Storms, Freshets, And Earthquakes.
feet. The inmates had sought safety in the second story, and were taken out through the window famishing and almost frozen. Severe as was the condition of that family, the situation of a man, his wife, and four children, residing on the bank of the Delaware, who had remained without food or fire for three days until relief came, was more distressing. One of the children was so benumbed with the cold that it was totally blind for nearly a day, while the other little ones were all more or less frost-bitten. The party who went to their assistance bore the children in their arms along the bank, between three and four miles, to a place of safety. A family residing on the meadow, between Darby Creek and the Schuylkill (not in Delaware County), seemed absolutely beyond relief, for around the dwelling for miles the ice and water bad accumulated. But on Saturday afternoon a large boat was manned and pushed out across the meadow in the direction of the dwelling. The water froze on the oars, and the drifting ice-cakes seemed as if they would crush the boat, so heavily did they strike against its sides, but the crew held firmly to their purpose, and succeeded in rescuing the family, - a man, wife, and two children, - who without fire, food, and but scantily clothed, were in a perishing condition when help came to them. They were landed at William Davis' house on Darby Creek, who sheltered them. The woman was so completely exhausted that no sooner had she been received into Mr. Davis' dwelling than she fainted, and was with difficulty revived.
Many bridges were swept away and dam-breasts broken by the pressure of the flood; that at Penn's Grove and Rockdale was completely demolished. On Chester Creek, at Knowlton, John P. Crozer sustained damages amounting to five thousand dollars; William G. Flower, from Chester Mills, had fifty thousand feet of lumber floated away; William Eyre, Jr., of Chester, lost fifteen hundred feet of lumber; J. P. & William Eyre had fifty tons of coal swept off the wharf at the same place, and Samuel Bancroft had a boat loaded with coal to sink at the dock; Jabez Bunting, of Darby, lost three horses by the flood, and a break was made in the bank of Darby Creek, which caused the overflow of the Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore Railroad, and interrupted travel for several days.
In four years after this freshet Delaware County was visited by a cloud-burst, which wrought widespread destruction along all the streams within its boundary that were of sufficient size to be termed water-powers. The circumstances connected with the noted "Lammas Flood" are briefly these:
On Saturday morning, Aug. 5, 1843, at daybreak, the sky indicated rain, and about seven o'clock a moderate fall set in, which, while it slackened, never entirely ceased until between the hours of two and six o'clock that afternoon, when the extraordinary opening of "the windows of heaven" took place which made such extended ruin and misery in a brief period of time. The rain, when falling most abundantly, came down in such showers that the fields in that part of the county removed several miles back from the river are said to have been flooded with water almost immediately, and where the road was lower than the surface of the ground on either side, the water poured into the highway in a constant stream of miniature cascades. The lightning played incessantly through the falling torrents, reflected from all sides in the watery mirrors in the fields producing a weird and spectral appearance, such that those who witnessed it could evermore recall. A peculiar feature of the storm was that Cobb's Creek, on the extreme eastern, and the Brandywine, on the western boundary of the county, were not swollen to any remarkable degree, clearly showing that the territory where the violence of the cloudburst occurred was noticeably restricted to the feeders and bodies of Chester, Ridley, Crum, and Darby Creeks.
Dr. Smith states that "as a general rule, the heavy rain occurred later as we proceed from the source of the stream towards their mouths. The quantity of rain which fell decreases as we proceed in the same direction, particularly from the middle parts of the county downwards. In those sections of the county where its greatest violence was expended, the character of the stream more nearly accorded with that of a tropical hurricane than with anything which appertained to this region of country. The clouds wore an unusually dark and lowering appearance, of which the whole atmosphere seemed in some degree to partake, and this circumstance, no doubt, gave that peculiarly vivid appearance to the incessant flashes of lightning which was observed by every one. The peals of thunder were loud and almost continuous. The clouds appeared to approach from different directions, and to concentrate at a point not very distant from the zenith of the beholder. In many places there was but very little wind, the rain falling in nearly perpendicular streams; at other places it blew a stiff breeze, first from the east or northeast and suddenly shifting to the southwest, while at a few points it blew in sudden gusts with great violence, accompanied with whirlwinds, which twisted off and prostrated large trees, and swept everything before it."1
|1 Dr. Smith's "History of Delaware County p. 360.|
The hurricane which occurred in Bethel township during the storm is thus described:
"The wind blew from different points at different places in the same neighborhood, as is manifested from the position of uprooted trees, etc. A peach-orchard belonging to Mr. Clayton was blown down, the trees lying toward the northeast. An apple-orchard not very distant, lays prostrated towards the southeast. At John Larkins', two miles north of Clayton's, the gale appears to hate been most violent.