Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Eastern New England Hurricane of 1869

Middleborough has witnessed its share of severe hurricanes, including the Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635,the Storm of October 1804, the “Great Gale” of September 1815, the New England Hurricane of 1938, the Great Atlantic Hurricane of 1944, and Hurricane Carol (1954), among others. One of the most damaging of the 19th century hurricanes was the Eastern New England Hurricane of 1869, which struck Middleborough on September 9 of that year. Historically classed as a category 3 storm when it plowed into the southern New England coast, the hurricane passed over Rhode Island with its greatest devastation in that state and southeastern Massachusetts. Though believed to have been a compact storm, it brought fierce winds which did much damage at Middleborough. The town’s experience during the storm is recorded for posterity in the pages of the Plymouth Old Colony Memorial which originally excerpted the news from the Middleboro Gazette.

The Gazette contains an account of the storm in that place. Much damage was done to trees, and property. The most serious disaster occurred to the lately raised dwelling house of Charles Stratton (Tom Thumb) which had just been shingled. It seemed to have been taken up bodily and cast down, broken in fragments, into the cellar. In the fall of the chimney [smokestack] of the establishment of Messrs. Leonard & Barrows, down through the roof, a man named Perkins was injured on the head. The chimney on the house of the Pierce Brothers fell through the porch roof directly upon the laid supper table demolishing all thereon and the result of the girl’s day’s work upon the dresser, and injuring the girl slightly. The chimney upon Mr. Sylvester’s store descended through the window of the post office building adjoining. The Congregational church and weather-vane upon it and chapel adjoining the church received much damage, and the Baptist church steeple got a slight twist, and was looked upon anxiously by many curious ones who were fearful of its fall. We are told that the damage done to the property of Mr. Albert Alden, of the Bay State Straw Works, will approach $3,000, also that Mr. John B. LeBaron will sustain a damage of about $100. There are over 50 chimneys blown down. The morning of Thursday was indeed a ragged looking morning; trees, many valuable ones, small wood sheds, old barns, blinds from houses, glass and sashes from the windows, fences &c, lay around promiscuously. From all parts of the town the story is repeated.

Old Colony Memorial, "Middleboro.", September 17, 1869, page 2.


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