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Why did our Ancestors move South? ~

Submitted by Cousin Mim Taylor

Our Ancestors in Ashfield were imvolved in farming as most folks were in those early times.  Many raised "mint" for sale in Boston and New York where there was a demand for it.

1812  Samuel Ranney begins growing peppermint and distilling peppermint essence. This business proved very profitable, and by 1821 there were five distilleries, and by 1830 there were ten. Other essences distilled included tansy, spearmint, hemlock, spruce, and wintergreen. In 1830 the Bement store began equipping peddlers with essences and other items. Many of the families in this industry eventually relocated to New York, where the growing conditions were better.

Source: History of Ashfield

The earth and weather were conducive for this plant until...........

The Year Without a Summer:
By Patrick Hughes

The year 1816 is legendary in the annals of weather. It has been called "the year without a summer", "poverty year," and "eighteen hundred froze to death.".
From May through September, an unprecedented series of cold spells chilled the northeastern United States and adjoining Canadian provinces, causing a backward spring, a cold summer, and an early fall. There was heavy snow in June and frost even in July and August. All across the Northeast, farmers' crops were repeatedly killed by the cold, raising the specter of widespread famine.

The amazing weather of 1816 is well documented in the diaries and memoirs of those who endured it. Benjamin Harrison, a farmer in Bennington, Vermont. termed it "the most gloomy and extraordinary weather ever seen." Chauncey Jerome of Plymouth, Connecticut, writing in 1860, recalled "I well remember the 7th of June. . . dressed throughout with thick woolen clothes and an overcoat on. My hands got so cold that I was obliged to lay down my tools and put on a pair of mittens...On the 10th of June, my wife brought in some clothes that had been spread on the ground the night before, which were frozen stiff as in winter. On the 4th of July, I saw several men pitching quoits in the middle of the day with overcoats on and the sun shining bright at the time."

Since relatively few settlers had yet crossed the Mississippi, most of our weather observations for 1816 come from the eastern United States, particularly the Northeast, where there was a tradition of weather watching. The best observations available were made at Williamstown, in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts.
April and May 1816 were both cold months over the Northeast, with frost retarding spring planting. Flowers were late in blooming and many fruit trees did not blossom until the end of May - only to have their budding leaves and blossoms killed by a hard frost which also destroyed corn and some other plants

Warm weather finally came to all parts of the Northeast during the first few days of June. Farmers forgot the frost of May and began replanting their crops. But even as they labored, a cold front was approaching that would bring disaster.

Following the frontal passage, temperatures tumbled dramatically under the onslaught of Arctic air. At noon on June 5, the temperature at Wiliiamstown was 83 degrees. By 7am on the 6th, it had dropped to 45 degrees - the highest temperature recorded for the day.

All across central New England, early morning temperatures were the highest recorded for the day.

From June 6 to 9, severe frost occurred every night from Canada to Virginia. Ice was reported near Philadelphia and "every green herb was killed, and vegetables of every description very much injured." In northern Vermont, the ice was an inch thick on standing water while elsewhere in the state icicles were to be seen a foot long... corn and other vegetables were killed to the ground, and upon the high lands the leaves of the trees withered and fell off."
People shivered, dug out their winter clothing and built roaring fires. Farmers watched helplessly as their budding fields and gardens blackened and in northern towns newly shorn sheep, though sheltered, perished. Thousands of birds also froze to death, as did millions of the yellow cucumber bug.

The culmination of this remarkable cold wave came early on the 1lth of June: At Williamstown the observer noted, "Heavy frost-vegetables killed at 5 o'clock temperature 30.5 degrees." Overall, frost killed almost all the corn in New England, the main food staple, as well as most garden vegetables.

There were two snowfalls. The first on the 6th, brought relatively light snow to the highlands of western and northern New York State and most of Vermont, New Hampshire,and Maine. the second occurred during the night of June 7-8, following the passage of a second cold front. It brought moderate to heavy snow to northern New England, with lighter snow and snow flurries extending eastward to the coast and southward through northern Massachusetts and New York State's Catskill Mountains.

The following account appeared in the Danville, Vermont, North Star: Melancholy Weather . . . On the night of the 7th and morning of the 8th a kind of sleet or exceeding cold snow fell, attended by high wind, and measured in places where it drifted 18 to 20 inches in depth. Saturday morning (8th) the weather was more severe than it generally is in the winter. It was indeed a gloomy and tedious period.

In Canada. Montreal had snow squalls on both the 6th and 8th of June, while 12 inches of snow accumulated near Quebec city from the 6th to the 10th, with some drifts "reaching the axle tress of carriages."

This first summer cold spell was followed by 4 weeks of relatively good weather. Farmers again replanted, and crops were growing well when, at the end of the first week in July, a new cold outbreak came. Although not as severe as the one in June, it killed corn, beans, cucumbers, and squash in northern New England, and soon had local farmers talking about the threat of a general famine.

Once again, the remainder of the month was more seasonable, though there was another cool spell around the 18th. The hardier grains such as wheat and rye, however, came along well, and by August farmers were joking about their earlier "famine fever."
On August 20, another cold wave arrived, tumbling temperatures in New Hampshire some 30 degrees. During the next 2 days, frost was reported as far east as Portland, Maine, and as far south as East Windsor, Conn. Travelers between Albany, New York and Boston reported most of the corn in low-lying areas destroyed.

A more severe frost came at the end of August: In Keene, N:H., it put an end to the hopes of many corn growers, and whole fields had to be cut up for fodder.
The first week of September was relatively warm, but around the 11th and 12th a cold outbreak again visited the Northeast with hard frost reported in northern and central New England. it was the widespread and killing frost of September 27th however, which irrevocably closed out this dismal growing season and destroyed all hopes of even a small corn harvest in northern New England.

A Concord N.H, paper reported: Indian corn on which a large portion of the poor depend is cut off. It is believed that through New England scarcely a tenth part of the usual crop...will be gathered. In Montreal it was said that... many parishes in Quebec must inevitably be in a state of famine before winter sets in. During the severe winter of 1816-1817 which followed. the threat of starvation or semi-starvation became reality for many.

The first general migration from New England to the Midwest occurred the following year. Although there were other factors involved, it is interesting to note that the three northern States of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, which bore the brunt of the cold weather, suffered the greatest exodus.

ln summary, the chief weather abnormalities of 1816 were the series of totally unexpected cold spells that occurred continuously through late spring, summer, and early fall and of course, the June snow.

New England temperatures averaged 3 to 6 below normal in June and July, and 2 to 3 degrees below in August. May also had been below normal as was the following September. It had been just as cold (or even colder) in each of these months in other years, but never consecutively. More significant however, is the fact that in 1816 the low temperatures occurred in a region where even a few degrees difference in the minimum temperature can mean a severe frost.

Although the New England farmer considered it a local tragedy, the abnormal weather was widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere. In England it was almost as cold as in the United States, and 18l6 was a famine year there, as it was in France and Germany.

Actually, 1816 was just one of a famous series of cold years. From 1812 it was cold over the whole world. In the United States, the depression of summer temperatures was the most remarkable on record.

According to William Humphreys, a Weather Bureau scientist writing almost a century later, the cold years were caused largely by volcanic dust in the earth's atmosphere: Such dust partially shields the Earth from the Sun's rays, but permits heat to escape from the Earth, thus lowering the temperature.

Three major volcanic eruptions took place between 1812 and 1817. Soufriere on St. Vincent Island erupted in 1812; Mayon in the Philippines in 1814; and Tarnbora on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia in 1815. The worst was Tambora, a 13,000-foot volcano that belched f1ame and ash from April 7 to 12, 1815; and rained stone fragments on surrounding villages.

It has been estimated that Tambora's titanic explosion blew from 37 to 100 cubic miles of dust, ashes, and cinders into the atmosphere, generating a globe-girdling veil of volcanic dust.

The idea that volcanic dust suspended in the atmosphere might lower the Earth's temperature has been around for a long time. Like many other scientific firsts, it can be traced to Benjamin Franklin, although the thought may not have been original with him.

In 1913, William Humphreys published a now classic paper documenting the correlation between historic volcanic eruptions and worldwide temperature depressions.
According to Humphreys, volcanic dust is some 30 times more effective in keeping the Sun's radiation out than in keeping the Earth's in. And once blown into the atmosphere-more specifically; the stratosphere it may take years for the dust to settle out (the finest particles from Krakatoa's eruption in 1883, for example, took 2 to 3 years to reach the ground.) During this period the average temperature of the whole world may drop a degree or two; while local losses can be considerably greater.

The chief effect however, as in 1816, seems to be the dramatic depression of minimum temperatures during the summer. A weak sunspot maximum also preceded the cold summer of 1816. During May and June, these blemishes on the face of the Sun grew large enough to be seen with the naked eye and people squinted at them through smoked glass.

In Humphreys day, sunspots were thought to reduce the amount of solar radiation emitted and during a period of maximum occurrence, to depress the Earth's average temperature by as much as a half degree. As a result, sunspots also were blamed for the trials of the New England farmer in 1816. Humphreys showed, however, that whatever the historic correlation between the Earth's average temperature and the occurrence of sunspot maximums, the most pronounced dips in the world temperature curve were, without exception, associated with violent volcanic eruptions that exploded great quantities of dust into the stratosphere.

An example is the famous cold year of 1785, which followed the frightful eruptions of Mount Asama in Japan and Skaptar Jokull in Iceland. These produced a widely observed "dry fog " the phenomenon that led Benjamin Franklin to suspect a relationship between cold weather and volcanic eruptions.

Volcanic dust is believed to have played a role and perhaps a major one in the great climatic changes of past ages. Even relatively small variations in the Earth's annual mean temperature can cause widespread changes in Arctic ice packs and world sea levels, in desert boundaries, and in the geographic limits of plant, animal, and human life. According to Humphreys, volcanic dust blown into the stratosphere once a year or even once every 2 years, would continuously maintain temperatures low enough to cover the earth with a mantle of snow so extensive as to be self perpetuating, and thereby initiate at least a cool period, or, under the most favorable conditions, even an ice age.

The New England farmer of 1816, of course, knew nothing of such theories, he knew only that something had gone wrong with the weather. And when that dreadful summer was followed by a winter so severe that the mercury froze in the thermometers, he must surely have thought the change was permanent.

Extracts from History of Madison County, New York... "Town of De Ruyter, Madison County, New York.

In 1816 came the "cold season". There was frost in every month. The crops were cut off and the meager harvest of grain was nowhere near sufficient for the needs of the people. The whole of the newly settled interior of New York was also suffering from the same cause. The inhabitants saw famine approaching. (The alarm and depression so wrought upon the community, that a religious revival ensued.) What little grain there was that could be purchased at all was held at remarkable prices and this scant supply soon failed. Jonathan Bently at one time paid two dollars for a bushel of corn, which when ground proved so poor that it was unfit for use: throwing it to his swine, they to refused the vile food. Every resource for sustenance was carefully husbanded; even forest berries and roots were preserved.

The spring of 1817 developed the worst phases of want. In various sections of the county, families were brought to the very verge of starvation! One relates that he was obliged to dig up the potatoes he had planted, to furnish one meal a day to his famishing family. Another states that his family lived for months without bread, save what was obtained in small crusts for his sick mother, and the milk was their chief sustenance.

When the planting season arrived there was no seed grain in De Rutyer, so the inhabitants combined and sent Jeremiah Gage to Onondaga County to canvass for wheat and corn. He was absent several days and the people, all alive to the importance of his mission, grew discouraged, fearing that there was none to be found. At length he was seen approaching along the road, his wagon loaded. a crowd quickly gathered; there was great rejoicing and tears stood in strong mens eyes. Each family repaired to Gage's house to receive their quota of grain and every household that day was glad.

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