An Account of the Late Dreadful Hurricane
Late Dreadful Hurricane
On the 31st of August, 1772
The damage done on that day
in the islands of
St. Christopher and Nevis,
attempted to be ascertained.
1.1. AN ACCOUNT OF THE HURRICANE Which happened August 31, 1772.
NO state or condition in life can promise itself an exemption from distress and misery; let out prospects be ever so flattering, let our measures in pursuit of happiness be ever so wisely laid, let every action of our lives be governed by the strictest rules of prudence, yet vain are all our schemes if the hand of Providence interferes to blast our hopes, and render the plan of our felicity abortive. Hopes and fears alternately possess the human mind, and we are more or less agitated as danger or security approaches. We tremble in the face of danger, and then, and perhaps but then, call on Him for succour who can alone protect us. There is too much of common life in the observation to let a doubt remain of its truth; and it is equally true, that in our prosperous security we forget the Author of our happiness, and enjoy His gifts as if they arose spontaneous from ourselves.
It is true, indeed, the Divine Being sometimes visits the children of disobedience with His anger, yet we hope we shall never forget the mercies with which [Page 2] his last dreadful visitation was accompanied. In the midst of horror and confusion our lives were spared, to fulfil His wise purposes. That visitation of Providence, and the melancholy consequences flowing from it, is the subject of the following pages; and though it may not be treated with that elegance of diction, and that force of reasoning, which might be expected from an abler pen, yet the author will endeavour to attone for the want of those excellencies, by adhering to truth with the most religious attention; and he shall esteem himself very happy, if, after the perusal of these sheets, no Gentleman is offended: if, on the contrary, he unfortunately gives offence, he previously begs pardon for what he never intended to commit.
To account physically for Hurricanes is not my present purpose, but barely to relate what happened on the 31st day of August, 1772. Yet one observation on the propertty of hurricanes, and wherein they differ from storms in general, may not be altogether superfluous; and the rather, as I borrow my observation from the experience of two hurricanes equally severe, the one on the 11th of September, 1751, in Jamaica, and the other of yesterday. A Storm is a heavy gale, which blows regularly, and almost all of equal force, especially at a little distance from the skirts, where it must of course die away: on the other hand, an hurricane is an equal body of wind, but more partial in its progress; for being compresed into narrow flues, or gusts of no great extent, trebles it in force, and marks its way with ruin and desolation. THis will appear obvious to any observer, who will recollect that, in the late hurricane, many substantial houses have been destroyed, while some, not half as strong, have escaped almost unhurt, though not many yards distant from each other. Indeed other convincing circumstances in favour of this doctrine occur, but one is sufficient: almost every thing on the estate of William Garvey Esq. at Palmetto Point, was destroyed, while his next neighbours received little or no injury.
There is another circumstance wherein an hurricane differs widely from a storm, which is this: a storm continues mostly in one direction, whereas an hurricane will, before it entirely ceases, change to each of the cardinal points, with a lull between each variation.
For some days before the 31st of August, the weather seemed to portend something disastrous; the clouds flying low and rapidly, and frequently changing their course. On the 27th, in the evening, a great sea swell began, and continued increasing all that night; and on Friday the 28th it was dreadful. The wind blowing strong from the westward, prevented the vessels in the road from putting to sea, by which means several were drove on shore, and stranded, an account of which will be seen in the annexed table. About six o'clock on Friday evening the wind moderated, and the surf began to subside. It is impossible that a more dreadfully glorious scene could have presented itself than was seen that evening on the bay. The clouds, which were of various colours, seemed warring with each other; the sea dashing, with furious explosions, on the shore; the wrecks of vessels lost, in view: in short, nothing could convey a more exalted idea of Divine Majesty than this tremendous scene. On Saturday the weather was very moderate, and we fondly flattered ourselves that the worst was past. But, alas! the measure of our woes was not yet full. The widow and the orphan had not yet cause to shed the tears of affliction; the tender virgin was not yet obliged to lie in the street without a covering over her head; ruin had not yet overtaken the industrious and the careful: those events, those dreadful events, were reserved for Monday the 31st, a day appointed by the Almighty as a day of bitterness and sorrow, which can never be forgotten.
This day was ushered in with little flying gusts of wind and rain, which continued increasing till about nine o'clock, when the flood gates of Heaven seemed to have burst open, to pour desolation thro' [Page 4] a devoted land. Boreas rushed forth, armed with destruction and wide-wafting ruin, tearing up in its course churches, houses, trees of vast circumference, and stones snatched violently from the earth and thrown to considerable distances. Safety became a stranger, horror and dismay seized the stoutest hearts, for who can withstand the terrors of the Lord! universal destruction seemed suspended by a thread, and every succeeding moment expected to be our last. The crash of falling buildings, the shrieks of those who were left destitute of shelter, the rattling of timbers, carried aloft in air, then driving against the tops of houses, the tumbling of stone walls, all contributed to heighten this uproar of nature. All hearts became open to the soft influence of humanity and tenderness; discord and rancour were banished from every breast; and he was most happy who could yield the greatest assistance. The proverb was amply verified, "Fear made cowards loving."
When this war of wind and rain, which as it flew seemed mingled with fire, had continued about an hour, the new court house was torn up from its foundations, and laid in ruins; the roof of the east end of the church was carried away, and several private buildings destroyed: but the blustry god was not yet satiated with ruin, for before he let go the reins of the northern wind, the stores of Messrs. Henderson and Murray and Messrs. Sharry and Sanderson were unroofed, a great part of their goods destroyed, damaged, or stolen, and all the vessels in the road parted from their anchors, and were driven southward. About eleven o'clock the sun began to shine, and the wind dying away, gave the frighted and fatigued inhabitants an opportunity of visiting their friends, and of administering such consolation and relief as their several necessities seemed to require. Others were employed in removing their goods to places of greater security; and indeed every house that escaped the fury of the storm was open for their reception. This was but a short-lived cessation; for the wind veering to the [Page 5] eastward, soon passed that direction, and about five minutes before twelve was at south-south-east, when the storm re-commenced with redoubled fury. The hopes of safety entertained from the cessation soon gave place to terror and despair; every breath heaved with heart-felt anguish; and those who did not personally suffer in this wreck of matter, felt every pang for their absent relations that affinity, fear, and danger could inspire. The vessels blown from the road by the northern gale, were now drove furiously back and wrecked. To add still more to our terror and distress, a severe shock of an earthquake was felt about half after one o'clock. This gale was by far the most severe, though the former did the most mischief, having scarcely left any thing for the southern wind to destroy. At two o'clock the hurricane ceased, though the wind continued all the evening to blow pretty fresh; as it did most of the next day.
With regard to the number of lives lost, and persons wounded on this occasion, it was very inconsiderable, when we recollect the dangers of the day. I have heard of no more than four white people killed, which were, Mrs. Thomas, by the fall of Mrs. Palmer's house, at the Mornes; Mrs. Brown, by the fall of her house at Sandy Bay, by which accident also her daughter had some of her limbs broken; Richard Mathews, Esq. manager on the Belmont estate of Peter Mathew Mills, Esq. having staid in the house as long as he could with any degree of safety, in attempting to get out when the house was falling, he was jammed fast between two heavy beams, which killed him instantly; Mrs. Langley, at Sandy Point, was killed by the fall of the house she lived in.
There were several white persons wounded, and about twenty Negroes killed and wounded, and cattle innumerable.
The morning after the hurricane, the whole face of nature seemed changed; the trees were all, without a single exception, disrobed of their foliage; that beautiful verdure, tat was wont to grace our ever-green hills and vallies, snatched rudely from them; our loftiest tamarind trees, the plumy cocoa nut trees, mostly submitted to the superior power of the gale. Not a blade of grass, or indeed of any thing green, but what was whipped violently off, and every vegitable entirely destroyed. December never presented a more dreary scene than what was now beheld. The sugar canes, in many places, were twisted out by the root, others disjointed, and some for whole acres swept entirely away. Our roads were rendered impassable either by floods, gullies, or huge trees laid across them. However, a surprising vegitation, with the industry of the inhabitants, has since made the island assume a more comfortable aspect, and our hopes of the next crop are risen in proportion.
1.2. Losses sustained in the Island of St Christopher, by the Hurricane which happened on the 31st of August, 1772.
1.2.1. The Parish of St. George, Basseterre,
184.108.40.206. Tobias Wall Gallwey, Esq. deceased, in this and St. Peter's parish.
Two dwelling houses destroyed, two more greatly damaged; one set of works destroyed, three more greatly damaged; four stables, one mill house, four mule pens, and all the other out buildings entirely destroyed; which, together with the sugar and rum now lost, and the damage done to the next crop, will amount to 6000l.
220.127.116.11. Mr. Lucas, (late Coleman)----Mornes.
Boiling house, curing house, and still house, partly unrooted, and greatly damaged; overseer's house down, many of the out buildings stripped, all the negro houses destroyed, and the crop much hurt.
Captain Beach's new house on the hill was torn in pieces, and almost the whole of his furniture destroyed.
Mr. Richard Perry, overseer and distiller, lost in furniture, apparel, and other things, to the amount of 60l.
18.104.22.168. John St. Leger Douglas, Esq.----College.
Dwelling house, woura house, store, and sick house levelled with the ground; roofs of the coopers shop and stable blown into a cane piece; part of the stone wall of the mule and cattle pen thrown down, the whole of which damage cannot be repaired for less than 500l.
The crop is greatly damaged, for it is imagined it cannot have suffered less than 60 hogsheads.
Mr. Duncan McDougall, the manager, lost in books, furniture, &c. 50l. This Gentleman was tossed into the mule pen by the gale.
22.214.171.124. Timothy Earle, Esq.----Laguerettes and Mornes.
Two boiling houses, two curing houses, one still house, with some other buildings, destroyed, which together with 70 hogsheads of sugar, which the crop is likely to fall short, will amount to near 3000l.
126.96.36.199. Abednego Mathew, Esq.
Stable, mule stead, overseer's house, and all the Negro houses down. The crop has suffered about 70 hogsheads.
188.8.131.52. William Woodley, Esq.----Greenland.
Buildings damaged, and the crop injured, to the amount of 1200l.
184.108.40.206. Patrick Blake, Esq.----Diamond.
Wind mill, boiling house, and still house a little stripped; trash house, and all negro houses but one, destroyed. The crop a good deal damaged.
220.127.116.11. George Dewar, Esq.
Some buildings down, others unroofed and greatly damaged, which, together with what the crop has suffered, will amount to 3000 l.
James Clifton, Esq. the manager, computes his own loss to be more than 1000l. currency.
18.104.22.168. Peter Mathew Mills, Esq.----Olivees.
Buildings damaged, dwelling house partly stripped, and the crop so much hurt, that the whole loss will amount to 2314l. 10s.
22.214.171.124. Aretas and William Wharton, Esqrs.
Upper works. A new boiling house down, and other buildings much hurt. Lower works all de [Page 18] stroyed except a still house which must be re-built; all the negro houses carried away; which, with what crop has suffered, will, upon a moderate computation, amount to 2500.
1.2.2. The Parish of St. Peter, Basseterre.
126.96.36.199. Heirs of Isaac Dupuy, Esq.----Frigate-Bay.
Ten mules, two cows, one calf, five asses, one Creole mare, and forty sheep killed; the dwelling houses on the estate and at Friars-Bay, mule and cart house, destroyed; works, stores, hot houses, stable, &c. greatly damaged; Guiney-corn, yams, and the crop much hurt.
188.8.131.52. John Tyson, Esq.
Some little damage done to the works, part of the round house of the wind-mill stripped, which together with what the crop has sustained, may amount to about 200l.
184.108.40.206. James Milliken, Esq.
Boiling house, still house, curing house, destroyed; ten hhds. sugar in the curing house damaged; all the molasses in the cistern ruined by the rain, all the liquor casks full of liquor broke in pieces; pinning of the stills and the chimney down, and the stills much hurt; coopers and carpenters shops down, and the tools mostly lost; 500 gallons of old rum lost; a quantity of beef, negro provisions and cloathing carried away; dwelling house terribly wrecked, most of it unroofed; plantation books destroyed; part of the kitchen wall blown down; mule pen and cattle pen sheads, and part of the walls down; several cattle irrecoverably hurt; three fine bulls killed; a new stable partly broke and carried away; all the other out buildings destroyed; several negroes hurt by the falling of their houses; the early canes rooted up, the latter ones levelled with the earth; great part of the earth carried away by the floods from the hills, so that there is no prospect of sugar next year. This dreadful disaster will hurt the estate to the amount of 3000l.
Dr. Lapsly, the manager, lost his books, medicines, cloaths, and furniture, to the amount of near 200l.
Mr. Cunningham, the overseer, lost almost every thing he had, which he estimates at 50l.
220.127.116.11. Gilbert Fane Fleming, Esq.----Westup.
Trash house blown down, and the crop damaged about ten hhds. This little estate is worked by the Shadwell gang.
1.2.3. The Parish of St. Mary, Cayon.
18.104.22.168. The Parish.
THE Church down to the foundations; the Parsonage new house torn to pieces, and all Dr. Hutchinson's furniture, books &c. almost destroyed. To rebuild the Church and House, it is computed, will cost the parish 2700l. currency.
22.214.171.124. Mrs. Ann Dalzell.
The upper boiling and curing house down; one half of the dwelling house blown away, and the other so much damaged as not to be worth repair; every out building and negro house down. The crop is so much destroyed that it will not make twenty hhds. and it is a certain estate for eighty or ninety.
126.96.36.199. Daniel Cunnigham, Esq.----River.
The dwelling house a little shook, the out buildings a good deal damaged, though but a few down; the negro houses mostly destroyed; the crop very much injured. I have not heard of any lives being lost. This account is from my own observation.
188.8.131.52. The Spring Estate.
Buildings a little shattered, mule pen shead stripped, all the negro houses down, and two hhds. of sugar destroyed; the crop injured about forty or forty five hhds.
184.108.40.206. Charles Spooner, Esq.
The Water-mill was almost torn to pieces, several other buildings damaged; dwelling house a little stripped, negro houses mostly, if not all, down, and the crop something hurt. My own observation from an external view.
220.127.116.11. Richard Wilson, jun. Esq.
An elegant new dwelling house, which cost about two thousand pounds currency building, laid in a heap of ruins; the water wheel and boiling house much damaged; all the negro houses down; a waggon horse and three head of horned cattle killed. The crop so much injured, as, it is feared, to lose about 170 hhds. The loss may be estimated at near 4500l.
18.104.22.168. William Ottley, Esq.
Sick house blown away; an oat chamber, and a horse stable sixty feet long, down to the ground; hen house destroyed, and the dwelling house a little stripped. Negro house all destroyed. The crop will not lose more than twenty hhds.
22.214.171.124. John Pogson, Esq.
Boiling house mostly unroofed; curing house the same. Almost all the other buildings levelled with the ground, the dwelling house included. The negro houses all destroyed, and the crop injured above one third. I have not heard of any lives being lost of man or beast.
1.2.4. Parish of Christ Church, NicholaTown.
126.96.36.199. William Woodley, Esq.
Gable end of the curing house, and part of the roof down, which broke the stauncheons and runner beam, and crushed several things in the cellar; the dwelling house on the north side stripped of all the shingles; boiling house stripped; copper hole shead down; two wings of the mill carried away; waggon, trash, chaise, bell, and necessary houses, with some other out buildings entirely demolished. Five hhds of rum destroyed, three by the fall of Mr. Thomas Phipps's house in Basseterre, and two in the cellar. Ten hhds. sugar lost in Capt. Hunter's vessel near Bluff Point.---No estimate made of the crop.
188.8.131.52. William Julius, Esq.
Both works, and all the out-houses down; two cows, two mules and a negro killed. The crop supposed to suffer between thirty and forty hhds. One boiling house has been since built from the ruins of the former two.
184.108.40.206. John Baker, Esq.
Dwelling house and kitchen almost destroyed; part of the boiling house and still house unroofed; overseer's house turned partly round on its foundation, and a little board drove through the side of it, [Page 30] though.
1.2.5. The Parish of St. John, Capisterre.
220.127.116.11. George Bryan, Esq.
Two sets of works very much injured, the negro houses destroyed, and the crop greatly injured.
18.104.22.168. His Excellency Sir RALPH PAYNE, K. B.
One side of the boiling house and curing house unroofed; the dwelling house almost irreparable; several out buildings damaged; the negro houses destroyed, and the crop much injured.
1.2.6. The Parish of St. Paul, Capisterre.
22.214.171.124. William Woodley, Esq.-----Profit.
The buildings in general greatly damaged, the negro houses destroyed, and the crop very much hurt.
1.2.7. The Parish of St. Anne, Sandy Point.
126.96.36.199. Sir Gilles Payne, Bart.-----French Ground.
Cattle mill and mill house destroyed; still house unroofed; shead of the dwelling house carried away; all the Negro houses down; three asses, one mule, one cow, and one bull killed; counting house down and all the papers lost; upwards of a thousand gallons of molasses washed out of the cistern; five hhds. of sugar, out of fourteen that were in the boiling house, destroyed; the crop injured about eighty hogsheads.
1.2.8. Parish of St. Thomas, Middle Island.
188.8.131.52. The Right Hon. Lord Romney
Still house roof stripped; shead of the lower water mill down; some shingles off the other buildings; overseer's house at the upper works down; several cattle, horses, and mules killed; most of the negro houses down; all the negro grounds torn up, and their country provisions destroyed, which on this estate is of the utmost importance, as the negroes, amounting to between four and five hundred, mostly supported themselves from their own grounds, whereas now the estate has those negroes to feed, which must be attended with a prodigious expence; the crop injured near 200 hhds.----Hearsay account.
184.108.40.206. The Rev. Benjamin William Hutchinson, L.L.D.
Three boiling houses, and almost every building on this estate, submitted to the common calamity, the loss of which, together with what the crop has sustained, is estimated at 3000l.
220.127.116.11. Jebediah Kerie, Esq.
Some buildings damaged, which together with what the crop has suffered, he estimates at about 700l. currency.
1.2.9. The Parish of Trinity, Palmetto Point.
18.104.22.168. William Garvey, Esq.
This estate has suffered greatly; the whole of the crop entirely destroyed; the boiling house, curing house, hot house, store room, and stable, in ruins; the foundation of a new still house on the bay almost undermined by the sea; one chamber of the dwelling house unroofed, and the chambers at the other end split; a single horse chair blown up in the air, carried out to sea, and lost; a slat, capable of carrying six hhds. of sugar, and two canoes, blown also away; a large tamarind tree torn up by the roots and blown over the kitchen; and all the negro houses demolished. The damage about 3000l.
22.214.171.124. John Gardiner, Esq.
Dwelling house a good deal stripped; some out buildings destroyed, and others overset; the fruit trees, vines, and other articles in the garden, greatly injured.
126.96.36.199. Jilliam Hart, Esq.
Roof of the upper boiling house off, part of the dwelling house down; roofs of the mule pen and stable off; six mules killed; necessary and all the negro houses down; crop injured about 30 hhds.
TO reflect on the dreadful consequences of the fatal 31st of August, is the proper business of, as they must affect, every sensible mind. The melancholy evils flowing from this event will be felt when we shall cease to remember them, and posterity become acquainted with our mishap by experiment, unless frugality and industry coincide to avert the impending danger.
In the preceding accounts I have been as precisely just as the nature of my information would admit. It was a difficult task to accomplish, and the rather as many obstacles have been thrown in my way which I could not have foreseen; and it has even been suggested to me, since I began this account, that I have offended in attempting it: be that as it will, I have endeavoured to render it complete. It is true, truth sometimes borders so closely on falsehood, that it is difficult to distinguish the one from the other. If I have exaggerated any circumstance it was not intentional but merely want of information: and indeed I would rather they were exaggerated than under rated.
I cannot conclude this account with greater propriety than in returning my thanks, as a member of society, to those worthy men, who so liberally contributed to the relief of the widow and the orphan in the day of distress.
One very distinguishing example of benevolence I cannot omit, as it reflects the highest honour on human nature, Mr. William Somerfell, a native of this island, and now a merchant in South Carolina, no sooner heard of the calamity that had befallen his country, than he sent seventy-five pounds to be shared amongst the most distressed of his suffering countrymen.
But what honours are due to HIM, by whose prudence and zeal we were rescued from that worst of evils, a famine! every honour, every praise,------His Excellency Sir RALPH PAYNE, K. B. our present worthy Commander in Chief, lost no time in communicating our distresses to the Governors on the continent, soliciting their assistance in having supplies immediately sent us, and without which we must have perished. THis will sufficiently appear in the following state paper, which I chuse to insert, to convince the world of the truth of my affection.