12 March 2008

Killer Wind

Upon my return from a brief out-of-town trip on Monday, I was greeted by my neighbors with tales of downed trees - including one in my yard! - tossed patio furniture, and general wind-blown chaos. A century ago, things might have been much worse. In the days of flimsy houses and old woodstoves on the mountain, wind was a real killer - as evidenced by this story which appeared in The New York Times on March 31, 1899.

Ashes of Bush and His Housekeeper in the Ruins of Their House

SOMERVILLE, N.J., March 30. - Coroner L.T. Reed went to Mine Rock, in the Sourland Mountains, fifteen miles from this place, to-day to view what remains of the bodies of Benjamin Bush and Catherine Blue. All that he found were charred bones in a heap of ashes where the little house they occupied once stood. Only a portion of the roof of the house remained. This lay in the woods seventy-five feet from where the house stood.

Bush was over ninety years old, and claimed to be a hundred. he was strong and vigorous, considering his age. Catherine Blue was over seventy years of age. For a number of years she had acted as Bush's housekeeper. The house was six miles from the nearest regularly inhabited building. The life of its inmates was that of recluses. They occasionally visited a village to purchase provisions.

Yesterday a party of men visited the neighborhood of the house and decided to see how the old couple were getting along. They found the house burned down and the remains of the man and woman in the ashes. From the position of the piece of the roof it is thought that the high winds of last Tuesday blew down the frail old house, and that Bush and the woman were pinned under the timbers, and burned to death in the fire which resulted from the overturning of the stove.

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