At about nine o’clock in the morning of Tuesday, October 9, 1804, the temperature fell very suddenly, and a storm of rain and snow, accompanied by thunder and lightning began. In the southern portion of New England the rain fell in extraordinary quantities until the wind grew less violent, when snow began to fall, continuing all day Wednesday, that night and until the storm ended the next morning.
It was the earliest snow storm that the people of eastern Massachusetts had experienced for fifty years, and “the oldest inhabitant” did not remember so violent a storm occurring there before.” Sidney Perley in his 1894 book, Historic Storms of New England wrote, “People sat up all that night, fearing to retire lest their houses would blow down.”
Wednesday morning revealed great sections of the woods so leveled that new landscapes and prospects were brought into view. Houses and other buildings and hills that could not be seen before from certain places were now plainly visible. All of the roads were obstructed with fallen trees. In Boston, “unprecedented” winds blew off the steeple of the Old North Church.
At Newbury nearly a hundred cattle were killed, thirty being found dead in one section of the town. At Newburyport, a Kennebunk sloop, loaded with rum, was entirely lost, but the master and crew saved; a schooner belonging to Connecticut, loaded with corn, had entirely gone to pieces but the people were saved; four or five others were driven out of the harbor, apparently lost with their crews.
At Danvers, Mass., the South church and the Baptist church at the port were unroofed, the latter having one of its sides blown in and the pews torn to pieces. At Beverly, the spire of the lower meeting house was broken off. At Salem, the dome and belfry on the Tabernacle church were torn to pieces. Ships in the harbor at Salem drifted about, their anchors failing to hold them.Vessels were driven out to sea from Marblehead, and three small fishing schooners in Manchester Bay were lost.
Near Fresh Water cove in Gloucester, a sloop belonging in Kennebunk, laden with rum, went down. The master and crew were saved, but a female passenger perished. A schooner with a cargo of corn went to pieces but the crew was rescued. Four or five vessels were driven out of the Gloucester harbor, some of them being lost with their crews. The schooner Dove, of Kittery, was wrecked on Ipswich bar, and all of the seven persons on board perished. An eastern vessel was lost on Rye beach, in New Hampshire, and a woman, who was a passenger in it was found dead on the sand, with an infant clasped in her arms.
Sources and text for this article are from:
- The Great Snow Hurricane of 1804 – New England Historical Society
- Historic Storms of New England, by Sidney Perley
- The 1804 Snow Hurricane (Alchetron)