During the years of 1826-27, the climatic conditions in this section of New England were very peculiar. One of the most serious freshets along the courses of the smaller rivers, which there were then record of, occurred on March 25, 1826, causing much damage. A grandson of Col. Enoch Hale, who built the first toll bridge across the Connecticut River here, William Hale, who died at the age of 90 years, often told, during the last years of his life, of the conditions following the spring freshet.
He said the spring of 1826 was an average forward one, with plenty of rain up to the first of June. After that time, no rain fell until about September 10. The entire summer was extremely hot, and was many years thereafter known as “the grasshopper season,” the crops in most of the places in this section being ruined by that pest, and it was necessary to harvest all that could be secured before they were ripe. The meadows and pastures looked as if a fire had scorched them. About the 10th of September, it began to rain slowly, and as the weather was warm, grass started up and grew very rapidly. So good was the warm weather and grass growing rapidly, that the farmers kept their stock out and in good fresh feed until January 8, 1827, the grass being as good as in June. With no frost to kill the grass, it died of old age.
About January 10, 1827, there came about 15 inches of snow, the ground not being frozen at all. In a few days, there came about as much more, and on the first of February, there was nearly three feet of snow on a level in all this vicinity. The 20th of February (which was Mr. Hale’s 22nd birthday), he said that Ira Gowing, a neighbor living near him at Walpole, N. H., was plowing with two yoke of oxen on the “Petty place,” so called, in sight of his father’s house; the snow was all gone except where there were drifts, and there was no frost in the ground. During Mr. Hale’s long life in this vicinity, he said he had seen only two other Christmases and New Years’ that were as warm and pleasant, but in both those seasons they had a much colder average fall and winter.
Mr. Hale was, for over 50 years, a civil engineer and surveyor in this vicinity. His father, Sherburne Hale, owned the farm now covered by the bustling village of North Walpole, N. H., opposite Bellows Falls. The farm consisted of 800 acres, which was sold to Levi Chapin, a relative of the noted Springfield (Mass.) Chapin family. The land was thickly covered with a fine quality of old growth pine, and Mr. Chapin, being interested in lumber business, shipped down the Connecticut River large amounts. The result was that a large number of the buildings at Springfield, Mass., erected between 1810 and 1850, were from lumber cut on this North Walpole farm, sawed at a small saw mill owned by the Chapins, and located on “Governor’s Brook,” which flows through that village. Among the papers of Levi Chapin, were recently found the specifications, and bills, for one of the churches of that city.
Based on: The Connecticut River Valley in southern Vermont and New Hampshire: historical sketches, Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., Marble City Press, 1929.