Another Sizzler Long Ago

2020 Republished Article Series > Another Sizzler Long Ago

From the Mansfield Historical Society Newsletter, Vol. 41, No. 5, September 2005

Our hot, dry summer – punctuated by violent thunderstorms – is, of course, not unique to this area.  Here are some excerpts from the Willimantic Chronicle that describe a similar summer in 1883. Reporting styles have certainly changed – the author’s hyperbole is quite amusing!

Wed Aug 1, 1883: Mansfield. One of the most terrific thunder storms for years passed over here last Saturday causing some damage by hail and lightning. The hail cut buckwheat and other tender plants some but not to injure it much. Lightning struck a large hackmatac tree in front of J.W. Knowlton’s house tearing all to pieces. This tree was ultimately designed to be made into furniture for the rising generation of J.W.K. – come and pick up your lumber. … The lightning also struck a tree near the house of Mr. George S. Hanks, some of the inmates receiving quite a shock.

An unprecedented drought for this season of the year has prevailed over several towns in the central and eastern part of the state for the last two months. In many places on light soil, gardens have been nearly ruined, wells have failed to yield water and many of the smaller streams dried up. The crop of hay over this dry belt is light and corn and potatoes have suffered much, for want of water.

 Wed Aug 22, 1883: Mansfield Centre.  Last Saturday evening gave us the boss thunder storm. The rain fell, or rather poured in copious torrents, while Heaven’s artillery seemed intent on doing a land office business, and gave us a touch of the truly sublime in nature. Some of the timid or perhaps terror stricken, were frightened, and got into as small a compass as possible. Not-withstanding all these necessary precautions the lightning paid us its compliments. Unbidden and unceremoniously, and without formality it entered the Payne dwelling house on the boulevards [30 Centre Street], occupied by Mrs. Eaton and family, tearing of lath and casings, and raising the Old Harry with one room which had just been vacated by the inmates of the dwelling. Damage nominal. The cider mill and storage house combined, belonging to Joseph P. Barrows, the south gamble of which loomed up on the horizon far above the surrounding trees and scenery and standing out in bold relief against a southern sky as if inviting a contact with the fiery balls of Jupiter, received a share of compliments for its bold temerity. The lightning tackled the extreme gable, ripping off boards, splitting posts and joist, and set fire on the first floor above the basement to a lot of loose and dry debris scattered among some barrels. Mr. Barrow’s son Walter was first at the scene and rolling a barrel of vinegar over bung hole down let out the contents, quenched the fire, and prevented the destruction of the building. Sunday evening duplicated Saturdays showers, but with less violence.

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