Joseph Dow's History of Hampton: HIGH TIDE; THE MEADOW POND CREATED

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A great storm, attended with a very uncommon tide, was experienced in New England, on the 24th of February, 1723, an account of which is given by Dr. Cotton Mather and quoted by Mr. Coffin, in these words: "An unusual high tide, higher by twenty inches than was ever known before. At the same time, the sea at Hampton broke over its banks for some miles together, and continued running for several hours." Dr. Holmes adds, that at Hampton it "inundated the marshes for many miles." Regarding the date, Dr. Holmes writes: "He (Mather) probably used the old style, which protracted the year to 25th March. I have therefore inserted the article under 1724." [Holmes' Annals, I: 534.] With this opinion, Mr. Drake disagrees, and says: "I think, had that been the case, Mather would have written 1723-24. Besides, I find no allusion to the matter in some News-papers consulted, printed then in Boston. Again, Dr. Mather says it was on 'the Lord's day,' and Lord's day did not happen on Feb. 24th, 1724, but it does fall on the 24th, of 1723." Had Dr. Drake looked a little farther, he would have found one contemporary paper, The Boston News-Letter, which contained an account of the storm. This paper may be seen to-day in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society. The communication begins as follows: "Feb. 25, 1723. Yesterday, being the Lord's Day, the Water flowed over our Wharffs and into our Streets to a very surprising height. They say the Tide rose 20 Inches higher than ever was known before. The Storm was very strong at North-east." The date is therefore conclusively fixed as February 24, O. S. or, according to present reckoning, March 7, 1723.

The importance of establishing the date will be seen by the results in Hampton; for the tradition about this wonderful tide and its ravages is substantially as follows:

Inside of the banks of sand which lay along the shore, and served as barriers against encroachments of the ocean, was a large tract of low, swampy land, extending southward from Nut Island, a mile or more. This tract, known as Huckleberry Flats, was dotted over with hassocks, on which grew huckleberry bushes and alders. The spaces between the hassocks were usually wet, though covered with grass, whose numberless roots closely intertwined, together with grass, whose numberless roots closely intertwined, together with the grass itself, formed a sort of mat, resting on the soft mud beneath, on which a man might walk, though the grassy mat trembled at every step taken. Through this tract flowed a large brook, or rivulet, called Nilus. [Charles M. Lamprey, Esq., who owns land in this tract of meadow, has found stumps of trees, deeply embedded in the mud, furnishing proof that the land was once wooded.]

At the time of the storm, the hassocks, filled with the roots of the bushes, the spaces between them, with their net-work of grass-roots, and the mud and water beneath, were firmly frozen to a considerable depth. The severity of the storm and the extraordinary height of the tide gave such force to the waves, that they swept away the sandbanks on the shore, and the whole of the tract described and hundreds of acres of salt-marshes were inundated. The surging waters soon found a way under the thick, hard-frozen crust on the flats, and raising and breaking up a large portion of it, bore the fragments along with the current, over the marshes, til they found a resting place, or were swept into the ocean.

When the storm had ceased and flood subsided, a large part of the swampy tract that has been described had become a POND, covering several acres. Into this pond, the brook Nilus flowed; but southerly of the pond, where it had run nearer the seashore, passing below the end of the causeway, as sit now is, and the road to Great Boar's Head, about thirty or forty rods, and then turning to the west into the marshes, where traces of the "old river" are still seen, the brook had been filled up with debris, so that an outlet was made by digging a wide ditch from the pound to the river below. This outlet is called the Eel-ditch.

About the first of March, a boat with three men and a boy -- their names not given -- coming from the Piscataqua river to Hampton, was driven off to sea, and one of the men perished with the cold. The others succeeded in reaching the land on the third day, running their boat ashore upon our beach. The boat was lost. Those on board saved their lives, but were all of them much frozen. [Boston Gazette, March 9, 1724.]

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