Weather Records from the Diary of Rapin Andrews at Perry Township (near Huntertown), Allen County, Indiana from 1839 to 1873

By Michael R Hayes

(former employee of the National Weather Service at Fort Wayne, Indiana)

 

Mr Rapin Andrews began his weather diary at Gorham, Ontario County, New York in 1837. He migrated to Indiana in 1839, arriving at Logansport in Cass County July 1, 1839. He then moved to Perry Township, Allen County, Indiana and began daily entries July 17, 1839. His farm was located one mile north and a half mile west of Huntertown in Allen County, Indiana. He kept the diary current until his death, which was noted in the diary June 30, 1849. His heirs then kept the diary until April 30, 1874 when the record stops. There is no explanation as to why the entries stopped or who kept the diary from 1849 to 1874. The records are remarkably complete with the exception of years 1850, 1851, and 1863 plus four monthly records which were missing or incomplete. Temperatures were recorded early in the morning, around noon, and in the evening. It is assumed they were taken at meal times.

The original record book came into the possession of Mrs J G Carman of Fort Wayne, a direct descendant of the founder of the record. It was brought to the Weather Bureau in April 1934 by her husband, who believed that it would be interesting to the weatherman. It proved so interesting that permission was sought and obtained to have the record copied for file and reference in the Fort Wayne office as well as the Section Center at Indianapolis and at the Central Office in Washington DC. The records were copied in November by Mrs Mae Brunka and assisted by B B Whittier, Meteorologist in Charge of the Fort Wayne office at the time.

Mr Rapin Andrews frequently added comments to his summary of the day’s weather, such as "first bluebird" or "first robin". He also noted the sowing and harvesting of crops, and wool dyeing and spinning. He noted frosts such as June 11 1842 "hard frost" and a light frost on August 2 1842. The summer of 1842 was quite cool, possibly a precursor to the bitter winter of 1842-43, sometimes known as the Little Ice Age. Mr Andrews also noted the death of Chief Richardville, Chief of the Miami Indians on August 12 1841 and the death of President Lincoln in April 1865. After the death of Mr Andrews, the comments were fewer and mainly dealt with daily weather summaries such as "fair" or "high flying clouds" and "brisk wind".

I averaged the annual temperatures using the period 1840 to 1873 excluding the years 1850, 1851, and 1863, for which there was no record. I also used the period 1940 to 1973 and excluded the years 1950, 1951, and 1963. The reason for the modern exclusions is historical, not meteorological. During the period 1840 to 1873 the average annual temperature was 47.2˚, and during the period 1940 to 1973 was 50.0˚. Obviously the early period was a much cooler era. The period 1840 to 1845 and one hundred years later were fairly similar but after 1845 the cool spell set in. By looking at the five coldest years since official records began at Fort Wayne, the coldest was 1917 with an average of 46.5 degrees. This annual temperature was lowered ten times between 1856 and 1873.

The coldest official November monthly temperature was 33.5˚, in 1976 but this figure was lowered eight times with the lowest temperature at 27.8˚ in 1872. The coldest December 1940-1973 was 19.3˚, in 1963. This record was lowered in 1871 with an average of 14.8˚.  (The coldest December ever officially recorded at Fort Wayne was in 1989 with an average temperature of 16.9˚). The coldest January was 9.2˚ in 1977 and this records holds up back to the 1800s. The coldest March in modern times was 24.3˚ in 1960, while March of 1843 averaged 21.2˚.

The coldest official temperature on record at Fort Wayne was -24˚ on January 12 1918. On January 9 1856 the temperature fell to -26˚ and on January 29 1873 it fell to -34˚. The coldest day overall was January 1 1864 with a low of -21˚ and a high of -16˚. The log keeper noted "Rough Day". The November 25 1857 temperature of -17˚ is sixteen degrees colder than modern records.

The maximum temperature recorded during the period of the diary was 102˚ and there were few long, hot spells. One factor to consider is that daily summer high temperatures generally occur around 3 or 4pm so maximum temperatures could be more suspect than minimum temperature data.

The following tables are maximum and minimum temperatures by month:

Month Andrews Diary Modern Andrews Diary Modern
January 66˚ 1843 69˚ 1950 -34˚ 1873 -24˚ 1918
February 66˚ 1849 73˚ 2000 -25˚ 1866 -18˚ 1982,63
March 82˚ 1842 82˚ 1986 -14˚ 1868 -10˚ 1967
April 87˚ 1846,44 90˚ 1930 8˚ 1868 7˚ 1982
May 91˚ 1860 95˚ 1911 26˚ 1861 27˚ 1966,63,47
June 98˚ 1858,56 106˚ 1988 34˚ 1842 38˚ 1993,56,29
July 102˚ 1846 106˚ 1936,34 40˚ 1846 44˚ 1967,44
August 100˚ 1846 102˚ 1918 35˚ 1853 38˚ 1965
September 96˚ 1854 100˚ 1953 21˚ 1839 29˚ 1995,51
October 83˚ 1839 90˚ 1951 9˚ 1843 19˚ 1988
November 73˚ 1842 79˚ 1950 -17˚ 1857 -1˚ 1958,50
December 63˚ 1861 71˚ 1982 -25˚ 1871 -18˚ 1989

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