New Hampshire’s Year Without a Summer

Some of us were wondering if this was going to be New Hampshire’s Year without a Winter.  In one year quite the opposite occurred.  That year, 1816 is known among the few old men who remember it as “the year without a summer.”  In every month there was a severe frost, and the greater part of the crops were substantially destroyed.  It was often referred to as “eighteen hundred and starve to death.”

January was mild, as was also February, with the exception of a few days.  The greater part of March was cold and boisterous.  April opened warm, but grew colder as it advanced, ending with snow and ice and winter cold.  In May ice formed half an inch thick, buds and flowers were killed and corn frozen.  Frost, ice and snow were common in June.  On inauguration day, in June, there was snow to the depth of four inches on a level in Warner; in Maine the snow was ten inches deep.  Almost every green thing was killed, and the fruit was nearly all destroyed. 

July was accompanied with frost and ice.  On the 5th the ice was formed of the thickness of window-glass in New York and all the New England states.  In August ice formed half an inch thick.  A cold northern wind prevailed nearly all summer. Corn was so damaged that a great deal was cut and dried for fodder.  Very little ripened in New Hampshire, and even in the Middle States the crop was small. Farmers were obliged to pay four dollars and even five dollars a bushel for corn of 1815 harvest for seed for the next spring’s planting.

The first two weeks of September were mild; the rest of the month was cold, with frost, and ice formed a quarter of an inch thick.  October was more than usually cold, with frost and ice.  November was cold and blustering with snow enough for good sleighing. December was quite mild and comfortable.

Source: The History of Merrimack and Belknap Counties, New Hampshire. edited by D. Hamilton Hurd. Philadelphia: J.W. Lewis & Co. 1885, page 670

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Following this cold year, a great number of New England residents left the area, moving to Ohio and other parts Midwest and West. This is one reason why the New Hampshire town censuses dropped so rapidly during this time period.

NOTE: According to Channel 7 News, in Boston, the Year Without A Summer “was caused by the eruption of the Tamboro volcano east of Java in April 1815. It sent so much debris into the atmosphere that the temperature on Earth was temporarily lowered. Since it does take time for volcanic matter to get distributed throughout the atmosphere, it was the summer of 1816 that was affected.”

Janice

*Additional Reading*

Eighteen Hundred And Froze To Death

North Country Primer

1816 The Year Without A Summer

The Eruption of Mount Tambora (1815) –

The Infamous Year Without A Summer Archive

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