The following Letter to the Editor was found in the Jerseyman newspaper, published on January 31, 1890.
The weather is in every one's thoughts and talk, and great and many are the lamentations. Did ever any one see such weather? and so on, and so on. But the weather, like history, only repeats itself. Fickle is our climate and fickle it has always been. There is a truth in the Poet's lines—
But we are not allowed to be ignorant of anything in these days of progress and science. The weather reports in the newspapers, which are read by all and believed by some, keep us constantly on the anxious bench about the weather and prevent us from possessing our souls in patience waiting for the eternal march of the seasons. We always do get seed time and harvest, Summer and Winter, and we always forget to "thank God for pleasant weather."
I propose to add to the testimony relative to our fickle, and I will admit disgusting climate, by quoting some notes on the weather from a Journal kept by a Quaker lady in Philadelphia (one of whose descendants lives in our midst) during the years 1759 to 1807, premising that it is not distinctively a weather journal, but one kept for her own amusement. It is a most delightful volume, very recently published, and gives a charming picture of early Quakerism and the life of those days. The early Quakers were a charming people, genial, sincere, charitable, unostentatious, earnest in their religions life and active and zealous in good works for their fellow men. Charles Lamb, in one his finest essays, says:
"Reader, wouldst thou know what true peace and quiet mean: wouldst thou find a refuge from the noises and clamours of the multitude: wouldst thou enjoy at once solitude and society: wouldst thou possess the depth of thy own spirit in stillness, without being shut out from the consolotary faces of thy species: wouldst thou be alone and yet accompanied, solitary yet not desolate, singular yet not without some to keep thee in countenance: a unit in aggregate; a simple in composite; —come with me into a Quaker's Meeting, get the writings of John Doolman and love the early Quakers." But to my extracts:
1760, March 21. The violent N.E. snow storm which we had on first day last, lasted but eighteen hours, and considering the season of ye year there was the greatest fall of snow since the settlement of the Province. Several vessels lost at our capes, Delaware River.
1778, April 22. A storm of wind and hail this evening.
July 1. Ther. [Thermometer] 91 degrees in the house.
1779, Feb'y 28. It is many years since we have known a season so forward as this. Ye weather has been for many days past very moderate. We have had crocuses' in our garden for a week past, and this day Persian Irises are also blown, ye apricot trees in bloom.
April 18. There has been greater transitions for these two months past from cold to heat and heat to cold that I ever remember to have marked. First day afternoon ye 17th inst. was as warm as midsummer and on ye next day we sat by a good fire comfortably.
1782, Jan'y 30. The River, fast. About two weeks ago the fields were green with growing grass, and a friend picked a flower out of her garden. Two or three very cold days have fastened the River.
I would remark here that fastening the river was the freezing together of large ice cakes, which may have been floating with the tide for weeks. There were no steam ferry boats in those days to keep channels open, nor in my childhood, either.
1783, May 14. A remarkable hail storm between 11 and 12 this forenoon such as I never saw the like, from ye N.W. Ye hail stones as big as hickory nuts, broke 51 panes of glass in ye back of our house and cracked 12.
July 16. Yesterday and this day so cold that we and many others have had fires in ye parlors, and people wore cloaks abroad.
Note—On July 4th, 1857, I had fire in my library in house on South street all day.
July 22, 23, 24. Weather was extremely warm. Many died drinking cold water.
1784, Oct. 9. It will be seven weeks next first day since we have had any rain more than what we call a sprinkling.
Oct. 15. It began to rain about noon and continued raining till after sunset. If kind Providence should order no more at present, it will have the good effect of laying ye dust and wetting ye roofs of ye houses.
Nov. 13. When we arose this morning it was snowing fast. Ye houses and trees covered.
Nov. 18. It rained all night, continued rainy this morning. "The fire treads snow," as 'tis said.
Dec. 8. A storm of thunder, lightning, wind, rain, and as I thought, hail. Wind high and cold this morning as is common after Winter thunder.
Dec. 21. Very cold, the shortest and coldest this Winter.
Dec. 25. Christmas, so called. Kept by some pious, well minded people, religiously. By some others as a time of frolicking.
Dec. 26. A great transition in ye weather, day before yesterday warm for the season, yesterday temperate, this day very cold in so much that it is thought if the wind should abate that the River will be fast before tomorrow morning.
1794, Dec. 25. Such a Christmas day is but seldom knows. A Green Christmas it is, but I trust it does not follow that we shall have fat Churchyards. It may please kind Providence to give us frost eno' to sweeten and clear ye air.
Dec. 27. Fine, moderate weather.
1795, April 10. Cold, sour weather; hard frost last night. Our apricot tree in blossom.
June 11. Heavy rain this morning, wind N.E. My husband is sitting by a comfortable fire smoking his pipe.
1796, Jan. 1. A most delightful Winter day. Very moderate N.W. wind. The atmosphere perfectly clear. Sun warm, grass plots green, beautiful beyond description.
And so on up to 1807 when the journalist died in her 72d year.
I am afraid Mr. Editor, that I have tired your patience, and that of your readers, but must add in conclusion that rich and amusing extracts could be made from "The Journal" on more interesting subjects than the weather. The Revolutionary days of '76. The yellow fever years of '83 and after. The medical treatment of those days, Quaker weddings. All, all are touched on and recorded, and afford food for thought and reflection. If I were not as lazy as a toad in a well I would try your patience again.
One more extract and I have done. On Dec. 27th, 1799, the journalist, then in her 65th year, describes the funeral procession in honor of Lt. Gen. Geo. Washington, and at the close says: "So all is over with G. Washington." The dear old lady! Could she have come back to earth in these centennial years she would have found that all was not over with "G. W." in 1799. She would, perhaps, have been tempted as I often am, to sympathize with that old Greek who was asked why he had voted for the expulsion of Sristides from Athens. "I voted aye," said the old fellow, "because I am tired of hearing Aristides called the just."
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