May 19, 1780 — New England’s Dark Day

The only known depiction of New England's Dark Day, taken from Our First Century by Richard Devens

The only known depiction of New England’s Dark Day, taken from Our First Century by Richard Devens

Do you know about “New England’s Dark Day”?  It was May 19, 1780 – imagine waking up and going about your normal daily routine.  Then around 10:30 in the morning the sky suddenly darkens and by 2:00 p.m. it’s so dark that you can’t see without candles.  This really happened.

“For people living at the time of the Revolutionary War, this was a terrifying event. Birds sang their evening songs at noon while chickens came home to roost. Frogs began their nighttime croaking. Some people found they couldn’t even read when holding a book a few inches in front of them. The darkness extended from as far north as Portland, Maine, and as far south as New Jersey. In fact, in the days prior to the daytime blackness, the sun had appeared red and the sky yellow. In New England, there were some accounts of an ashy smell in the air.

The night following this dark day held no moon and no stars. It was the darkest night many people had ever witnessed. What could have caused this aberration of nature? Religious zealots thought this was the Judgment day. Other people were simply bewildered by the turn of events. Some villages marked the first anniversary of the dark day with prayer and fasting.

The mural of Connecticut State Council Member Abraham Davenport, who on the Dark Day said "I am against an adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought."

The mural of Connecticut State Council Member Abraham Davenport, who on the Dark Day said “I am against an adjournment. The day of judgment is either approaching, or it is not. If it is not, there is no cause of an adjournment: if it is, I choose to be found doing my duty. I wish therefore that candles may be brought.”

American poet, John Whittier, wrote a poem “Abraham Davenport” that contains these lines: “Men prayed, and women wept; all ears grew sharp/To hear the doom-blast of the trumpet shatter/The black sky…” Davenport, a member of the Connecticut legislature, responded to his colleague’s fears with courage and common sense in the face of what appeared to be a supernatural event.” (Robin Smith-Johnson, source)

The mystery of New England’s Dark Day stood until 2004 when (perhaps?) it was solved click here.

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