The year there was no summer
Summer of 1816
The year was1816, the weather that spring pointed towards a cool summer and the Farmer's Almanac predicted snow in July much to everyone's amusement. No one could have imagined how the summer would play out or that stories of that summer would be passed down from generation to generation.
The month of May was unseasonably cold with light snowfalls and strong cold fronts. The farmers were eager to seed their fields, but with cold temperatures and heavy frosts they decided to wait until early June.
Much to their shock the first week of June began with a storm that dumped twelve inches of snow with two foot drifts. It snowed many times during the month of June and ice was seen along the banks of streams and brooks.
Wherever people gathered the strange weather was discussed, the men worried about their crops and animals and the women wondered if there would be any fruit or vegetables to put up for the next winter. There had not been any berries and apple orchards were unproductive
There was grim news of a farmer who had gone out in one of those June snowstorms to fix a shelter in a pasture for his sheep. He became lost in the snow, three days later he was found dead, half buried in the snow about a mile from the pasture.
Each month brought warming trends and a few days of hot weather so the farmers hopefully put in their crops which did poorly. In July, a strong cold front came through and they woke up to see their crops lying withered and black. The cold front had killed the tomatoes, cucumbers, corn and squash. Some hardy grains survived, but the potatoes were not doing well, some didn't grow at all because of the bad weather. It was then the first talk of famine began.
With a shortage of hay and corn prices rising from $1.00 to nearly $3.00 a bushel farmers were unable to feed their animals and in desperation began selling their cows, pigs and sheep. They sold their livestock at a loss because so many animals being sold flooded the market and drove down the price farmers could get for their meat.
People began to panic. 1816 was turning out to be a year of hardships and there were stories of people living on a diet of rabbits, raccoons, and fish caught in the St. Francis River. It was very cold, the firewood was getting low and they had to keep the fires burning to heat their houses. No one had expected that. In the summer they usually made fires only to cook, bake or heat water.
Depression was widespread in most communities and especially in the country where families were more isolated. After a long winter people had been looking forward to the few short months of summer. There was very little sunshine and the landscape was bleak without the usual colorful flower beds and gardens.
Each morning they awoke to dull grey skies sometimes with a yellow or reddish haze that blocked out the sun's rays. No one understood what was happening or why and many people feared the end of the world was coming.
I first read about the summer of 1816 from the story, The year that was without a summer, by Henry Mulvena, several years ago. At the time he wrote his story Mr. Mulvena based his research on a story passed down by his father and articles from the Vermont Standard newspaper.
According to my internet research, this time of turmoil experienced by our ancestors was caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora in the Dutch East Indies on April 5, 1815. The volcano spewed so much ash and aerosols into the atmosphere that the sky darkened and the Sun was blocked from view. Weather patterns affected the climate worldwide
The summer of 1816 was unlike any summer people could remember. Snow fell in New England. Gloomy, cold rains fell throughout Europe. It was cold and stormy and dark unlike normal summer weather. As a result, 1816 became known in Europe and North America as "The Year Without a Summer."