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Three men from Alabama observed the weather in Greensboro for the Smithsonian from 1855 to 1888

According to the article below published in 1908, three men in Greensboro, Hale County, Alabama volunteered to be climate observers and weather recorders for the Smithsonian from January 1855 to 1888. They recorded their observations and sent them to Washington, DC and should be available from the US National archives. It would be interesting to see what they recorded in those years.

The following excerpt from the Historical Climate Variability and Impacts in North America, edited by Lesley-Ann Dupigny-Giroux, Cary J. Mock, Sep 18, 2009 – Science   explains the Smithsonian program. 

“Beginning in 1849, the Smithsonian Institution recruited civilian volunteers from all walks of life to monitor the weather. With the addition of state and private weather services, the number of volunteer observers grew from 150 and the end of 1849 to perhaps as many as 600 at times during the 25 years of operation.. . . Most Smithsonian volunteers gathered weather observations for the climate record and mailed monthly reports to the Smithsonian in Washington, DC; many of these records are available from the US National archives. Within a few years, another smaller group of volunteers were telegraphing daily weather observations to the Smithsonian for weather forecasting. . . The Smithsonian supplied its volunteer observers with instruments, standard reporting forms, and instructions for taking observations. . . .”

“During the Civil War, the military had priority use of telegraph lines, disrupting the Smithsonian telegraph-based network for the duration especially in the South.. . . the number of stations dropped to under 300. During Reconstruction, more farmers joined the network so that by the early 1870s the number of volunteer observers recovered to near pre-War highs.” but  budget problems forced the Smithsonian to transfer the record keeping to the Army Signal Service by 1874.”

This excerpt below was published in 1908 in HISTORY OF GREENSBORO, ALABAMA From Its Earliest Settlement by William Edward Wadsworth Yerby, Montgomery, Alabama,


(Published 1908 )

Greensboro is situated in the north-central portion of Hale county, Ala., in latitude 32°42′ north, longitude 87° 35′ west, and at an elevation of 220 feet above the sea level.

Greensboro is situated in the north-central portion of Hale county, Ala., in latitude 32°42′ north, longitude 87° 35′ west, and at an elevation of 220 feet above the sea level.

The climatic record of Greensboro began in January 1855, when the station was established by the Smithsonian Institute. Robert B. Waller, Sr.,1 Capt. J. W. A. Wright2 and Prof. N. T. Lupton 3 were observers at this station during the period from 1855 to 1888.

The records were broken at intervals until January 1888, when the station was established by the Signal Service—now the Weather Bureau—with Prof. M. H. Yerby1 as the observer. Prof. Yerby made a continuous record up to the time of his death in October 1900, since which date his son, W. E. W. Yerby, (author of this story) has co-operated with the Weather Bureau in the capacity of observer.

Average temperature

The record shows the average temperature to be 64°; the average for the winter, 48°; spring, 64°; summer, 79 °; autumn, 65°. The warmest year was 1891, with an average temperature of nearly 66°; the coldest, 1857, with an average of 61°. The highest temperature recorded, 105°, occurred July 12, 1901; the lowest, 5° below zero. occurred February 13, 1899. The average maximum temperature is 74°; the average summer maximum is 90°. The average minimum temperature is 54°, and the average winter minimum is 37°. The average number of days with maximum temperature above 90° is fifty-three; the average number of days with minimum temperature below 32° is thirty-three. The average date of the last killing frost in spring is March 20th; the average date of the first in autumn is November 8th. The earliest killing frost of which there is a record occurred on October 24th; the latest on April 5th.

Precipitation record

The precipitation record, while continuous since 1888 only, covers thirty-five complete years and shows the average annual amount to be 50 inches. The greatest amount recorded during any year was 68.98 inches in 1900; the least yearly amount was 35.67 inches in 1904. February and March are the wettest months, with an average of 5.42 inches; October is the driest month, with an average of 2.01 inches. The greatest amount of rain which fell during any one month was 14.81 inches, in May 1903; the least monthly amount recorded was 0.08 inches, in October 1904. The average number of days during the year with .01 inch or more of rain was 94.

The average amount of Snowfall for the winter is 0.5 inch. The record shows, however, that Snowfalls amounting to more than 4.0 inches occurred during February of several years, and that 10.0 inches of snow fell during March 1900.

The prevailing direction of the wind is from the north during November to February, inclusive, and from the south during the other months.

The average number of clear days during the year is 191; partly cloudy days, 51; cloudy days, 123.

The following table shows the monthly and annual precipitation at Greensboro during the period in which the record has been kept:

Greensboro has been remarkably free from cyclones,— not one being on record for this station.

Tornado image 1913 taken by Harris and Ewing, possibly in Oklahoma (Library of Congress)

Tornado January 21, 1904, inMoundville

The most destructive that ever visited this immediate section was on the night of January 21, 1904, when Moundville, a town in the northern part of Hale County, was struck by a wind of unusual severity. The great majority of the houses were swept away, and those left standing were badly damaged. Thirty people—six whites and twenty-four colored—were killed, and seventy injured, besides much stock and cattle were killed. Forty houses, the railroad depot, and seven freight cars were destroyed in less than a minute’s time. The funnel-shaped cloud swooped down upon the village about twelve o’clock, its course being from the southwest to the northwest. The property loss was estimated at about $75,000.00.

The work of rebuilding the town was begun within a few days after the terrible calamity, and Moundville is now among the most thrifty and populous towns in Hale County.

1 Find A Grave Memorial# 130326212 – Robert Benjamin Waller II and bio:  CHARLES E. WALLER, Attorney-at-law, Greensboro, was the son of the late Robert B. Waller, a native of Virginia, was born in Greensboro, February 22, 1849. The senior Waller came to Alabama in 1832; settled at Greensboro, where he practiced law the rest of his life, and died in 1877, at the age of sixty-nine years. (Northern Alabama Historical & Biographical Smith & De Land, 1888 – Alabama)

2Capt. John W. Abert Wright was born in Columbus, MS in 1834. In 1854 he studied with Professor Henry Tutwiler at Greene Springs for a year, then entered Princeton College in NJ, graduating in 1857. In 1862 Wright raised a company (H) of infantry that joined the 36th AL Regt. The unit fought at Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain, among many other engagements. Seriously wounded at Missionary Ridge, Wright and most of his company were taken captive and transported to Camp Chase near Columbus, OH, one of the worst of the Union POW camps.  After the war, Wright moved to California for 15 years before returning to Alabama in 1883 to again work with Tutwiler.

3Find A Grave Memorial# 8808550 – was Professor of Southern University (chemistry) in Greensboro and in 1871 he became the 5th president of the newly re-organizing of the University of Alabama. Went to Vanderbilt Univ. in 1874, then Alabama Polytechnic Institute. He became State Chemist of Alabama.

1PROF. M. H. YERBY. By F, P. CEAFFEE. Section Director. It is with deep regret that I aiinounce the loss of a valuable cooperator in the work of the Weather Bureau by the death of Prof. M. H. Yerby, voluntary observer at Greensboro, Ala., on November 10, 1900, in the seventy-third year of his age. Professor Yerby was born in Tuscaloosa County, Ala., June 19, 1828. His early life was spent on his father’s farm. He graduated from the University of Alabama, and soon afterward adopted teaching as a profeesion, which he followed about forty-five years. In 1858 he moved to Greensboro, where he resided continuously during the remainder of his life. He was the voluntary observer at that place from January, 1888, up to the time that he was taken down with the brief illness which ended his life. There is not a single break in his very accurate meteorological record during nearly thirty years of work as a voluntary observer. His work will he of great value to the Bureau in determining the average climatic conditions of the locality in which he resided, and his fidelity to this work, which he assumed voluntarily and performed gratuitously, is indeed worthy of emulation. Mr. W. E. W. Yerby, son of Professor Yerby, has kindly consented to continue the good work of his father in keeping up the voluntary record at Greensboro. (Monthy Weather Review December 1900)


About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. […] the US National Archives {they had people record weather for them across the nation and report to the […]

  2. Some interesting Alabama weather links and facts.

    Hottest temperature ever recorded: Centerville, central Alabama, 9/5/1925, 112 F

  3. It was much hotter in the 1930s.

  4. There are over 2,200 recorded tornadoes in Alabama.

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