GFA Bulletin Flashback from November 1938

New England Hurricane & Flood

On September 21, 1938, occurred the greatest windstorm, probably in the history of New England.  As the Griswold Family has members all over the United States, we thought it might be interesting to them to learn of the damage done, especially in those towns where reunions have been held.

This hurricane was preceded by a week of heavy rain, causing floods, which in themselves were of serious nature.  The storm was unexpected and of great violence, uprooting trees, blowing off roofs, chimneys and in the State of Connecticut alone, over forty church steeples.  After the storm had abated, a tidal wave rolled in, wrecking hundreds of cottages along the shore, and causing much loss of life in some sections.

In Old Lyme, the home of the Mathew branch of the Griswold family, beautiful and stately elms were destroyed in all sections of the town.  It was reported that the fine old mansion, known as the Florence Griswold House, was completely destroyed.  Investigation proved the house intact but surrounded on all sides by fallen trees.  No damage apparently was done to the fine old Colonial church in which our reunion was held in 1933.

Those who attended this year’s reunion in Clinton will remember the fine grove of trees in front of the church.  Many of these were uprooted during the storm.  Clinton’s principal damage was to its shore property, particularly that section known as Clinton Beach.

In Guilford, where Griswold meetings were held in 1932 and 1935, the steeple was blown from the Congregational Church in which both of those meetings were held.  This church is one of the finest of the colonial type of architecture in New England, and a large fund has already been raised to restore it before Guilford’s Tercentenary in 1939.  The historic and beautiful “Guilford Green” lost ninety-eight percent of its approximately one hundred and fifty trees.  Most of those destroyed were large elms and maples, leaving only a few old ones, the rest having been planted within the last few years.  Only a few days had passed before a move to replant the Green was underway.  A considerable sum has already been raised.

Those who visited the home of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Griswold in Branford will regret to learn that the very large and handsome horse chestnut tree in front of their house was blown over.  The branches have been cut off and the tree reset.

Mr. Jared Standish of Wethersfield reports that Griswoldville, where our family association was born in 1930, lost a great many fine old trees.  At a recent rodeo and hose show, which is held in Griswoldville annually, a large percentage of the receipts was donated to the town Park Department, to be used in replacing the lost with as large trees as can be successfully handled.  The famous Wethersfield elm, one of the largest in the U.S. still stands, although five of its major branches were blown off.

Griswolds who pride themselves in the sturdy and courageous character of their New England forebears, will be glad to know that their spirit still lives as manifested in this crisis.

Editor’s Note (2023):  According to the National Weather Service, The Great New England Hurricane of 1938 was one of the most destructive and powerful storms ever to strike Southern New England.  The strongest winds ever recorded in the region occurred at the Blue Hill Observatory with sustained winds of 121 mph and a peak gust of 186 mph. The hurricane produced storm tides of 14 to 18 feet across most of the Connecticut coast .

Griswolds in the News

Harry W. Griswold of West Salem, WI, has been elected United States Congressman from his district, on the Republican ticket.  Mr. Griswold is a son of the late Henry Griswold and Jennie Dudley Griswold, natives of Guildford, CT.

Among those present at this year’s reunion in Clinton, were Mr. and Mrs. R.H. Weldon of So. Pasadena, CA.  Mrs. Weldon is a sister of the late Joel Sabin Griswold of Pasadena, a former member of the Executive Committee.  Mr. and Mrs. Weldon were returning home from a trip through New England and New York State, and timed their visit to coincide with the Griswold Family Gathering.

Another California Griswold is Chief Glenn G. Griswold of the Los Angeles Fire Department, hydraulic engineer, who perfected the Griswold Fog Nozzle, which produces a fog that is characteristically and chemically like natural fog.  To perfect this a long period of patient experimentation was necessary, but is now a tremendous help in fire fighting.

Editor’s Note (2023):  Chief Griswold’s invention was featured in the July 1938 edition of Scientific American, which can be found online.

Among our travelers are Mr. Harry and Miss Jessie Griswold of White Hall, Illinois, who returned in May from an extensive trip to Hawaii, Australia, South Africa, and England.  While in England, they visited Malvern Hall, Solihull, and Yardley, and in Birmingham found an old Griswold home called “Blakesley Hall”, now owned by the city of Birmingham and used as an art gallery.


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