Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: Storms and Wrecks

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Storms and Wrecks

Destructive storms on our sea-board have not been frequent. A few early ones have been briefly noticed in these pages. The most notable of modern times was general in New England, and has passed into history as "the September gale," of the twenty-third of that month, 1815. A few of our citizens, still living, remember it for its severity and the havoc made in the woods. The large tract of woodland, known as the "Twelve Shares," lying on both sides of the town line between Hampton and North Hampton, wooded largely with pine and hemlock, was left in a very bad condition, it being impossible to trace the boundary lines between the lots of the several owners. The matter, however, was amicably settled, the owners agreeing to submit the distribution to a committee, mutually agreed upon. The salt grass grown on the marshes had mostly been cut and stacked. The violence of the gale was such that the tide rose to an unwonted height, and many of the hay-stacks were lifted from the staddles and swept away. Salt spray was swept up into the town, where it beat so violently against the windows, that much glass was ground and stained indelibly.

A great storm occurred in 1852, when fish and bath houses were violently thrown about and considerable damage was done all along the beach; another, in 1861, when a long stretch of the railroad was washed away; another, in the autumn of 1869, when three schooners were cast upon the rocks near Boar's Head and greatly damaged, though they were afterwards floated off; and a disastrous one, in 1871, when the sea overreached its bounds almost the entire length of the New Hampshire coast, made a large breach at "the Logs," so called, filled the road with rocks and broken bath-houses, did great damage to the beach hill and to the railroad, and swept tons of hay from the marshes. This storm cost the town two hundred thirty-eight dollars.

During a storm in February, 1873, a British steamer, the "Sir Francis," was wrecked off Hampton beach. A large amount of tin-plate, bar iron and steel rollers, which formed part of the cargo, was sold by auction.

A gale occurred August 18, 1879, of unusual violence at that time of year. Three wet, gloomy days had passed, when, on the night of the third day, the storm broke in fury, shaking hotels and cottages, terrifying the guests, overturning the tents of the Oldtown Indians, who ply their trade of basket making here every summer, hurling a summer-house over the cliff, tearing several boats from their moorings and doing more or less damage through the town.

In this connection, may be noted a storm of a different character, -- the famous ice storm of the winter of 1885-6, very widespread, and destructive to trees, particularly apple and elm. In Hampton, as elsewhere, ice thickly encrusted every possible lodgment, making a scene of great magnificence, when the sun at last appeared; but the stillness of morning, after the storm, was broken by the crashing of great boughs on every hand. In many places, travel on rail and carriage road was impeded, and cherished trees were shorn of their symmetry.

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