One of the more intriguing questions I get from researchers and writers is “what was the weather like on May 12, 1835”, or some equally distant date. Amazingly, I can often find the answer using regular diaries and what we refer to as “weather diaries.”
We recently acquired a weather diary kept in Ashford, Connecticut, in the winter of 1837. It starts in November and ends in February 1838. Each day the author noted the weather, observations on the weather, and the prevailing wind. For example, on November 16, the author noted that it was “Clear & Pleasant. The snow is melting. No water in the swamps.” Evidently the precipitation was sorely needed, for the note for November 26 indicates that there was no water in the swamps or the wells.
My favorite parts of this diary are the author’s monthly summations which discuss not only the weather but also provides a bit of social history. Here is the summary for February:
At the commencement of February every one said we were a going to have a mild month but we can now see what man knows of the works of nature or the changeing of the seasons The month has in truth been a very cold one, more so than usual, all the snow we have had this winter has been in Feb. and most of the month has been good sleighing. The ground being covered with snow of course we see no spring Birds or any sight of any. There appears to be an abundance of hay in the country and the price of grain is rapidly falling All kinds of stock are exceeding high except sheep of which there is no sale Wool is worth 40 cts. only and it must be good to bring that.
In our modern suburban world, most of us don’t worry about how much hay is available or the price of wool. We are so removed from the land; snow means difficult travel into or from work, or the loss of school days, or days without electricity (which means no computers or video games!). Quite a contrast. The author was able to find one positive aspect of the snow: the sleighing was good.
I wish we knew the name of the person who kept this diary. However, he (I keep thinking of this person as he) keeps a faithful record so I can answer the question, what was the weather like on December 25, 1837, the next time someone asks.