Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Shivering Shakers: July 12, 1841

1816 is famous for being the year without summer. A volcano in the Dutch East Indies spread so much ash into the atmosphere that crops failed across the world. New England was particularly hard hit with frosts in each month of the summer and snow in August. A 1817 almanac in our collections reflected on 1816 philosophically: "Frost destroys the seeds of disease'--Perhaps if the frost had not prevented, a destructive pestilence might have depopulated North America."

Apparently 1841 wasn't much better in New Hampshire. We have the daily diary of Seth Bradford from June 1834 to March of 1849. A farmer and member of the Shaker community in Enfield, New Hampshire, Bradford recorded the mundane but essential facts of each day that pertained to his crops. Mixed into entries like "Washed Sheep," and "The Peas Bloomed" are moments of historical importance such as "Began to raise the Stone Dwelling House" on July 1, 1837. But what caught our eye was the sobering entry (and sobering is a strong word for Shakers) on July 12, 1841. Underlined and written larger than any other day is, "A Frost in the morning." The weather was important. The next year, after he records over nine inches of rain in a two-week period causing a dam to break, after which he reported, "Reuben Dickey becomes deranged and put into close confinement."

Luckily, we have been having a lovely July so far this year.

To see the diary ask for Codex MS 000585, Leavitt's Farmer's Amanac is at NH Imprints Gilmanton 1804 (ask for the 1815-1829 volume).

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