Petersburg, VA Terrible Tornado, May 1834

From the Petersburg, (Va.) Intelligencer, of May 8th.

The most terrific tornado ever witnessed in this part of Virginia, occurred on Monday last. The destruction of human life and of property of every kind is truly appalling. It would be impossible to give more than a faint outlive of its desolating fury. The scene is represented by those who had an opportunity of witnessing it, as one of surpassing and inexpressible grandeur and sublimity. Every thing within its range, was laid prostrate; the largest trees were torn up by the roots and carried a considerable distance; dwellings and out houses were levelled with the earth, and their fragments scattered in every direction. The day had been cloudy, with occasional showers. About 3 o'clock the clouds assumed a black and lowering aspect; in a few minutes after, the whirlwind commenced its ravages. A corresondent who witnessed its violence, says, "It was in the form of an inverted cone, and every cloud near seemed to rush into the vortex. As it approached, you might see the limbs of the forests careening through the darkened air. Its duration, at any point, was not more than one or two minutes."
Its general course was from West to East; its width varied from two hundred yards to a half mile; and, from what we have already heard of its destructive march, its extent could not have been less than seventy miles. The following details will, we fear, present but a very imperfect sketch of its devastations.
A gentleman writes us that the tornado "appears to have commenced in the county of Lunenburg, near Hungry Town, where almost all the heavy timber was torn up by the roots, and where it proved fatal. Near this place, it seems that the poor (who lived in log houses) were the principal sufferers, several negroes and children being killed. Hence it passed by Notaweay Courthouse, where the storm, instead of abating, increased -- the public road being rendered utterly impassable. From Notaway Courthouse, or near that place, the wind passing in a Northeast direction, reached the plantation of MR. R. FITZGERALD, where great injury was done, but no lives lost. Near his residence, was that of MR. JOHN FITZ, who suffered immensely, having one negro killed, another's arm broke, and various others injured."
"Hence it pursued the same course to the house of MR. JUSTICE, where great injury was likewise sistained, several persons severely injured, and the life of one despaired of. The next death was that of MR. JOSHUA HAWKS, who was literally crushed, has wife at the same time receiving injury so severe as to leave but little hopes of recovery."
"The next place from whence we have any authentic particulars, is CRUTIS'; here the storm appears to have been equally destructive. MR. CURTIS writes us, 'that every house on MR. HERBERT REES'S plantation, except his dwelling house, is blown to atoms; MR. FRANK REES the Overseer, and three negroes, lost their lives, other negroes badly crippled; his wagon hurled to atoms, even the wheels broken in fragments, and the hubs blown two or three hundred yards. MRS. LUCY CROWDER had every house on her farm (dwelling house and all) torn to pieces."
"I understand from a gentleman traveller, it passed on to the neighborhood of COL. JETER'S Several lives lost in that neighborhood. I also hear that it has done considerable damage in the nieghborhood of THOMAS JORDAN'S, with the loss of lives, &c. It appears that is pased from west to east near on the north side and nearly parallel with Cox Road."
We have no certain accounts of the ravages of the tornado after it passed the neighborhood of CURTIS, until it reached the plantation of MR. WM. E. BOISSEAU, about four miles from town. The scene at this place baffles every attempt at description. Here its desolating fury spared nothing. The dwelling house, kitchen, barn, &c. were entirely demolilshed, and their timbers, plank, &c. separated into fragments and scattered over the farm in every direction. Northin is left to mark the site of the dwelling house but a small portion of the brick foundation. The family escaped from the house, and attempted to take refuge in the garden, but were overtaken by the whirlwind, and knocked down by the flying wreck of their former dwelling. MR. B'S brother, a fine youth of about 14 years of age, was killed; and MR. B., his wife and four other inmates of his family, were wounded, though not dangerously. In the negro quarters the injury was equally severe -- one woman was killed, and six or eight others were wounded. The loss sustained by MR. B. is very great.
At the plantation of MR. WILLIAM BAIRD, almost every house was blown down. The wagoner was killed in the woods by the falling of a tree; the two horses in the wagon were likewise killed. At the residence of MR. WM. SHANDS, JR. a cotton gin, a stable and kitchen were blown down. There were two negro men in the kitchen, two of them were badly hurt; one of them was carried with the wreck of the house at least fifty yards.

The Adams Sentinel Gettysburg Pennsylvania 1834-05-19