1938 Hurricane in Cavendish

Below is an eyewitness account of the 1938 Hurricane and the damage done in Cavendish, Vermont. It was written by Peter Farrar’s grandfather, Philip Tiemans, who owned ‘Windy Hill’ in Cavendish. Ann mentioned is Peter’s mother.

Windy Hill,

Sept. 25, 1938

“Dearest mother,

“We are waiting anxiously to hear from you and from Isabel’s several families. No one seems to know anything definite about the damage down-country, but from the Rutland paper – which is the only one I have been able to see – I judge that it must have been terrific. And even up here it was no party.

“It had rained since Monday. While we were eating lunch Wednesday, Merton appeared on the way home from taking Carr to Hanover, and at that time we thought it was clearing. Then about milking time the rain commenced again, and looking from the barn it seemed to me that the wind was rising. The trees began to whip and bend, and water blew across the north field in sheets. Ann had gone on an errand to the Cadys’ and came in badly frightened; we were suddenly in the midst of a regular tempest. The barometer fell so fast you could almost see it drop, and lower than I’ve ever seen it. It was getting dusk and of course turned very dark; the rain came in torrents, and the wind. Well, maybe you experienced some of it. The clothes were on the line; we made a dash for them, and while taking them down the paper began to scale off the wood-shed roof; a branch of the lilac went; limbs were showering down from the crab-apple and the butternuts. When we got in the house we found water dripping from all the window-casings, – rain spraying under the closed windows so you could feel it way out in the rooms. The front hall was a puddle. We wedged clothes around the windows and door; still the wet came in. You should have heard the brooks roar. Looking out front I saw the second brook washing right across the pasture along the fence-line and merging with the nearer brook; the road was submerged; behind the buildings was a regular river. Presently the cellar began to fill. At about seven-thirty the storm was at its height; about that time there was an awful din and clatter upstairs, and dashing up I found several bricks from the chimney in the fire-place (all of the latter were trickling dirty black water). From then on we held our breath not knowing what to expect next; but fortunately, though it lasted some time longer, the worst was past. About ten o’clock we went to bed, wondering what we would find in the morning.

Windy Hill owned by Philip Tiemans circa 1936. Photo provided by Peter Farrar.

“Well – ! The face of nature was certainly lifted. You just can’t believe what havoc the wind did. Not so much to our place,- we were fortunate. No serious damage to any of the buildings; a nick in the chimney, and all the paper off the west sides of the wood-shed and the barn across the way (which of course I am planning to repaper anyway). In the woods, which Isabel and I tramped through this morning, there are plenty of wind-falls, although the trees around the house which make up our ‘view’ are fairly intact. But the second brook just ran away,- I figure it carried away about an acre of land. The channel is greatly altered,- about twice as wide, counting the old bed which is now nothing but a mess of boulders and sand,- it took bank and trees and all. “Tent Rock’ was rolled over and is now part of an island. The regular crossing is a gulley, the further bank about six feet high. Well,- you will see it sometime!

“Other places suffered much worse. Roofs off, chimneys down, smaller buildings demolished,- and in spots trees down by the acre in great swaths. And the roads,- up by our bridge there was a great hole; down below, the road was taken out completely in two places. Again, other roads are worse,- so much so that they have been repairing ours first (unheard of), in order to permit the people above us, who usually use other roads, to get out through ours, as their own will take much longer. So ours has been passable since Thursday, and today it is almost completely restored (?). Not that it’s to be compared with a paved highway, you understand, but it’s relatively ‘good’.

“Telephone lines are still down, but I imagine will be working soon. We haven’t had any mail from the south, but are hoping for plenty tomorrow. Am most anxious to see accounts in the New York papers.

“Of course the crops suffered,- corn was blown flat. But I’m getting things in shape again; cut and brought down about two-thirds of the corn yesterday. Apples and plums pretty much ruined.

“Though I still get tired, am feeling much improved and can do about half a day’s work by working most of the day! Feel badly that I can not take a share in the repairs,- all the other men are ‘on the road’, but that is beyond me yet.

“The children got a big kick out of all this,- it’s an experience I guess we’ll all remember. I hate to think what it’s going to cost. Guess that’s enough news for one week!”

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