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Historic Storms of New England by Sidney Perley

Devastating ice storms, wildfires burning out of control, the shrinking polar icecap, earthquakes, powerful tsunamis and hurricanes. We hear of (and sometimes experience) extreme weather and environmental disasters all our lives. Humankind lives uneasily on an often-volatile planet. With all our advanced technology and growing base of scientific knowledge, we still have not found a way to control the power of nature. Whether it be the wild force of a storm at sea, or the quiet magic of an acorn that becomes an oak tree, humans are often mystified and made powerless by the natural world.

Whether your interest in reading this book is based on nature, weather, shipwrecks, or history, you’ll find much here to delight and terrify. Sidney Perley’s exhaustive research into a period covering the earliest recorded accounts of New England’s European settlers to the more “modern” time of the 1890s, captures all the heroism and pathos of humans in the path of forces beyond their control.

Sidney Perley went far above and beyond in his own research. A lawyer by profession, he dedicated huge amounts of time and effort outside the office, to researching and preserving a valuable portion of New England history. His prolific work serves as historical reference not only for genealogists and historians, but also for those of us writing about early New England.

His well-researched, boots-on-the-ground details of people, events, buildings, town histories, and weather provide rich material for writing about the day-to-day lives of bygone days. His descriptions often have a “man on the street,” eyewitness feel to them since his research pulled from newspaper accounts, town histories, and memoirs.

That rich detail is very much in evidence here in Historic Storms of New England. Perley captures the excitement, dread, heroism, and tragedy of those who experienced the storms. Far from being a dry recitation of incidents, Perley’s vivid recounting will likely send his readers diving for cover at the slightest rumble of thunder or change in the wind. He reminds us, now, as he did when the book was first written in 1891, that humankind is tiny and frail when compared to a roaring gale on land or sea or a mountain freshet that carries away all man’s work in a single moment.