Hampton Beach Swept by Tornado!

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Nine Persons Killed Or Drowned and Many Injured!

(The Beachcomber -- Friday, July 9, 1976)

In Hampton's infancy, heavily rested "the sad hand of God upon Eight persons going in a vessell by Sea from Hampton to Boston who were all swallowed up in the osian some after they were out of the Harbor." Thus state the early records of old Hampton. Never, however, have its long annals been marked by a disaster so appalling as that wrought by the elements last Monday afternoon.

It had been a gala day at the beach, where thousands had sought holiday entertainment and relief from the scorching heat. All day in pairs or trios the crowded electrics had been running in half-hourly trips; the Boston and Maine had brought many excursionists, and hundreds had journeyed to the beach by bicycle or carriage,. The result was a concourse of thousands.

Suddenly and most unexpectedly was the day's enjoyment changed into terror and, for many, suffering and death. In mid-afternoon ominous thunder clouds overspread the sky, and at nearly half-past three one of particularly threatening aspect was seen speeding from the west. On it rushed 80 miles an hour, a black wall of destructiveness and death. Hardly had its furious approach been noted, when it swept the beach and bay, and in the twinkling of an eye claimed nine victims, maimed or wounded scores and wrecked or damaged numerous buildings. The Fourth of July, 1898, will long be sadly memorable in Hampton, Kensington and Exeter.

Death In The Rink

Particularly heart-rending were the scenes enacted in the skating rink, a large wooden building owned by Mr. Phineas F. Beckman. In it was being exhibited the electro-rama, "The Sinking of the Maine," which during the day had proved a potent attraction. At the outbreak of the tornado, fully 150 were seated in the rink.

A noise, which one attendant described as like the rattle of musketry, was first heard, then the grinding and rending of timbers and a terrifying rocking of the building. Instantly panic reigned, and there was a frenzied rush for the door, many shrieking and imploring for help.

Very few had reached the open air when the roof was lifted from the building and hurled to one side. Had it fallen in, the loss of life must have been enormous. The walls then instantly collapsed with fatal effect. By their fall, four persons were fatally wounded and many maimed. Comparatively few escaped absolutely unhurt.

The work of relief was instantly begun. A messenger summoned from the village, Doctors Smith and Ward, and Doctors Nute, Sawyer and Day responded to a call to Exeter. Doctors Nute and Sawyer caught the first electric from the shire town, and at Hampton depot found a carriage in waiting.

At the Whittier they were transferred to another. Their horse becoming a frightened runaway during the trip to the beach. Dr. Day could not be found until later and consequently had to await the next electric. Before the physicians' arrival the injured had nearly all been borne to neighboring cottages and hotels.

Mr. Hilding Karlson, of Exeter, was struck by a heavy timber, and breathed his last an instant after the arrival of Doctors Nute and Sawyer, while the former was making his inspection.

Mrs. Fred Williams, of Brighton, Mass., wife of the electro-rama's manager, had received a fracture of the skull, a broken elbow and a crushed foot.

Her death quickly followed that of Mr. Karlson. About 40 years of age, for 15 years she had had a successful stage career as Mora, the popular soubrette, and in frequent professional and social visits to Exeter had made many friends. With her husband, she was last week a guest at the Squamscott. Her remains were next morning taken to Exeter and thence sent to Brighton.

Mr. John R. Pressey, of Haverhill, Mass., received a fracture of the skull, of which he died about nine o'clock Monday night. He was 28 years old and of Haverhill, Mass., having been engaged for the day by the Exeter band. His funeral was held in Haverhill yesterday afternoon. The Pythian and Essenic lodges, of which he was a member, were in attendance and did escort duty, headed by the Exeter band. Elegant floral tributes included an offering from it. Mr. Pressey leaves a widow.

A young woman, named Mrs. Cammett, of Exeter, rushing from the rink, was struck by wreckage and dazed. She dropped the baby she was carrying, and it fell upon a timber, breaking its back. An hour later, it died.

The Wounded

Following is the list of those most seriously wounded by the destruction of the rink, unless otherwise designated, all of Exeter:

Charles Larrabee, cut about head and organic ailments aggravated.
E. Forrest Purington, left thigh broken.
Mr. Cole, an attache of the electro-rama, bruised and shaken up; nearly well.
Thomas Carter, internal injuries.
The foregoing are under treatment at the cottage hospital in Exeter, and are doing well. The recovery of all seems ....[the next line was illegible due to age of the paper].
Daniel Tewhill, hit by falling timber, suffering from inflammation of the bowels, strained hips and other internal injuries. Is doing well and recovery is expected.
Mr. and Mrs. William Hutchins. The former has broken collar bone, slight wound on head and bruised chest. The latter has two broken ribs and serious bruises of nearly the entire body. Both are doing well.
George W. Stacy, slight scalp wound, internal injuries. Will recover.
James D. P. Wingate, concussion of the brain. Will probably be confined to his home for 10 days or more.
Charles Davis, scalp wound three inches long, condition not serious.
Miss Nora Sheehan, mouth split, eye closed, bruised.
Bradbury W. York, fractured rib.
Miss May Prescott, scalp wound, elbow bruised.
Miss Ellen Hogan, sprained ankle and bruises.
Gilman Lowd, bruises, spinal injury, severe pains in stomach. Is improving.
Miss Kelley, employed at Prof. Francis', scalp wound.
All the foregoing are still under physicians' care. For the relief of many a single operation sufficed.

The Sea Claims Five Victims

The greatest loss of life was caused by the sinking of Capt. Frank Nudd's sloop, in which, assisted by his nephew, Burton C. Pettengill, of Atkinson, he had taken out a fishing party of seven -- Mr. and Mrs. Wilbur K. Parker, Mr. Walter G. Hodgdon, his daughter, Miss Gertrude, and his son Ralph, Mr. John W. Lamprey, all of Kensington, and Mr. Alfred Scott, of Exeter. Capt. Nudd was an experienced and careful skipper, and noting the impending danger, when about two miles off shore, he lowered his jib and main sail and anchored head to the wind. That he thus acted seems beyond dispute, notwithstanding conflicting testimony at the inquest. It is probable, however, that in the necessary haste the mainsail was not securely stopped and that it soon blew out again. When the storm broke, the ill-fated sloop careened and quickly sank.

Many had been watching it from the shore, and when the storm abated its disappearance was immediately noted. Mr. Charles H. Calkin, of Exeter, had been giving aid to the wounded at the rink, and on completion of this task his first thought was of the Nudd sloop. He made inquiries of Mr. Jenkins, who assured him that the yacht had foundered. Believing that some of the party might still be rescued, he ran in quest of a glass, finally procuring one of a visitor to the Head. With it the horizon was swept, and persons were seen still clinging to the rigging of the lost yacht. Running to the Leavitt House, he called for boats, of which two were quickly speeding to the wreck -- one manned by Mr. Calkin and a visitor to the beach, the other by Mr. Frank Higgins, of Exeter, and Master Robert, the 15-year old son of Mr. A. P. Leavitt, Roxbury, Mass. These boats rescued Messrs. Parker, Lamprey, Pettengill and Scott and recovered the bodies of Capt. Nudd and Mr. Hodgdon. In the task they were assisted by Messrs. Webster and Nesbit, of Haverhill. Mass., guests at Leavitts', who had quickly followed in a third boat.

To all appearances, life still lingered in Capt. Nudd when rescued, but when brought to shore, attempts at resuscitation proved futile. In this task, Dr. G. E. Mitchell was a most assiduous leader, long working on in hopeless efforts. The survivors were weakened and unstrung, and some rallied after hour of intelligent treatment. Aid had reached them not an instant too soon. Mr. Scott is still under the doctor's care, but is nearing full recovery.

Diver Hurley ........ arrived early Wednesday morning. A catamaran had been improved for his use and in the trip to the wreck, the diver was accompanied by Policeman Young, Henry, George W. and Harry Palmer, Frank and Irving Lamprey, Levi Blake and Capt. Oliver Godfrey. The diver's search was deeply disappointing. The yacht was found lying on its side in the 70 feet of water, and from it had been swept the bodies of Miss Hodgdon and her brother.

Mr. Parker's handbag, in which he had about $30, had also disappeared. A lady's hat and Mr. Hodgdon's coat were alone recovered. In all probability no attempt will be made to raise the sloop.

The Inquests

Coroner Rider arrived from Portsmouth Monday evening and impanelled as his jury Selectman Shaw and Mr. Adna D. Garland, of Hampton, and Mr. James Bruce, of Exeter, E. L. Guptill, Esq., of Portsmouth, acting in the latter's stead in the deliberations of Tuesday afternoon. Inquest was first held upon Captain Nudd, one case sufficing for each accident.

On Monday evening, Burton C. Pettengill of Atkinson, testified thus: Started at 1:30 on a fishing trip. There were nine in the party, Mr. and Mrs. Parker, Capt. Nudd, himself, Mr. Hodgdon, son and daughter, Mr. Scott and Mr. Lamprey. Went to the fishing grounds, where we stayed half an hour. Saw shower. When two miles from shore, squall struck. Took down jib and mainsail, anchored boat headed to beach.

All women on deck and all quiet. At first gust, rail went under water, then righted. At next gust, boat lay on one side and gradually sank. All hands in water. All clung to rigging, topmast out of water. Mrs. Parker clung to side of boat and was first to let go. Mr. Lamprey clung to rigging, also Mr. Hodgdon and daughter.

The inquest was resumed Tuesday afternoon, when John W. Lamprey of Kensington, thus testified. Came to Beach on the Fourth to go fishing; trip prearranged. When we got there, Mr. Nudd had taken out another party.

We started at about 10:30, went out at about 3 p.m., and then came back. Saw shower coming. Before we got to beach, squall struck, and then all in water. Clung to rigging until some were physically exhausted. Myself and Mr. Hodgdon held up his daughter until I was taken off. Cannot swim.

Wilber K. Parker testified: Went out on fishing party. When squall struck jib lowered. Mainsail up. Boat laid over flat on water by reason of mainsail lying flat. She gradually sank. Witness otherwise corroborated Mr. Pettengill.

On Tuesday evening as a mere formality a brief inquest was held over Mr. Pressey. The verdicts were in substance that Capt. Nudd and four of his passengers came to their deaths by drowning, and that Messrs. Karlson and Pressey and Mrs. Williams died of injuries received in the destruction of the rink.

Injured in Various Ways

When the storm broke, two electrics were stalled before the New Boar's Head, in which their passengers sought shelter. Frank, son of Mr. Charles C. Leach, of Exeter, was either blown against the piazza or struck by a flying timber, and had his left thigh broken. A temporary splint was bound on by Dr. Ward, and late in the evening young Leach was brought to his home, where the fracture was next morning reduced. He is doing well.

Mrs. Russell Chute of Exeter, was struck by a flying wagon wheel and received a slight fracture of the skull. Her forehead is split, but though her head still aches, she is up and her case has no grave symptoms.

An unknown man was seen to fall just beyond the electric terminus, and for some time lay unconscious.

An unknown woman was seen by Mr. A. H. Williams, as she was being helped into a carriage for removal from the beach. She was then bleeding at nose and ears.

The compilation of a complete list of the injured is utterly impossible.

The Damage Wrought by the Storm

The storm wrought destruction along the beach, wrecking many buildings and sadly damaging more. Losses mount well into the thousands of dollars.

The new buildings on the tract of the Hampton Beach Improvement Company were exposed to the full force of the tornado, and few escaped injury. The cottage, in erection for Mr. Ernest N. Gilman, of Haverhill, framed and partly roofed, was razed.

The house of Mrs. Arthur N. Rollins of Exeter, was blown several feet from its foundations, was canted backward at an angle of about 25 degrees, was racked and otherwise badly damaged. The loss on contents was heavy. The cottage of Mr. John M. Clark, Exeter, was moved four feet from its foundations, was tilted forward, damaged in its interior and its piazzas wrecked.

It was, however, strongly built, and the builder states can be replaced in its original position at comparatively little cost. The Lord house by its side was started five inches from its foundations, and is being righted by contractor Dow of Newburyport. At the rear of these houses, Mrs. M. A. Hastings' cottage, framed and roofed, was blown down. At the Jenkins cafe several windows were blown in, sash and all. The loss on furnishings and supplies exceeded $200.

On the back road, the westernmost cottage owned by Mr. John W. Locke of Seabrook was moved forward two feet, quite thoroughly wrecked inside, split in twain in its upper story, lost a chimney and had its piazzas unroofed. The adjoining ocean cottage, owned by Mr. Locke, was damaged, and its stable and ice-house razed. Mr. Locke's story lost a chimney. The James Fernald heirs, Lawrence, Mass., lost a cottage. Mr. S. J. Dudley, Exeter, had a rented cottage wrecked and a stable blown away. On Island path, Mr. Willard Williams, Hempstead, had a cottage razed as was the stable attached to Palestine cottage. The Tucker stable was demolished.

Returning to the beach road, the building, owned by the Nudd estate and occupied as a restaurant by Freeman Brown, was so racked that an inch or more of clear space separated it from the ell and it was otherwise damaged. Its clock stopped at 3:25 when the tornado was at its height.

Herlyck's "little place" has more than half disappeared, a small wing alone standing. Mrs. Herlyck was blown into the street and against a trolley pole, but for which she might have fallen into the sea. She was painfully hurt and was for two days confined to her bed. The Herlycks' loss of $300 is relatively one of the heaviest caused by the storm.

Several carriages standing in the yard of the T. H. Nudd place were blown about the vicinity, to their material damage. At the estate of Mr. Charles Austin, of Methuen, Mass., the barn was lifted up bodily over a Goddard buggy and a wagon and was blown forward 30 feet, striking the rear of the house, where it utterly collapsed.

A flying timber took from the house a roof gutter, and the house was otherwise slightly damaged by flying wreckage. The Goddard buggy was blown over and over, and was finally converted into kindling wood. Half a ton of hay was strewn about the vicinity, much being blown into the ocean.

A plank walk was borne away, taking from the Kennard-Jones cottage the side steps as it blew past. The cottage of Mr. Patrick Kearns, Manchester, was badly wrecked. The greater part of one side was blown out, and the house all but toppled over. The fine Beach cottage lost a chimney. At the "Glade," Mr. Charles R. Mason occupant, both ridge poles were torn off and the barn moved fully 15 feet.

The "Glade" afforded timely shelter to a man and four ladies who were in occupancy of its summer house when the storm burst, but one of the ladies did not reach its protection until the wind had literally stripped her of all clothing.

The Williams cottage, where improvements had hardly been completed, lost a chimney and was otherwise damaged. At Cutler's, next beyond, peculiar pranks were played. On the main house two chimneys were toppled over, one escaping. The chimney on the cafe succumbed, and the high board fence between it and the Williams place was blown down. The laundry house was moved from it foundations, and one of the barn's outbuildings wrecked. Early next morning, Mr. Cutler had masons busied on his chimneys, and was seasonably able to do the cooking necessary for the entertainment of his host of guests.

Mrs. George D. Dodge's stable was strewn about the Daniel Lord place, where trees and shrubbery suffered. The Marlboro cottage was slightly canted to the eastward, and one of its several piazza pillars was blown down, an astonishing freak of tornadic fury. Still more astonishing was the manner in which the wind bent the street light lantern frame. The five-room cottage connected with the Surf House was blown to the ground. The skating rink figures elsewhere. Just beyond, at the rear of the Penobscomuck house, Mrs. Samuel C. Batchelder's barn was badly damaged.

East of this point damages at the beach were mainly continued to Leavitts' and the New Boar's Head, though half a dozen chimneys were blown down and several summer houses demolished.

At Leavitts', the stable was sorely battered, and from it timbers were hurled against the hotel, crashing through windows and damaging the piazza. The trees on the ocean side suffered.

At the Leavitt cottage, the storm played a peculiar prank. The two chimneys were blown down upon the roof, where they lay as on hinges. The New Boar's Head fared badly. Its covered piazza was well nigh wrecked. The long bathing house was utterly destroyed, and the electric station was blown away. The barn was partly unroofed, and much of an end blown out. The windmill tower was over-turned.

The tornado exerted its force in whimsical and astonishing manner two miles inland on the main road from the beach, east of which it did not damage. At Frank Palmer's, a big elm was uprooted. Two large trees at Dr. Smith's were riven, falling upon the roof of his house. In the yard of Rev. J. A. Ross, a tree was blown down.

Nathaniel Johnson had his barn largely unroofed. Opposite the "big elm," an elm branch was blown upon the electric feed wire, delaying traffic three-quarters of an hour before it could be cut away. Alongside the neighboring turnout, apple trees were slivered and uprooted in remarkable manner. George A. Johnson had a chimney blown over.

At Stacy L. Nudd's, a large elm was uprooted, as were great poplars at John A. and Joseph Philbrick's. The Shelton place shows the tornado's effects upon its grounds. Opposite Judge Lamprey's, too, an elm was blown upon the electric feed wire.


A valuable horse, owned by Mrs. J. W. Harris, of Haverhill, quartered in the wrecked barn of Mr. S. J. Dudley, Exeter had the tendon of its left foreleg cut by flying wreckage. It had to be shot the next morning, Selectman Shaw dropping it in its tracks by a well delivered charge between the eyes.

Messrs. A. W. Page and William Pride, of Amesbury, Mass., were on a fishing trip, in a 30-foot schooner owned by Mr. McKenzie of the town last named. They may congratulate themselves that they were short of milk, for while they were ashore in quest of it, their boat was sunk to its mast tops. She lay but a few hundred feet off-shore, nearly in front of the Bay View, her mast tops alone above water. Tuesday she was buoyed with barrels and on Wednesday was raised and uninjured.

Mr. Edward E. Rowell, of Exeter, after escaping from the rink, was searching for a lost finger ring. He was speaking of his loss to a bystander, when, chancing to look down, he saw the missing jewelry.

Until Tuesday afternoon it was feared that the Haverhill sloop Jeanette had foundered off the beach, with the loss of all on board. The fear was groundless. During the storm the Jeanette was at Annisquam, Mass., and her two anchors dragging, was driven ashore. She was not injured, and on Tuesday her crew, Charles Frye and Fred Richardson, reached their homes in Haverhill.

The Pastime, of that city, Capt. George Surette, having on board James N. Smith, John Sherwin, George Stewart and two men by the name of Bond, was caught by the squall of Hampton beach. Her masts were carried away, and though the anchors were thrown, they would not hold, and she was rapidly carried out to sea. In vain they signalled, but no help came until about 4 o'clock, when they were picked up by the Annie Davis Cushing, a Maine schooner, which came many miles out of her course to the rescue. At this time the Pastime was off the Isles of Shoals, tossing about terribly in the rough sea. The men had almost given up hope when help arrived, and they were taken on board the schooner and carried into Gloucester, whence they returned Tuesday morning.

Conductor Clinton J. Eaton had lively experiences during this afternoon. He had planned to witness the "Sinking of the Maine," but on the trip to the beach gave Motorman Weeks a dinner relief, as on the return trip he did Conductor Perkins. When nearing the Gremmels place the storm burst, and burnt out the rear controller. He shut off the "overhead connection," tore off the controller casing and extinguished the flames with water brought in his cap. Later in the afternoon he was busied in freeing the feed wire from the elm which had fallen against it nearly opposite the Elmwood farm. A sawn off limb broke the ladder on which he was standing, and he clung to the trolley wire, with which the tree gave him a ground connection. He thus received a severe shock, of which he still shows the effect on his right arm. Motorman Charles Cutts came to his assistance, but was warned off by Mr. Eaton's declaration that he was "charged." Then Mr. Eaton dropped to the ground unhurt.

Messrs. A Lawrence Rotch and A. E. Sweetland, of the Blue Hill observatory, Boston, spent Wednesday at the beach in scientific story of the tornado's work.

Policemen Young and Moulton and Special Officers Fred Williams and Edward Elkins have been on constant duty since Sunday, maintaining a day and night patrol of the beach.

At the Austin place Mrs. Charles Austin, of Methuen, Mass., was entertaining her two brothers and three sisters. One of the brothers, Mr. Charles Wheeler, was about to return to Exeter, when Mr. Austin, noting the onrushing cloud, advised him to wait and see the turmoil, of which there was soon plenty.

Mr. A. H. Williams, of Manchester, who is occupying the Joplin cottage, did yeoman work after the catastrophe. He immediately drove to the village and summoned Doctors Smith and Ward, and on return drove to the Head and conveyed the survivors from the drowning accident and the bodies to hotels and cottages.

Soon after the recovery of Mrs. Parker's body a man's vest and several articles of ladies' apparel were washed ashore. They are not believed to have come from Capt. Nudd's sloop, and many fear that some unknown yacht may have foundered unseen during the storm.

Several carriages were overturned by the tornado, and even horses could not always keep their feet. One was blown into the sea.

Throughout the week the crowds of sightseers at the beach have been exceedingly large. Double service on the electrics has hardly sufficed for their conveyance. Many have driven in from neighboring resorts, and particularly handsome equipages have been seen.

The Exeter Street Railway Company is entitled to warm praise for its work on Monday evening. Its first thought was for the comfort of the wounded, and its baggage car was freely placed at the physicians' disposal.

It was in constance service that night and Tuesday morning, having the right of way in its trips over the line. It was no easy task to bring the vast throng from the beach, but it was done with pleasing expedition and without accident. Director Lovell assisted Superintendent McReel in directing operations.

David Franklin Nudd

Capt. D. Franklin Nudd, who, with four passengers, was drowned Monday afternoon by the foundering of his yacht off Hampton Beach, was born in Hampton February 6, 1838, and had been a lifelong resident of that town where he was during the season busied in taking out sailing parties, and will long be missed at the beach.

He was a Union veteran, having served in 1862-3 as sergeant of Co. I, 15th New Hampshire.

He leaves a widow and son. The largely attended funeral was held at his home yesterday afternoon, Rev. J. A. Ross officiating.

Hilding Karlson

Mr. Hilding Karlson, the first victim of Monday's destructive tornado at Hampton Beach, was a native of Falkenberg, Sweden, where he was born November 30, 1867. He was consequently in his 31st year.

Mr. Karlson came to this country in 1891. He was highly skilled as a florist, at which profession he had worked three years for H. J. Gilbert in Milton, Mass.; two years for E.M. Wood, of Natick, Mass., and one year for Bassett Washburn, Hinsdale, Ill. Two years ago he came to Exeter, and quickly became a member of the firm of Hilliard & Karlson.

He was a most exemplary and popular young man, whose tragic and untimely death seems particularly sad. He was a member of Star in the East lodge, A.F.& A.M., and of Misr Senate, K.A.E.O. His parents, four brothers and three sisters survive him.

The impressive funeral was held in the Unitarian church at two o'clock yesterday afternoon, under Masonic auspices. The religious service, in which Rev. W. L. Anderson assisted Rev. Mr. Green, was followed by the ritual of that order.

The Arion Quartette sang. Star in the East lodge and Misr senate, K.A.E.O., attended as organizations, the latter performing escort duty. The bearers were from the lodge Messrs. R. Dudley Burpee, Herman L. Tuttle and Henry G. Durgin, from the senate Alton L. Ingalls, Howard Pitman and Waldo Jones.

The church was exquisitely decorated, and floral tributes included emblems of the order named.

(Reprinted from The Exeter News-Letter of July 4, 1898,
courtesy of Harold E. Fernald Jr.)
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