Bostonians of a certain generation often refer back to the calamitous hurricane of 1938. Winds quickly reached 150 mph registering the storm as a category 5 hurricane. More than six-hundred people on the east coast died and an estimated 57,000, homes were damaged or destroyed. The storm was a direct hit on Rhode Island with tidal surges of 40-50 feet. Entire towns were obliterated on a day that started out mild and sunny.
Storm warnings in 1938 were insufficient to prepare New Englanders for the enormous storm that formed near Africa. Meteorologists often relied on ships at sea to provide some warning. This storm seemed to deflate east of Florida then build up near North Carolina. In the end winds in Boston reached 200 mph, the most ever recorded. Hundreds of millions of trees were uprooted.
The Godly[i], in 1635 experienced their own natural nightmare. They settled Boston in 1630, having landed in Salem, re-settled in Charlestown and soon after purchased Boston from Reverend William Blaxton[ii]. The Godly sought good water and found It amongst five springs in Boston. A future blog will discuss the Reverend’s sole ownership of the area known as Shawmut (Boston).
Colonist of the October 9, 1804 Snow Hurricane, might have a tail or two to tell of nature’s colossal attack on Boston’s wood based infrastructure. Most homes and buildings were made of wood often built by shipwrights spinning off from their primary source of income. Nearly all major oak trees were felled by the storm devastating the ship building industry. For three days, areas of New England received either seven inches of rain or 48 inches of snow or a mixture of both. You could not evacuate due to the wind, rain and snow, so Bostonians suffered through the storm waiting for their homes to topple down. The storm brought on terror as some homes lost only their roof, while others pancaked to the ground. Nine citizens were killed in Boston but dozens more were caught out or chose to ride the storm at sea.
The Hurricane of 1804, knocked down the sacred Old North Church steeple and others. Today the Old North Church's steeple is sixteen feet shorter than the steeple that held the famous two lanterns. No matter, the outcome the revolutionary events of April 19, 1775, would not have differed under either steeple[iii].
Most visitors to Boston marvel at the cities European facade. Yet, little of Boston’s homes or buildings reach back to the 17th or 18th century. Nor’easters, Hurricanes and fires have decimated local architecture.
[i] The Godly was the name Puritans used to refer to themselves.
[ii] Reverend William Blaxton, was granted the 56 acres of the Boston Common by the Puritans; perhaps as he freely shared rights to the 5 water springs with them. The Godlys re-purchased the Common from Reverend Blaxton in 1634; (also known as William Blackstone, lending his synonym to Blackstone Valley, Massachusetts.)
[iii] The Battle of Lexington and Concord “The Shot Heard Round the World”
Conwell, Russell H. History of the Great Fire in Boston, November 9 and 10, 1872. Boston: B.B. Russell, 1873.
Forbes, Esther. Paul Revere and the World He Lived in. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Print. 1942 Pulitzer Prize Winner