Today, the Jamestown Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers the disastrous storm that hit the colony in 1667 with several accounts from that era.
First, the Coast Artillery Journal, Volume 57, published 1922 included this account:
“on the 27th of August followed the most dreadful hurricane that ever this country groaned under, it lasted 24 hours began at the North East and went around northerly till it came South East where it ceased it was accompanied with a most violent rain but no thunder the night of it was the most Dismall tyme forced and as it were crowded up into all Creekes Rivers and Bays to that prodigious height that it hazarded the drowning of many people who lived not in sight of the Rivers yet were forced to climb to the top of their houses to keep themselves above water carryed all the foundations of the fort at Point Comfort into the river and most of our Timber which was very chargeably brought thither to perfect it, had it been finished and a garrison in it they had been stormed by such an enemy as no power but God’s can restrain and in all likelyhood drowned.”
NOAA provides additional information with two accounts from 1667:
(The “dreadful hurricane of 1667”): This system is considered one of the most severe hurricanes to ever strike Virginia. This 1667 hurricane lasted about 24 hours and was accompanied by very violent winds and tides.
Approximately 10,000 houses were blown over. Area crops (including corn and tobacco) were beat into the ground. Many cattle drowned in area rivers and bays by the twelve foot storm surge and “many people had to flee.” The foundations of the fort at Point Comfort were swept into the river. A graveyard of the First Lynnhaven parish church tumbled into the waters. Twelve days of rain followed this storm across Virginia. This system is blamed for the widening of the Lynnhaven river. Ships in regional rivers sustained great damage.
Several accounts attest to the fury of this great storm. The first was published in London from Strange News from Virginia.
“Sir having this opportunity, I cannot but acquaint you with the relation of a very strange tempest which hath been in these parts (with us called a hurricane) which had began August 27th and continued with such violence, that it overturned many houses, burying in the ruines much goods and many people, beating to the ground such as were any wayes employed in the fields, blowing many cattle that were near the sea or rivers, into them., whereby unknown numbers have perished, to the great afflication of all people, few having escaped who have not suffered in their persons or estates, much corn was blown away, and great quantities of tobacco have been lost, to the great damage of many, and utter undoing of others. Neither did it end here, but the trees were torn up by the roots, and in many places whole woods blown down so that they cannot go from plantation to plantation. The sea (by the violence of the wind) swelled twelve feet above its usual height drowning the whole country before it, with many of the inhabitants, their cattle and goods, the rest being forced to save themselves in the mountains nearest adjoining, while they were forced to remain many days together in great want.”
The tempest, for the time, was so furious, that it hath made a general desolation, overturning many plantations, so that there was nothing that could stand its fury.
The following is a letter from Secretary Thomas Ludwill to Lord Berkeley on the subject of this “dreadful hurry cane.”
“Jamestown Colony – this poore country is now reduced to a very miserable condition by a continental course of misfortune. On the 27th of August followed the most dreadful Hurry Cane that ever the Colony (Jamestown) groaned under. It lasted 24 hours, began at North East and went around northerly till it came to west and so it came to Southeast where it ceased. It was accompanied with a most violent rain but no thunder. The night of it was the most dismal time I ever knew or heard of, for the wind and rain raised so confused a noise, mixed with the continued cracks of failing houses…..The waves were impetuously beaten against the shores and by that violence forced and as it were crowded into all creeks, rivers and bays to that prodigious height that it hazarded the drowning of many people who lived not in sight of the rivers, yet were then forced to climb to the top of their houses to keep themselves above water. The waves carried all the foundations of the Fort at Point Comfort into the river and most of furnished and garrison with it…..but then morning came and the sun risen it would have comforted us after such a night, had it not lighted to us the ruins of our plantations, of which I think not one escaped. The nearest computation is at least 10,000 houses blown down, all the Indian grain laid flat on the ground, all the tobacco in the fields torn to pieces and most of that which was in the houses perished with them. The fences about the corn fields were either blown down or beaten to the ground by trees which fell upon them.”
The Jamestown Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows against an artist’s view of a man in a hurricane, circa 1734.