Alexander/Crawford History

Town News

By John Dudley & Cassie Oakes

This will be John Dudley and my last History Column until late fall early winter.  Since John does the research and I do the typing we will be taking a bit of a break, but we’ll be back once the weather turns back to cold and winter. 

Do you plan to have a vegetable garden this summer?  Or do you plan to get your food from a local farmer or store?  Do you recognize climate change?  Does weather affect your activities?

John Dudley heard the expression “Eighteen hundred and froze to death” from older locals 60 years ago.  Most could not give a year for the event, but all allowed it must been a terrible time.

The year with no summer was 1816.  Alexander’s few settlers had been here for six years or less.  They left no record of that year.  To recognize this 200th anniversary John read the book The Year Without Summer-1816.  The book came from the Maine State Library through the efforts of the Calais Free Library.  Thank You!  The authors, father and son William and Nicholas Klingaman, bring expertise in history and meteorology to the pages.

Mount Tambora on the Indonesian Island of Sumbawa erupted on April 5, 1815.  The gasses and particles thrown into the atmosphere spread by the prevailing westerly winds reflected the sun’s energy and in 1816 the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere was 3 degrees Fahrenheit colder than normal.  The study of tree ring growth shows 1816 was the coldest year since 1400.

All Maine suffered killing frosts in every month but July 1816.  Each month was dry, the only precipitation came smashing down as rain, snow or hail in cold frosts.  Crop production was severely diminished leaving many families without food enough for man or beast or for seed to plant the next spring.  Of course, the shortage caused an increase in prices.  Corn went from 86 cents per bushel to $1.50. Oats tripled and potatoes doubled in price.  Hay that sold for $30.00 a ton in 1815 was $180 per ton in 1816.

Many in Maine chose to emigrate, mostly to Ohio and Indiana.  Some sold their farms for half their costs.  Others just walked away.  They traveled in wagons, on horseback and on foot through upstate New York; 260 wagons counted in one week in May.  In Hamilton, NY 20 wagons with 116 people from Durham, Maine passed through in one day!

In Alexander six of the twenty-one families counted here in 1816 left, never to return.  That was in John Black’s records.  George Hill, John Kelly, Wm. Morrison, Caleb Pike, Granger Spring and Reuben Washburn were the heads of those households.  That is near 30% of the families.  Did they all leave together?  Where did they go?

In Maine no deaths of humans were found.  But newly shorn sheep died from lack of green grass and excessive cold.  Cattle for food or hauling starved to death.

Observe the connections among places and times throughout history, and the effects of weather on mankind’s activities.  


It’s time for John Dudley to go back to the Tree Farm.  He hopes the weather will be kind to his trees and to the farmers who grow their food.  Have a good summer.