Meet Fort Wayne’s first weatherman

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Weather…Constantly changing, evolving into snowstorms, thunderstorms, tornadoes, and
straight-line winds. It seems almost incomprehensible to imagine a world where we had no idea
that severe storms were coming and no warnings about tornadoes or large snowstorms.
It’s harder to comprehend anyone keeping track of all of our weather with rudimentary
weather instruments.


So, imagine my shock when I found a journal of as far as we can tell the first
weather observations were ever taken in Northern Indiana.


In 1837 a man named Rapin Andrews began taking weather observations in upstate New York.
Two years later he would move his family to rural northern Indiana and begin charting local
temperatures and sky observations in a journal he kept every day.


(John Beatty says)-” We know that he built a mill along Willow Creek just northwest of Huntertown. And
so maybe the weather equipment was on his mill or maybe it was on his barn, we just don’t
know. But he very carefully recorded his observations in this diary.”


Andrew’s kept a meticulous diary of weather events until his death in 1849. His gravestone is
still in the old Huntertown cemetery off Dunton road. But the story and the daily journaling
continued with Rapin’s family taking over his duties until about 1870.
Rapin had fought in the war of 1812 as a captain before coming to Indiana and had a fascination
with weather that has lived on with his journal 170-years later.


In 1934 descendants of Mr. Andrews took a tattered old diary with loose yellow pages to what was the Fort Wayne Weather Bureau and asked the employees if they would like to see a
weather journal from Fort Wayne’s first weatherman. The journal was then given to the
weather service office in Indianapolis and eventually made its way to the Indiana State Library
where it has been stored ever since. It took many years for the data to be transcribed but
eventually, it was typed out and bound in a reference book with another vital history about Allen
County at the Allen County Public Library.


John Beatty a librarian and local historian came across the diary around 2000.
John Beatty: we have all kinds of diaries from all over the country and I’ve and I’ve never seen a
weather diary before and this was really a unique kind of thing)
John Beatty-He seemed to take observations around mealtimes one at breakfast one at
noon and one at supper time and he had some other type of device that showed the direction
of the wind. )

(John)-But it was interesting with his observations he added other kinds of unusual facts
like when President Lincoln died there was a notation of that. When Chief Richardville died he
mentions that. He mentioned when his fruit trees bloomed which would be interesting
historically to show how that compares to ow to what it was in the 1830s and 1840s. )


Rapin and his family farmed about 160 acres which at the time was a very large plot of land.
Andrews must have made an impact on the area he settled because one man who has lived there
since 1948 told us that the road by the old homestead was actually named after him.


John-“But it was interesting with his observations he added other kinds of unusual facts
like when President Lincoln died there was a notation of that. When Chief Richardville died he
mentions that. He mentioned when his fruit trees bloomed which would be interesting
historically to show how that compares to what it was in the 1830s and 1840s.”


One of those unusual facts came on January 1 of 1864. The low that day was -21 and the high
was -16 Andrews journal had the remark that it was a tough day.
Andrew’s journal also noted that in June of 1855 there were several frosts. And on June 20, 1842
Andrews noted that there was frost.
Another record was set when Andrews noted that the temperature at sunrise on April 14th,
1842, was only 14-degrees


What makes this journal even more valuable is that it was kept during what was called the last
ice age which took place from 1300 to about 1870. During that time, he was able to document
the coldest temperature in recorded history 34 degrees below zero in January of 1873! He also recorded a record -17 in November 0f 1857.

The all-time coldest temperature recorded by the NWS in modern times was -24 in 1918.

We also know by looking at Andrew’s data that the average temperature was 10 degrees colder
from 1840 to 1873 where the average temperature was 40 degrees. The same period 100 years
later 1940 to 1973 had an average temperature of 50 degrees.


The other remarkable thing is that comparing Andrews saw much colder temperatures with
highs in the 60s and 70s during the summer and in the 30s for lows in August.


As far as we know this is the first and only weather journal kept during this time, and it
certainly is the only weather journal that made it to the state library.


We have general climate knowledge of what weather conditions were like back in the 1800s,
but this is the only document that we know of that records specific weather in that period. This
makes Rapin Andrews Fort Wayne’s First Weatherman as he and his family patiently recorded
weather history right here in northern Indiana.

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