Newspaper Articles

A Night Full of Shooting Stars! November 13, 1833

Last night Ritchey and I watched the first episode of Ken Burns, The American Buffalo.  We have another two-hour episode to watch.  The story about the buffalo, and the American Indians who relied on this animal for every part of their livelihood, was fascinating.  Not to spoil anything, but they do talk about the meteor shower of November 13, 1833. 

Newspaper articles appeared in every part of the country settled by 1833 and large enough to have a newspaper!

Richmond Enquirer, Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia

Friday, November 22, 1833

The ‘Falling Stars.’

The atmospheric phenomenon, which excited so much admiration on the morning of the 13th, is now known to have extended West as far as Maysville and Louisville in Kentucky – to Cincinnati in Ohio – and to Aurora in Indiana, 30 miles distant from Cincinnati.  The Cincinnati Republican describes it as presenting at one period a ‘perfect shower of fire.’  The meteors were visible from 3 o’clock to daylight – and so they were at Aurora.  The Maysville Eagle represents them as ‘a perfect shower of meteors’ and as ‘a storm of fire.’  We have heard of their being seen as far south as Savannah and Augusta.  The Augusta Courier speaks of it as a brilliant shower of meteors, which began at 2, and was visible till daybreak.  Capt. Dixey of the Susquehanna states that these falling stars were seen at a distance of 130 miles from the coast!

We have received a communication from Mr. H. M. Garland of Nelson County – who gives an account of the phenomenon, and states among other things, that on hearing, or conceiting his hearing, a large drop of water fell on the roof of a coop, he immediately looked, and discovered a substance of about the circumference of a 25 cent piece, of the consistence and appearance of the white of an egg made hot – ‘or perhaps animal jelly, broken into fragments, would be a better comparison.’

Charleston Courier, Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina

Tuesday, November 19, 1833

Meteors! – A most remarkable shower of meteors – we know not what else to call it, occurred this morning.  We saw it about 5 o’clock, but learn it was seen at 2.  We never saw anything like it.  We were waked by a neighbor, who had also been roused in a similar manner, by one who supposed the world was coming to an end, as the stars were falling.  The whole heavens were lighted by falling meteors, as thick and constant as the large flakes which usher in a snowstorm.  We might say, it snowed meteors.  They did not generally shoot across the heavens, as is usual, when one or two only are seen in an evening; but appeared to fall regularly, a little to the west, of a perpendicular line, when you looked north or south.  Occasionally one would terminate in a kind of noiseless explosion, like a skyrocket, and all left a bright trace in their track, which lasted for several seconds.  The falling continued till daylight, swept all the stars from heaven.  The night was beautifully bright and clear.  The weather for several days’ past, had been unusually warm, after a few cold nights, accompanied by two or three uncommonly heavy frosts nearly 3 weeks since.  On Friday night last, it rained, after a long dry spell, and every day since, ‘till yesterday, which was clear, with a tendency to a cooler temperature, there had been more or less rain, with clouded heavens.  This history of weather will probably enable the philosophical reader to account for a phenomenon, equally strange and beautiful.  The heavy frosts had given a tendency to decay to the vegetable kingdom – the hot sun acting on so extensive a surface, must have exhaled an unusual quantity of various kinds, particularly hydrogen, which becoming ignited by electricity or phosphoric particles in the air, may have presented the appearance described.  Meteors have long been considered an electrical phenomenon.  But his species is probably owing to a gelatinous matter floating in the atmosphere, inflated and rendered buoyant by phosphuretted hydrogen gas, which descending into a dense portion of the air, becomes ignited by the greater quantity of oxygen, with which it then comes in contact.  The ignis fatui, Wil-o’-the-wisp, which float over moist places and burial grounds, are of the same character.  Their descent may be accounted for by accidental coalescence, till the gravity of the united particles become too great to continue above.  This tendency, too, would be favored by a diminution of that temperature, which originally elevated them to the upper regions of the atmosphere; for this morning we had another frost, though a slight one. – Aug. Courier, 13th inst.

A similar, although said to be more extensive and remarkable, occurred on the night of the 12th of November 1779.  Thousands of shooting stars fell during a four-hour time period.

The Carlisle Weekly Herald, Carlisle, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania

Tuesday, November 12, 1833

Meteoric Phenomena

“The Heavens declare the glory of God.”

It appears that the wonderful display of the Meteoric Shower, which was witnessed by many of our citizens on Wednesday night last, was extended over the whole United States – at least from present information we are led to believe so.  Those who were so fortunate (we were not) as to have witnessed the phenomenon declare it to have been awfully splendid.  Wherever it was observed it has created the greatest wonder and consternation, although it is no doubt the result of natural causes and can be satisfactorily explained by those competent to the task (In our opinion) a proper view of the subject, to which article we would invite the attention of our readers.

In the United States Gazette of Saturday last, we observed a cut, which was intended to represent the grand display of the phenomena on the Wednesday preceding in that city.

A number of persons who witnessed the display in this borough, and to whom we have shown the cut in the Gazette, stated that it was an exact representation of what they had witnessed.  We, therefore, had reason to believe that representation in this paper of that sublime spectacle would be gratifying to many of its readers.  We accordingly had a copy engraved for our paper which is subjoined – and in the language of Mr. Chandler would say: “The rare occurrence of such events being a sufficient warrant to us for the undertaking.”

Newsday, Melville, Suffolk County, New York

Friday, July 19, 1946

Negro Dies at 121; Recalled 1833 Meteor Shower

In 1946 an African American gentleman, Jasper Cullin Darrett, passed away.  Before his death he estimated his age as 121 since he was eight years old when the 1833 meteor shower occurred.  This was one of those spectacular events that many other occurrences are measured by.  Mr. Darrett had 316 descendants – I wonder how many generations that involved?

Whenever I hear about an interesting event in history, I ask myself – which of my ancestors could have experienced this? 

Captain John Hancock Linton was very much alive in 1833.  He was an old man of 86 years.  Had he experienced anything like this before?  He fought in the Revolutionary War, raised his family of ten children with wife Ann Mason.  He lived through the year 1816 when winter never quite left the United States, and crops were almost nil.  In two years, he moved his family – all of them, children, in-laws, grandchildren – to Kentucky, to his 2,000 acres of land purchased on the Beech Fork.  In 1833 he helped build Pleasant Grove Methodist Church, a few miles from his home, giving timber for pews.  Three years later Captain John passed away on December 6.

Mary Ann Elder Montgomery, who moved to Washington County, Kentucky, with husband Charles Montgomery from Maryland, was 72.  Charles Montgomery had died in 1809.  She must have witnessed this spectacle.  Her son, William Peter Montgomery, had died of cholera in June of 1833.  His son William Peter Montgomery was born the month after his death, and was in infant at this occurrence, in his cradle I would imagine.  His mother, Mary Yates Montgomery, was 33 years of age.  Mary’s mother, Henrietta Cambron Yates, was a 50-year-old.

Edward Carrico, 23, and wife Matilda Catherine Dillehay Carrico, 22, must have seen the meteor shower – as well as his father, Cornelius Carrico, 61.

Catherine Elizabeth Taylor was 3, the young child of John Compton Taylor, 48, and Susan Clark Edwards Taylor, 36.  Catherine’s grandmother, Nancy Linton Edwards, was 55. 

William Moran, Jr., was 60, and wife Susan Linton Moran, was 50.

William Linton was 43, wife Elizabeth Lyon Moran Linton, was 33.

Edward Edwards Linton was 9.

Isaiah Hill and Lucy Murphy Hill had been married 6 years in 1833.  Their son, Isaiah, was 4.  William Ross and Martha Lay, who would eventually marry were 12 and 10.  Tillotson Ross and Arena Kidd Ross were in their mid-30’s. 

Samuel Riley White and Martha Lewis White were married 6 years in 1833.  Mansfield Crow and wife Mary Rigdon were living during the shooting stars experience.  Did that story pass down through at least a few of the generations?

Pius Carrico and wife Mary Magdalene Spalding had been married three years when this even occurred.  John E. Smith and Ellen Lyons were a young married couple.

Think of how dark the nights were, especially in the country. The stars falling must have looked immense! What a marvelous site to behold!

Why have I no knowledge of this event?  Perhaps many of you feel the same.  This just tells us there are many things that happened during our ancestors lives that may be hidden.  Something that at the time was important, but after a few generations the emphasis was not so great.  Searching old newspapers is a wonderful way to bring things from the past into the present – to mull over again and think about how our ancestors reacted to the individual events. I love to read, and since my subjects are usually history or biographies, I learn much about the occurrences during my ancestors days.

I am working on a chart that will help place our ancestors in the time periods of their lives, with United States and worldwide events that happened during those years.  I will share with you when finished.

4 replies »

  1. Here’s a link to an article about this meteor shower:

    An excerpt:

    At the time, there had been limited research into meteor showers. Astronomers had not yet found a link between the showers and comet debris, nor the influences of gravity, the Sun, and other planets. Therefore, many interpreted the event as something supernatural, ranging from a harbinger of Christ’s second coming to God’s wrath. Some observers feared that meteors would hit Earth, but they skimmed past Earth.

    The true cause of the spectacular meteor shower was the constellation of Leo. Officially known as the Leonids, this meteor shower puts on a spectacular show for stargazers every 33 years, around November. So, unbeknownst to onlookers in 1833, the intense meteor shower was not a one-off event. According to historical records, it dates back to at least 900 A.D.

    … Though these meteors are very bright and appear quite large, they are in fact as small as 10mm. They originate from the Tempel-Tuttle comet which has an orbital period of 33 years. Subsequent research into the 1833 shower found a definitive link between the body and the event. The fragments are pieces of rock and ice broken from the main comet as it evaporates in the warmth of the sun.

    Since Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli discovered the link between meteor showers and comets, other periodic meteors showers like the Perseids and Geminids have been linked to comets (the Swift-Tuttle comet and 3200 Phaethon comet respectively).

    While the average period and trajectory (Added: of the Leonid meteor shower) is 33 years, this isn’t always exact. There were similar showers in 1866 and 1867. However, when astronomers predicted the next date as 1899, it did not come to pass.

    In the years following, the Leonids showed up unexpectedly, seemingly at random. Upon further study, astronomers eventually concluded that Jupiter and Saturn might interfere with the comet’s path.

    According to NASA, the last major Leonid storm was in 2002 but is due for an appearance soon. This year could be the lucky year for a Leonid sighting, look to the skies between November 17 and 18 and keep your fingers crossed.

    Here's another article that mentions the 2023 Leonids are predicted to peak on Novembeer 18 at 5:33 UTC (which I believe would be 11:33 pm November 17)!

    This article also mentioned "(t)he famous Leonid meteor shower (that) produced one of the greatest meteor storms in living memory. Rates were as high as thousands of meteors per minute during a 15-minute span on the morning of November 17, 1966. That night, Leonid meteors did, briefly, fall like rain. Some who witnessed it had a strong impression of Earth moving through space, fording the meteor stream.

    Leonid meteor storms sometimes recur in cycles of 33 to 34 years. But … in most years, the Lion whimpers rather than roars.

  2. I enjoyed reading this so much, I had the same thought of why had I never heard this before, I will have to read your post again as I read it too fast. The same for Ken Burns film about the buffaloes. It was too much to learn in one showing. Thank you Phyliss.

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