On August 9, 1878, a tornado swept from west to east across the northern part of Wallingford. The most destructive tornado to ever have struck the state, it cut a swath of about one-half mile wide and two miles long across what was then called the “Plains.” The storm came over Mount Tom, or Lamentation Mountain, passing across the man-made Community Lake and reportedly creating a water spout 200 feet high.
The tornado killed 34 people and injured 70, 28 severely, as it ripped up trees and carried houses and barns from their foundations. A fire spread through some of the ruined wooden structures but was quickly extinguished by the rain. The tornado destroyed a total of 40 houses and a number of barns as well as the orchards in its path. The town also suffered the loss of their new brick schoolhouse (the upper two floors were destroyed), the Community windmill and brick factory, and the wooden Catholic Church. The area of Colony and Christian Streets was the hardest hit.
The storm downed telegraph wires, making communication difficult, but a request for help was sent by the 7:00 train as the rails of the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad remained open. The return train brought help from Meriden physicians, and as word spread assistance came from neighboring towns and the city of Hartford.
Thousands attended the burial of 25 of the victims the following Sunday. The local special police were called in to keep back the crowds, and the papers reported that a minimum of 2,000 carriages were in the procession.