Day after first snow of Winter 2014-15, Nov 1 - from Black Mountain Golf Course.

Monday, September 30, 2013

The winter New England storms

Recently I wrote of a hurricane in Galveston TX in 1900.  It was before storms were given names.
But there was a weather bureau established already.

Let's look back another century or two, to the 1700's. 

Winters to Remember---1778, The North Shore certainly has seen its share of "Winters to remember," and many of these were chronicled by historian Sidney Perley in his "Historic Storms of New England." (1891)

One of the most devastating snowstorms in local history occurred in a few-month period beginning in December 1716 & ending in late February the following year.  A series of December snowstorms left five feet of snow on the ground, & by mid-Feb. a base of three feet still blanketed the area.  But the worst was yet to come.  On Feb. 18, a heavy  snowstorm enveloped New England & lasted for four days.  It abated briefly on the 22nd. & 23rd., but resumed on the 24th. with a vengeance.  By the end of the storm, the North Shore lay under 10 to 15 feet of snow.
Many single-story homes were covered.  Residents dug tunnels beneath the snow between their homes & their barns or neighbors' houses.  Those wishing to walk on top of the snow needed snowshoes to do so.The impact of the storm on livestock & wild animals in the area was devastating.  Flocks of sheep & herds of cattle & horses were buried under the deep snow & suffocated.  Miraculously, nearly a month after the storm ended, two sheep were found alive under 16 feet of snow.  They had survived by eating the wool of their dead companions.Starving bears, foxes & wolves hunted down equally hungry deer & ate them. Perley notes that 19 out of every 20 deer in the region were killed in this period.
Perley recounts the plight of two Marblehead men, Thomas Hooper & Valentine Tidder Jr; during a blizzard that hit New England in early Dec. 1876.  The men left Salem on foot for home after dark on a Saturday night despite the fact that it had been snowing heavily for nearly 24 hours.  The two became disoriented & eventually got separated from each other.  Their bodies were found in open fields far from the Salem-Marblehead road.
Two other area men fared better during that same storm, Samuel Pulsifer & Samuel Elwell were trapped near Hog Island in Ipswich & took refuge in the middle of a haystack.  The hay kept them warm & dry for a time, but eventually the haystack was carried away by rising waters.  The terrified pair floated for hours atop the pile, & were headed out to sea.  Eventually, though, they were able to summon enough strength & courage to jump onto a passing cake of ice which eventually took them to an island very close to shore.  There they were rescued by Maj. Charles Smith of Ipswich.
Snowstorms were equally treacherous to mariners.  In a terrible blizzard in Feb. 1802, three Salem ships--The Brutus, the Ulysses, & the Volusia were aground in the shallow waters off Cape Cod.  The crew members of the latter two vessels were fortunate enough to be rescued by local inhabitants.  The seamen on the Brutus were not so lucky as nine of the 14 crew members perished.  One of the survivors, Benjamin Ober of Manchester, came to be buried up to his neck in sand & snow.  He was too weak to dig his way out & his voice was way too hoarse to yell to potential rescuers.  Finally after 36 agonizing hours, he was rescued.  Sadly, he expired shortly thereafter.

 At Ancestry.com this is the source listed, but obviously there are editorial comments of a more recent nature, so I can't say what part of this came from...Geneology of the Swasey Family 1910 by Benjamin Swasey an ebook that is available on line.

I was caught by the name Samuel Pulsifer, because a few generations before, some of the Pulsifer family moved to Louisiana and Texas...and Lucy Pulsifer, who was born in 1807 in Newburyport, MA moved to the area that would become Beaumont Texas.  Well, I don't know how she was related to the poor man in the haystack in 1876 near Ipswitch.

I am reminded that storms are a force of nature, which make humans feel so small and insignificant.  And there are many that happen and aren't recorded and noticed by humanity.  I wonder if in pre-historic days there were ever cave-paintings or carvings to indicate these forces.  I have never heard of them if they existed.


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