Joseph Weare usually didn’t record much about life on his farm in York, Maine, during the busy month of June. But 1816 was an unusual year — the year without a summer. There was a frost in every month of the year, and snow fell in much of New England during a cold spell in early June. The hardship and hunger caused by the cold convinced many New England farmers to join the great migration westward.
Weare, born in 1777, kept a diary from 1803 to 1856.
The Diary of Joseph Weare
In his diary he reported June 1, 1816, was “warm and pleasant” and on June 5 he was “planting corn over.” Then on June 6 he reported a gale and “very cold.” June 7 and June 8 were the same, and “the wind and Cold has been of great Damage to everything.”
On June 9, 1816, he wrote in his diary,
9/ fair weather the wind at NW and Cold Frost last night; (then overcast and rain).
Joseph Weare typically used his diary to describe work on his farm. He dug parsnips, shelled corn, raked hay, took up the flax.
The diary reveals the tight-knit farming community in 19th-century Cape Neddick. Neighbors and members of his extended family helped each other throughout the season. His neighbor Samuel Webber “‘made the garden” in the spring of 1803, while “Welch and Bowden” helped him haul dung. In August 1814 he helped George Weare kill his bull.
Joseph Weare helped others as well. On June 23, 1803, he “went to raising Theodore Weare’s barn.” Later that year he helped Dan Weare butcher an ox and a bull.
He had a cider press and made cider for others in the community: C.J. Weare, Josiah Talpey, Mr. Phillips and Dan Clark.
He also went fishing, sometimes catching prodigious amounts of fish. On July 3, 1804, he wrote that he caught 100 fish.
He recorded births and deaths, practically the only time he mentioned women.
Sometimes he didn’t do much or, as he put it, “do no great today.”
Joseph Weare died November 25, 1856.
A transcript of Joseph Weare’s entire diary can be downloaded from CapeNeddickMaine.org, which is where we found the photo of the Webber House.
This story last updated in 2022.