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My 90-Year-Old Uncle Survived the ‘Great Catastrophe’ of Meredith, New Hampshire

My 4th Great-Uncle Moses Plummer (1765-1859), the son of Jesse Plummer (1740-1824) and Sarah Merrill (1739-1824), lived his entire life in Meredith, Belknap County, New Hampshire – and, as it turns out, had a part in one of the most notable and tragic events in Meredith’s history: “The Great Catastrophe of 1855.”

I discovered Moses’ involvement in this event while researching him in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

Source: GenealogyBank

I had searched for Moses’ name and birth and death years in GenealogyBank’s New Hampshire newspapers when I came upon a Weekly Union article about the “terrible accident.”

Source: GenealogyBank, Weekly Union (Manchester, New Hampshire), 21 March 1855, page 2

This article reports:

“Yesterday morning, shortly after 10 o’clock, while the citizens of the town of Meredith were assembled in the new Town House in Meredith Village, and were proceeding with the ballot for the choice of Moderator, a portion of the floor of the Hall, near the eastern end of the building fell in, and three hundred persons, it is said, were precipitated into the space beneath, which was filled with stones, timber, and rubbish, and several of them fatally, dangerously, and severely hurt, and all the others more or less bruised.”

Moses, who was 90 at the time of the accident, is mentioned further down in the article as having been “slightly injured.”

Source: GenealogyBank, Weekly Union (Manchester, New Hampshire), 21 March 1855, page 2

I wanted to learn more, so I searched GenealogyBank for the keywords “Meredith” and “town hall.”

Source: GenealogyBank

This search led me to a Sun article about the event.

Source: GenealogyBank, Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 14 March 1855, page 1

According to this article:

“A frightful accident occurred at Meredith today. Whilst the people were balloting in the Town Hall, the floor suddenly gave way, precipitating some three hundred persons into the stores beneath, a distance of 18 feet.

“Forty persons were taken out with their limbs broken and otherwise injured, four of whom are not expected to recover. The affair produced a most intense excitement.”

An Internet search provided more information about the floor cave-in, including the fact that the building was unfinished at the time of the accident:

“The first town hall was on Parade Road, but the town voted in 1854 to move it to the corner of Main and Lake Streets in Meredith Village. On March 13, 1855, during the first town meeting in the still unfinished hall, the floor collapsed under the pressure of the weight of six to eight hundred voters, about 150 fell to the basement killing four and injuring many others.”


Moses Plummer lived four more years after the catastrophe and died in 1859 at age 94.