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History of the
Settlement and Indian Wars
of Tazewell County, Virginia.

By Geo. W. L. Bickley, M. D. (1852)

  
 

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CHAPTER V

METEOROLOGY.

Important as this subject is to the farmer, little attention has been paid to it.  Few, I am persuaded, have appreciated its importance: and until our farmers avail themselves of the important laws, and consequent deductions which it has brought to light, we need not expect to see our lands producing their proportionate amount of sustenance.

Meteorology, is the scientific designation of that science which treats of the atmosphere, and its varied phenomena.  It is an essential part of a farmer's education, and without a knowledge of its principles, he must act upon the rude systems which have been conjured up by the wild superstitions of his fathers, in whose maxims he sees all science.

The every-day experience of any farmer will satisfy him that light, heat, air, temperature, etc., play an important part in the vegetable, as well as in the animal worlds. (NOTE: The importance of this subject, is set forth by Daniel Lee, M. D. See Report of Commissioner of Patents-part II 1849; art.  Agricultural Meteorology.)

The following remarks are based upon the observations of two winters and a summer.  I have, also, availed myself of some of the current opinions which exist among the more learned farmers of the county.  From the nature of the country---mountainous and much elevated, as mentioned in another place---almost every variety of climate, from 36 to 50 N. latitude, is to be found in certain localities of the county.  The climate of Quebec and Charleston alike exist; the former on the mountain-peaks, and the latter in the deepest valleys.  Owing to this fact it is difficult to give correct meteorological information, unless observations had been made at different places.

I give result at Jeffersonville, as being probably near the mean of the county.

The mean temperature for the Winter months is 30 Fahr.
  "     "       
      "            "        Spring    "           52    "
  "     "       
      "            "        Summer "           73    "
  "     "       
      "            "        Fall        "           61    "
The fall of rain in the              Winter months is 27 inch.
   "      "           "                    Spring     "          16 1/8 "
   "      "           "                    Summer  "          8      "
   "      "           "                    Fall          "         6      "

Thus we have 54 as the mean temperature, and 58 3/8 inches of rain, during the year; which gives to each season 14 5/8 inches, and to each day 0.1599 inches, or about 1/6 of an inch.

Snow falls in the valleys from the first of November to the first of April, and on the mountain tops, a little sooner and later.  Its early fall, in autumn, destroys large quantities of timber, the leaves of which catch the snow till the weight becomes insupportable.  The branches, and sometimes the body, giving way, fill the roads with fragments, rendering them impassable.

The winds vary very much, with the direction of the valleys, and it is often difficult to determine their real course; every valley seeming to draw a current through it.  West, N. W. and east winds, prevail; though southerly winds sometimes blow for a short time.  Northerly winds usually produce fair weather, while Easterly winds bring rain.  Much rain is required for the soil, hence, vegetation shoots with the greatest rapidity during the wet season of spring.

The general temperature seems to be higher than it formerly was, there being less snow, and ice, during the winters, as well as less rain, than during the first years of settlement.  This, no doubt, is owing to the loss of timber on the cleared lands; it is the only way in which we can account for this change of climate.  This explanation has the sanction of Baron Von Humboldt (see his Cosmos), than whom no man was a better judge, or closer observer of this department of nature.

The dry season, in the beginning of summer, sometimes does much mischief, not only to vegetation, but to man's health.  The effects of light upon the soil, are nowhere more perceptible than here.  The number of rays of light, falling at right angles on the south sides of the mountains during a greater part of the year, seems to have quite exhausted the soil, especially near the summits.  On the north sides of the mountains, even from the tops, the soil is of the finest quality, and very productive.  From this we should conclude, that to preserve and foster the productive energy of the soil, it requires shading.  Changes of temperature are very sudden, the thermometer sometimes sinking rapidly from 70 to 20 Fahr., remaining so a few hours, and then rising as rapidly again, to 60 or 70.  This irregularity constitutes an objection to the climate, which, it is to be hoped, will be removed when the lands are entirely cleared up.

It is certainly a great pity, that meteorological investigations have not been instituted in this country; and it is still more unfortunate, that the farming community should have paid so little attention to a subject which so seriously affects their dearest interests.

"If a small portion of the talent and public patronage of this country could be turned to the study of vegetable and animal physiology, in their connection with farm economy, and to chemistry, entomology, agricultural geology, and meteorology, unquestionably, the average of our wheat, corn and cotton crops, would soon be doubled." (NOTE: Lee-Patent Office Report, Part II, 1849)

The farmers of this region have long believed that a plain English education, i. e., to read, write, and cipher, was all sufficient for a farmer, and hence science has been discarded as useless.  The truth is, we need a scientific farmer's school, founded upon Socrates' idea of useful knowledge---to teach that, which would admit of application.  We have too many schools where the mere theory of life and its means are taught.
 

 

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