1788: Account of a Hurricane

Middletown, Sept. 15.

William Van Deursen
William Van Deursen

On Thursday last arrived here the Sloop Hannah, William Van Deursen, master, 27 days from Martinico, but last from St. Eustatia. He informs that he was blown out of Martinico the 14th of August, in a heavy gale of wind. The gale came on in the morning of the 14th, the wind at N.E. with very heavy squalls of rain–at 11 A.M. the wind back’d to N.N.W. and began to blow fresh–at one P.M. it blew a hard gale. Capt. Van Deursen then went out of the road, being the second vessel out, a great sea beginning to heave in. The wind then haul’d to N. and kept increasing, so that he could not show any sail, till 7 P.M. when it blew a violent hurricane, the wind veering from N.N.W. to N.E. till 11 P.M. when it shifted suddenly to S.W. and blowed with redoubled violence till one A.M. when the gale broke. Capt. Van Deursen then found himself to close aboard the land that if the gale had continued half an hour longer he must have lost his vessel. He then bore away for St. Eustatia, where he arrived on Saturday the 16th. Between St. Kitts and St. Eustatia he fell in with the Sloop Dolphin, dismasted, Hiram Coffin, Master, belonging to Casco-Bay, having been upset under Dominico in the hurricane, and lost one man, and his decks all torn up;–the master and one man came passengers with Capt. Van Deursen.–Arrived at St. Eustatia on the 17th, Sloop—–, Israel Bishop, master, belonging to New-Haven, blown out from Martinico, lost one anchor, cable and long boat, under command of the mate, Capt. Bishop being left at Martinico. He informed Capt. Van Deursen that when he left St. Pierrs-Road, Schooner ——, John Paddack, master, belonging to this port, and three other vessels, belonging to the Eastward, were drifted almost on shore, he thinks the vessels must have been lost. Arrived, also at St. Eustatia, Sloop —— Phillips, master, belonging to Boston, blown out from Martinico, who on his passage down fell in with a Ship and a Brig, dismasted.

The Shipping at St. Eustatia put to sea, but had no very hard blow, but a very heavy sea from the Southward, heaving into the Road.

On Sunday preceding the hurricane at Martinico, they had a light shock of an earthquake.

There was no account at St. Eustatia of the damage done at the windward, when Capt. Van Deursen left there.

From the Middlesex Gazette (Middletown, Connecticut), Monday, September 15, 1788.

1930: State Officials War on Sewage

Middletown, Conn. (INS)–State officials have ordered the city of Middletown to take immediate steps to stop its practice of emptying sewage into the Connecticut river here. To install a sewage disposal plant will cost the city $1,250,000. The plant here would follow an enormous one at New Haven where several millions are being spent to keep the sewage from a district of 250,000 people from the harbor, and, eventually, from Long Island Sound. Following the work here it is expected other cities will be forced to clean up so that the entire Connecticut shore may be redeemed.

From the Times Herald (Olean, New York), Wednesday, September 10, 1930.

1894: Demand For Connecticut Sturgeon

Large Numbers of These Big Fish Caught, and Sold in This City.

Middletown, Conn., Aug. 11.–The big sturgeon of the Connecticut River have been a long time coming to market, but they seem now to have arrived. Local fishermen have discovered that the fish, despised in the local market, is worth money in New-York, and they have prepared nets with a twelve-inch mesh in which to take the monsters. During the last week they have been after sturgeon in earnest, and with good success, so that the first shipments to New-York have been large.

It is a good thing that the sturgeon is marketable–good from the standpoint of the Connecticut River fisherman. Every few years the fish upon which he has been depending plays out, and something else has to be sought to take their place. Many years ago salmon were taken here in great numbers, and many families were well supported on the returns of the fishery. Then the salmon departed, and shad came to take their place. It was long before conservative fishermen were reconciled to the change, but now that shad are also becoming scarce in their turn, the merits of the vanishing blessing are highly extolled. Of late years it has been a matter of occasional note that sturgeon were taken in the shad nets, or broke away, ruining the nets and freeing the spoil of the fisherman’s night toil. The big fish with the sucker mouth was despised. Though he ran in weight sometimes as high as 600 pounds, the meat would not bring 5 cents a pound in open market. He was thought to be a menace to all fishing industry along the lower stream.

This season, for the first time, stronger nets have been put in, for the avowed purpose of capturing the big fellows. The first hauls were made during the last week, and some resulted in fine captures. The fish is treated much like a beef creature after capture. It is generally inconvenient to “butcher” at once. When the nets are drawn, the fish is made fast with a rope around the tail, in lieu of horns, and is lariated to some stout bush along the waterside. It can forage about on the river bottom to the length of the lariat, but that is all. There is no such thing possible as slipping the cable. When the captors are ready to proceed with the butchering, they draw the prize in shore, cut its throat, and bleed it in the approved slaughter-house style, and finally slice it up into sections convenient for packing. The sturgeon offered for sale in New-York markets looks about as much like the lashing, vigorous monster that is drawn from the waves as a sirloin steak does like the once rampant steer from which it has been carved.

Although the local market repulses the mere suggestion of sturgeon, the noble fish is worth more in New-York than salmon. And this is not strange, although salmon is a dainty fish, for salmon is beyond doubt salmon the world over, and cannot well be confounded with other fish. But the sturgeon in its sliced and quartered state is capable of becoming almost anything. There is scarcely a fish on the bill of fare that is served in sections that is not likely to prove sturgeon. If you order tenderloin of sole, you may reasonably expect sturgeon; and that you have not before this discovered the deception shows how very toothsome sturgeon really is. It is served fresh and smoked and salted. Sturgeon to the accomplished chef is like clay to the potter–almost any kind of a dish may be made from it.

Sturgeon is a fish rich in roe. From the average capture over a barrel is taken. But it is black in color, and the only use heretofore made of it along the banks of the Connecticut has been as a fertilizer; ordinarily, it is thrown away. But sturgeon roe by rights should be made into caviare, and it is not too much to expect that the development of the sturgeon fishery here will result in the establishment of the caviare-canning industry. Connecticut has a variety of industries, but it has room for still another that promises so well as this.

From The New York Times (New York, New York), Sunday, August 12, 1894.

March 23 – Middletown 366


Whale Fishery

“A company has been formed at Middletown, Conn., to engage in this trade. A subscription was set on foot last week, and nearly enough immediately subscribed to purchase and fit out a large ship.” –From The Evening Post (New York, NY), Mar. 23, 1833.


Higher Prices

Middletown, Conn., Mar. 22, ’66

Messrs. Doty & Bro., Janesville, Wis.:–Gentlemen:–We regret to find that we are losing money on every washer we are selling, and are compelled to raise the price for retail to 14 to 15 dollars, family size. This may take you by surprise, but it is a fact nevertheless, a real fact, and the sooner you are prepared for it, the better. Our expenses in selling are very heavy, and lumber is very high.

Yours truly, M. W. M. & Co.,

D. Lyman, Treasurer.


Middletown, Conn. Mar. 23, ’66.

Messrs. Doty & Bro., Janesville, Wis.:–Gentlemen,–In our last, we told you we should have to raise the price of Washers to do ourselves justice. After April 1st, next, the prices must be $15 for family size, and $16 for hotel size. If you require to the 15th of April to change in your territory you can do so.

Yours truly, M. W. M. & Co.

David Lyman, Treasurer.

From The Findlay Jeffersonian (Findlay, Ohio), May 11, 1866.

January 9 – Middletown 366


Acts of Piracy in Cuban Waters

“January 9:  Schooner “Emily” of Middletown, Archibald Robbins, master, bound from Matanzas to Havana, boarded by pirates, the crew maltreated and ship looted. Robbins twice hauled up by neck to peak downhaul. …” –From the Hartford Courant, Jan. 15, 1922


On this day in 1958 Middletown weathered its worst storm in nine years. Between 10-15 inches of snow fell in a blizzard which cut power in some 18,000 homes across the state, forced at least 100 drivers to abandon their vehicles, closed down schools, and was credited for the death of 8 older Connecticut residents, who suffered heart failures while shoveling.

Hartford Courant headline

Photo from the Hartford Courant.

Story contributed by Deborah Shapiro.