the temperature fell very suddenly, and a storm of rain J and snow, accompanied by thunder and lightning, began. In the southern part of New England it rained, and in the northern portion the storm began with snow. The wind blew from the southeast until one o’clock in the afternoon, when it changed to the north-northeast, and before sunset became so powerful that it blew down houses, barns, chimneys and trees. The wind reached its height in the evening, and at midnight began to blow less violently, abating considerably before morning, though the storm of rain and snow continued until Thursday morning. People sat up all that night, fearing to retire lest their houses would blow down. Wednesday morning revealed the streets in towns encumbered with sections of fence, whole or parts of trees, and many other things that the wind could carry away ; and the country roads were everywhere obstructed with fallen trees.
In the southern portion of New England the rain fell in extraordinary quantities until the wind grew less violent, when snow began to fall, continuing all day Wednesday, that night and until the storm ended the next morning. In Vermont, the snow fell till Wednesday morning only, covering the earth to the depth of four or five inches, though along the higher lands the wind blew it into such large drifts that the roads were blocked, thus giving it the effect of a much greater storm. At Concord, N. H., the snow was nearly two feet deep, and in Massachusetts from five to fourteen inches. In the southern portion of New England it melted in a few days, but in the northern states it remained in places until the next spring.
It was the earliest snow storm that the people of eastern Massachusetts had experienced for fifty years ; and “the oldest inhabitant” did not remember so violent a storm occurring there before. It did not reach far either north or south, but was felt inland beyond the limits of New England.
The effect of the storm
on apples and potatoes was very disastrous. The fruit was blown from the trees, and in the northern sections large quantities of potatoes that remained undug were frozen into the ground, where they were left until the next spring, being harvested after the frost was out. The storm
also caused the death of large numbers of cattle and sheep, and fowls of all kinds, especially around Walpole, and at Newbury and Topsfield, Mass. At Newbury nearly a hundred cattle were killed, thirty being found dead in one section of the town. The snow
also greatly damaged the fruit, shade, and ornamental trees, being so damp that it clung to the boughs and broke them down by its weight. The noise of breaking limbs of trees was continually heard in the woods.
The gale was very injurious to the pine and oak timber trees of the forests, destroying the larger portion of the best oaks that were useful in ship-building. It has been said that so many of the great oaks were destroyed that the building of vessels declined in Massachusetts, and that the great gale of 1815 brought about its entire abandonment in several places. At Thomaston, Me., a sixty-acre timber lot was almost entirely blown down. Such great sections of the woods were levelled that new landscapes and prospects were brought into view to the surprise of many people. Houses and other buildings and hills that could not be seen before from certain places were now plainly visible. The change was so great in some localities that the surroundings seemed to have become entirely different, and people felt as if they were in a strange place.
Buildings and chimneys were blown down or greatly damaged by the wind. At Danvers, Mass., the South church (now included in that part of the town which was afterward incorporated as Peabody), and also the Baptist church at the port were unroofed, the latter having one of its sides blown in and the pews torn to pieces. At the brick-yard in that town belonging to Jeremiah Page, thirty or forty thousand unburned bricks were ruined by the rain, the wind blowing so violently that no covering could be kept over them. At Beverly, the spire of the lower meeting house, as it was then called, was broken off. At Salem, the dome and belfry on the Tabernacle church were torn to pieces; and a barn belonging to a Mr. French was blown down, killing one of his truck horses. Several sheds were also blown down. Many chimneys could not withstand the blasts, and fell. The three chimneys on the ancient court house that stood in front of the Tabernacle church in the middle of Washington street, being observed to be broken near the roof and tottering as if about to fall, were pushed over before they had caused injury to any one. Among the other chimneys blown down were three on William Gray’s house in Essex street, and two on Captain Mason’s house in Vine street, one of the latter falling upon the roof of Asa Pierce’s house, which it broke through. No one in Salem suffered personal injury, fortunately. At Charlestown, the roof of the Baptist church was blown off, the spire on Rev. Dr. Morse’s church was much bent, and two large dwelling houses were demolished. A brick building in the navy yard that had recently been erected was very much injured and had to be taken down. The brick-yards there were also much damaged, many bricks being destroyed. The wharves in Boston were somewhat injured, particularly May’s, and the damage to buildings was considerable. Several new buildings were badly shaken and twisted, being so much injured that they had to be taken down and built anew. At the western part of the city, the wind blew the battlements from a new building upon the roof of an adjoining house, which was occupied by Ebenezer Eaton. Shortly before, a neighbor noticed that the battlements were giving away, and directed the attention of Mr. Eaton to it. He accordingly took his wife and children, and went to a safer place. A few minutes later the battlements fell and demolished the house, burying in its ruins the four persons who remained in it. These were a servant woman, named Bennett, who was killed, and another woman, a man and a boy, who were seriously injured. The roof was torn from the tower of King’s Chapel, and conveyed two hundred feet. The beautiful steeple on the North church fell, and demolished a house, the family that lived in it fortunately being away on a visit. While the wind was blowing very violently, a stage was upset at the bridge at the west-end, some of the passengers being considerably hurt. Houses were also damaged at Newport and Providence, R. I. The shipping was also very much injured by the wind all along the coast from Rye, N. H., to Newport, R. I. Many vessels in the harbors dragged their anchors or broke their cables, and dashed against each other or the wharves, or were driven upon lee-shores and wrecked. The lives of many seamen were lost. In Vineyard sound a sloop was upset, and all hands perished, and on the back of Cape Cod the schooner John Harris of Salem was lost with all on board. Five miles south of Cape Cod lighthouse, the ship Protector, of about five hundred tons burden, while on a trip from Boston to Lima, ran on the outer bar, about two hundred yards from the beach. This was a large vessel for those times, and was quite attractive, having yellow sides and a white figure-head. She went ashore stern first. Her bowsprit remained for some time, but the quarter deck, a part of the stern and the anchor on the larboard bow, with the boat, sails and rigging were soon washed away, some of the wreckage coming ashore. Of her cargo, which was worth a hundred thousand dollars, a considerable part was saved. One man was lost. Several vessels were driven ashore at Plymouth, and the dead body of a mariner was found on the beach and those of two others in a wreck. Vessels were driven out to sea from Marblehead, Manchester and other places and lost.
The brig Thomas of Portland was returning from a voyage to the West Indies, when she went ashore on Scituate beach. The cargo of sugar and molasses was safely landed, and the vessel was gotten off without much damage being done to it.
The sloops Hannah of North Yarmouth, Capt. Joshua Gardner, master, and Mary of New Bedford, which was commanded by Captain Sanson, drifted together out of the harbor at Cape Ann, and were driven on shore at Cohasset at about the same time. The Hannah struck on a ledge some distance from the shore on Wednesday noon at twelve o’clock, and the first sea that swept the deck carried off the master, who was drowned. Two of the men lashed themselves to the boom, and remained on deck about two hours, until the vessel went to pieces, when the boom with the men still lashed to it washed ashore. Several of the citizens of Cohasset saw the men plunging in the surf, and came to their assistance, saving them when they were nearly exhausted. The people on board the Mary were all saved, and the vessel was afterward gotten off. Three other vessels came ashore at Cohasset, and were wrecked.
At Boston, many vessels in the harbor were damaged by being forced by the wind violently against the wharves. The Laura, belonging in Gloucester and commanded by Captain Griffin, was nearly beaten to pieces at Long wharf, and her cargo was very much damaged. Many of the small craft were so blown about and strained that they bilged and sank, several of them being staved to pieces. Some of the larger vessels also bilged, and several had bowsprits, sterns and other sections broken. Cargoes were also damaged. Several men were drowned there during the gale, two being cast into the water from a boat that upset at May’s wharf, and drowned before they could be rescued. A lad was endeavoring to keep a sloop free of water near Four Point channel, but his efforts proved unsuccessful. When the vessel was sinking he clasped a plank, but was soon washed off and drowned.
The vessels in the harbor at Salem also drifted about, their anchors failing to hold them. Very few were injured, however, except two schooners, one of which drifted in from Gloucester, and the other, the Success, commanded by Captain Robbins and laden with fish, oil and lumber, put in here while on a trip from Passamaquoddy to Boston. They were both cast ashore, and damaged more than any of the others. The Success lost her anchors and her main and jib booms, and finally bilged.
Near Fresh Water cove in Gloucester, a sloop belonging in Kennebunk, laden with rum, was lost. The master and crew were saved, but a lady passenger perished. A schooner, belonging in Connecticut, with a cargo of corn, also went to pieces there, the people on board being rescued. Several other vessels were wrecked on different parts of the cape; and six large crafts there had to cut away their masts, among them being an English ship from Newfoundland. Four or five vessels were driven out of the harbor, some of them being lost, with their crews. A fleet of fishing vessels were off the northern part of the cape, and for a while the people were much concerned for their safety.
The schooner Dove, of Kittery, was wrecked on Ipswich bar, and all of the seven persons on board perished. An eastern vessel was lost on Rye beach, in New Hampshire, and a woman, who was a passenger in it, was found dead on the sand, with an infant clasped in her arms. Near Rye was also wrecked the schooner Amity, from Philadelphia, commanded by Captain Trefethern. All the people on board were saved, except a passenger named Charles Schrceder, of Philadelphia, who was drowned.
“Cold Friday” 1810.
“JANUARY 19, 1810, is the date of the famous day known in the © I annals of New England as “Cold Friday.” It was said to have been the severest day experienced here from the first settlement of the country to that time.
To this date the winter had been unusually moderate. December had been quite warm, even milder than November. Very little snow had fallen and the ground was bare in southern New England, but in New Hampshire and other northern states there was good sleighing. The preceding day and evening had been mild for the season, with a warm south wind, but at about four o’clock in the afternoon there was a squall of snow, the wind sprang up, and immediately changed to the north-northwest, increasing in force until it blew with great violence. The temperature was then forty-five degrees above zero at Salem, Mass., and it suddenly began to descend. The next morning, only eighteen hours later, it was five degrees below zero, having fallen fifty degrees. At Amherst, N. H., it was fourteen degrees below zero, and in other places thirteen, having fallen as many degrees as it had at Salem. At Weare, N. H., the temperature fell fifty-five degrees in twenty-four hours, from Thursday morning to Friday morning. The strong piercing wind enhanced the cold to a great degree, and penetrated the thickest clothing, driving the cold air into all parts of dwelling-houses, and making the day almost insufferable in common houses and terrible out of doors. Few people ventured out, and those that did had their hands, noses, ears or feet almost instantly frost-bitten. Many people were frozen to death while travelling along the highways. At times and places the wind was so strong that it was difficult to keep on one’s feet. The gale continued all day, and houses, barns, and vast numbers of timber trees were blown down, or broken to pieces in such a way as to render them unfit for timber, being left to decay where they fell.
At Chester, N. H., the wind lifted a house, letting one corner of it fall to the bottom of the cellar. At Sanbornton, the three children of Jeremiah Ellsworth perished with the cold on this morning under very sad circumstances. As Mr. Ellsworth and his wife were uncomfortable in bed, they rose about an hour before sunrise. Shortly after, a part of the house was blown in, and it was thought that the whole structure would be demolished. Leaving the two elder children in bed, because their clothes had been blown away, Mrs. Ellsworth dressed the youngest child and went into the cellar for safety, while her husband started for assistance to the house of the nearest neighbor in a northerly direction, which was a mile distant. He found it to be too hazardous to face the wind and so changed his course toward the house of David Brown, which was the nearest in another direction, being only a quarter of a mile away. He reached it as the sun rose, his feet being considerably frozen, and his whole person so benumbed by the cold that he could not return with Mr. Brown to bring his wife and children in a sleigh. Having arrived at the house, Mr. Brown put a bed in the sleigh and placed the children upon it, covering them with the bed clothes. Mrs. Ellsworth also got into the sleigh; but they had gone only six or eight rods when it was blown over, and all the persons and every thing were lodged in the snow. Mrs. Ellsworth held the horse while he reloaded the sleigh. She decided to walk, and started off ahead, but before Mr. Brown’s house was reached was so overcome by the cold that she thought she could not go farther, and sank into the snow. She thought that she must perish, but at length she made another effort and crawled along on her hands and knees until she met her husband, who was searching for them. She was so changed by her experiences that he did not at first recognize her. By his help she reached the house. Mr. Brown had not yet come. After Mrs. Ellsworth left him, he again started, but had gone but a few rods when the sleigh was torn to pieces by the wind, and the children thrown to some distance. He collected them once more, laid them on the bed and covered them over. He then hallooed for assistance, but no one answered. He knew that the children would soon perish in that situation, and as their cries of distress pierced his heart, he wrapped them all in a coverlet, and attempted to carry them on his shoulders.
But the wind blew them all into a heap in the snow.
Finding it impossible to carry all three of the children, he left the child that was dressed by the side of a large log, and took the other two upon his shoulders. But again he failed to carry them against the strong wind. He then took a child under each arm, they having on no other clothing than their shirts, and in this way, though blown down every few rods, he finally reached the house, having been about two hours on the way. The two children, though frozen stiff, were alive, but died a few minutes after reaching the house. Mr. Brown’s hands and feet were badly frozen, and he was severely chilled and exhausted. The body of the child was found before night. Mr. Brown lived many years after this experience, but never recovered from its effects, becoming blind in consequence.
The cold continued to be extreme until the forenoon of the following Monday, when the wind changed to the southwest, and the temperature began to rise.
At Springfield, Mass., on the cold morning, a heavy fog seemed to be passing down the river. The cold air congealed it into fine snow, which rose as high as forty feet above the water. It continued through the day, but was most conspicuous about two o’clock in the afternoon. A similar phenomenon was seen at the same time in Salem. It there had a smoky appearance, being so dense that it was opaque, but rose only a few feet above the surface of the water.
Historic Winter of 1833-36.
THE summer of 1835 was dry and remarkably pleasant, but the winter following was one of the severest seasons ever known in New England. It had many exceedingly cold days, and all the harbors from New York to Nova Scotia were thickly frozen over. Massachusetts bay was covered by the ice for a long distance from the shore. The first snow fell November 23, and from that time to the end of March snow storms came frequently, covering the earth to a great depth, and making excellent sleighing, which continued for twenty weeks.
December 6, Sunday, was a bitter, cold day, with a high wind from the northwest. The harbor of Salem, Mass., was then frozen over as far as Naugus head. An incident of that day was the loss of the crew of a small craft bearing the name Bianca, in sight of their own homes at Pond hollow in Truro, on Cape Cod. There were five of them, and they had been to Provincetown to ship their fish to Boston, for they were fishermen, and had started home this Sunday morning against the advice of older and wiser men. The sea was heavy, and the boat was capsized on the bar, all the men being drowned.
Wednesday, December 16, was the coldest day that had been experienced for many years, and taking the whole of the day it was the severest on record, being colder than either of the “Cold Fridays.” The sun shone brightly, and a boisterous piercing wind prevailed throughout the day, rendering exposure to the open air scarcely endurable. At Salem, Mass., the temperature at six o’clock in the morning was eight degrees below zero. By nine o’clock it had risen three degrees, but immediately began to descend. At noon it was eight below, and two hours later twelve. During the next hour it rose about two degrees, but again descended, being at eight o’clock in the evening eighteen below. At Greenfield, Mass., at noon on that day it was fifteen below. The next morning it was seven below, and by noon at Salem it had risen to seven degrees above zero. Many fingers, noses and ears were frozen. An instance is recorded of a judge, who, upon entering the court-room immediately after returning from his morning ride on horseback, found that his ears were frozen. The drivers of the stages on the eastern route suffered much from frozen extremities. During the night many buildings were burned, probably on account of the great fires that were made to enable the people to keep warm, and there was such a demand for fuel that the price advanced to an extreme limit.
Through November and December there was that rare affliction, a winter
drought. The streams were so low that a considerable number of the manufacturing establishments were obliged to suspend operations, and many poor people were thus thrown out of employment in the middle of a hard winter.
All wells were very low, and many dry. Water for domestic purposes was brought from a distance by teams. On Christmas night a slight thaw began, and fog and rain set in, which cleared the ice out of many harbors. The rain fell quite copiously in central Massachusetts, carrying off most of the snow
which was on the ground. The springs were not much affected by it, however, the ground being too much frozen to permit the water to go through it.
The month of January was as severe as the preceding month had been. Many disasters to vessels on our coast occurred, and a number of lives were lost. Among the wrecks was that of the brig Regulator, bound from Smyrna to Boston, which ran on an island in Boston harbor. The foremast went by the deck, and the main top-mast followed, taking with it the head of the main-mast close to the rigging and the tops. It was low tide, and the sea broke over the decks, filling her with water. As the tide rose she beat over the island. Some of the crew were lost, but Captain Phelps and several others climbed into the rigging, and there remained until rescued by the crew of the brig Cervantes, after they had struggled five hours in the waves trying to reach the wreck. The survivors were all more or less frozen. The rescue was very opportune as the vessel was already submerged only the bowsprit and a few other projections being above water.
On February 21, the three months’ run of cold weather in eastern Massachusetts was broken and another thaw set in. The snow was deep everywhere, in the woods and fields and highways. In most of the streets of Boston the snow and ice had accumulated to from three to four feet in depth, and in many of the narrow streets was even deeper. The roofs of buildings were heavily burdened with it, and they leaked like sieves. As the thaw came on, people were afraid their roofs would break with the weight of snow, and they hurried to relieve them. Cellars were inundated, sidewalks and streets were generally overflowed and impassable. The scene there was interesting. Axes, hatchets, spades, shovels and brooms were called into use to counteract the effects and avoid the inconvenience of a freshet. Young and old, large and small, black and white, rich and poor, people of all conditions and both sexes, with their various implements, from the ponderous pickaxe to the broom, were industriously delving and digging to open passages for the water in directions away from their own premises.
April 1, snow was four feet deep in the New Hampshire woods, and not a speck of bare ground was to be seen there on hill or in dale. The weather was still very cold.
The Storms of December, 1839.
DURING the first two weeks of December, 1839, the weather was uncommonly pleasant, and without the least intimation of the terrible storms that were about to ravage the New England coast. Saturday, the fourteenth, was very mild, with a perfectly clear sky, and many vessels on our northeastern coast left their havens bound for Boston, New York and other southern ports. Soon after midnight snow began to fall and the wind to blow from the northeast, and they were driven down the coast, with the mist that ever exists in the Bay of Fundy, which shielded the breakers and bars from sight. The warning rays of the lights along the shore struggled to penetrate the heavy fog that shrouded the turbulent billows.
The wind suddenly changed to the southeast, and during the night and the next forenoon many of the vessels that had left the ports of Maine and New Hampshire the day before were run into the nearest port for refuge. At noon the wind had greatly increased in violence, and in the afternoon it blew a gale in many places. The ocean has rarely been seen in such violent agitation, and possessed of such terrible power. Accompanied with mingled rain and snow, the storm continued all day; and all along the coast the harbor scenes consisted of the vessels tossing on the darkened stormy waters, and blown by the wind and thrown about by the waves, being watched with intense interest and anxiety by the dwellers along the coast, who saw the fate of the hapless mariners in the awful breakers on the lee shore. Many people with willing hands and noble, stout hearts hastened to afford assistance if chance should offer, or it could avail. One after another the vessels were seen to drift, and apparently hurry on to destruction, while many silent, earnest prayers ascended from the throngs on the beaches in behalf of the impotent mariners. Some of the crafts turned over and went down at their anchors bottom up, with the crews, who were seen no more. The fearful end of many vessels, however, was checked by cutting away the masts. Others were steered for sandy beaches, upon which the wind drove them, and with assistance from the people on shore, the lives of most of the sailors were saved. Several of them were dashed upon rocks and shivered to atoms in a moment, in some instances the crews being saved in various ways by the strong arms of mariners who had battled with the waves and storms for years. As night came on the storm seemed rather to increase than diminish and the wind blew more violently than it had before during the storm, darkness with all its gloom settling down over the scene that was never to be effaced from the memory of those that witnessed it. The wind blew with mighty power and the sea raged all through the long night. Many persons remained on the beach during those dreadful hours to render aid, but they were rarely able to do so for the fury of the storm. About two o’clock in the morning the wind veered to the northeast, and the gale somewhat abated. It continued to storm and the sea to rage, however, until late Monday night, but most disaster was caused Sunday night. The exact loss of life was never known, but it must have been great. The whole shore of Massachusetts was strewn with wrecks and dead bodies, and the harbors of Newburyport, Salem, Marblehead, Boston, Cohasset, Plymouth and Cape Cod were almost literally filled with disabled vessels. But on the shores of Maine and Connecticut the storm was less severe. On the land the force of the wind was terrific, many buildings being blown down and hundreds of chimneys overturned. The tide rose higher than many of the highest water-marks then known. Inland as far as northwestern Massachusetts the snow fell in great quantities, and its depth rendered travelling almost impossible, the deep embankments in many places extending to the second story 01 houses. This was the first snow storm of the season.
At Boston, the tide rose higher than the old water-marks, and swept completely across the Neck, the force of the wind being so great that at the south part of the city on Sunday there was no apparent fall 01 the water for three hours. Many chimneys, signs and blinds were blown down. A corner of the roof of the Maverick house and a part of the roof of the car-house at East Boston were blown away. Several vessels in the harbor had their masts carried away, and many were badly chafed. A ship and a brig were sunk at their wharves. Many vessels dragged their anchors, causing collisions, which sank small crafts and greatly damaged large ones. The schooner Hesperus, which belonged in Gardiner, Maine, broke her anchor chain, and was driven by the wind against a dock, carrying away her bowsprit and staving the end of her jib-boom through the upper window of a four-story building.
On the rocky shores of Nahant, at about four o’clock Sunday afternoon, the schooner Catherine Nichols, commanded by Captain Woodward, and bound from Philadelphia to Charlestown with a cargo of coal, was literally dashed to pieces. They had run in under the lee-shore, but the wind veered and drove them out. Thirty minutes later they had parted their cables and were driven on the peninsula. With great difficulty and the assistance of the people of the town, the captain and three of the crew reached the shore in safety. One of these, John Whiton of New Bedford, as they brought him from the water exclaimed “Oh! dear,” and upon reaching the shore he motioned to them to put him down, which was done, and he immediately died. Levi Hatch, another of the crew, was drowned, or died from the effects of bruises before he came to land. He belonged in North Yarmouth, where he left a wife and two children. The mate staid by the vessel to the last, and died amidst the roaring surf, his body being found jammed in among the rocks almost entirely naked. John Lindsay of Philadelphia, another of the crew, was last seen clinging to the rigging, which with the foremast, the last one to fall, drifted out to sea, and he was never heard of again. The bodies of Whiton and Hatch were taken to Lynn, and buried on Tuesday from the First Methodist church, the pastor Rev. Mr. Cook, preaching a sermon, after which the citizens followed the remains to the cemetery.
In the harbor of Marblehead several vessels were injured, the masts of some were cut away, and quite a number of schooners were driven on shore. The schooner PaulJones was forced high upon the rocks, where she became bilged. Another schooner named Sea Flower was driven on the beach and wholly lost, together with part of her cargo which consisted of four hundred bushels of corn and one hundred and twenty barrels of flour.
At Salem, the wind did not blow very strongly, and little damage was done in the harbor. A few vessels were slightly injured by chafing against the wharves, and a small schooner was driven up Forest river near the bridge. Several chimneys and two barns in the vicinity of Bridge street were blown down.
The scene in Gloucester harbor during this storm
has never been equalled in any other New England port. Many vessels sought this haven of refuge from the tempest, and in all as many as sixty were there during the gale. Between three and four o’clock on the afternoon of Sunday, they began to drift, dragging their anchors or breaking the cables that bound them. Upon the beach were many willing fishermen to assist the mariners if it were possible. Within plain sight of them lay a schooner to whose shrouds were lashed three men. On all the coast of New England at that time, it is said, there was not a single life-boat, and no other small craft could live between the wreck and the shore. With full knowledge of this, the shipwrecked mariners bore their sufferings in silence, until finally as the rigging swayed to and fro by the motion of the waves, they were submerged and drowned. As another vessel approached the breakers, two men tried to escape death in their boat; but had scarcely loosed from the vessel when a merciless sea swept them into eternity. Such scenes constantly occurred before the eyes of the kind-hearted Cape Ann fishermen, and they were nerved to exert themselves in the face of the great dangers of the storm.
With ropes tied to their bodies, they repeatedly leaped from the rocks and saved many lives.
On Monday morning only a single mast was left standing in the harbor. Twenty-one vessels were driven ashore, three schooners sank, and seventeen were so thoroughly dashed to pieces that in some cases no fragment larger than a plank was left. Twenty vessels still rode in the harbor, all butone without masts, they having been cut away. From each vessel a slender pole stood to bear aloft a signal of distress. They were tossing like egg-shells upon the still raging sea, liable at any moment to part their cables and be driven to sea with all on board. The pieces of twenty-two wrecks were scattered along the shore, scarcely any one of which being larger than a horse could draw. The crowd had staid on the beach all night to give assistance if it were possible. On the following afternoon as soon as it was considered safe to do so, a brave volunteer crew under the direction of Capt. William Carter procured the custom-house boat, and pulled out to the vessels that still floated, taking the weary and suffering seamen to the shore. The shipwrecked men were obliged to jump from their decks into the boat, as the sea was still too violent to enable the gallant little craft to approach nearer. One of the vessels, just after her crew were taken off, drifted out of the harbor and was never again heard from. But that night the calm, low voice of the Unseen was heard by the elements, “Peace, be still,”—the tempest went down, the wind was taken away, and the mighty waves ceased their madness, sinking into a repose as quiet as that of a child after a hard day’s play. The next morning’s sun revealed the fragments of the many wrecks strewn along the beach, mixed with spars and rigging. But this was not all, for the articles of the varied cargoes, the personal effects of the seamen,
“And the corpses lay on the shining sand—
On the shining sand when the tide went down.”
To the shipwrecked mariners was extended every relief and comfort that humanity could devise, and on that evening a public meeting of the citizens was held in the town to adopt means for their assistance. The exact loss of life was never ascertained. About forty lives were believed to have been lost, including the persons who perished by the wreck of a schooner near Pigeon cove, and twenty were known to have died, though only twelve bodies were recovered. The remains were tenderly cared for. One of the bodies was taken away by friends, and the funeral of the other deceased mariners was held at the Unitarian church on the following Sunday afternoon. All the other churches in the town were closed, the clergymen attending and taking part in this service. The pastor of the church, Rev. Josiah K. Waite, preached a sermon from the words, “Thou did’st blow with thy wind, the sea covered them : they sank as lead in the mighty waters.” [Exodus xv: 10.] The people of the town were so deeply in sympathy with the occasion that between two and three thousand persons listened to the exercises. In the church the eleven coffins were arranged in front, and at the close of the services were placed in carriages prepared for their conveyance, being appropriately shrouded in national flags. The vast congregation formed in a procession, which was nearly a mile in length, and followed the remains of the mariners to the public tomb. The dead were Capt. Amos Eaton, Peter Gott and Alpheus Gott, all of Mount Desert, Maine, William Hoofses and William Wallace, both of Bremen, Maine, Reuben Rider of Bucksport, Maine, Joshua Nickerson, Isaac Dacker, Philip Galley, a Mrs. Hilton, and two other persons whose names are unknown. The remains of Mrs. Hilton were taken to Boston before the funeral by friends in that city, and later in the season the bodies of Nickerson and Dacker were removed by water to their homes.
At Ipswich, another sad shipwreck was added to the list, which is already much too long. The storm was as violent in Ipswich bay as at Gloucester, and the schooner Deposit from Belfast, Maine, commanded by Captain Cotterell, was hurried before it through the foaming breakers on the sandy beach near the light-house at midnight on Sunday. Although the vessel was on the beach the heavy surf in which no boat could exist was between it and safety. The waves washed over the wreck continually from midnight till dawn, and the seven persons in the rigging and elsewhere about the wreck managed to prevent themselves from being swept off by the wind and waves, in several instances, however, only to survive that they might die from the cold and exposure. Before daylight came, the strength of a boy had failed, and he was lying in the scuppers dead, and a negro, becoming exhausted, had lain down and died. At daybreak, only five were alive. The storm was still raging with unabated fury, and threatened every moment to dash the remaining persons from their hold. Their feelings cannot be described. Was there no one on the shore to aid them? They screamed for help;
“And ever the fitful gusts between
A sound came from the land;
It was the sound of the trampling surf
Upon the hard sea-sand.”
A man named Marshall was at the beach on that Monday morning, and discovered the wreck. He gave an alarm, and then he and Mr. Greenwood, the keeper of the light-house, went as near as they possibly could to the vessel. It was apparent that no boat could pass in safety through the surf. But the piteous cries for help from the sufferers, among whom was the captain’s wife, nerved them to desperate action. Mr. Greenwood dashed into the water, and after an almost overpowering struggle with the waves arrived at the vessel. With a rope he hauled Mr. Marshall and a boat to the wreck. The captain who was completely exhausted and almost senseless, was first lowered into the boat which Marshall was keeping close to the vessel. But a wave instantly upset it, and threw them both into the surging water. Marshall went under the wreck, but on rising to the surface caught hold of a rope and saved himself, but the captain was so exhausted that he was drowned. His wife saw him as he was buried beneath the billows and her shrieks rose high above the thunders of the storm. Two of the crew were helped to the shore, one of them by floating on a boom. Mrs. Cotterell, wife of the captain, was lowered from the stern of the vessel by ropes, and the two rescuers standing in the surf received her in their arms as she came down to the surface of the water. They then waited until a mighty wave came, which they allowed to carry them all on shore. On the beach was a farm-house, then owned and occupied by Humphrey Lakeman, a retired sea-captain, to which the three survivors were conveyed, and medical aid procured. The two men that were saved were George Emery and Chandler Mahoney. The bodies of the lost were taken to the village and properly buried on the Wednesday following. The funeral was held at the South church, and was attended by a great number of people, who followed the remains to the cemetery. Sixteen sea-captains acted as pall bearers. The people of Ipswich had never before been so affected by any incident. The sadness of the wreck, the dead, the saved, and the actions of the two noble-hearted self-sacrificing men touched sympathetic chords in every breast. The crew were all young, and that fact added to the general sorrow. The expression upon the faces of the deceased, and especially that of one named Dunham, was peculiarly sweet, as if they were enjoying a most refreshing and peaceful sleep of the body rather than that from which they would never again awake. The survivors remained in the town until they were sufficiently restored to travel, receiving every comfort and attention.
At Newburyport, the tide overflowed the wharves on the river side, and large quantities of wood and lumber were floated away. Some fifteen or twenty fishing schooners that were lying at the wharves suffered more or less damage by chafing, and a large number of other vessels that were anchored in the harbor were more or less injured.
The second severe snow storm of this month began on Sunday, the twenty-second, and the next morning the wind was fiercely blowing from the northeast. The storm continued all through the day, and snow fell in such quantities that railroads in Massachusetts were blocked, and great damage was done on both land and sea, many vessels being driven ashore and more or less damaged. The storm reached as far south as Baltimore, where snow began to fall as early as Saturday.
The northern portion of Plum island was so flooded that the keeper of the light-house could not get to it. The water flowed quite across the island, in a number of places, making deep ravines, and causing many acres of grass land to be covered with sand. The hotel, which was then conducted by Capt. N. Brown, was entirely surrounded by water and the turnpike road and the bridge were flooded. Sand-hills twenty feet high were carried off and others equally large were formed. The whole eastern shore of the island was washed away several rods in width.
The storm was indelibly impressed upon the minds of the people of Newburyport by the wreck at Plum island of the brig Pocahontas, Capt. James G. Cook, master, bound from Cadiz to Newburyport, it having sailed from Cadiz in the latter part of October. She had set sail first in September, but, being run into by a Spanish ship, was so much damaged that she had to return for repairs. The crew consisted of the officers and nine hands before the mast. The brig measured two hundred and seventy-one tons, and had been built in 1830. Her masts had been carried away by the terrible wind, and she had probably been anchored in the evening, but in the darkness and the blinding snow, the mariners did not know that they were so near the sandy beach. The anchor dragged, and stern first she was driven on the reef, where she thumped until the stern was stove in, the noble vessel at length being torn to pieces. It had been driven upon a reef about one hundred and fifty yards from the beach, at a point half a mile east from the hotel, which was the most dangerous place on the island. Soon after daylight on Monday morning, Captain Brown, the keeper of the hotel, discovered the vessel, and news of the disaster was quickly conveyed to Newburyport. A few minutes later amidst the roar of the storm the cry rang through the streets that a wreck was on Plum island. A number of humane men from the lower part of the town donned their thickest and heaviest boots, and quickly hastened over the marshes to the sandy island, which was trembling under the tremendous roll of the maddened waves.
The deck of the brig was slippery, the ropes stiff and glazed, and the cries and shrieks of its human burden were drowned by the cruel winds and the roar of the ocean. Tons of water were rushing down the hatchways. When the vessel was first noticed, three men were seen upon it, one of them being lashed to the taffrail, and nearly or quite naked, apparently dead, and two were clinging to the bowsprit. In a short time and before the intelligence of the wreck had reached the town, only one man, who was clinging to the bowsprit, remained, and mountainous waves were rolling over him. Still he clung with a desperate grip. To his rescue, a number of hardy young men, veritable sons of Neptune, insisted upon going through the tremendous sea with Captain Brown’s little skiff, the vessel being too far away to throw a life-saving line to it, and even if it had not been the man was evidently too much exhausted to avail himself of such means of escape. They hauled the boat over the beach for three-fourths of a mile, but finding it impossible for any common boat to live one moment in that terrible surf, they very reluctantly abandoned their plan. The ill-fated man maintained his position on the vessel for several hours, growing so weak that at one time he lost his hold, but luckily regained it. Still the unpitying storm beat on. The men could only look at each other through the falling snow, from land to sea, from sea to land, and each realized how impotent they all were. Just before noon, the mariner was a second time swept by the heavy sea from the bowsprit, which also immediately followed him, and this time he was -seen no more. A few minutes later the wreck was washed in and cast upon the beach. A man was found lashed to the vessel and he was still breathing, but so exhausted that he simply drew a few breaths, and then all was over. The sea had beaten over him so fiercely and continually that his clothes were almost washed off from him. Whether the majority of the crew perished by the cold and exposure or were washed from the vessel by the waves will never be known, as not one of the thirteen souls on board survived to tell the tale. The people were deeply affected at knowing that young Captain Cook, toilworn as he was, after beating about on a stormy coast for several days, should be wrecked, and perish within sight of the smoke ascending from his own hearthfire. The bodies of several of the unfortunate men washed ashore and were taken up on the beach at some distance from the wreck, the small boat belonging to the brig lying near them indieating that they had attempted to reach the shore in it, probably about daylight. In all, there were recovered the bodies of the captain, first mate, who was Albert Cook, also of Newburyport, and seven others of the crew, who were strangers. Captain Cook’s funeral was on Saturday, and after several days had passed, it having become almost certain that no more bodies would be found, the other eight corpses, with the American flag thrown over each of them, were borne into the broad aisle of the South church in Newburyport, while the bells were being tolled. Amid a concourse of twenty-five hundred persons, a solemn prayer was offered over the remains of these human waifs, untimely thrown upon our shores, and then they were borne at the head of a procession numbering several hundred persons, to the cemetery, while the bells were again solemnly tolled, and flags hung at half-mast from the vessels in the harbor.
At Nantasket beach, on Monday, at about noon, the bark Lloyd of Portland, Maine, bound from Havana to Boston, and commanded by Captain Mountfort, with masts gone, went on shore. The weather was still very thick, and a heavy sea was running, the surf being so high that no boat could put out to its assistance. Four of the crew lashed themselves to the rigging. The six other persons on thevessel succeeded in getting out and launching the long boat, into which they got, but the mighty waves upset it, and they were drowned. Finally the vessel was dashed to pieces, and all on board perished, with the exception of George Scott, an Englishman, who floated on an oar within reach of the people on the beach, and they pulled him out of the water when he was nearly exhausted. Captain Mountfort, who had lashed himself to the rigging, was brought ashore in a boat belonging to a vessel that was lying near, which also suffered from the storm,
after three perilous efforts had been made to reach him, and was immediately taken into one of the huts of the Humane Society, every effort to resuscitate his insensible body being made, but in vain. He was the oldest shipmaster that then sailed out of Portland, and was much respected.
During the middle of the week, the weather was unusually fine for the season, but just before noon on Friday, another terrible storm began, this time of rain, which fell in small quantities, however. It was more tempestuous than either of the other storms had been, and the wind came from the east-southeast, increasing during the night to a violent gale, and reaching its height toward morning. It continued thirty hours in all, and brought in the tide to a great height, overflowing the wharves, and doing more or less damage to nearly all of them.
At Portland, Maine, the storm was very violent, and a number of vessels were injured. The tide rose so high that the sea swept over Tukey’s bridge, and the Eastern stage was not able to pass that way.
At Newburyport, Mass., the tide overflowed the wharves, and floated off and destroyed a large amount of property. The damage done to the shipping in the harbor was much greater than had occurred in the other storms. Forty-one of the one hundred and thirty vessels there were more or less severely injured by chafing, collisions and sinking.
In Gloucester, the storm was severer than it was on the fifteenth, the wind being extremely fierce. At times it seemed as if everything would be swept before it. Houses almost tottered upon their foundations, and it was a fearful as well as a sleepless night to the people of the town. The tempest was at its height from four to six in the morning, but all night long the roar of the wind and sea was frightful. Few vessels were in the harbor, and several of those were lost. One of the wrecks was that of the brig Richmond Packet belonging in Deer Isle, Captain Toothaker, commander, and bound from Richmond to Newburyport with a cargo of corn and flour. It was driven ashore on a point of rocks and went entirely to pieces. Beside the crew, the captain’s wife was on board. When the vessel struck, the captain jumped overboard with a rope and succeeded in getting safely upon the rocks, where he made the rope fast. By its means he endeavored to rescue his wife, but just as he was ready to do so, the brig gave a sudden lurch, and the rope snapped. Later Mrs. Toothaker was let down upon a spar into the water, hoping that upon that timber she would float ashore, but she had hardly reached the waves when a heavy sea swept her from the support. With a loud cry, she went down, and was seen no more until her lifeless body was discovered on the rocks. The crew were all saved.
At Salem, all the wharves suffered more or less, and everything was swept off them. Several vessels were forced from their moorings, there were some collisions, and a few ships and schooners were driven on shore. It was necessary to cut away a large number of masts. A small old house in the lower part of the town was blown down, the roofs of several sheds were torn off, and a number of chimneys injured. At several places on the railroad, the road-bed was washed away for a distance of one or two hundred feet each, preventing the progress of trains through the forenoon of Saturday. The mails from Boston were brought over the road in stages.
In Boston, more damage was done than in the storm
of the fifteenth. The injuries to shipping were very extensive, wharves were overflowed, and lumber, wood, coal, etc., were swept away. The Front street dike, as it was called, was broken down, and water covered nearly all the low land between Front and Washington streets, from the Neck to Northampton street. It also came into Water street, and damaged dry goods in cellars to a large amount. The causeway leading to Dorchester, and the lower streets of the city were submerged, so much damage being done that crowds from the surrounding towns came to see it.
The large, beautiful ship Columbiana, of six hundred and thirty tons burden, one of A. C. Lombard and company’s line of New Orleans packets, parted her cables at about four o’clock in the morning at Swett’s wharf in Charlestown, where she was loading with ice. The wind took her on the flow of the tide, and drove her completely through the Charlestown bridge, carrying away two piers, as though there had been no obstruction there. The vessel then struck Warren bridge on its side, the mate having succeeded in bringing her into that position. The bridge was considerably injured, but it withstood the shock. The stern then quickly swung around, and struck the wharf which was built out from the draw with such violence that it demolished a dwelling-house one and a half stories in height, that was standing on the bridge, being occupied by the draw-tender. In the house were nine persons, who were in bed at the time, and they escaped without injury. One of them was thrown into the river when the concussion occurred, but was rescued by his companions. The ship was uninjured, in spite of her violent freak.
The storm was so severe at Provincetown, on Cape Cod, that the damage done to the shipping and the property on the wharves amounted to fifty thousand dollars, and many of them were entirely carried away, several persons being injured. Cellars of houses were inundated and a considerable number of the inhabitants were obliged to seek shelter elsewhere. Ten or eleven stores were knocked down by the vessels, two salt-mills were blown down, and many salt works were carried away.
The snows of this winter
of 1839-40 were deeper and more severe than those that the old people of that time remembered. In the valleys in the western part of Massachusetts, snow
was two feet deep through the winter,
and on the Berkshire hills four feet. Many roads remained unbroken on account of it, and people travelled about on snow
shoes. In many places the snow
was fifteen feet deep, and travellers passed over the diifts in well-trodden paths. In Chesterfield a man died, and the snow
was so deep that for four days the family could not get to a neighbor’s house for assistance. But the sea-shore witnessed the greater suffering. The month of December, 1839, was indelibly fixed in the minds of multitudes as one of the most awful seasons that they had ever known. If all the disasters that occurred along our coast were known and written out an immense volume would be the result. We do not put it too strongly when we say that upwards of three hundred vessels were wrecked, a million dollars’ worth of property was destroyed, and more than a hundred and fifty lives were lost in these three storms. How many widows and orphans afterward sat at the windows of their cottages at Mount Desert and many other places looking for the sails that they knew so well, yet not daring to hope that they would see them again!
“Looking out over the sea,
From a granite rim of shore,
Looking out longingly,wearily,
Over a turbulent, pitiless sea,
For the sails that come no more.
Waiting and watching with tear-wet eyes
Till the last faint hope in the bosom dies;
While the waves crawl up o’er the chill white sand,
Those watchers long for a clasping hand,
And turn away with a thrill of pain,
But often pause to look again
From the rough dark rocks of the sea-beat shore,
For the gleam of snowy sails once more;
Sadly, longingly, wearily,
Looking out over the sea.”
Severe Cold Winter 0f 1856-57.
THE winter of 1856-57 was one of the severest winters ever known in this climate, and is the last very rigorous season that has occurred in New England. It began much earlier than usual, and continued far into the spring. There were thirty-two snow storms in all, three more than the average number for a score of years, and the snow fell to the depth of six feet and two inches, the average depth for twenty years having been but four feet and four inches in eastern Massachusetts.
The preceding summer had been hot, and the weather was pleasant nearly all the time to the middle of December, though considerable snow had fallen and there had been some sleighing. Extreme cold weather, however, began on the night of the seventeenth of the month, when the thermometer fell in Massachusetts to twelve degrees below zero, and in Maine to sixteen below. The next day the temperature was scarcely above zero anywhere in New England, it being the coldest day that had been experienced since December 16, 1835. During the remainder of the month the weather was very inclement for the season, with strong and boisterous winds. On the night of the twenty-third there was a violent snow storm, which extended over a large tract of country, and during which snow fell to the depth of four or five inches on the level, making good sleighing. During the storm, the strong wind caused several wrecks on the coast. ,
January opened with a snow storm on the third, accompanied by a violent southeast wind. Snow was now twelve inches deep on the level, and sleighing was good. The railroad companies were more or less hindered by the snow which blocked their tracks and prevented the cars from running. The temperature became colder and colder, being from the sixth to the eighth below zero and almost unbearable because of the strong piercing wind which prevailed and which penetrated the thickest clothing. The whole country was afflicted by the rigor of the season, the west especially suffering terribly from it. The roads were still drifted, and mails and trains from the south and east were greatly delayed. In New Hampshire, on the twelfth, the thermometer indicated nineteen degrees below zero, and there was a very severe snow storm prevailing, accompanied by a gale that caused damage to the shipping along the coast.
“O the long and dreary winter
O the cold and cruel winter
Ever thicker, thicker, thicker
Froze the ice on lake and river,
Ever deeper, deeper, deeper
Fell the snow
o’er all the landscape,
Fell the covering snow
Through the forest, round the village.”
Provisions were sold at extremely high prices, and poor people suffered much for want of good and necessary food. Contributions for their benefit were taken in many of the churches in the cities.
On the night of Saturday, January 17, and also the next day, the cold was severer than it had been during the winter. At Salem, Mass., the temperature was twenty below zero on Saturday night, and five below on Sunday noon. At Lowell, Mass., on Sunday morning it was twenty below, and at noon six. By evening, however, it had risen to twelve above zero, and snow had begun to fall. The wind was strong and from the northeast, and as the night advanced the storm increased until it became one of the severest and most violent that had been known for very many years. For several hours after sunrise the next morning the wind continued to be very cutting, and it was hard to face. The violence of the storm ceased before eleven o’clock in the forenoon, but snow continued to fall in flurries all through the day. Snow fell to a great depth, drifts on the northern side of Essex street in Salem, Mass., being from eight to twelve feet deep. Business was necessarily almost entirely suspended everywhere, and the streets were so blocked that no draught animal made an appearance during the day, milkmen, bakers and butchers making no attempt to distribute their supplies in the ordinary manner. A Sabbath stillness prevailed in the city as well as in the country. No cars could be run, no mails came or went during the day, and scarcely any one travelled about the streets. The snow was too deep to be pathed in the old-fashioned ways by oxen, either with a log or with the Swedish heater. Not quite as much snow fell in Maine during this storm as in Massachusetts, but in the south it came in remarkable quantities, being at Washington, D. C, two feet deep. The wind forced the snow into every crevice and cranny, and large drifts were deposited in barns and other buildings that were apparently water-tight. The streets in Boston were piled full of snow, and three days afterward many of them had not been broken out. Several people were nearly smothered or frozen to death, the cold during the storm being most intense, and the wind drove the snow into the faces of those that were travelling. Snow shoes were found to be necessary to pedestrianism, and many of the old ones were hunted up and brought into use again.
The violent wind which prevailed during this storm wrought many disasters on both sea and land. The steeple of the church in the village of Campello, [A part of Brockton] Mass., blew down, crashing through the body of the church into the cellar. The steeples of the Episcopal and the Second Congregational churches in Waterbury, Conn., met with the same fate, as also did the spire on the Congregational church in Fairhaven, Mass., which was one of the tallest in the state. A house in New Bedford, Mass., was also completely demolished by the wind. The gale was unusually severe on the ocean, being very disastrous to the shipping; many vessels were driven ashore and several lives lost. At Provincetown, on Cape Cod, it was one of the worst storms ever experienced in that vicinity, the wind blowing a hurricane from ten o’clock Sunday evening until twelve o’clock Monday night. Seventeen of the twenty vessels in the harbor were driven ashore. Another vessel, the schooner Bonita of Eastport, Me., which had sailed from her home port before the storm, had anchored at Cape Ann on account of the wind. She parted her cables and, drifting across Massachusetts bay in the thick snow storm, was finally driven on shore at Provincetown, about half a mile east of Race point, on the night of the nineteenth. After striking, the sea made a complete breach over the vessel, washing overboard a man, who was drowned before he could be rescued. Another man perished on board, being buried under the floating rubbish of the cabin. By the strenuous and noble efforts of the people of Provincetown, four of the crew were saved. In the steerage the water had risen above their waists, and the captain had lashed himself to the bit heads, while others of the crew clung about the gaff and mainmast. The mate succeeded after great exposure and suffering in floating some yarn through the surf to the beach, where it was secured by the inhabitants, who attached to it a small rope and to that a small hawser which were successively pulled on board the wreck by the mate. To the hawser he fastened the captain, who was very much benumbed, and threw him overboard. The other two of the crew that remained alive were then fastened on and thrown overboard. He then tied the rope around himself, and all four were successfully hauled through the surf, a distance of more than a hundred feet. The captain was severely frozen and nearly exhausted before he was cast into the water, but by the excellent nursing of the rescuers he, with the rest of the men, was finally restored to health and strength.
During and immediately following this storm, the temperature descended to an extremely low point, and remained there for a whole week. Sunday and Monday, the eighteenth and nineteenth of the month, are supposed to have been the two coldest days known in New England during this century. The “Cold Friday” of 1810 was more blustering, but the temperature was not so low. At sunrise on the morning of the nineteenth the mercury congealed at Franconia, N. H., and at Montpelier and St. Johnsbury, Vt., it was fifty degrees below zero, the coldest ever known there. The following are some of the degrees below zero that the thermometer indicated at the same time in the different places named. In Maine, at Portland, twenty-nine ; Bangor, forty-four; and at Bath, fifty-two. In New Hampshire, at Keene, twenty-four; Nashua, twenty-eight; Dover, thirty- one; and at Manchester, thirty-five. In Vermont, at Northfield, forty. In Massachusetts, at Boston, sixteen; New Bedford, twenty; Fall River, twenty-six; Worcester, twenty-six; Salem, twenty six; Lowell, thirty; Maiden, thirty; Taunton, thirty; and at Springfield, thirty-three. In Rhode Island, at Providence, twenty-six; and at Woonsocket, thirty-five. In Connecticut, at New Haven, twenty-seven ; Hartford, thirty-two; and at Coventry, thirty-two. The temperature continued to be as low as it was on the nineteenth until the twenty sixth. At Auburn, Me., on the twenty-third it was twenty-two below zero, and at Weare, N. H., forty below, and although the temperature was lower than it was on “Cold Friday” the day was much more bearable as there was no wind. This was not true in all parts of New England, however, as in some sections a brisk northwest wind prevailed throughout the day, causing the thermometer to descend at Lawrence, Mass., to thirty-two degrees below zero; at Amherst, N. H., to thirty-five; at Northfield, Vt., to forty; at White River junction to forty-three; and at Bangor, Me., to forty-four. Long Island sound was frozen the whole width for the first time as far as known. The twenty-fourth was thought to have been the severest day ever experienced in New Hampshire, the thermometer at Amherst descending to thirty-seven degrees below zero. The air was very thin and peculiarly transparent and light, and the sky therefore remarkably clear. A strong northwest wind blew all day. At Franconia, N. H., the temperature was forty-nine degrees below zero, and it was the severest day ever known there. At Auburn, Me., it was forty below, and at Manchester, Mass., it was thirty-seven. On the twenty-fifth, the weather had moderated a little, being then at Auburn, Me., only six degrees below zero, and at the same place on the next day two below. This was the coldest week ever known in New England, and the severest January there had been at least for ten years. During this spell the harbor of Portsmouth, N. H., was frozen over, a thing that was never known to have occurred before. In fact the reign of this rigorous weather continued from December 20 to January 27, and during all that time snow did not melt on the roofs of buildings in the greater portion of New England.
On the twenty-seventh of the month, it began to thaw, and rain fell. Two heavy rain storms followed, one immediately succeeding the beginning of the thaw and the other after the lapse of a week. The rain fell in the greatest quantity on Sunday, February 8, when a vast amount of snow
was carried away, causing freshets on the ninth and tenth in all parts of the country. At Norwich, Conn., the destruction of property on the Shetucket river was very great; and the heavy timber from Lord’s and Lathrop’s bridges (which were carried away) was driven down the stream with fearful power. East Chelsea was submerged in 1807, but at this time the water front of Norwich was swept over by the raging flood. Below the city the river was blocked by ice, which caused the water to be thrown back upon the wharves and buildings of Water street, suddenly deluging the territory.
The freshet was followed by fine weather, though the temperature was often below zero. The snow was still very deep in Vermont, and sleighing was good throughout New England. One of the most powerful and destructive slides of snow that ever took place in New England occurred on February 22, on the side of a hill at Castleton, Vt., completely demolishing the barn and wagon shed of Merlin Clark. His residence was also in its course, being a few rods farther down the hill, and that also would have been destroyed had not the barn and shed lessened the force of the avalanche. As it was, the doors and windows of the house were broken, and the rooms almost filled with snow, ice and water. A child that was lying in a cradle in one of the apartments was completely buried by the snow, but was rescued without injury.
During the latter part of February the weather was mild, and on the first of March, bluebirds, blackbirds and robins appeared in Massachusetts, three weeks earlier than usual; but on that afternoon snow
began to fall again, and the mercury descended to a point below freezing. The wind also rose, and before midnight was blowing most violently.
The weather during the spring was very changeable. March 31 and April 1 were mild and genial days, the temperature being as high as sixty degrees above zero; but at eleven o’clock in the evening of April 1 a change rapidly occurred. A blustering snow storm set in, which continued through the remainder of the night. The next morning the thermometer had fallen to seven degrees above zero. On the third of the month three inches of snow fell during a piercing gale of wind; but the sixth was very warm, the temperature being fifty-four degrees above zero, the wind south, and the weather dull and foggy.
On April 20 and 21, there was a severe rain storm, which flooded cellars, and carried away every bridge in Bartlett, N. H. Vessels chafed at wharves along the coast, and many were driven ashore. At Salem, Mass., snow fell for several hours, and at Deerfield, in the same commonwealth, there was still good sleighing.
This was one of the coldest winters ever known in the south as well as in the north and west, and it is said that the first snow storm known to have occurred in the city of Mexico was experienced this winter, on the night of January 31.
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