New Hampshire’s Day of Terror

The 19th of January, 1810, was, in the central part of New Hampshire at least, a day of terror, one never to be forgotten in the annals of the “hill towns” of this beautiful State.

The afternoon of the 18th was unusually warm and mild; the thermometer indicated forty-three degrees, or eleven degrees above freezing.  Before light the next morning a winter hurricane was sweeping over the mountains, hills, plains and valleys, snapping off good-sized pine-trees, in its extended path, as if they were but fragile reeds.

Great oaks were twisted by the force of the wind like switches in the hands of a giant.  Barns were swept to ruin, and sheds of lighter construction were carried away by the storm of wind like chaff.  This horrible blizzard continued during nearly a whole day.  Nearly all the while the air was filled with fine, hail-like particles of snow, caught up by the gale, so that it was impossible to see more than a few rods away.  To add to the gloom of the occasion and its deathly danger, the mercury of the thermometer sank, in the sixteen hours following the previous day’s thaw, to twenty-five degrees above zero.  The mercury runs as low every winter as it did that day, but mortal man has never known a severer day in this New England.

Thousands of fowl were blown away and never seen by their owners again; rabbits, partridges and crows were frozen in the thickest woods; young cattle were frozen solid as they huddled together in the half-open barn-yard sheds, some of which withstood the force of the wind; many cattle perished where they were tied in their stalls.

The heavens roared like the sea in a cyclone.  Branches of trees, hay from demolished barns, loosened clapboards and shingles from such houses as had great oaken frames and immense chimneys to hold the structures in place, rose in the air and mingled together in terrifying confusion.  The loss of live stock and buildings in Merrimack County aggregated scores of thousands of dollars.  The “cold Friday” was known and is remembered throughout the New England States.


Source: The History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties, New Hampshire. edited by D. Hamilton Hurd. Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co. 1885, page 670

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