The Storm at Hampton

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The Exeter News-Letter, Friday, December 2, 1898

At Hampton beach the storm was simply terrific. The wind blew in a gale from the northeast that fairly rocked houses; the tides were the highest known in many years and all Sunday the surf pounded in majestically with a deafening roar and grand display. Dwellers and visitors at the beach over Saturday night and Sunday will not soon forget their experiences.

Many cottages were spending part of the Thanksgiving season at the beach. With a friend, Mr. Charles Decker, of Newton, Mass., Mr. George F. Faxon, of Watertown, Mass., arrived on Friday at his cottage at the Logs. It had always been his one desire to be at the beach during a great storm, and his desire is now more than satisfied. All Saturday night his cottage rocked and shook as if it were to be blown from its foundations, and toward morning a window was blown in, which made the house uninhabitable. About four o'clock, Messrs. Faxon and Decker started for Cutler's Sea View, and found the short trip perilous and difficult. They could advance only by forcing their way from telephone pole to pole, and even thus twice went astray into the marsh, with difficulty regaining the road. They finally reached the Sea View about five o'clock and remained there until Tuesday. Mr. Faxon says his cottage is now for sale to the first bidder.

Mr. Ashton Lee, of Lawrence, Mass., who with his family arrived at his cottage Monday of last week, had an axe in readiness, if worse came to worse, to cut through the high fence which divides his premises from Cutler's and seek safety in the Sea View. The bow of the wrecked Glendon had been washed up into the road before his premises, and there were times when it seemed as if this or other wreckage might crash into his house.

Dr. George E. Mitchell, of Haverhill, Mass., spent Saturday night in his Barnacle, which lying under the Head was fairly sheltered from the gale. The doctor slept through the night unaware of the storm's severity. Sunday evening, he, too, sought the Sea View.

At his cottage Mr. James H. Sheldon, of Haverhill, was entertaining a large party, which arrived at the beach Friday, having driven from Haverhill. They returned Tuesday by train, leaving their horses at Cutler's.

For a few days the beach was absolutely isolated, and for a time was deprived of telephonic communication. No team came from the village until Tuesday. So sensational and so absolutely unfounded have been many of the imaginative stories published far and near in description of the destruction wrought by the storm, that a simple statement of facts seems demanded and may be of value. On Wednesday the writer walked from the Causeway to the lower beach, and later in the day traversed much of the ocean boulevard, carefully noting the effects of the storm. It may first be said that save for an occasional broken window no cottage suffered in the least.

The Boar's Head fishhouse was swept away, and 14 gunning floats and two dories were destroyed. Clarence B. Johnson is the owner of the single gunning float which escaped. The large bathhouse at the New Boar's Head is now poised on the rocks at right angles to its old position and three smaller houses were washed back well into the road.

The street railway platform now lies across the tracks. At North beach a fine bath house, it is thought the Leonia's was moved from its foundation, but is apparently uninjured. The new life saving station escaped damage, but the grading about it suffered. A few summer pavilions suffered, and the band stand before the Sea View must have been washed away had it not been securely lashed to the ground. This sums up the injuries to buildings.

The town, however, is put to losses of hundreds of dollars, and indirectly of thousands, by breaches in the beach hill and by damages to the beach road. Fully 100 feet of the hill is gone before the Sea View and a great breach is made at the Logs, extending the entire distance from the breakwater to the Head. Another breach was made at the other end of the breakwater. These hills are of inestimable value as a barrier against encroachment by the sea, and their partial destruction means that the town must build additional breakwaters or be put to expense at each severe storm. The present system of breakwaters fully proved its value and strength, and damages to it are trivial.

As implied by the breaches in the hill, the road at the Logs is deeply filled in with stones and boulders, many two feet or more in diameter. There is also a mass of other debris and wreckage, and it will be no easy task to restore the road to its old condition. The tracks of the street railway are of course buried, and at one point several cords of railroad ties have been piled upon them. As has been said, the tides ran exceptionally high, flooding the road in many places, but the snow seems to have averted material damage except at the Logs. For the greater part of its length the sea broke over the boulevard, and at five different places washed timbers into the driveway. It does not, however, appear to be injured.

What little remained of the Glendon wreck was still more broken up, and in large part was washed into the road.

No vessel came to grief and, all in all, as compared with other coast towns, Hampton fared remarkably well in the great storm.

All Saturday,the sky and atmosphere promised snow, but the most weatherwise did not imagine that a storm of such severity was portended as burst about 10 o'clock Saturday evening and during the night and much of the following day raged furiously throughout New England and the territory north of Washington and east of Pittsburg. Coming as it did in November, it is almost without precedent, probably without any in the memory of those now living. So aged a citizen as Mr. Jacob M. Towle and so careful an observer and recorder of the weather as Mr. George W. Green cannot recall its like for the time of year.

All Saturday night and throughout Sunday the wind blew in gales, often of 60 miles an hour or more, from points veering about north and finally settling in the northwest. The thickly falling snow was thus swirled about, and finally either compacted into masses of the texture of sand or deposited in huge drifts, which as usual extended high along the northerly side of Water street, while much of the southerly side and the Square was blown clean to the hard rock. When one awoke Sunday morning he had passed from a fall which had been exceptionally mild to rigorous winter. A foot or more of snow lay piled upon the ground, and the amount was slightly increased during the day and following night.

Few ventured abroad on Sunday. Not more than 50 attended any church in the forenoon, and all congregations were mainly of students, whose attendance was compulsory. No woman attended the Baptist church, but one the First, but Three Phillips church, and but four the Catholic. Evening services were generally omitted. For the first time in many years no attempt was made to deliver the Sunday newspapers at private houses. Milkmen found it the most difficult of tasks to reach the village and go over their routes, which some did not complete until late in the afternoon.

Many streets remained an almost unbroken waste of snow throughout Sunday. Unless preceded by shovellers, the snow plow was powerless to clear sidewalks, and all drifts in roads had to be cut through. It was a long and difficult task which thus devolved upon the highway agent and his assistants, but by the efforts of 100 laborers or more and a score of teams, streets and sidewalks have now been brought into fair condition.


The storm put a three days' embargo upon the street railway. During Saturday night, under direction of Superintendent McReel, a snow plow and car made two round trips over the line, finding the snow rather deeper and more drifted in Hampton than in Exeter. The wind at the beach was simply terrific, and one of the doors was blown from the plow. Unfortunately, the more powerful of the company's two plows was not quite in readiness for service. Had it been, the line would probably have been kept open. The plow in use was stalled on Town hill Sunday morning, but by mid afternoon had forced its way to the corner of Lincoln and Garfield streets, where in attempting to round the sharp curve its motor was burnt out. That ended operations in Exeter for the day.

Late in the afternoon Superintendent McReel and three of his assistants attempted to return; to the power house in a four-horse team from the Trefethen stable. With difficulty they made their way to the Josiah J. Folsom place on High street, where the team was compelled to return, the street beyond being absolutely impassable.

On Monday morning they made another attempt with the same conveyance, and with difficulty succeeded, three hours being required for the five-mile drive to the power house. The breaking out of the road was then begun with a will. The drifts had first to be shovelled through, and in this task 40 men were employed. An ordinary farm plow was used to advantage to clear the rails of ice, and, the track once roughly cleared, the large snow plow, which having no motors, was pushed by three cars, did excellent work. There was no rest until 2 A.M. Tuesday, when Exeter territory had been reached. Meanwhile a force of shovellers under Conductor Noonan had nearly cleared the Exeter loop, and another force, under direction of Civil Engineer Hood, starting at Hotel Whittier, in Hampton, had advanced a mile or more toward Exeter. On Tuesday the train of snow plow and three electrics reached the News-Letter building at 3:53 P.M. It then returned to the Square, and going up Front street proceeded to clear the loop. This task was completed by early evening, the plow stalled in Lincoln street being hauled to the siding at the Goodwin block, upper Front street. The operation of the loop was at once resumed, Conductor Noonan and Motorman Davis starting on the first trip, with five passengers, at eight o'clock.

On Wednesday morning the line was in regular operation, on schedule time, between the power house and Exeter. During the day telling work was done in clearing the tracks in Hampton, and by early evening cars were running regularly to and from the lower turnout in that town.


As will be noted elsewhere, the storm occasioned on the Western division distressing loss of life and put the company and its patrons to no little inconvenience and loss, though fortunately, the blockade coming on Sunday, both were reduced to their minimum. A snow plow arrived from Boston soon after five o'clock Sunday morning and immediately returned. The paper train arrived nearly on time. and the trains scheduled to leave for Boston at 5:56 and 7:20 A.M. respectively started at 8:45 and 9:10. That was the end of Sunday traffic so far as Exeter was concerned, the wrecking of a snow plow at South Berwick and the derailing of another near Haverhill effectually tying up the division.

On Monday the train due from Boston at 7:54 A.M. arrived at 8:30 and proceeded to Dover. It immediately returned to Exeter, whence at 11:20 it proceeded to Boston. It was made up of locomotive, baggage car and two coaches, and a snow plow ran ahead of it. The three early trains to Boston were cancelled. About 1 P.M. a second train left for Boston, having come from Dover. The two regular early afternoon trains from Boston arrived nearly on time and proceeded east.

On Saturday evening Train Dispatcher Archer, with his wife, had come from Boston to spend Sunday with his brother-in-law, Station Agent Nowell. He remained in Exeter until Tuesday morning, and from early Sunday morning till late Monday afternoon was on continuous duty in directing the movement of all trains east of Exeter. Communication with Boston was during a greater part of this period impossible or uncertain, and another dispatcher was on duty at Medford, Mass. Late in the afternoon the wires were brought into perfect working condition, and Mr. Archer was relieved from his arduous duties, the movement of trains thereafter being directed from the Boston office.

The evening trains from Boston and Dover were all quite late. The first train from Portland reached Exeter about 11 P.M. by way of Portsmouth and Dover. On Tuesday passenger traffic had regained its normal condition. The first freight train since the storm arrived from Boston at 3 P.M.


During the night the great track door at the northerly end of the freight depot was blown in by the gale. On Sunday morning workmen attempted to lift an end upon a freight car, push it back in place and then shore it up, and had the task about half completed, when at 10 o'clock, a furious blast of wind sucked through the building and blew out an entire end wall at the south. The force of the wind maybe judged from the fact that six brick were blown fully 150 feet from the building.

The wires of the street railway and the electric light system were in part supported by a guy wire leading to the freight depot, and when the wall crashed down -- a dangerous snarl of live wires -- ensued. There was fortunately no passing in the street, danger signals were immediately set and matters in this respect were quickly righted.

All perishable freight in the depot was immediately repacked in box cars.

Mr. Derbyshire, head carpenter, came from Lawrence Monday morning to inspect the building. The corners at the wrecked end, of course, suffered a little, and the roof sagged in a trifle. On Tuesday, the company's carpenters began work on a temporary wooden end.