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Salisbury Tornado, 1773

Although occurring infrequently in Massachusetts, there have been several significant tornadoes in local history. A violent tornado struck Salisbury and adjacent towns in 1773. The following report is from the August 23, 1773 Boston Gazette supplement:

"SALEM, August 17, A Correspondent at Newbury-Port has favored us with the following Account.

Saturday, August 14, between 7 and 8 o'clock in the morning, a violent tornado or hurricane arose, took its course from the east, first struck Salisbury Point, and followed the course of Merrimack River, spread devastation before it, for the space of a mile in width, by leveling with the ground several well-built houses, almost new, uprooting others, tearing down shops, and shattering, more or less, almost every house and building from Salisbury Point to about a quarter of a mile above [Amesbury] Ferry.

Capt. Smith of Beverly, was setting in a sailmaster's loft at [Amesbury], when the hurricane came, and in a moment he and the whole building were carried away together, the edifice [sent] to pieces and dispersed, and the unhappy man found lying senseless by the side of a piece of timber, at the edge of Pawaw river, ninety-four feet distant from the sill of the loft he was carried from; and a large white-oak post, fourteen feet in length, and 12 by 10 inches, was transported 138 feet.

Two new vessels, of 90 tons burthen, were carried sideways near 20 feet from the stocks, thro' the air; and a very large bundle of shingles taken from the ground & thrown nearly 330 feet in an opposite direction to that of the post above mentioned, and at right angles to the course the vessels were carried.

Large trees were torn up by the roots and cast into Pawaw river. Very large oak planks hurled with almost the velocity of cannon balls thro' the roofs of houses: Fences split into very small pieces, and dispersed over the ground. The trees of whole orchards eradicated. Many persons buried in their cellars, but were dug out without receiving any hurt (except what was very slight).

All this terrific scene was produced in the short space of about five minutes: But notwithstanding chimnies falling, houses racked to pieces, large oak planks from stages of vessels, and many more instruments of death, whirling with the most surprisingly rapidity thro' the air, and surrounding the [fleeing] inhabitants, no lives were lost, or any bone fractured, except Capt. Smith's whose leg was broke, and his head and other parts terribly contused; and an aged woman, who, as she escaped from the ruins of her own house, had both of her legs broken by a large oak plank from one of the vessels.

In [fact], the havoc that amazing element has made Salisbury Point and [Amesbury] is almost past conception or description.

P.S. Since writing the above, it is credibly reported that the number of buildings damaged exceeds fifty."

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