Newspaper Report of the Saxby Gale 1869

When I researched the Saxby Gale for a recent column, I came upon a newspaper report for the storm. I thought I’d transcribe it for others to read and post it on the 147th anniversary. There are many places named as well as several individuals. Damage was noted to bridges, homes, mills, barns and what not. Reports were given for Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the United States.

NOTE: Although I carefully transcribed the newspaper article, I am only human, so I may have made an error. The digital image I used was at times difficult to read, so I made a few guesses and noted them with a question mark in brackets (?). Also, some letters did not get printed, so there were spaces in the middle of words. I filled in the letter in this transcription. There were a few mistakes in the original article. In these instances, I noted it with (sic). The writing style is not as it is today, and I found more commas than needed and words capitalized that would not be capitalized today. Also, when they noted a road (Londonderry road), they did not capitalized the word ‘road’. I left this article in the original style.

SOURCE: The digital image for this newspaper article was found at the University Libraries: Historical Canadian Newspapers Online: Nova Scotia

Halifax Citizen, Halifax, NS, October 9, 1869



The Western counties of the province seem to have suffered very severely from the recent storm. A correspondent of the Church Chronicle at Maitland says:

The tide here on the night of the 4th, was most destructive. It attacked wharves, took them to pieces, and deposited the timber of which they had been composed half a mile inland; made sad havoc in the shipyards; destroyed dykes and carried fences away; took a barn with some stock therein, and transplanted it a distance of some 90 paces from the spot on which it had stood before; committed great depredations; drove quiet people from their beds, and our of their houses in a hurry; crossed the lower street, entered shops, dissolved groceries, and even ran up to the shelves containing dry goods. We know of about 350 or more dollars worth of salt, alone, which disappeared, leaving empty bags.

At Windsor, the tide was very destructive. The Mail give some account of the damage to property in that locality from which we quote as follows:

On Monday about 11 p.m. the dykes at Poverty Point, near Smith Island, gave way, and ten minutes afterwards the lowlands for miles around were flooded, and their contents much damaged. People were compelled to take refuge in the upper stories of their houses. Many animals drowned. Mr. P. Miles lost 34 sheep. The tide rose 4 feet higher than it was ever known before. Water Street, Windsor, was flooded, and much damage done to the buildings. Carry & Shand lost $500 worth of goods in their cellar, and John Short about $100 worth in his. The wharves were all more or less hurt. Mr. F. W. Beckman, of Ellershouse, had 40,000 clapboards on Dimock’s wharf, for shipment to Boston. All were carried away except 5000. L (or I, difficult to read) as about $1000. The Baptist Church had seven feet of water in the vestry, and the school library was destroyed. The water is up to the door of Dimocks foundry, so that steam cannot be got up. At Falmouth and Newport the dykes are carried away, and the land flooded. At Horton, and on the Grand Pre Dykes, a quantity of hay was destroyed and numbers of cattle drowned, some of which drifted out to sea. Bridges were carried away or destroyed. The one near Reed’s is entirely gone. All along the W. & A. R line an amount of damage was done which will take some time to repair, as the track was completely demolished in places. At Wolfville the dump (?) is carried away so that the trains cannot run any further than the town. The tide on Tuesday night rose six inches higher than the night of the gale. The water only lowers six to eight inches every tide. It will probably take a week for it to run off, as nothing can be done to the dykes until the high tides are over, when they will have to be dug away. Two of the Railway Bridges between Port Williams and Wolfville, were swept away; and we learn that the Railway between Wolfville and Grand Pre, was considerably damaged.

saxby-gale-01From Amherst, also, and all the region of country at the head of the Bay of Fundy, reports are received of extensive destruction to property, and also loss of life, two whole families having been swept away in the flood. The marsh at Amherst, from that place to Fort Cumberland, is about two miles wide, and extends inland to the head of Amherst about twelve miles. Portions of this large tract of one land were thickly studded with stacks of hay, and on other portions heads of cattle were grazing. When the tide overtpped (sic) the dykes and finally in many places washed them away, the whole district became submerged from to (sic) ten to twelve feet in depth, and hay and cattle alike were swept to destruction. The same is true of the Sackville  Marshes, which are of much greater extent. The loss is enormous, and the damage is prospective as well as present, for dyked lands thus submerged are rendered valueless for cultivation for several years. A correspondent at Amherst writes on the 7th inst., as follows:

The greatest calamity that ever befell Cumberland happened on last Monday night. I doubt much if £200,000 would make good the loss of hay, stock and dykes, to the head of our bay, including Westmoreland; and worst of all, two poor men with small families have been drowned. It is estimated that the tide in the marshes must have been from ten to twelve feet high. Bridges also have suffered severely, Cole’s Island in New Brunswick is completely submerged, and two dwelling houses moved, and the cattle washed away, and many of them drowned. One family is supposed to have lost property to the value of £1000, including forty head of cattle. I assure you it is a most melancholy time here. We have just heard that all the inhabitants of the above named Island have moved to the main land.

In Kings County, says a correspondent of the Colonist, the tide rose from 18 inches to 2 feet higher than the oldest inhabitant ever witnessed before, and lashed by the violent gale at about high water, run over and broke the running dykes. The Grand Pre presented a scene unknown to anyone, being covered with the tide, with hundreds of cattle and horses seeking, &c. (sic), to obtain a dry spot. It is not only the washing away of the running dykes, but the loss of the crops for the next year, as it will be impossible to repair damages this autumn; all the dykes on the Gaspereaux River, Cornwallis River, Halibut and Red Rivers, were alike broken and flooded. The Wellington dyke may be repaired, as the breaches are not so bad, and there are now any number of men on their way to repair the damages. This is the only dyke which can be saved, as far as I can learn. The damage done to the apple crop will be great also, as many of the trees are completely denuded of their fruit, and much damaged. The loss in buildings, fences, &c. (sic), will not be much. One or two culverts on the W. & A. Railway, between Kentville and Lower Horton, were damaged by the salt water forcing violently through them, but not extensively.

At Annapolis, early on Monday evening, the water stood knee deep in the streets and flooded the stores, carried away lumber from the wharves and caused great devastation.  Between Annapolis and Bridgetown, the passenger train had to be stopped several times, that repairs of the track might be made before the train could proceed—gaps of hundreds of feet presenting themselves.

The Truro Mirror thus describes the effect of of (sic) the storm in Colchester Co:

The chief thing which we witnessed ourselves was the flooding of the marshes and low lands in our neighbourhood, and the description of the dykes erected for their defence. All down the Cobequid Bay, and along the Bay of Fundy generally the dykes were ‘riddled’ in a fearful manner beyond hope of repair, and cattle and horses, but especially sheep, were drowned in great numbers. Thousands of dollars’ worth of labour have probably been lost, as well as a valuable marsh injured, and in some cases partially or totally destroyed. Bridges in large numbers were carried away on the roads skirting the margin of the Bay, which makes up so near us here. On the Old Barnes road, within a distance of three miles, no less than five important bridges were either removed or destroyed. On the Londonderry road Mr. Archibald’s mail coaches were obliged to take the back road in order to get along at all. Our travelling agent sends us the following despatch (sic) from Londonderry: “Violent storm last night. Tremendous tide. Dykes, bridges, fences gone, McLellan’s mills destroyed. Small vessels driven into potato field, Cargo partially saved. No lives lost.”

The eastern countries appear to have suffered but little. The Eastern Chronicle says:

“Saxby’s storm, with all its terrors for nervous people, has passed. Monday was sultry, and towards evening the wind blew fresh and strong, filling the air with clouds of dust. The wind increased towards midnight and blew a considerable gale until well on towards morning. At 11 o’clock it commenced to raining and poured down in torrents until morning. The tide did not rise much above its ordinary height. Monday night would doubtless be a rough night at sea, and even yesterday the wind blew with considerable freshness until evening.”


The St. John papers give some additional particulars of the damage is very great, and no estimate of the loss is given. The keeper of the Beacon Light had a hard time of it. The wind was blowing from the S. W., carrying the waves with great force over the Light House. He determined to leave it and go ashore over the bar. He made the attempt, but the tide was too high, and he had to retrace his steps. As the storm proceeded the tower was carried away, the bell borne (hard to read) overboard, the window glass and globes broken. The lower part of the Lighthouse was filled with water. The seas broke over the upper part of it, but Mr. Earle closed the hatchway, to keep the water from getting down upon him in the centre part. But the lamp having lost its glass covering, and the flames being still burning, fanned by the storm, set on fire the wood-working, and threatened to add the sublime element of a conflagration to the terrors of the winds and waves. Mr. Earle, however, managed to put an unbroken globe over the lamp, to extinguish the fire, and to seize hold of the swinging lantern, both his hands being thus occupied, and so to remain from one to half-past four o’clock in the morning, when he sought the shore! He passed a most miserable night and morning in the Lighthouse, passed through perils of wind, and water, and fire, that might appal (sic) the stoutest heart, and has his faith in wooden lighthouses completely shaken.

saxby-gale-02Fredericton escaped pretty well. One house, that of a Mr. Aikens, was blown down, but the inmates fortunately escaped unhurt.; a couple of the large trees on the Square in front of the Officers Quarters were uprooted, and branches broken clean off all the others, and chimney tops, fences and trees in all directions more or less demolished. The roof was also blown off one end of the Car Shed at the Railway station. At St. Stephen the storm was severely felt. The steeple of the Episcopal Church was destroyed, the roof of the Wesleyan Methodist Church flattened, the top of a Photograph Saloon opposite the principal (sic) hotel, swept away, barns uprooted, trees blown down, chimney tops toppled over, and in fact things in general outdoors pretty well disturbed. At Nerepis Settlement, the Roman Catholic chapel was nearly destroyed, while the one at Cork was totally swept away. All along the line of the Western Extension road, the storm made itself severely felt. In one locality, whole acres of trees were either torn up from the roots and toppled over, or snapped square off some four or five feet from the ground and levelled. At Tracey’s the roof of one section of his extensive mills was lifted clear and clean from its resting place, and various parts of other sections more or less damaged. At Hartt’s Mills the Railway wood shed was completely destroyed, and several barns were relieve of their roofs. Between Westfield Station and what is termed the Old Government House no fewer than twenty-five barns are reckoned in the wreck; but though the storm specially favoured this section of country, it did not forget other sections, for almost everywhere along the whole line were to be seen riddled, uprooted, or demolished, barns of greater or lesser pretentions. Near Brundage’s Point, the dwelling of Joshua Brundage was levelled with the ground, the inmates having narrowly escaped with their lives. In one location between Fredericton and Hartt’s Mills, the roof was cleanly removed from a dwelling, and two or three children, slumbering unconscious of danger in the attic, left lying in their beds. Windfalls too, in the shape of good sized trees, crossed the road in several place (sic).

At Sackville the tide was six feet higher than ever before known; and ten feet above the level of the marshes, which are covered with water as far as the eye can see. No lives are reported lost. Thousands of tons of hay have been destroyed; whole barns and their contents have tossed for miles in some cases. The railway is completely torn up. Horses, oxen, sheep and pigs have been drowned, in great numbers, and are lying amid rubbish of every conceivable kind, but the exact loss is unknown. There is scarcely a fence to be seen; all are swept away. It is reported that the Missiquash  bridge has been carried away, and the new line of Telegraph, built on the line of railway this season from Dorchester to Memramcook is almost destroyed.

Papers received last night give the following particulars: The  barque Genff, 500 tons, and only three weeks launched, was lost near New River, having broken adrift from her moorings, and all hands (11) lost. At Moncton the damage was very great. A Mrs. Tidd had a narrow escape. She was alone in the house, the other members of the family being absent, and had been in bed some hours when she awoke to find the water several feet high in her bedroom. The marks on the walls show that the water rose above five feet above the floor, and but for the timely aid rendered it is probable that in the darkness and confusion she would have been drowned. As it was she was rescued with difficulty, and had her furniture and clothing badly injured. A man in Albert, opposite Moncton, whose house had been driven up, tried to save his family, which consisted of his wife and four children, by putting them upon a raft constructed from the ruins; the raft parted and threw them off—the children were drowned. It is said that the damage done to the Albert Plaister Mills and stores connected there with will not be less than $20,000. Albert Mines coal wharf was washed away with $6000 worth of coal thereon, and about one-half their track is gone. The loss in hay, cattle and other property in Albert, Westmoreland and Cumberland is incalculable.

A large vessel at Hillsboro was thrown over the dyke into a field, and a lady and gentleman, driving from Hillsboro to Moncton, were overtaken by the flood on the marsh near the former place; the woman and horse were drowned, and the man picked up insensible. A telegram from a gentleman connected with the Eastern Extension Railway, to the St. John Telegraph, places the damage done the road at $20,000. Along the Marsh the action of the tide was most severe, washing away for a considerable distance, the rails with the sleepers attached, and carrying them in some cases one hundred feet off the line. At last accounts the water was subsiding.

The steamer New York from St. John for Boston, parted her cables and went ashore near Lubeo, Me. Fortunately she struck on soft mud, and she was not much injured. The force of the wind may be imagined, when with both anchors out, and a full head of steam on, the boat could not make sufficient headway to keep her to her anchors.


The storm of Saturday night and Sunday extended over a wide range. From Albany and some distance westward on the Central Rail road trains were delayed and culverts washed away. The Mohawk River was ten feet above low water mark, and several breaks in the Erie Canal occurred. On the Hudson River Railroad the water on the track lay a foot deep. In Connecticut, a dam and machine-shop at Pemberwick were carried away, and one man crushed to death and nine or ten others seriously injured. The loss entailed is about $100,000. The Harlem Railroad track north of Millerton was washed away, and the bridge at Copake was rapidly wearing away. The Delaware was 20 feet higher than on Friday. A portion of the Erie Railway track, between Port Jervis and Deposit, was away. The wires were broken at this point, and no report from further west could be obtained. The greatest damage seems to have been done at and near Philadelphia, where the wharves were submerged by the swollen Schuylkill, and lumber, coal and even railway cars were carried away, and stores flooded as high as the upper story (sic). The retorts (?) in the gas works were submerged, and a short supply of gas for the city was threatened. The experience of July in Baltimore put the store-keepers in the submerged streets on their guard, and the timely removal of their goods prevented much damage. In and about Washington considerable loss was sustained, and railroad trains were delayed several hours. Portions of the city were flooded, and the inhabitants were rescued with considerable difficulty and not a little danger.

In Westchester County, N. Y., a serious affair occurred: the dam at Russell, Burdsall & Ward’s Iron Bolt Works at Pemberwick, two miles north of Portchester, broke, tearing down the machine shop. Ten persons were badly injured. It is not yet known whether there were any drowned. Large numbers of men have been thrown out of employment. Loss about $100,000. In Vermont also much damage was done. At Brattleboro the dam at a tannery was washed out. The lower end of the Connecticut River Bridge washed away, and fears are entertained that the structure will go en masse. The Wheatstone creek bridge was carried away by the flood at the same time that the shops went off. Several lives were lost, amongst them a German by the name of Fredericks, who was engaged in getting out lumber at Estree’s yard when the current struck the pile he was on and carried him away at once. This poor fellow was one of the survivors when the Central America went down on her passage to New Orleans several years ago. I have just learned that a Miss Barrett was also drowned at the tannery. In addition to these a man and a boy have lost their lives. The Connecticut River bridge has been carried away, and all communication is now cut off between Brattleboro and the Island opposite, upon which are several families. The greatest excitement prevailed, as there was no indication of any abatement of the flood. The total loss is estimated at not less than $1,500,000.

All over the Atlantic States the damage done was very great, but our space will not permit us to give details.

I hope you enjoyed reading about the storm. I often wonder what would happen today if a similar storm hit.

One thought on “Newspaper Report of the Saxby Gale 1869

  1. Pingback: The Saxby Gale of October 4 – West Hants Historical Society

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