1839: Devastating Rainstorm

On this day in 1839, Middletown was struck by a dreadful rainstorm that devastated much of the Northeast, particularly the city of Philadelphia. Flooding and wind speeds lay waste to town infrastructure and inundated the town. From the New Haven Daily Herald on Jan. 28:

“The storm on Saturday was more severe than we apprehended. In our vicinity considerable damage was done to bridges and roads, and we apprehend disastrous accounts from sea. The Burnsville Bridge was lifted from the abutments and carried away. The Causeway Bridge, on the Middletown Turnpike, leading to North Haven, is also carried away, its fragments now resting against the piers of Dragon Bridge. A gentleman has just called upon us to state that the flood in Farmington River rose 22 feet. The dam which supplies the Canal feeder is about half gone…”

The storm of the 26th may have been particularly affecting for its Irish-born residents, of whom there were nearly 700 by 1850. Just twenty days earlier, on January 6th, Ireland was struck by its most devastating storm in over 300 years, costing untold damage and several hundred lives. The storm has come to be known as the Night of the Big Wind, and figures prominently in the Irish folk tradition.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.

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