40th Anniversary Of July 4th Tornado

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The Hampton Union & Rockingham County Gazette

Thursday, July 7, 1938

Forty years ago, July fourth, occurred the famous tornado of 1898 at Hampton Beach. The largest number of casualties occurred at the skating rink, located then in front of the house formerly owned by Dr. A. Donald Golding of Lawrence and now by Harry L. Bradbury of Lawrence. The new electric (rail)road ended about at Cutler's where the band stand was located and south of where Richard (illegible) Corner Cafe stood. There were no buildings save the Casino and Ocean House in progress.

It was above 3:15 Monday afternoon, July 4, 1898, when those on the piazzas or along the beach who looked at the sky noticed that there were some indications of a storm like a thunder shower. Hardly had they noticed its approach when it was upon them. From merely threatening clouds it came, changing into an advancing great mass of black with lighter silvered-colored clouds at the edges.

The clouds advanced without any sound, a few stray drops preceded then with a roar and a vibration which some thought was an earthquake, it burst with all its fury, yet withal covering a space but little more than a hundred yards in width as sit sped with its circular motion across the beach out to sea. Its duration was brief, but when it had passed there was only wreck and ruin in its wake.

Leavitt's Hotel, which was he northern limit, had not a single window left intact, and its guests who had been sitting on the piazza had sought refuge, some within and others had thrown themselves flag upon the lawn in front. In front of almost every cottage had stood a summer house, which was so common everywhere at that time. None were left standing. Some houses had their roofs taken off, some were lifted from their foundations and turned completely around, some were laid flat and others were carried across the beach.

A lady of French descent had let her two children come to the beach earlier in the day and was on he way down to meet them. She arrived after the storm but of her children who had earlier been seen along the beach, no trace was ever found, though for days she wandered along the beach front. A mother and her babe had sought protection from the menacing darkness in one of the summer houses but neither was ever seen again.

The biggest loss of life was at the skating rink where several hundred people were gathered in the one-story fifty by a hundred wooden building. One side and the roof were blown in and seven were killed or died soon after; about a hundred were so severely injured as to require medical attention and an equally large number had minor injuries. which they either attended to themselves or returned to their home towns for treatment. Cutler's Sea View House was quickly turned into a temporary hospital and almost every cottage which remained had its quota of victims. The piano player at the rink had his hand caught by a falling beam and he was so crowded against the piano that it was not possible for him to make his escape and he was seriously injured.

[illegible] in his yacht, the trip being in honor of the fifteenth wedding anniversary of a Kensington, N.H. couple. The yacht was about three miles out when the storm struck her and she was quickly capsized, five including the captain losing their lives. Loaded wagons were picked up by the whirling wind and carried in some cases from the road over onto the beach.

A barn belonging to Mr. Lord was lifted from its foundations and turned completely around; a carriage standing near was set astride the fence. Another house had one end removed as clean as though it had been sawed off, leaving all the rooms at that end sideless.

J. Frank James of Lawrence had but that season removed from Salisbury Beach to Hampton Beach where his summer residence is now located, the second cottage above Cutler's, but then the intervening cottage had not been built. Mrs. James was in the house with only her small daughter. She fortunately had presence of mind to close everything on the windward side of the house and bolt the door, going to the front where she took in frightened strangers from the street. When the storm was over she found a great beam had penetrated through the door, a dead pig lay near and barnyard fowl were scattered about the yard.

Mora, an actress playing at the rink, was taken out alive and removed to the Merrimack House where she later died.

It was reported that further down the beach, an unknown sailboat was also capsized but its four occupants rescued. When news spread of the calamity there was a great rush to see the ruins. For the next few days there were thousands of sightseers who found that it was almost impossible to get food as not a single chimney was standing and there were [illegible] oil stoves on the beach.

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