archival-document

Hurricane of 1834, Governor’s Dispatch

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Description by Kaila-Ann Guiste:

This year of dispatches are handwritten, and a bound section gives reports of a hurricane. It reports a major hurricane on the night of the 20th of September 1834. The bound stack of dispatches describes the plight of the island and issues several requests for supplies of provisions and lumber to rebuild after the hurricane.

There was a section where the body for planters had been needing assistance because of destruction to fields.  There had also been devastating destruction of property. A quote from the document; (pg 3 line 11-)

 …the proclamation by the Lieutenant Governor on the 27th of September authorizing the importation into the island ‘in the (vessels) of all rations duty and tonnage free of the following articles, the growth, produce or manufacture of any foreign country, whatever flour, shingles of any description, staves of all descriptions, pitch, white and (bellum) (pine) lumber, and lumber of all other descriptions, food, (doughs), beef, pork and all species of salted, diced and pickled fish;- such importation to be permitted for the period of six months from the date hereof’.

In follow-up dispatches in this bound section these requests were repeated, as they were still in demand. Within that year, dispatches after this time still make mention of being set back or systems being affected by the severe hurricane.

Kaila’s reflections:

I was spellbound by the ink on the pages and the beautiful penmanship. Though some reports were hard to read, the word “hurricane” was easy to find. In this dispatch the letters about the hurricane were bound together making it easier to find. The hard part then was deciphering it. The text in these documents is all handwritten and the stylish cursive causes some letters to become lost.

By identifying which letters look like what and then using contextual clues I was able to understand what was said as though I had written it myself. The paper was surprisingly durable, and the ink was completely intact despite being 187 years old. The tone of the dispatch is of urgency more so than that of the later 1916 hurricane, which was also a bad hurricane.

The governor’s response here was a request for mass importation of supplies duty free because of the extent of the hurricane. According to my list of hurricanes, this one was supposedly very close to what happened in hurricane David.

Although there are no in-depth descriptions of what happened nor follow up reports on how those shipments turned out, it was fascinating to see the urgency and persistence expressed by the Government. This hurricane must have truly been terrible.

  • KAG, Spring 2021

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