Kentucky's Climate Observers - Civil War Years

The Smithsonian's climate observers in Kentucky during the Civil War years were a select group who seem to have been educated people, were likely to have been exposed to science, and had something more than a passing interest in climate. Their occupations as listed here were taken from the 1860 U.S. Census. Note that only one of occupations was agricultural. Eliza Young, who always signed her name as Mrs. Lawrence Young, was the wife of a farmer living on a large, apparently successful, farm. The others are non-rural. One would hesitate to call them urban because of the rather small city populations during this period.

To create the Smithsonian Climate Network, Joseph Henry sent circulars to individuals who were already making observations. James H. Coffin, a professor of mathematics and natural philosophy at Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania provided the list of those people. Professor Coffin had been collecting weather reports for several years from independent observers. By 1854, the Smithsonian had observers reporting from thirty-one States and was receiving real time observations by telegraph from some of them. In 1856, Henry contracted with Coffin to receive, analyze, and archive the information reported by the Smithsonian observers. Afterward, Coffin received as many as half-a-million separate weather observations each year. He employed to fifteen people to make the necessary arithmetic calculations — human computers so to speak. In 1861, Coffin published the first of a two-volume compilation of climatic data and storm observations for the years 1854 through 1859.

Ballardsville 1861 John Swain M.D.
Bardstown 1861 Thomas Miles, Notary Public
Danville 1861,1862,1865 Ormond Beatty, Centre College Professor
Louisville 1861 - 1862 E.N. Woodruff, Druggist
Millersburg 1861 - 1862 George Savage M.D.
Newport 1861 - 1865 Army Post Surgeons
Nicholasville 1861 - 1863 Joseph McDowell Mattews, President of Jessamine Femal Institute
Ohio River 1861 M.G. Williams, Minister
Pine Grove 1861 - 1865 Samuel D. Martin M.D.
Springdale 1861 - 1865 Eliza I. Young, Farmer's Spouse