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Tewksbury Tornado, 1857

On July 24, 1857, a powerful tornado swept through Tewksbury, MA. The town was sparsely populatated at the time, and thankfully noone was killed. The tornado tore up fields and orchards, and destroyed mostly barns and sheds, as it headed south to Wilimington.

Tewksbury is located only 20 miles north of Boston. The tornado began as a small water spout over Round Pond, and traveled south to the Shawsheen River. In its path, the house of John Clark was severely damaged, and a team of oxen was swept up into the air and killed. A large tree was pulled up by the roots and thrown 80 feet. The July 28, 1857 Baltimore Sun published the following account of the tornado:

"At about half-past five o'clock p.m. some of the inhabitants noticed over Round Pound a singular appearance. It resembled in the opinion of some a water spout; was at first about the size of a cart wheel, and appeared to be in a whirl — As it gathered force a noise was heard like that of a heavy train of cars under full headway; it had a variable motion, at one time taking a southwest, and at others easterly course. Its path was through the valley, with a width of about 25 rods [413 feet], and it soon assumed all the characteristic of a violent tornado, leveling and seeping all within its sphere.

It first struck among the orchards of Mr. Jacques and Mrs. Kittredge, doing considerable damage. With increased force it then struck upon the farm of Mr. Morey, totally destroying a field of rye and uprooting all the apple trees. At this place a fisherman, a resident of Lynn, who was on his return from Lowell, supposing that a shower was approaching, drove under a tree for shelter. The tornado struck the team, taking both horse and wagon into the air, landing the horse in a ditch beside the road, throwing the man across the road and breaking the wagon into fragments. Some portions of the wagon were afterwards found nearly a mile from the spot, sticking up in the ground. The occupant of the wagon across the road, the tree under which he was sheltered being blown down upon him, by which he was seriously but not fatally bruised. It next swept through the orchard of Oliver Carter, doing great damage, and then crossing the hill made a clean path through an oak grove. One of these oaks was afterwards found in a duck pond a quarter of a mile distant. The larger portion of the orchard of Mr. Caleb Livingston was demolished.

It then crossed over the farm of Mr. Samuel Thompson, tearing down his fences and destroying his corn field, orchard, etc. It next struck the house and barn of Mr. John Clark. The barn was completely demolished, and the roof and the back part of the house carried away. There were nine persons in the house at the time, but they were fortunately in the lower rooms, and all thus escaped injury. The houseless family were afterward cared for by the [town's] inhabitants. The tornado then crossed the river and took off the corner of the barn of Mr. Benjamin Bart, destroying the sheds between the house and the barn. At this place the force of the wind was such that an ox-team was taken from the ground and broken into pieces. Of one wheel not a spoke was left.

Continuing in its course it crossed the track of the Boston and Maine Railroad, uprooting trees, and was last heard upon the farm of Mr. Upton, of Wilmington, where it made a path in the woods, but gradually diminished in violence, which was noticeable from the fact that instead of pulling up a tree by the root, only the tops were taken off. As it passed the railroad track's spiked plank at a crossing was torn up and carried a considerable distance. Of course, the inhabitants were in a state of great alarm at this unusual visitation.

It is entirely owing to the fact that its path was through the valley that there was not more serious injury, nearly all the houses being located upon the elevated ground. Some state that the first they noticed of the matter was the branches and even whole trees wheeling in the air. One family, under this supposition, threw a pall of water upon the fire in the cooking stove and fled to the cellar for safety. One tree of considerable size was seen in the air at an estimated height of eighty feet, and the trunk of a large tree which was uprooted has not yet been found. Some of the fragments of the house of Mr. Clark were carried for a considerable distance. Although the loss of property was quite large, [and] fortunately no lives were lost."

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


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