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Reading Tornado, 1857

On August 13, 1857, a tornado touched down at Reading, MA. The town is only 16 miles from Boston, and is likely the closest tornado that has occurred in history near the densely populated City of Boston. No one was killed as a result of the tornado, although Reading was sparsely populated in 1857 of course.

Incredibly, a tornado occurred at Tewksbury, MA, on July 24, 1857, just three weeks before this weather event. The September 22, 1857, San Francisco Daily Globe describes the Reading tornado and its destruction:

"We notice in the Boston Traveller, of August 14th, an account of a second tornado in Massachusetts. The first occurred in the town of Tewksbury and the other in Reading. The particulars are as folows:

We are indebted to Mr. J.W. Ellenwood of No. XXX Washington Street [Boston] for an account of a serious tornado which visited Reading last evening. Shortly before nine o'clock, while the rain was pouring in torrents, a huge black cloud was observed coming up from the west. This was the precursor of a fearful tornado which burst upon the place in all its fury at about a quarter before nine o'clock.

The house of Mr. George C. [Coney], at 'Hill End' [Summer Ave], a spot about a mile south of the depot, was particularly demolished by a large tree being blown through it. An orchard of young trees, covering about an acre of land, near this house, was completely destroyed. The chimney of Reuben Nichols' house, in the same locality, was blown through the roof. A large two and a half story house belonging to Mr. Converse, was lifted up from the under-pinning, and carried about six feet from it foundation, and set down but little injured.

The house of Deacon Thomas H. Sweetser, where our informant was stopping at the time of the tornado, was very much damaged. An 'L' [addition to a building] about 30 feet long by 20 feet in width, and two stories high, occupied as a shoe manufactory, with the exception of one room, used as a sleeping room, was blown down and crushed, to 'impalpable powder.' The main part of the building was raised from the foundation about a foot, and let down again, resting in its old quarters after rocking about ten minutes. All the lights were of course extinguished, chairs and tables performed fantastic tricks, as though under the influence of the inhabitants of spirit land, and the nine persons who occupied the house were filled with consternation. A young man had almost at the instant of the tornado struck the house, and stepped from the 'L' into the adjoining room where the family were, and thus probably was saved from death."

Related, only two weeks earlier on August 13, 1857, a tornado touched down in Tewksbury, MA and also caused signficant damage to property.




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