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When I'm wondering about weather folklore and historical events this is the man I go to. With more than 50 years of statistical and observational research, he's the dude! When it comes to lunar cycles, woolly bear caterpillars, insects, bugs, and animals, he tracks them, records them, and establishes ties to weather patterns. He's a knowledgeable and interesting man. His name is Steve Gottschalk by way of Lowden, Iowa. I'm grateful to him for lending his unique perspective to the site. Steve's "wild" world of weather can be found every Wednesday right

here on



I have always had an interest in early American weather history when the pioneers were settling this area. The earliest weather records locally were kept by the Army Surgeon at Fort Armstrong (Rock Island, Illinois) beginning in 1820. A Professor Theodore Parvin from Muscatine, Iowa kept an accurate weather diary from 1839-1861.

The start of what was known as the Long Winter (1842-43) began on November 8-9, 1842 when an early winter storm deposited a foot of snow on parts of eastern Iowa and an incredible 18" on Fulton County, in west-central Illinois. In Lancaster, located in S.W. Wisconsin, the snow that fell in this storm was said by settlers to have remained on the ground for 6 months.

A Captain, S.W. McMasters who lived along the Mississippi River in the Quad City area, stated that shortly after the storm a strong cold front swept through the area around the 14th of the month, It froze up the river in 36 hours time from Galena all the way to St. Louis. Many steamboats loaded with critical supplies were caught on the river and stranded until spring


A second Cold Wave swept through the area on the 28th-30th. The thermometer was down between around -15 to -20 degrees on the morning of November 29th.

You can see why they called it the "long winter".


Back in the earlier times, the settlers didn't have the N.W.S., TV's, or smartphones to get the latest weather forecasts. They either used weather folklore or they had a copy of the Old Farmer's Almanac with them when they moved out west. About this time in November of 1869, (Nov. 13th-19th.) the almanac forecast was simply stated - "Cold Winds Prevail".

In 1894, for the same period, it said - "The cold increases with chances of rain". That's not much to go on but I guess it's a bit better than nothing.