“If You Build It, He Will Come!” VI AKA “Indian Summer”

Hello Collinwood Family,

Recently, while experiencing one of those amazingly cold and wet evenings that our Northeastern Ohio area is so famous for I remarked to a fellow patron of my Salon that “we may have seen “Indian summer” pass us by”.  She in turn said emphatically “oh no, not at all.  We haven’t seen our first frost.  Indian summer usually lasts a week and appears after the first frost.”   Obviously, given the blustery conditions outside this brief statement from someone I had just met made me want to give her a great big hug and kiss on the cheek.  I instead settled on doing the gentlemanly thing by walking her to her vehicle under my large umbrella and making sure she left safely. 

Later, this brief yet heart-warming encounter made me think and question what does the term Indian summer really mean?  And now, presented for your viewing pleasure, the facts behind Indian summer:

"An Indian summer is a meteorological phenomenon that occurs in the autumn. It refers to a period of considerably above normal temperatures, accompanied by dry and hazy conditions, usually after there has been a killing frost. Depending on latitude and elevation, the phenomenon can occur in the Northern Hemisphere between late September and mid November.  The modern use of the term is when the weather is sunny and clear, and above 21 °C (70 °F), after there has been a sharp frost; a period normally associated with late-October to mid-November.

In some regions of the southwestern United States, 'Indian summer' is colloquially used to describe the hottest times of the year, typically in late July or August. But in the South, as elsewhere in the US, this period is more commonly known as the dog days, in reference to the position of Sirius, the 'Dog Star' and brightest star in the sky other than the sun. In the desert southwestern United States, where frost is rare, the term is sometimes used to refer to a brief period of hot dry weather which occurs after the hottest months and before the onset of winter rains, typically in October or November. It may also be used to refer to any unseasonably warm weather during the first few weeks of the rainy season, before the approach of spring. 

The expression 'Indian summer' has been used for more than two centuries. The earliest known use was by French-American writer John Hector St. John de Crevecoeur in rural New York in 1778: "Then a severe frost succeeds which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer." There are several theories as to its etymology:

  • In Colonial New England and New York, Indian Summer referred only to a January Thaw, when American Indian Raiding parties could be expected in the western and northern areas: the ground had briefly lost its snow cover so tracking the Native American raiders back to their winter camps was much more difficult for the Colonials.
  • In The Americans: The Colonial Experience, Daniel J. Boorstin speculates that the term originated from raids on European colonies by American Indian war parties; these raids usually ended in late autumn (due to snow covered ground), hence summer-like weather in the late fall and mid winter was an Indian Summer, a time raiding parties could be expected.
  • Two other known uses of the term in the 18th century are from accounts kept by two army officers leading retaliation expeditions against Indians for winter raiding parties on settlers in Ohio and Indiana in 1790, and Pennsylvania in 1794.
  • It may be so named because this was the traditional period during which early American Indians harvested their crops of squash and corn.
  • In the same way that Indian giver was coined for people who take back presents they have bestowed, the phrase Indian summer may simply have been a way of saying "false summer". (However, some traditions maintain that "Indian giver" refers to the practice of giving gifts at the end of pow-wow to honor and support the receiver in living a good life. If the recipient fails to do so, the giver may take back the gift."1

Just thought you might like to know.

Until Next Time Happy Planting Collinwood Family.




[1] Wikipedia: Indian Summer

Damon Dillard

My name is Reverend Damon P. Dillard and my wife and I have been Collinwood residents for the past 9 plus years. Our tenth year anniversary in this wonderful community will begin this coming January. Our home is located on Whitcomb Avenue where we also have a Christian Congregation.

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Volume 3, Issue 9, Posted 4:33 PM, 12.31.2011