New Brunswick, NJ Dreadful Tornado, June 1835
From the New York Gazette.
The city of New Brunswick was the scene, on Friday afternoon last, of a most desolating tornado, which swept over its western section, causing much destruction of property, and, we regret to add, deprived several individuals of life. On the receipt of the intelligence here, we immediately proceeded to that place for the purpose of ascertaining the particulars of this melancholy disaster, and now present our readers with the result of our inquiries and observations:
As far as we were able to learn, the whirlwind or tornado first made its appearance with a falling of ice in the township of Amwell, near a place called Ringgold's, and taking an erratic zig-zag course, spent its fury over Staten Island, in the neighborhood of Rossville, and on the bay, by another fall of large irregular shaped pieces of ice. Its first approach to New Brunswick was from the northwest, passing over Middlebush, about three miles from that place, where the dwelling and barn of JOHN FRENCH were laid prostrate with the earth. It thence passed over the farm of DAVID DUNN, about two miles and a half from New Brunswick, whose dwelling was unroofed, and the barn and other out-buildings were razed to the ground. The out-houses attached to the premises of J. G. WYCOFF, in the same vicinity, were also destroyed. The next building which felt its effects, was the dwelling of THEOPHILUS HOLKHAM, about one mile from New Brunswick, the roof of which was blown off. The barns of JAMES FISHER and ABRAHAM BLAUVELT, in the outskirts of the city, were next blown down, and a small dwelling belonging to MR. PREVOST was nearly destroyed, and the wife of TUNIS SILCOCKS badly injured. The tornado had now reached the hill, "where," according to the New Brunswick Times, "it remained apparently fixed for a minute or two, presenting the appearance of a pillar of fire, -- its base resting on the earth, and its top reaching a mass of black clouds. It then took an eastern course, threatening Albany and Church Streets, but suddenly changing its direction, swept across the town lot towards the dwellings of MR. B. MYER; MRS. DEARE; PROF. McCLELLAND; REV. JOHN CROES; L. KIRKPATRICK, ESQ.; MRS. KIRKPATRICK, and the REV. DR. JANEWAY, tearing the roofs off some, making literal wrecks of the barns and out-houses, and either uprooting or twisting off the largest trees -- in some instances carrying the latter 20 or 30 paces. It then crossed to the buildings at the head of Patterson, Liberty, Bayard, and Schureman Streets, unroofing the house of MRS. HARRISON, levelling the store of MR. LITTLE, and burying beneath the falling timber, NICHOLAS BOORAEM, ESQ. and his eldest son HENRY. Both were extricated a short time after -- the son in a dying state, in which he lingered until 9 o'clock, when death relieved him from his suffering -- the father is not dangerously hurt. A young lad about 8 years of age, son of CAPT. BAIRD, was also killed near this spot, a rafter from the blacksmith's shop having struck him immediately above the eyes, and almost severed his head. The tornado now swept with increased force across George Street, down Liberty, Schureman, and New Streets, crossing Nelson to Bernet Street, a quarter of a mile in distance, down to the river, unroofing or tearing off the tops of the houses, and sweeping the lower doors and windows from their fastenings. Schureman and Liberty Streets from top to bottom, may be said to be a complete mass of ruins, as is likewise part of Bernet Street. The Methodist Church, a brick edifice, is damaged beyond repair, having been unroofed, and the eastern and southern walls blown down; and the rear wall of the Catholic Church, also of brick, is driven into the body of the building."
From the details, we feel safe in stating that the number of buildings destroyed and injured cannot fall short of one hundred and fifty, and that the loss of property may be estimated at one hundred thousand dollars.
Besides those who lost their lives, as above recorded, several persons were seriously injured and many others slightly. Among the former were NICHOLAS WYEKOFF, master mason; a son of Widow HARRISON, aged about 12, severe contusion on the head; son of Widow NORMAN, aged 10, thigh broken, and a son of OTIS D. STEWART, about 6 years of age, arm broken.
Among the extraordinary occurrences which took place on this melancholy occasion, the fate of the son of WM. G. DUNHAM (a small lad) was the most singular. He was taken off the piazza of a house, corner of New and George Streets, carried in the air a distance of 300 yards, and landed on the Wharf at Burnet Street, having only sustained a slight injury in one of his arms. On being questioned as to his feelings, he stated that he recollected passing through the top of a willow tree, and that the sensation produced by being up in the whirl was like that of being pulled in contrary directions.
A bedstead was taken from the third story of a house in Schureman Street, carried a distance of 200 yards, and landed in Burnet Street, without having sustained the slightest injury. A carpet bag and some bedding were carried from the garret of DR. JANEWAY'S house to the river, a distance of nearly half a mile. Some of the roofs were conveyed across the river and canal into the woods, where they were collected together by a party of Penobscot Indians, who were living there, for the purpose of erecting shanties. A cow was killed in the street, which a woman had been milking a few seconds before.
After leaving New Brunswick, the tornado passed down the river a short distance, then took a course across the river, and passing over the farm of JAMES T. DUNN, tore up several trees by the roots, laid all his out-buildings in ruins, without doing the slightest damage to his dwelling. It then passed down to the farm of JOEL RANDAL, and carried away part of the roof and gable end of his dwelling. Thence its course was over Piscataway, a small town, containing about a dozen houses, situated two miles from New Brunswick. Here, every building except two in the place, including the Episcopal Church, was demolished. We regret to add, that MR. THOMAS W. HARPER, of New York, was killed by being struck on the head with a beam. We understand that MR. HARPER had just received the deed of some property which he had been purchasing, and that his visit to Piscataway was for the purpose of making some arrangements respecting it. He was a silver smith, residing at 31 Rose Street, and has left a large family.
The tornado then passed on towards Perth Amboy, where one building was destroyed, and spent its fury on Staten Island as stated above.
Having gone through with the details of this melancholy affair, we now present our readers with the remarks of a friend who was an eye witness of the whole scene, and which will enable them to form a correct idea of this awfully sublime spectacle. He says: The first intimation I had of the tornado's approach, was the wind blowing in from both sides of the house in which I was sitting. Immediately the cry of fire was raised. I ran to the corner of the street and perceived in a westerly direction at about half a mile's distance a black column moving onward not very rapidly, which had something of the appearance of a smothered fire, and was mistaken for it. I saw what it was and ran into the house and closed all the windows before it reached us. The whole atmosphere was filled with fragments of timber, &c., in a moment the house opposite was unroofed, as if it had been covered with paper. The house in which I was, being at the edge of the current, escaped uninjured, save that a rafter from the roof of a house about half a mile distant, thirty feet in length, struck the edge of the window, tearing away the brick work anddemolishing the sash, and passed into the wall of the room.
The track of the tornado was from northwest to southeast, and from a minute investigation of its effects, does not appear to have been of the nature of a whirlwind ordinarily so called. The violence appears to have been produced not from a whirling motion, but from two currents rushing towards each other -- at the same time having an onward motion. In the centre of the track the force appears to have been upwards with something of a whirling motion. The facts which substantiate this opinion are these.
In the town, wherever a building has been moved, if it was at the edge of the current, its direction was inwards; if at the centre, onwards. But these effects are more strongly marked in the woods, where the direction of almost every tree accords with this statement, at the extreme edge the trees are nearly at right-angles with the course, sloping more as yon proceed towards the centre, where there is some confusion, but the direction is almost invariably with the current.
A gentleman of our acquaintance who happened to be in New Brunswick during the tornado, remarked to us that previous to its commencement the atmosphere was unusually heavy, and respiration was with the greatest oppression. There was, said he, many a mysterious dread or supernatural feeling of something unusual about to occur.
When the intelligence of the disaster reached Princeton, several of the professors of the College immediately proceeded to the scene of devastation. They made a minute examination of the spot visited by the tornado, and will doubtless furnish the public with an interesting scientific statement on the subject of this occurrence -- the like of which has never before occurred in this latitude.
Adams Sentinel Gettysburg Pennsylvania 1835-06-29