The Great Windfall of 1845 was a wind storm and tornado on September 20, 1845 that swept from western New York to northern Vermont.


Essex County Republican, September 27, 1845

Tornado and Hail Storm.

Last Saturday we were visited by one of the most destructive storms of wind, hail and rain that has occurred in this vicinity for years, commencing at about 6 o'clock from the south west, and raging with unabated fury nearly two hours.

So far as we have learned, the ravages of the storm commenced at Union Falls, making a complete wreck of many of the buildings in that place, and for a distance of twenty miles in a north-easterly direction, over a track from 80 to 100 rods in width, it swept every thing before it— trees fences, barns and houses were levelled with the ground. Duncan's forge was considerably injured, the chimneys blown off even with the roof, and several out-buildings destroyed. The brick school house near the Travis forge in Peru was utterly demolished, and the brick dwelling of H. N. Peabody near by was partially destroyed.-- We hear of two houses that were blown down over the heads of the inmates, and it is most extraordinary that no lives were lost. Some 15 to 20 buildings were destroyed or injured in that vicinity by the wind which committed no further depredations until it reached Burlington, where it unroofed the house of Mrs. Moody, blew down some barns, &c. It struck the steamer Burlington near Fort Cassin, but she braved the storm handsomely, suffering no greater damage than the loss of some loose deck plank, which were picked up miles from the shore.

Although Chesterfield escaped unscathed the ravages of the tornado, she suffered severely from the hail. In many houses every light of glass in the exposed quarters were broken out. Fortunately the crops were mostly secured, or the destruction would have been greater. Fruit that was exposed suffered materially; in some orchards the whole crop was bruised and cut up by the hail so that much will be lost, We are informed that hail stones were picked up near Port Douglass measuring over five inches in circumference.

Mr. Rogers, of Forksville, was crossing the Little Ausable north of Peru village when the blow reached him, giving himself, horses and carriage a complete somerset into the river, scattering the plank of the bridge in every direction.  By a remarkable providence no injury was done to Mr. Rogers or his team, beyond the unpleasant circumstance of a ducking in the mud of the creek.

A barn belonging to Hugh McClurkin above New Sweden was struck by lightning and consumed with the most dreadful equinoctial storms we have ever been visited with.


The Great Windfall of 1845 in New York State, by Albert Fowler, The St. Lawrence Historical Association Quarterly, January, 1962

. . .  Some 15 miles southeast of Russell appeared a second swath, long called the Great Windfall of 1845 on local maps, comprising a one-half mile wide stretch from Cranberry Lake to the eastern boundary of St. Lawrence county. This strip of the 1845 tornado track appeared on a map of the area copyrighted in 1896, and through the good offices of an Adirondack authority, Mr. Warder Cadbury, and the son of the mapmaker, Mr. Lloyd Blankman, the pertinent part of the St. Lawrence County map is reproduced here. A close study of the U.S. Geological Survey quadrangle maps shows evidence that this swath extended another five miles east into Franklin County to the vicinity of Derrick. The evidence is in the form of place names, such as Windfall Pond, and Windfall Brooks, the most easterly of which empties into the St. Regis River.

For the next 30 miles of forests, lakes and mountains, there are no reports of tornado activity that can be traced today. We do know that a tornado emerged from the wilderness at Union Falls in Essex County on the same compass line as the Great Windfall. The Plattsburgh Republican stated that the whirl cut a 20-mile long swath from 80 to 100 rods wide, sweeping everything before it--trees, fences, barns and houses. Farther along the same compass line buildings in the town of Peru were damaged, Slightly to the south of this track some structural damage occurred in the villages of Wilmington and Keeseville, and out on Lake Champlain the steamer Burlington had several deck planks removed by a whirlwind, and some buildings in the northern part of the city of Burlington on the Vermont shore of Lake Champlain received minor injuries from the wind. Whether the Wilmington-Keeseville-Burlington damage line was a third tornado or the continuation of one of the two major windfalls previously described cannot, of course, be determined at this late date. . .

. . . In regard to the further extent of the blowdown, there is a clearing near Childwold which was called "The Slash" for many years, and the storm also hit the town of Gale a bit to the southeast. One old resident reports the tornado denuded the top of the ridge where Route 3 now looks across Tupper Lake for its first view of the big mountains around Placid and Saranac. From Cranberry Lake to Tupper Lake Route 3 follows the tornado track to a large extent...