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A Column in The Columbian and a Post in the Library — 150 Years of the News & Weather Round-Up

August 27, 2016

In 1866 the first daily synopsis of news and weather from the Interior of British Columbia was published at New Westminster. Only the year before, the first telegraph cable had been laid across the Fraser River from New Westminster to Brownsville, and a line completed to Seattle, bringing us into real-time communication with the rest of the world.

With the extension of the line in the direction of Alaska, a string of telegraph stations was established northward. Notwithstanding the frequent breaks in the line and interruptions of service,

“Arrangements have just been made,” [announced the Columbian] “by which we shall receive daily dispatches from the various stations, even should they contain nothing more than a report of the state of the weather — of itself not altogether an uninteresting record.

Our readers may, therefore, rely upon having whatever news comes within the Operator’s reach regularly placed before them, while those who belong to the Public Library will find copies of these, as well as the Eastern dispatches, daily posted upon the bulletin board of that useful institution.”

It is not stated if the telegraph operators were paid any extra for this service. They were not official meteorologists and reports would vary according to the accuracy and enthusiasm of the submitting operator.

Here is the first news and weather round-up in British Columbia, as published September 7, 1866.

  • Yale – Sept. 6. 8 A.M. – Weather clear; light wind, thermometer 86.

  • Eighty-Three Mile House – Sept. 6, 8 A.M. – Thermometer 64 in shade. Weather clear with light east wind. Nothing in way of news.

  • Soda Creek – Sept. 6, 8 A.M. – Thermometer 50; calm and clear.

  • Quesnel – Sept. 6, 8 A.M. – Thermometer 63. Weather fine.

  • Clinton – Sept. 6, 8 A.M. – Weather clear. Thermometer 70.

  • Hope – Sept. 7, 8 A.M. – Thermometer stands at 62 this morning. Weather calm and clear. No news.

  • Hope – Sept. 7 – Thermometer stands at 60. Wind south-west; very cloudy. No news.

  • Yale – Sept. 7 – Weather clear. Thermometer 80 in the shade.

  • Lytton, Sept. 7 – Weather clear and windy, but warm. Cold last evening and during the night it blew a hurricane. No news worth noting.

Lest these synopses seem rather brief and lacking in personality, don’t despair — public and press complained as much about the weather in old days as we do now, and the weather-man often took the blame. Long-time New Westminster meteorologist Adolphus Peele took it all in good humor and had many years to develop the patter, as in this example from 1905.

“Capt. Peele will not admit he has lost control of the weather. He merely says ‘Cheer up, the worst is yet to come.’ “

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