"Great Earthquake of 1727"
Sermon by Rev. Nathaniel Gookin
Delivered in October & November 1727 in Hampton, NH
[From: NH Historical Society Collections, 4, pgs. 92-7 (1834)]
An Appendix, giving some account of the Earthquake as it was at Hampton. To which is added something remarkable of Thunder and Lightning in the same town in the year 1727.
JOB. xxi. 6. "Even when I REMEMBER, I am afraid, and trembling taketh hold on my flesh."
The earthquake, which was throughout the country, in the night between the 29th and 30th of October, 1727, was in this town much as it was in other places, of which there are divers printed accounts; only, as I suppose, it was something weaker here than in those towns that lie upon the Merrimack; so, I believe it was stronger here than in Boston, or the towns thereabouts.
The shake was very hard, and was attended with a terrible noise, something like thunder. The houses trembled as if they were falling; divers chimneys were cracked and some had their tops broken off. It was especially so in the south parish, where the hardest shake seemed to be on the hill, where the house of God stands. Three houses on that hill had their chimneys broken, one of which was the house of the Reverend Mr. Whipple. When the shake was beginning, some persons observed a flash of light at their windows, and one or two saw streams of light running on the earth; the flame seemed to them to be of a bluish color. These flashes, no doubt, broke out of the earth; otherwise it is probable, they would have been seen more generally, especially by those who were abroad. The sea was observed to roar in an unusual manner. The earth broke open, near the south bounds of the town (as it did in divers places in Newbury) and cast up a very fine bluish sand. At the place of the eruption, there now (above two months after) continually issues out considerable quantities of water; and for about a rod around it, the ground is so soft, that a man can't tread upon it without throwing brush or some other thing to bear him up. It is indeed in meadow ground, but before the earthquake, it was not so soft but that men might freely walk upon it. A spring of water, which had run freely for fourscore years, and was never known to freeze, was much sunk by the earthquake, and frozen afterwards like any standing water. [The same was observed of a Spring in North Hampton, after the earthquake of 9 November, 1810.] EDITORS.
There were divers other shocks the same night; yea, the sound was heard, and sometimes the shake felt every day for a fortnight after. Afterwards it was heard, but not so often.
On December 24th at night, just eight weeks after its beginning, there were two shocks; the first of which was very loud and jarred the houses. This shock, I am informed, extended from Charles River to Casco Bay.
But these were not the last that we had. This present year 1728, is begun with the voice of God to us, it being heard January 1st, about two o'clock, afternoon, and divers times January 6th at eight. We heard the sound again on the 16th, and last night (this is written January 25th) we had two shocks, which made our houses tremble. So that the Lord's hand is stretched out still.
It is hard to express the consternation that fell, both on men and beast, in the time of the great shock. The brute creatures ran roaring about the fields, as in the greatest distress. And mankind were as much surprised as they, and some with very great terror; so that they might say, as Psalm 55:5; "Fearfulness and terror hath come upon me, and horror hath overwhelmed me." All of us saw a necessity of looking to God for his favor and protection; and I would hope that many did, not only look to God in that time of their distress, but did truly and heartily return to him. Many are now asking the way to Zion with their faces thitherward. They say, Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant, not to be forgotten. Making a credible profession of faith and repentance, they draw nigh to the Lord's table, and observe that (hitherto) too much neglected ordinance of his supper. So the jailer, (Acts xvi.) was awakened by an earthquake, and so prepared for the receiving of the word, which by God's blessing, immediately brought him home to Christ, and he rejoiced, believing in God with all his house. This is the happy effect, which by the grace of God, the earthquake has had upon some among us. The Lord increase their number! And make them faithful in his covenant, and give them the blessings of it!
Therefore my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown; so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
To this account of the earthquake, I shall take leave to add something remarkable concerning thunder and lightning in Hampton, in the year 1727.
This year has been a year of much thunder and lightning. The like was perhaps never known before in this country. Though the lightning has struck in many places, yet no one person, either in this or the next province, has been killed thereby.
In this towns the lightning has fallen on divers trees; and on August 23, two oxen at the Falls, were killed by it; yet God, the preserver of men, has spared our lives, though the blow has fallen very near to some of us; as will appear by the two following instances.
April 10th, 1727. -- A little after break of day, a thunder storm came over this town. At first, the thunder was but low and seemed to be at a distance; but all at once came an amazing clap. The lightning then fell upon the house of Mr. Edward Shaw. It took off all that part of the chimney which was above the roof, and broke down all the forepart of the chimney in the northeast end of the house, till it came to the chamber hearth.
In the lower room of that end of the house where the man's mother and one of her grandchildren lodged, it took a small table, within four feet of her bed's head, and carried off the leaf of it towards the bed. It went from thence down into the cellar; where it something moved two hogsheads, which stood near the foundation of the chimney; one of them, which was full, was turned partly upon its head; the wooden hoops upon it were loosened, but the iron hops were not moved. In its passage into the cellar, it went through the hearth, where, after the rubbish was removed, was found a large hole that was made by it, and in the foundation, a little over one of the hogsheads, was observed a small hole, where it is probable, the lightning had its vent. In the south west room of the house, where the man and his wife lodged, it entered into a small cupboard, where it broke divers earthen dishes, but yet the door of the cupboard was not burst open.
Of the great mercy of God, no person in the family was hurt. Even the ancient woman, who was in so great danger, received not the least damage. She was only waked out of her sleep by it, and knew not the occasion of the noise, till she saw the next flash of lightning; and it is very delightsome to hear her now praising God for not only preserving her life, but also preserving her from being frighted.
July 5, 1727, in the afternoon, we had another thunder storm. Mr. Samuel Palmer, Jr. was then riding towards the woods, having behind him his little son about seven or eight years old. As they were travelling along, there came a terrible clap of thunder, the lightning struck two trees (twelve feet asunder) which were but about a hundred yards on one side of the path in which they were going. It tore one of the trees all to pieces, and threw some of the splinters in the path. They were riding a good pace, so that in less than a minute they would have been up with the place where the lightning fell, and so would probably, have been killed by it. There was but a step between them and death. So that we see what need we have to look to God to order our steps for us in a proper and literal sense, and to guide and preserve our going out and coming in.