In Ye Olden Times; The Cyclone of 1887

Published on
October 14, 2022
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In Ye Olden Times; The Cyclone of 1887

Originally appeared in the Bridgton News of July 29th, 2021

Howdy Neighbor!

With all the hot and cold weather we’ve been having lately; all these bursts of sun and humidity and record temps, followed by drought-busting rainstorms and unseasonably cool nights with little rhyme or reason to it all, one is tempted to agree with the old gardener’s line about “Nature in her Caprices,” for surely if any summer in recent memory has had changeable weather, it has been this one.  I have expect snow in August at the rate we’re going. (Incidentally, how many recall that time 60 years ago, as I’ve been informed by a Reader living in Windham, when Southern Maine woke up to 2 inches of snow on the 23rd of July?)

But for all the strange weather we’ve been having today, I can assure you it was much worse 134 years ago.  For in 1887, on this day July 29th, there fell on South Bridgton a cyclone; yes a true tornado, a twister, a micro-burst as we’d call it nowadays, rather akin to the several that landed in Bridgton over the 4th of July those few years back, which felled trees from the Town Beach to the High Street Corridor and wrought so much havoc among the powerlines of the Causeway at West Bridgton.  But in 1887 the cyclone landed in South Bridgton, generating in the air over Choate’s Hill; a spot which remarkably had given rise to another Cyclone just a few years earlier, when in February of 1882 one generated there and near stripped the Parsonage of its roof, just about flattening old Dr. Kimball in the process.  Long time Readers will remember that I touched on this twister many months ago in our wild weather series, but having greatly abbreviated that article then, and with us going to print this year on the very anniversary of the far-famed storm, I thought it was appropriate to present the whole story today, as it first appeared in the News of July 29th, 1887.

“A Cyclone at South Bridgton

Last Monday night, at about 7 o’clock, and during a thunder shower, two masses of clouds, coming from the east and west, were seen to approach and meet between Sandy Creek and Dearborn’s hill, and instantly there originated a cyclone, almost precisely where one was formed several years ago, which did so much damage at Sandy Creek.  But instead of coming towards Sandy Creek, it now took a southwest course.  Its path was narrow but its work terrific.  It cut a path about one rod wide through the pines in the “David Hale” woods, and struck the cross road near the Hale district schoolhouse, and followed the general course of the highway to the Palmer-Burnham hill, thence to Long Woods, Naples, where its main power was spent, leaving throughout its journey scenes of destruction.  

First, it threw Horatio Ingalls’ hayrack, near the Hale schoolhouse, wildly about; cut down trees beside the road, and after taking a turn around Chas. Burnham’s house, struck his strong and nearly new barn, laying it flat, and carrying a whole broadside of the same about ten rods.  Mr. Burnham’s horse – a good one – was instantly killed, his gig badly smashed, his riding wagon and farm wagon were only slightly injured, while his cow and hog escaped harm.  The timbers and boards were twisted and piled in a most chaotic manner, and the sight was one of complete demoralization.

Then it made its way to Albert Kilborn’s breaking down his rows of fine apple trees on either side of the road like so many twigs, broke off both chimneys of his house, and, what was singular, stripped off about all the shingles on the south roof of his barn – as well as some clapboards – which stands south of the house, on the opposite side of the road, leaving the roof next to the house comparatively intact.  Continuing on to the eastward, it torn down his apple-trees beside the road, leveled his piece of corn, as well as pines and maples; destroyed some of John Palmer’s apple trees, raised the roof of his barn so that the supporting ‘puncheons’ drew out and fell, but failed to carry off the roof; demolished the barnyard board-fence and little blacksmith shop; thence made its way down the eastern slope of the hill, leveling some 20 rods of Auldis Foster’s fence and overturning his apple trees in the old ‘Mead orchard.’  At Long Woods, it concluded its carnival by tearing down a few shade trees, and did a neat piece of carpenter work in taking off the strongly-nailed casing to a window in the ‘Chas. Lewis’ house and removing the entire window.

The progress of the tempest was observed at South Bridgton village, and shortly there was a rallying of citizens to Mr. Burnham’s, where they at last extricated his cow and hog.  Mr. Burnham’s loss is hundreds of dollars, while Mr. Kilborn and Mr. Palmer’s losses in the destruction of fruit trees are by no means slight.”

A short follow up, appearing a few weeks later on August 5th, made brief observations as the recovery efforts of South Bridgton, which we think are worth noting here.

“So. Bridgton – The scene of the late cyclone have attracted many visitors.  It was a sight worth seeing – albeit not a very pleasing one to the victims of the elements.  Chas. Burnham has put up a large showman’s tent over his hay, tools and stock, and cleared away what he could of the debris of his demolished barn.  We understand that he does not propose to rebuild at present.  The number of apple trees overturned on Albert Kilborn’s premises is nearly 30.  Some of them, which had been overturned by the roots, he has raised into position and hopes to save them.  One of the heaviest losers, after all, is John Palmer, who had a large number of his fine apple trees ruined besides other damage being done to his premises.”

Till next time!