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SAXBY GALE Oct 4, 1869 on GRAND MANAN

Page Re-Mounted 12 Jan 2002

        On Oct. 4 1869 a violent wind  storm hit New Brunswick, the eastern United States, and Nova Scotia. These high winds were accompanied by extraordinarily high  tides which rose far above the normal levels.

        This storm was predicted  by a Lieut.S.M. Saxby a year previous, when he claimed the earth would be visited by a rain and wind storm that would break all previous records. His prophesy was based on the alignment of the moon and sun. Saxby’s prediction came true even to the timing of the storm.

        The tide exceeded in height any previous records with water lashing out over wharves, boats tearing away moorings, piers and even ships. The winds whipped shingles from roofs, tore steeples from churches, trees were uprooted and houses blown away.

        At Grand Manan the ruthless winds and seas laid waste to buildings, forests, weirs and entire fishing fleets. Some of the outer islands were literally inundated by the tumultuous seas which swept into the Bay of Fundy. Herring weirs were literally torn up from the ocean bed “like so much chaff “and distributed upon the raging waters. Boats and vessels of every description were ripped from their moorings and cast ashore .According to one newspaper account “with few exceptions, all the boats at Grand Manan were either damaged or destroyed."  The winds tore through the small coastal villages and through the forest  as well.  I reference a letter written by W. B. McLaughlin keeper at Gannet Rock Lighthouse, Dec 1,1869...

“we had a hurricane and in the words of the poet...
“On Ocean, River, Forest, Vale
Thunderous at once the Mighty gale
Before the whirlwind flew the tree
Beneath the whirlwind roared the sea”

        “Yes it done all that and more too, for not only "flew the tree” but houses flew, barns flew, smoke and fishhouses flew, boats flew, fences flew and men and women and children flew. I think the inhabitants never manifested such a strong desire to remain on Grand Manan since its settlement, as they did that night. The paramount thought with each was to get hold of something that would not blow up, pull up, or tear up, and happy was the man ,woman or child, that night, that could find their way to an alder swamp where there was no large trees to crush them".

        It destroyed about 100 buildings and nearly all the boats on Grand Manan but only four lives were lost.  After the wind, then the earthquake, on Friday morning at half past five Old Grand Manan took to shaking, the house shook, stoves shook, rocks shook, trees shook, windows shook, stoves shook and I think, yes, I did , it shook me out of a sound sleep and then out of bed....”

        The above is the only account I have seen of the earthquake which accompanied the great gale. This was previously unknown to Prof. Alan Ruffman who has done extensive research on the Saxby Gale and the conditions which preceded this storm.

        A report from Eastport, Maine said 67 vessels had been grounded and 40 buildings either unroofed or destroyed entirely.  From Lubec we heard of the local steamer New York bound from Boston to Saint John, appeared destined for certain break-up on the rocks when suddenly the ocean went calm, allowing the crew to make quick repairs. What apparently happened was the storm center stabilized and passed directly overhead.

        Saint John also felt the effects of the Saxby as  shingles, chimneys and fences flew through the dark night air. Vessels were damaged , buildings destroyed and shops along Market Slip flooded.

        Dorchester also had its share of destruction with bridges swept away, hay crops destroyed, livestock also killed. At Upper Coverdale four children were swept away and drowned  on a makeshift raft.  At Shediac a ship building business was crumpled to a huge pile of sticks. The greatest tragedy was the loss of the barque Genii at New River Beach, which had been recently launched from St.Andrews.She carried a crew of eleven men to a watery grave.

        The Ground Hog Gale of February 2,1976 is said to be comparable to the Saxby Gale of 1869. Although there was no loss of life in 1976 storm the estimated damage was in the tens of millions of dollars.

        This was one of the worst storms to be recorded. Not only the winds but the storm surge which actually was in the streets in many places. Of course the streets were not like the super highways of today but still the effect of wind and tide drove the waves sky high.
 

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