THE GREAT 1710 CYCLONE, 1710 FIRE (December 20/10)

In a November column I wrote about a fire in 1710 devastating huge areas of forest land in Kings and Hants County. As mentioned, the destruction caused ongoing hardship for settlers who had taken up Acadian land in these areas. The destruction led to more than a decade of firewood rationing and limited cutting of timber for home construction.

I quoted two sources for 1710 as the year of the fire; one was Loomer’s Windsor history (published 1996), the other an 1896 newspaper article which used reports of the provincial surveyor general describing the devastation caused by the fire. The newspaper article was signed by “H. Y. H.,” which I assumed was Henry Youle Hind (1823-1908) a prominent geologist and teacher who wrote a history of Windsor.

Hind’s article, if it was his, is in the Robie Lewis Reid collection, a series of newspaper articles on deposit at Dalhousie University. In the same collection is an article dated 1892 by E. J. Cogswell, a prominent Kings County Judge of Probate who died in 1900. In the article, Cogswell writes that in 1710, around the same time as the great forest fire, a cyclone leveled huge stands of forest in Kings and Hants County. Cogswell says his source for the article was “Windsor records,” indicating it was the combined one two punch of the fire and the cyclone that wreaked havoc with the settlers wood supply. Here’s some of what Cogswell wrote:

“I understand that records were a few years ago found at Windsor substantiating the fact of the great cyclone and fixing the date in A.D 1710, the cause of the mention being that quarrels had arisen in regard to the supply of timber and fuel as the forests were so destroyed by the cyclone …. and the new wood being young, the supply was inadequate.

“The Windsor records speak of the cyclone alone. But the tradition relates also an accompanying fire. To put it all together, it appears to be this: That some time in the summer or autumn of 1710 the winds came down in the counties of Annapolis, Kings and parts of Hants …. and the forests for a hundred miles were all laid prostrate.

“Tradition has it that the next year, after the prostrate forest became dry, they in some way caught fire and that the fire swept over all ….”

So there you have it: A devastating cyclone in 1710, and close on its heels, an equally devastating forest fire, possibly in the same year, and possibly in the following year. Cogswell and HYH (Hind?) published their articles several years apart in a Kings County newspaper, the Western Chronicle. In a way, one article contradicts the other regarding the year of the great fire. Looking back today, all we know for sure is that 1710 was a year of calamity, and the impact of the cyclone and fire was felt by the Acadians and the New England Planters.

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