, Newburyport, MA


January 11, 2013

A look back at Plum Island's stormy history


The history of Plum Island having relevance to our ongoing concerns, I turned early this week, to E. Vale Smith’s history of Newburyport. Insofar as I am informed, she was the only woman editor of a Newbury or Newburyport newspaper up to 1852. Her history was published in 1854, some 30 years before the jetties at the river’s mouth were constructed.

In her accounts relating to the island’s constant role, she reminds us of the timeless realities of life on it — the sheer joy of summers and the bitter penalties of its storm-filled darkest days.

As for the extremes, she wrote:

“There is no native of Newburyport, and scarcely a stranger who has visited our city in the summer season, who does not retain vivid recollections of this fantastic strip of sand. To the minds of most, its associations are of the social gatherings of friends, of sea-side picnics with home companions and stranger guests; the eye recalls the sandy beach dotted with tents; the cloth spread on the clean yellow sand surrounded with groups of young men and maidens, of old men and children, the complacent pastor and the grave deacon, all enjoying together a day of unrestrained mirth ... “

So it has ever been since the road to Plum Island we travel today, and first of three bridges was built.

But so, too, has it been the barrier breaching of great storms.

She writes of a few of the worse at a time when there were no jetties or groins.

“In December, 1839,” she wrote in her history, “occurred one of these terrible storms.

“On the 15th there had been a very high tide which had overflowed the wharves on the river-side and covered the Eastern end of Plum Island with water, so that for some hours the keeper could not get to the lights, a lake having formed between his dwelling-house and the light houses.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

NDN Video
US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Reggie Jackson's ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Are Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon Breaking Up? Motorcyclist Sticks Landing This 'Breaking Bad' Reunion is the Most Hilarious Thing You'll See All Day! President Obama talks about who James Foley was Nicki Minaj Unleashes Her 'Anaconda' On the World Watch Helicopter Perform Aerial Ballet Can Buckeyes fill Miller's void? Victoria's Secret Models Prove They're in Fighting Shape How Brian Hoyer Stacks Up With Johnny Manziel Taylor Swift Reveals New Album 1989 is Full-On Pop Crews rescue elderly woman trapped inside flooded minivan Man Poses for New Mugshot Photo Wearing Shirt with Old Mugshot Photo On It Disquieting times for Malaysia's 'fish listeners' Caught On Camera: Johnny Manziel Obscene Gesture Rita Ora Embraces the Ice Bucket Challenge Bird surprises soccer player Ashley Young during game Chapter Two: Never too late to become an artist Ice Bucket Challenge Goes Viral, Raises Over $15M For ALS
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans