IN the summer of 1635, the few English settlements scattered along the coast of New England were struggling to gain a foothold in the new world. Plymouth had indeed existed for fifteen years, but most of the villages had been founded only a few months, or a few years at the longest. On the Connecticut coast there was not a hamlet, and in the whole state in fact no settlement had been made, except at Wethersfield, on the Connecticut river. There, a few men had spent the preceding winter, their number having been increased this summer by some new colonists, who suffered for awhile with the others, and finally travelled across the wild country to Saybrook fort, the nearest place of refuge. Not another settlement could be found nearer than Plymouth, which was more than a hundred and fifty miles away, and separated therefrom by an unbroken wilderness inhabited only by Indians and wild animals. Following the coast of Massachusetts Bay, the next town beyond Plymouth was Scituate, then came Bear Cove (now Hingham) and Weymouth. The several settlements at or near the mouth of Charles river, most of them now being included in the city of Boston, came next. A short trip up the river, and a turn to the right through the woods brought Rev. Peter Bulkley and his small company to the site they had chosen for their new home, - this being the first colony that had penetrated the forest so far. In this summer of 1635 they marched into the woods and took possession of the clearing they had made, building for their shelter huts covered with bark and brushwood. Farther along the coast was Saugus (now Lynn), then came Salem, Ipswich and Newbury. At the mouth of the Piscataqua river stood Portsmouth, and up the stream was Dover. Nine miles from Portsmouth and also on the coast was York. With the exception of these few, small, defenceless settlements in the clearings of the forest along Massachusetts Bay from Plymouth to York, and of Wethersfield, in Connecticut, the entire region now included in New England was the pathless, dangerous wilderness.

The planting of the seed and the cultivation of the crops had been concluded, and some of the hay had been gathered and placed under cover for the support of the cattle during the coming winter. The whole of the second week of August the wind had blown from the direction of south-southwest with considerable force. At midnight of the fourteenth of the month its course was suddenly changed by way of the southeast to the northeast, and before daybreak a northeast rain storm was in progress. The wind had greatly increased in violence, blowing terrifically, and the rain fell in torrents, sometimes with such fury that the insecure houses of the settlers seemingly could not withstand its force. After the gale had continued five or six hours, the wind changed to the northwest, and the tumultuous elements gradually subsided.

The wind caused the tide to rise to a height unknown before. At Boston it measured twenty feet, and was brought in twice in twelve hours. The Narragansett Indians were obliged to climb into the tops of trees to save themselves from the great tide in their region. Many of them failed to do so, and were swallowed up by the surging waters. Had the storm continued much longer the water would have submerged several of the settlements.

An inconceivable number of trees were blown over or broken down, the stronger being torn up by the roots, and the tall pines and other brittle trees were broken in the middle. Slender young oaks and good-sized walnuts were twisted like withes, and Indian corn, the main dependence of the colonists, was beaten down and much of it destroyed, while it was hardly in the milk.

Some houses were blown over, and the roofs of several were torn off. At the plantation of Manoment at Plymouth, the wind took off the roof of a house and carried it to another place.

Among the many incidents of the storm is that of an old man in Ipswich, who had a small boat in which he was accustomed to go to sea, his only companion being a dog that he had taught to steer. As the storm came on, he hoisted his sail and started off down the river in his boat. He was warned of the approaching tempest, but he replied, "I will go to sea, though the devil were there." He continued on his way, but neither he nor his boat was ever heard of again.

Several shipwrecks were caused by the storm, for there were at this time large immigrations of settlers, and a number of ships were near the coast, having on board many passengers and goods for New England.

The Great Hope, a ship belonging in Ipswich, England, of four hundred tons burden, was in Massachusetts Bay when the storm came on. The gale drove the vessel aground on a point near Charlestown. The wind suddenly changed to the northwest, and the ship was blown out into the bay, but soon came ashore at Charlestown.

The ship James, of Bristol, England, having on board about one hundred passengers, who were from Lancashire, was near the Isles of Shoals when the gale came on. The vessel was run into a strait among the islands, the master thinking probably that he had secured a harbor; but when well in he found that it was an unprotected passage. The anchors were lowered, and all three of them were lost, the violent and almost irresistible wind snapping the cables and leaving the anchors at the bottom of the deep. The vessel was then placed under sail and run before the northeast gale, but neither canvas nor ropes held, and she dashed through the foaming crests on toward the rocky shore of Piscataqua. Instant destruction seemed inevitable. But lo! as if a mighty overruling hand controlled the angry elements, when within a cable's length of the ledges, the wind suddenly veered to the northwest, and the ship was blown away from the deadly rocks back toward the islands again. The wind in its change seemed but as mocking them after all for here they were plowing along toward rocks as dangerous as those they had just escaped. When about to strike in a last fatal plunge a part of the mainsail was let out, which caused the vessel to veer a little, and she weathered the rocks, almost touching them as she plunged past. The desired harbor was finally reached in safety. As they sped on their way havenward, they saw tossing on the still boisterous waves, goods of shipwrecked immigrants, which testified to the thorough work of the storm-king. On board this ship was Rev. Richard Mather, the pastor of the other passengers, and his family. Four of his sons were afterward eminent clergymen. Another of the passengers was Jonathan Mitchell, a mere youth at the time, who became a worthy and useful minister.

Another ship of Bristol, called the Angel Gabriel, arrived on our coast in season to encounter the storm. From the time of setting sail from their native land, it is recorded, the passengers observed many things about the vessel as ominous of some great disaster. The feeling certainly took form and grew into fact when the precious freight reached our inhospitable shores. The storm struck the vessel off Pemaquid Point, and dashed it against the foam covered rocks. The passengers were all saved, but their goods were lost.

At this period there was a boat, belonging to Isaac Allerton, sailing regularly between Piscataqua and Boston, It was a pinnace in build. On Wednesday, two days before the storm, the boat sailed from Ipswich, where it had stopped, on its trip to Boston. The passengers were sixteen in number, and consisted of Rev. John Avery, his wife and six children. Mr. Avery's cousin Anthony Thacher, who had been in New England but a few weeks, his wife and four children, and another member of his family, and one other passenger. There were four mariners, Mr, Avery had been a minister of good repute in Wiltshire, and came to Newbury, in New England, which had been settled the preceding year, with the intention of becoming the pastor of the little colony, but concluded not to remain, after being advised and urged by his friends and the magistrates and his brothers in the ministry to settle in Marblehead. He decided to go to Marblehead, and on this Wednesday took the boat at Ipswich for that purpose.

The loaded craft sailed down the placid river, while behind them

"Pleasant, lay the clearings in the mellow summer morn,

With the newly planted orchards dropping their fruits first-born,

And the homesteads like green islands amid a sea of corn.

Broad meadows reached out seaward the tided creeks between,

And hills rolled wave-like inland, wilh oaks and walnuts green;-

A fairer home, a goodlier land, their eyes had never seen."

After entering Ipswich Bay the course of the shallop was changed more southerly, but it was soon discovered that progress in that direction was much impeded; and, as they proceeded farther into the face of the wind, it blew so strongly that no advance could be made, tacking being useless though it was tried again and again. On the evening of Friday, the fourteenth, after striving for two days to round Cape Ann, they had not succeeded in doing so. The wind became stronger during the evening, still blowing in the same direction. At ten o'clock, a fresh gale was rushing over the waters, their sails being rent by it, and the vessel was anchored. At midnight, the direction of the wind changed to the northeast, and the storm came on in all its fury. The vessel dragged its anchor, and drifted about at the merciless control of strong winds and mighty waves.

"Blotted out were all the coast-lines, gone were rock, and wood, and sand,

Grimly anxious stood the skipper with the rudder in his hand,

And questioned of the darkness what was sea and what was land.

And the preacher heard his dear ones nestled round him weeping sore:

Never heed, my little children! Christ is walking on before

To the pleasant land of heaven, where the sea shall be no more.

All at once the great cloud parted, like a curtain drawn aside.

To let down the torch of lightning on the terror far and wide;

And the thunder and the whirlwind together smote the tide."

The vessel was driven nearer and nearer to the rocky shore. Then came a shock, the vessel had struck, and the sound of breaking timbers added to the thunder of the storm. The pinnace was upon the rock off what is now Rockport, which has since been known as Crackwood's Ledge.

When the vessel struck, Mr. Avery and his eldest son and Mr. Thacher and his daughter were thrown into the seething waters and carried by a mighty wave upon the rock. When they found themselves there, they called to those in the pinnace to come to them. During the few moments they were upon the ledge, expecting every instant to be washed from their footing into the raging sea, Mr. Avery raised his eyes toward heaven, and uttered these memorable last words: "Lord, I cannot challenge a preservation of my life, but according to thy covenant I challenge Heaven." Hardly had the words been spoken, when a gigantic wave lifted the pinnace on high and dashed it as with giant arms upon the rock, washing from the ledge those who had gained a momentary foothold upon it. Thus passed Mr. Avery and all his household to their eternal rest. Whittier has put the incident into poetry calling it the "Swan Song of Parson Avery," from which extracts have already been made. Of this portion of the story, he wrote the following lines;

"There was wailing in the shallop, woman's wail and man's despair,

A crash of breaking timbers on the rocks so sharp and bare,

And, through it all, the murmur of Father Avery's prayer.

From his struggle in the darkness with the wild waves and the blast,

On a rock, where every billow broke above him as it passed,

Alone, of all his household, the man of God was cast.

There a comrade heard him praying, in the pause of wave and wind:

All my own have gone before me, and I linger just behind; Not for life I ask, but only, for the rest thy ransomed find:

In this night of death, I challenge the promise of thy word!-

Let me see the great salvation of which mine ears have heard!-

Let me pass from hence forgiven, through the grace of Christ, our Lord!

In the baptism of these waters white my every sin,

And let me follow up to thee my household and my kin!

Open the sea-gate of thy heaven, and let me enter in!

When the Christian sings his death-song, all the listening heavens draw near,

And the angels, leaning over the walls of crystal, hear

How the notes so faint and broken swell to music in God's ear.

The ear of God was open to his servant's last request;

As the strong wave swept him downward, the sweet hymn upward pressed,

And the soul of Father Avery went singing to its rest."

The pinnace was such a small vessel and its destruction had been so complete there were few timbers for the drowning men, women and children to cling to. After having been beaten about in the surging waters for a quarter of an hour, hope having left him, for what could save any of them now! being now and then thrown against the rocks, Mr. Thacher felt a firm footing. He soon found himself standing with head above the water, his face toward the shore, which he soon reached in safety. He felt so grateful for his deliverance that he thanked God for it, and then looked about him to see what he could do for his companions. In the midnight blackness of the storm, his gaze was greatly restricted, and his voice was thrown back to him in mockery by the raging winds or drowned in the thunders of the waters. At first he could discern nothing, nor hear any human cries, but after a few moments he saw some pieces of the frame work of the pinnace being washed toward him, with a woman's form entangled in them. After a severe struggle, the woman extricated herself from the timbers, and before he could get to the place where she struck the shore she had reached it in safety. It was his wife.

The storm raged on.

Mr. Thacher and his wife watched there in the rain and the blast for signs of their companions, but none came. Of the twenty souls on board the pinnace, only these two were saved. Their quartette of little ones had passed on with the rest. With sad and dejected hearts they sought a resting place under a sheltering bank. Some provision and clothing came ashore, and also, fortunately, a "snapsack," in which was a steel and flint, and some dry gunpowder. They built a fire, and made themselves as comfortable as they could under the sorrowful circumstances. The question of subsistence arose and confronted them as soon as the storm was over and daylight came, and they discovered that they were upon an island. The waters slowly resumed their usual state, and the August sun shed its hopeful rays over the stretch of ocean. In three directions the sea and sky met in their limitless range, and on the west the main land stretched away. They had no chance of reaching it, and signs of distress could awaken no response, for none but the savage of the forest was there. What could they do! Day passed, and night came on with all its horrible memories. Another day dawned, but before it had worn away, they were discovered by the people on a passing vessel, and taken off, being carried to Marblehead. On leaving the island Mr. Thacher gave it his name, calling it "Thacher's Woe," and the next year it was granted to him by the General Court. It has since borne his name, and for a hundred and twenty years the lamp in the lighthouse there has shed its warning rays over the ocean billows.

Among the things brought away from the island by Mr. Thacher were a cradle and an embroidered scarlet broadcloth covering, which were saved from the wreck, and are still preserved by his descendants of the name in Yarmouth, Mass.

The friends of Mr. Thacher, from time to time, gave him presents which largely compensated him for the loss of his property by the storm, and the vacant places in his household were afterward partially filled. He settled in Yarmouth, where he died in 1668, at about eighty years of age.

The story of this shipwreck was often told about the hearth-fires of the coast-dwellers in the long winter evenings of the years that followed. And the fishermen, with "grave and reverend faces," recalled the ancient tale, when they passed the fatal ledge and saw the white waves breaking over it.

Governor Bradford, who was a witness of the tempest, said that none then living, either English or Indian, ever saw a storm equal to it. It was universal, no part of the country being exempt from its injurious effects, which visibly remained for many years.

Source: Historic Storms of New England by Sidney Perley, 1891

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