August 8, 1968



Thursday, August 8, 1968

1816 – The Year of the Frost

Milton Beals, Aylesford, presented The Register with an interesting clipping which tells of an unusual summer in Nova Scotia, in the year 1816. Following is the story:

The previous year, 1815, became infamous as "The Year Of The Mice," when thousands upon thousands of mice so depleted the crops that food was very scarce through the winter months. The hopes of the people were fixed on an early spring, but spring was late with cold weather and small storms right up through May.

Then, when everyone was looking forward to the good days of June, their hopes were shattered when, on June 4, the whole of the Maritime provinces was hit by a major snowstorm, that left a mantle of snow one foot deep, and was followed by bitter weather.

Even with such a poor beginning, there was hope that the days to come would be better. But there was something more in store, for the June 4 snow had just about disappeared, when the provinces were hit by another snowstorm on June 17. This was accompanied by bitter winds, and biting cold, and newspaper reports of the time, stated that several persons caught in the unusual and unexpected storm froze in that month of June. The entire month of June, 1816, was cold and blustery, and the people looked forward to July hoping it would bring summer weather. But hopes were in vain, for that summer month of 1816 brought no relief from the cold, and newspapers reported that on July 4, ice was measured a quarter of an inch thick.

June was cold that year; July was colder, and August was even colder, for reports said that ice formed that month one half inch thick. The first two weeks of September looked promising, and it was believed that the warm weather had arrived at last. It was the first time that year that summer weather prevailed. But it was only a brief summer, for the last two weeks of September were cold, with sudden snow squalls. October came in with the same cold weather, and frequent snow storms during the last half of the month.

November was the same, and the people were in despair. No crops had been planted for the ground was frozen most of the time. Then December came in with remarkably mild weather, the finest and warmest of the whole year, and the people wondered. The seasonal cycle seemed to have been reversed. June was cold with ice and frost in the woods, and December was mild and sunny.

The cost of provisions was high, and because of crop destruction by mice the previous year, many were suffering from hunger as well as the cold.

Many theories were advanced concerning the unusual weather, the most common being the belief that the sun was cooling off, and there would never again be any summer weather. Others believed that the invasion of the mice in 1815, and the frost and storms of 1816, were punishments for the neglect of the land during the lush years of the War of 1812.

The farmers went diligently to work, and with the coming of the year 1817, the good weather began in march and held through the spring, summer and autumn. The crops were bountiful, and the people grateful. The theory of the sun cooling off was forgotten in the light of wonderful weather of that year. But the previous year was not forgotten, and 1816 was a year that was talked about for many years thereafter by those who had lived through that bitter summer, a time that became known as "The Year Of The Frost."