May 19 – Anniversary of a Dark Day

Posted on May 19, 2014

May 19, 1780.

Some were sure that the day of judgment was at hand.

After all, it's weird for complete darkness to fall at 10:30 in the morning. The chickens went to roost, frogs began to croak and birds began to sing their evening songs, cows walked back to the barn.

This darkness was in Eastern Canada and New England, in the U.S. It lasted from mid-morning until the middle of the next night.

And nobody knew what had caused the darkness.

Many were sore afraid, and they gathered together in unplanned religious services.

Those who were more science-minded pointed out that there were some signs that fires raged somewhere. After all, for several days before the May 19, the sun and moon had appeared reddish, and the sky yellowish, as if there were lots of particles in the air. Also, some had observed soot collecting in rivers and rain water.

But those who were sure that the apocalypse was occurring pointed out that the Bible verses foretold a red moon as well as a great darkness.

Discussions broke out between people who wished to stop their daily activities and wait for the end of the world and those who wished to Keep Calm and Carry On. 

Some Connecticut legislators called for adjournment on account of it clearly being The End. But legislator Abraham Davenport said:
I am against adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause for an adjournment; if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.

Good man! I wish some of our legislators today were as committed as Davenport about doing their jobs!

You'd think that New Englanders would be used to dark, gloomy days; in some areas of New England, rain was falling on the morning of May there were clearly clouds in the sky. However, I guess this darkness was much more complete than daytime storm clouds, even. Modern scientists are pretty sure that the famous Dark Day of 1780 was caused by a combination of those heavy clouds and thick smoke from wildfires. They have discovered fire scars from the right time period in what is today the forests of Algonquin Provincial Park, in Canada.

Next time you face some extraordinary event such as a solar eclipse, tornado, wildfire, or earthquake, be sure to notice how thankful you are that we have so many ways of getting information and communicating with others near and far. It must've been a far more fearful world, back in the day!

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