Year Without Summer 1816

Great-Grandma Leota Spencer’s paternal grandmother was a McMinn.  It seems our Spencer-McMinn immigrant, David McMinn, came from Scotland in 1774 (son William, born Nov 1773 in Scotland, died in Ulster County, New York, eight months later).  David was listed in census of 1810, and his name was listed 1820 census, but the data was empty, implying he was dead.  Just discovered this climate tidbit, in my research for the McMinn family (fss-MMM) in New England.

The decade of 1810 to 1820 brought cold climate change all around the world.  In 1816 the region remained frozen for much the year.  June 6, 1816 found ten inches of snowfall in New England.  Will look at other family lines during this decade … later.

Wiki says “At the Church Family of Shakers near New Lebanon, New York, Nicholas Bennet wrote in May 1816, “all was froze” and the hills were “barren like winter”. Temperatures went below freezing almost every day in May. The ground froze on June 9. On June 12, the Shakers had to replant crops destroyed by the cold. On July 7, it was so cold, everything had stopped growing. The Berkshire Hills had frost again on August 23, as did much of the upper northeast.”

Three-quarters of the corn crop (main food for those with low income) failed.  Prices soared, fire was constant danger and it brought widespread famine.

Quote in NEHS: “The New Hampshire Patriot reported on Oct. 22, 1816, that ‘Indian corn, on which a large proportion of the poor depend is cut off. ‘ Vermont farmers lost much of their livestock, and Vermonters foraged for food such as nettles, wild turnips and hedgehogs.”  (( ))  and … “The drought caused wildfires to break out in the woods throughout New England. Fires in western New York produced so much smoke that sailors were blinded on Lake Champlain.” and … “At the time, many reasons were given for the weird phenomena: sunspots, deforestation, great fields of ice floating in the Atlantic, Benjamin Franklin’s lightning rod experiment and, of course, the wrath of God.”

Science Daily ( ) says that “… the cold temperatures in the early part of the decade, before that ((1815)) eruption, suggest Tambora alone could not have caused the climatic changes of the decade.”

“Our new evidence is that the volcanic sulfuric acid came down at the opposite poles at precisely the same time, and this means that the sulfate is from a single, large eruption of a volcano in 1809,” Cole-Dai said. “The  ((1815)) Tambora eruption and the undocumented 1809 eruption are together responsible for the unusually cold decade.””


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