1849 to the early 1870s – Women Among First Smithsonian Weather Observers
The first weather observations were recorded at Jackson on June 1, 1849 by female students of Mrs. Susan S. Oakley at the Oakland (Ladies) Institute. The first form submitted (August 1849) was accompanied by a document stating: “Extract from the Meteorological Journal Kept by the Young Ladies of the First-Class at the Oakland Institute, Jackson Mississippi.” The goal of the school staff was to “devote their attention to imparting a well grounded English education, a knowledge of ancient and modern Languages, the Sciences, Music, and all the accomplishments desirable in polite life.” Smithsonian records stated the observations were taken from 1849 through 1852. However, based on the NCDC database, students at the Oakland Institute took weather observations at least through August 1854. The Oakland Institute was located on North West Street, just north of the intersection with Mississippi Street. The observations were part of the Smithsonian Institution Program. The Smithsonian Institution supplied weather instruments and established an extensive observation network. Observations were submitted by telegraph to the Smithsonian, where weather maps were created. Various Smithsonian observers took weather observations at Jackson sporadically through the 1850s into the early 1870s, including those taken at Mississippi College during the period from 1870 to 1871.
Harold Garthur Evans, a physician, kept a fairly detailed journal from 20 March 1854 through 1 April 1868. However, entries in the journal were not made every day and appeared to be tied to significant weather and/or agricultural events. Weather entries were subjective, e.g., “Slow rain this morning,” and “Windy from the southwest on of the heaviest rains that has fallen for four years. I am scraping cotton on the other side of the creek. The creek has not been as full but once before since I have lived here.” The exact location of Dr. Garthur’s observations could not be determined. However, a note found in the Mississippi Department of Archives and History states that Dr. Evans moved to Rankin County on December 31, 1849 and lived at Steen’s Creek in Rankin County. Steen’s Creek was located near Florence which is approximately 10 miles southeast of Jackson.
Much of this history is comprised of information from research done by Mr. Murray W. Smith, prepared in 1949 and Gary Grice, prepared on 2006.