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THE summer of 1740 was cool and wet. An early frost injured much of the corn crop, and the long season of rain which followed hindered its ripening. One-third of it was cut when green, and the rest was so wet that it very soon molded. There was, therefore, very little seed cor in New England for the next spring's planting, and the amount of dry corn for the winter's consumption was also small. The rain of the summer and fall flooded the lowlands of the country everywhere.

The rivers of Salem, Mass., were frozen over as early as October, and November 4th the weather became very cold. In that year the thirteenth of November was observed as Thanksgiving day. It was then severely cold, and all that day snow fell, continuing until the fifteenth, when in Essex County, Mass., it measured a foot in depth.

The weather remained cold until about the twenty-second, when its rigor relaxed, and a thaw, accompanied by rain, came on. The rain continued to fall for nearly three weeks, during the day only, the stars shining brightly each evening, but the morning following, rain would be falling again as energetically as ever. The snow melted, and a freshet occurred in the Merrimac river, nothing like it having been experienced there for seventy years. At Haverhill, the stream rose fifteen feet, and many houses were floated off. In that part of Newbury, which was afterwards incorporated as West Newbury, was a piece of lowland at Turkey hill, known as Rawson's meadow, which was covered with water to the depth of twelve feet. In another part of Newbury between the mill and the residence of a Mr. Emery, a sloop could have sailed. The freshet carried away great quantities of wood, which was piled along the banks of the river, and from the shipyards located in that part of Newbury now included in the city Newburyport considerable timber that was lying ready to be formed into vessels was also floated down the harbor, much of both wood and timber being lost. To save as much of it as possible, the dwellers on the shores of the river turned out, and for fourteen days worked from the banks and in boats, securing large piles which were scattered for miles on both sides of the river and the harbor. It was estimated that two thousand cords of wood were also saved at Plum Island.

The freshet was also very disastrous at Falmouth. On the twenty-first of the month the Rev. Thomas Smith of that town says, in his diary, that he rode to Saco, where he lodged with his father. He was there forced out of his lodgings "by vast quantities of ice, which jambed and raised the water eighteen inches higher" than his bedstead.

Plum Island river was frozen over on December twelfth, and remained so until the end of March. The Merrimac river was also closed by the extreme cold, which continued so severe that the ice very soon became thick enough to support teams, and before the end of the month the river became a great thoroughfare. Loaded sleds drawn by two, three or four yoke of oxen came from the towns up the river, and landed below the upper long wharf near where the ferry was then located in Newbury. From twenty to forty such teams passed down the river daily from Amesbury and Haverhill, and people travelled down the harbor as far as half-tide rock. On February 28, for the purpose of ascertaining the thickness of the ice in the Merrimac, Wells Chase cut a hole through it at Deer Island where the current ran swiftest and found it to measure thirty inches, although people had constantly sledded over it for two months. No one then living had ever heard of the river freezing so hard before.

As far south as New York, the harbors were so frozen that vessels could not come into them, and those already in were, compelled to remain until a thaw should come to their release. The sea was also very much frozen, and people travelled out long distances. In Boston harbor, a beaten road through the snow was kept open on the ice as far out as Castle William. Over this course horses and sleighs, and people on foot continually passed up and down, and on the way two tents for the sale of refreshments stood invitingly open. Loads of hay on sleds were drawn nearly straight from Spectacle Island to the town.

The ice formed so solidly around some mills that they could not be operated, as at Byfield parish in Newbury, where Pearson's mill was stopped from February 3 to March 31, and the people of Newbury had to go to Salisbury to get their meagre grists of corn ground.

The reign of cold seemed to be broken on January 10, when the weather moderated and a thaw began; but it continued only three days, and the low temperature was resumed.

Not only was the winter severe in temperature, but great snows came until, in the estimation of the people then living, taking it as a whole, it was the most rigorous season that had been experienced here since the first settlement. There were twenty-seven snow storms in all,most of them of good size. February 3, nearly a foot of snow fell, and about a week later there were two more storms, which filled the roads in Newbury, Mass., and vicinity to the tops of the fences, and in some places the snow lay to the depth of from eight to ten feet.On April 4, the fences were still covered, and three days later another foot of snow fell. In the woods it was then four feet deep on the level; and there were drifts on the islands off Dorchester, Mass., not quite melted on May 3, The snow remained so long that the spring was very backward; and when the ground was ready for planting, the farmers were almost discouraged, thinking of the failure of the corn crop the year before.

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

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