6. Farmers in New England and New York pulled up stakes to seek better sites for their farms
As early as May, 1816, farmers in the New England states and their compatriots in New York wearied of the long battle with unpredictable weather, that spring representing the worst they had seen, began exploring alternatives in the lands to the west. Relieved of the Indian threat by the War of 1812, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan offered fertile soil, inexpensive land, wide waterways, and it was hoped more reasonable weather. That spring such better weather was not to be found. Ice still lined the Ohio shores of Lake Erie during the last week of May. The extended winter cold had also added to the drought which had been present with varying annual severity for nearly a decade, as Jefferson had noted in Virginia. Water which should have been spring rains remained snow in the mountains. Farmers fleeing to the west found conditions only marginally better than at home. Still, thousands resolved to make the trek and relocate by the end of the year.
As May ended and June began, the temperatures in the American northeast began a roller-coaster ride which would endure for the rest of the summer. At Williams College in Massachusetts’ Berkshire Hills, June 5 produced 83°. Salem, Massachusetts, saw 90° heat the same day. Farmers, no doubt cursing the sudden onset of summer heat, nonetheless welcomed the opportunity to save something of the growing season, despite the lateness of their start. The next day, and continuing on to the next, temperatures across New England dropped by 30° or more from their daytime high, frost appeared at night, and Middlebury, Vermont was buried under three inches of wholly unexpected snow. Other towns across the northeast escaped the snow and instead were blessed with rain, though of the freezing variety. On June 7, children in the Berkshires, whose parents had noted the sudden heat 48 hours earlier, enjoyed sledding in the again frozen hills.