New England Lighthouse Storm, Apr 1851

On the Merrimac river, the freshet was very extraordinary, the stream being higher than ever before known, with perhaps the exception of the tide of 1753. It was twenty-two inches higher than it was in December, 1839. Warehouses and cellars on the lower side of Water street in Newburyport were flooded, and much merchandise was damaged by the water. Large quantities of timber, lumber and wood were carried away and lost. Many of the wharves were badly damaged, the lower long wharf to the extent of twelve hundred dollars. The engine and boiler rooms of the Essex mill, situated on the bank of the river, were almost filled with the water, and the waste house was thrown over and forced from its foundations. Spray was thrown to the second-story windows of the houses on the upper side of the street as far as Hale's wharf. Below South street the river broke in waves over the whole length of the turnpike road to Plum island, damaging it to the extent of four thousand dollars. A number of workshops and outbuildings were floated off by the water, and brought back again in pieces on the effluent waves. The next day after the storm, the roads were found to be badly torn up, and strewn with wood, timber and fragments of buildings. Many families on the lower side of the street, fearing that their houses would be washed away, removed their furniture and household goods, from the flooded portions of the city and spent the night with hospitable neighbors. In spite of the storm, many people visited the town, and thousands, a large part of them being ladies, thronged Water street to witness the ravages that the wind and waves had made.

At Newcastle, N. H., the sea broke through the breaches, and made an island of Jaffery point. People gathered their household goods together on the third day of the storm ready to depart to high land, while some thought that another deluge must have come to destroy the world, and that it would finally avail nothing to seek more elevated ground. The effects of the great storm are still visible there.

Roads were badly washed all along the coast, and in many places cars on the railroads could not be run on account of the tracks being swept away by the tide, and in other places because the water was so high that the fires in the locomotives were extinguished by it.

Much damage was done to the shipping, the vessels in the harbors being badly chafed by beating against each other, and some broke adrift and ran aground. In Newburyport, the injury to the wharves and shipping combined amounted to twenty thousand dollars.

During the storm Plum island presented a desolate appearance. On Wednesday morning, the turnpike from Newburyport to the beach was covered with water and impassable. The sea at one time broke completely over the island, in some parts leaving lakes and ponds when the storm subsided. The brig Primrose, Captain Bokman, master, bound from Picton, N. S., to Boston, laden with coal, was off Salisbury beach on Tuesday, the fifteenth. The captain had not been able to take an observation for several days, and supposed that they were in Boston by till Tuesday night, when he discovered that they were nearing the reefs at the northern end of Plum island. The vessel was lying to just outside the breakers on the next morning, and it was evident that she could not long withstand the sea, which was forcing her on to the beach. The wind swept through the rigging terrifically, and the mainsail was soon torn away. The crew's control over the brig was gone. Being driven into the breakers she struck a reef about two hundred yards from the shore and about half a mile below the first relief house toward the Emerson rocks. T. G. Dodge and O. Rundlett, two young men belonging in Newburyport, were on the beach during the storm, and at about half-past ten o'clock in the forenoon they discovered the wreck.

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