Local and National TV channel meteorologists, radio weather news readers, the Internet and so forth, all say the same thing time to time ... “The weather is UNUSUAL.” For heaven’s sake! What could be more usual than the unusualness of the weather?
One day it can be ninety degrees and a few hours later fifty degrees cooler, or vice versa. Unless you lived in Death Valley or Antarctica, weather changes constantly and that’s the usual part of it.
Oh, we’ll have days/weeks of hot, dry weather like we did last summer, 2012, and which we hadn’t had for sometime; then comes 2013 when it’ll rain and be chilly day after day. It’s Illinois, the Northwest, where it’s usual to have different weather day by day. Weather ups and downs have long been recorded by the interested and curious. Maybe Og, the Cave Man, marked X’s and O’s for dry and wet, or something like it.
Recording weather is part of human nature and eventually it was discovered that one kind of weather affected something else and meteorology was invented.
In the reminiscences of Fay Landis concerning Coleta and its suburbs he lists the weather for certain years that he’d asked his neighbors about and what they could recall. It is printed here verbatim:
“The winter of 1842-1843 was extremely cold as was the winter of 1832-1833 when many perished in the State of Michigan. In 1842 it began to rain on November 16 and it turned to snow on the 17th. Here (Whiteside County) the wind blew and Rock Creek froze over the next morning. It remained very cold all winter. On the 23rd of March, 1843 it was twenty-three degrees below zero. The creek ice did not break up until the afternoon of April 9, 1843. It was nearly May before any field work could be begun. In more modern times I can remember in the thirties there was a driving rainstorm on November 11 on Armistice Day. It turned to snow by morning and fell below zero before morning. The chickens froze to death trying to find shelter in a wood pile that hadn’t been sawed into stove lengths. Also in the late thirties we had snow on September 25th. It was a beautiful Sunday morning but by late afternoon we had a terrible blizzard. Our trees were laden with snow and the pears and apples had not yet been picked; however, to our surprise, the fruit did not get frozen but you could have played checkers on our (stiff) coat tails because of the speed with which we picked them. We got the garden produce into the cellar, dug the potatoes and gathered in the pumpkins.
“The year 1844 was very wet ... 1851, 1858, 1861 and 1869 had corn failures. In 1859 we had frost every month and most of the time killing frost. On the 4th of July we had such a hard frost that it killed the corn. The corn crop was a total failure and the other crops light. It was followed by 1860, the most fruitful year there ever was in this part of the country and that anyone had ever seen.”
Please Don’t Quote Me has had weather tales in book and column such as the story told by pioneer Samuel Preston who settled just southwest of Mt. Carroll in the 1830’s. He came north from Princeton where he stopped for a short time on his way to northern Illinois from Massachusetts. Being alone on the prairie with no signs or landmarks to guide you was a hardship few could have endured. It’s truly a chilling tale!!!
Another “weather story” is of the man who skated on the Mississippi River and bayous from Rock Island to Galena to deliver the news that Andrew Jackson had been elected President as there was no other communication in those days. Indian camps along the way marveled at those metal blades strapped to the feet of J.W. Spencer whose family would bring permanency to the old fort at Rock Island and civilized living to the area. He describes the new camp of woodcutters at Plum River (Savanna) and how primitive were the wilderness regions. News of Jackson’s election was more than a month old so his feat was appreciated.
Tornadoes were part of the past of the Northwest. The Cyclone of 1898, perhaps, the most destructive, it grinding its way ‘cross county and sending written material all the way to Ohio from Preston Prairie. Eyewitness descriptions were part of a brochure printed at the time. Pictures are dramatic.
County histories written in the 1870’s tell of tornadoes and other weather phenomenon in the past to tell us that “unusual” weather is nothing new. If there’s one thing that never occurs here in our beautiful neighborhoods its becoming bored with the weather!!
Because of the national holiday this week, the 4th of July, we include the following anecdote by Mr. Landis because it paints an unusual picture of life here in the Northwest when the white man’s settlement was young, the native American participants inclusion celebrating our most meaningful observance and no matter what color of one’s skin, all were Americans that day:
THE FIRST FOURTH IN PIGEON COUNTY
“The first Fourth of July celebration that I’ve heard about had about fifty people present. Indians outnumbered the whites by a large margin. Rock Creek was full of canoes (picture that). The Indians had a merry time as there was plenty of food for everyone. A gay time was had by all playing a game of rolling a round stone on the ground. As often the case, some fire water was put to worldly use. They didn’t tell me if some of the Indians rode in their canoes at the same time going back and forth to their camp across the creek ........”
Landis’ description of the first Fourth is ‘way too abbreviated so you’ll have to imagine the activities. We do wish all a pleasant national holiday and many more.