In the hours just before dawn in November 1833, the skies across Scioto County were lit up by thousands of meteors.
Churches in Scioto County were the guidance that kept the early pioneers in harmony with God and support of one another. So in the early days of Scioto County there were many congregations sprinkled throughout the county. Throughout the years it was the faith of the early settlers that moved them forward to bring about civilization. Each of all the faith based communities in the county had a pastor as leader; there were different denominations – but all with the same intent. With the Pastors’ guidance they kept eyes, minds and hearts toward heaven – in hopes that someday they would indeed be called to their eternal reward. On a chilly night in November 1833 the pioneers of the county – were eyewitness to a display of heavenly bliss – that was to them inexplicable. Since it originated toward the heavens the common folk could have thought, that surely, it was a sign from above. In today’s age, social media tracks the various weather phenome’s and world events – the minute they happen. So you can only imagine how awe struck, folks must have felt, when the explosion of shooting stars illuminated the night sky on November 13, 1833. Especially when no justification was given at the time it was happening.
One such local story lends a historical perspective to the occurrence of the night of November 13th. A Dr. Andrews and Charley Tracy (a lawyer) from Portsmouth, were out hunting with Abraham G. Noel and his father. According to Abraham’s account he had woke up from sleeping about 3 a.m., when he noted the sky was ablaze with meteors. He immediately awoke his fellow hunters to witness the spectacle. The light show of meteors went on for a good hour or more. The small fire balls apparently fell within 30 to 40 feet of the earth and would burn out. Just before dawn, people threw on clothes and gathered in roads and fields to watch the 150,000 meteors (about 30 per second) dance in plain view during the storm’s peak. This lasted until 4 o’clock a.m., after that a few meteors continued to fall until daylight.
Scioto County must have been abuzz with religious astonishment – questions being asked to religious leaders, inquiring what happened and why? One eyewitness told a newspaper, that, “the very heavens seemed to be ablaze.” Though many were spellbound, not all rejoiced in the cosmic celebration. Locally in Scioto County – some of the people in the settlements nearby were so frightened that they prayed all the next day. At the time of the meteor shower, the South was a hotbed for the national religious revival known as the Second Great Awakening. There were those that must have been terrified, fearing it was the End of Days, as predicted by a Bible verse: “and the stars of heaven shall fall.”
I think what was witnessed that night can be summed up with the following quote: (one witness’ description of the meteor shower) “No spectacle so terribly grand and sublime was ever before beheld by man as that of the firmament descending in fiery torrents over the dark and roaring cataract.” (Author Unknown)
But in the weeks following, newspapers demystified the showers with science.
Bob Boldman is a local historian. He can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org