Friday, June 24, 2016

1816 The Year Without a Summer

Fog dimmed the sunlight. Even wind and rain did not disperse the fog, causing crops to fail. This year became known as the Year Without a Summer or Eighteen Hundred and Froze to Death. The year was 1816, exactly 200 years ago.
The United States had gained their independence 40 years previous to 1816 and new states were being added often. The family of Abraham Lincoln moved from Kentucky to Spencer County, Indiana during the fall of 1816.  Did the family move because Indiana had just been admitted as the 19th U.S. state or was it to find better land? 
Parts of the United States were still having killing frosts in July and August of 1816. Crops failed and food was in short supply in some areas.  The Chambersburgh (Pennsylvania) Repository  reported on 9 July 1816 that frost had been observed in several places. Other states reported snow still on mountain tops during the summer months.
Life continued, though, with farmers mortgaging their land and hoping for a better  year to come.  The Kentucky State Fair began in 1816 and Jubal Early, destined to become famous for his role in the Civil  War, was born in Virginia.  In western Kentucky, the counties of Crittenden, Trigg, Lyon and Webster had not yet been created and the area now known as the Jackson Purchase was still part of the Chickasaw lands.

What caused such a cold winter?  One possibility was a series of volcanic eruptions during the winter of 1815, in particular the eruption of Mt. Tambora in Indonesia. Ash from the volcano filled the air, preventing heat and light from the sun from reaching the earth. With no light or rain to nurture the soil, crops could not grow and a global cooling trend in the weather did not help.

The spring of 2016 was long and cool and talk of another Year Without a Summer was mentioned in the newspapers, but the talk vanished when the temperatures rose to the normal degree of stickiness by June. As this post is being written, the temperatures hover in the mid-90s, putting all threat of a Year Without a Summer to rest.

Published 24 June 2016, Western Kentucky Genealogy Blog,

No comments: