Saturday, May 25, 2013

Surname Saturday – Davis and the Snow Summers

I realized the other day that I haven’t blogged for a while.  For the past few days, I’ve been trying to think of a topic.  This afternoon, my wife called me from the top of Bromley Mountain in Peru.  “It’s snowing!” she said gleefully.  “The top of the mountain is white!”

Snow?  In May?  Memorial Day weekend?

I was instantly reminded of an event that I learned about in history class in junior-high.  The Year Without a Winter.

In 1816 the weather in Vermont was cold enough during the summer that crops failed and ponds froze over.  It snowed the first week of June, and the end of August saw frost hit, killing even more crops.  The cause of the strange weather was thought to be linked to the eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia the year before, which spread dust and ash into the air, eventually leading to the lowered temperatures on this side of the world. [1]

What, I wondered, were my ancestors doing during that year?

Solomon Davis and his wife Hannah, who brought the family west from New Hampshire in 1803, would have been raising, along with their other children, their new baby daughter.  Hannah Davis, who shared her mother’s name, was born in May of 1816 in Londonderry, Vermont.  Solomon, his son, grandson, great-grandson, and so on were farmers.  The family remained in Londonderry until my grandfather, Solomon Wesley, passed away in 1996, one-hundred and ninety-three years after the family arrived in town.

I can only imagine what the farmers in 1816 must have been going through, planting crops to feed their families, only to see those crops freeze and die.  Then I was given a reminder of Vermont resilience.  My aunt, as I typed this post, posted a photo on Facebook.  The photo was taken in a town near Londonerry, on May 25th, 1967, or exactly 46 years before today's snow.  The image shows snow-covered fields with snow-covered mountains in the background.  Her comment: “My dad planted potatoes the next day.”

Apparently both the first and last Davis men to live in Londonderry had something in common.


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