Notes from the White County Historical Society

By Charlene Shields

Notes from the White County Historical Society as they appear in "The Carmi Times."

Copyright ©2000 by "The Carmi Times" Permission to reprint granted to Cindy Birk Conley and the ILGenWeb by Tammy Knox, editor, "The Carmi Times."

The summer that wasn't  June 8, 2000

If you've done much genealogical searching or looking into Southern
Illinois history, you've run into the awful story of the summer that
wasn't. It was in 1816, and White County, along with most other areas
in the Ohio basin, had "winter all summer long."

Late February was mild, and an early spring was predicted for that year.
Corn was shelled and other seeds being readied for planting. Plans were
made to shear the sheep. Then March roared in with a blizzard. March
weather is often temperamental, so people weren't too worried. However,
the temperature plummeted and stayed that way. Icy winds killed any
vegetation above ground in April.

In May, normally planting time, sleet and snow fell 17 days. In June,
snow and/or sleet fell 27 days out of 30. July remained so cold that
fireplaces went full blast, people wore their heaviest clothing, and
small animals and birds perished.

By August, the ice was an inch thick on streams and ponds. There was no
vegetation, and the food shortage became critical. Settlers survived on
pumpkins which they had stored the previous winter. The ground was
frozen, so it was not possible to put in a late crop of any kind. Snow
and sleet continued to fall throughout the Midwest during the remainder
of the summer months.

Circuit riders predicted the end of the world was about to take place,
due to the wickedness of the people. However, most of the settlers were
God-fearing, religious people. People were terrified at this mysterious
turn of events, and wondered what might come next.

Scientists thought "sun spots" might have had something to do with
causing this strange "summer." However, that was soon disproved. There
was no answer as to the cause.

Years later it was decided an eruption of an Asian volcano was the
cause of the weather. So much lava and ashes had erupted from the
gigantic volcano that it blotted out the heat of the sun. Scientists
say this will not happen again, as there are no remaining volcanoes on
earth with that much eruption power.

At any rate, with summer just days away, if you find yourself mopping
your brow once in a while, just be glad we're not having a repeat of
that awful summer of 1816!
The Genealogy Library is open Wednesdays from 11 to 5.

Return to the Notes from the White County Historical Society Page

Return to the White County ILGenWeb Page

The Coordinator for the White County, Illinois ILGenWeb page is Cindy Birk Conley

Copyright © 2000 by Cindy Birk Conley, all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright notice must appear with the information.