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Northampton Tornado, 1877

On June 14, 1877, a violent tornado swept north through the Connecticut River Valley from Springfield MA to Northampton and Hadley. This tempest completely destroyed an important bridge across the river that connected Northampton and Hadley. About ten teams of horses and fifteen people were crossing the bridge when the tornado struck. It was reported that a teenager was blown more than ten feet into the air and landed in the branches of a nearby tree. Three people were tragically killed by the tornado. An article in the June 15, 1877 Boston Globe describes the destruction:

"This afternoon, between 1 and 2 o'clock, a fierce tornado, a comparative stranger in New England, disported itself considerably in the valley of the Connecticut. There was a heavy rain and hail storm which was followed by a short period of 'puffs,' as they say at sea, and then came the cyclone moving in a black mass, tearing up trees, sweeping away sheds, fences, roofs of houses and what ever else it met in its course that was not firmly fastened.

At Northampton the gale reached its highest point of fury, and sweeping down the track of the river it struck the [covered] bridge which spans the Connecticut, lifted it from its abutments, twisted it into innumerable shapes, splintered its timbers and hurled its framework into the river below.

On the bridge at the time there were about eight teams and a number of foot passengers, who had take shelter from the storm. They came from both sides of the river, the larger number being from the Hadley side. With one or two exceptions these were precipitated into the water and a number drowned or crushed by falling timbers. One man, who was driving through, had just reached the end of the bridge and escaped, losing his horse and buggy. A woman named Mrs. Sullivan, from Old Hadley, was instantly killed and her body was taken out of the water soon after the accident.

[Enos] Cook, a Deputy Sheriff, had his leg broken, besides receiving a severe cut on the head and several internal injuries. He was taken to his home and he had since died. A man named Stout is also reported to have been killed. William Smith of Amherst had his shoulder dislocated by the fall, but managed to escape from the floating wreck. George B. Smith of Hadley, with three friends in his team, was crossing from Northampton and where he had been at work, and he and his companions were precipitated into the river, but they managed to escape with some slight bruises. Smith was considerably hurt, he lost his team. Two horses were taken out of the water alive, and it is said that on or two others swam to the shore further down river.

The bridge was entirely demolished, not a plank of it was left on the piers. It went off all at once and clean from its framework. It was 1214 feet long, and the newest half of it, the eastern, which was built to replace a portion carried off by a freshet, was about fifteen years old, the rest being considerably older. It is very remarkable that the next bridge over the Connecticut, north of the one blown down today, the Sunderland bridge, was also blown away less than six months ago during a winter gale, so that there is no highway bridge across the river between Holyoke and Greenfield, a distance of twenty-seven miles...."

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