Weather is the topic; temperature, precipitation

By Bob Bohlken

My friend, George Gille, an excellent researcher, provided me with more information than you can shake a stick at about the topic, “History of local weather observation and recording.” What is presented here is just the tip of the iceberg.

The local weather is the most frequently talked about non-political and socially acceptable topic in conversation and mass media news. Even on a sunny day, one-third of the regional television newscasts is devoted to describing the local weather conditions and forecasting the future weather. The St. Joseph News-Press allocates two columns by 12 inches long to the current temperature and precipitation, the forecast and weather-associated information. The Maryville weather station is located at the water plant where the observations of daily temperature and precipitation are made and recorded.

The local weather, temperature, and precipitation has been formally observed and recorded dating back to the 1800s. Before the advent of technological advancement in the study of barometric pressures and movement of weather fronts, the history of the recorded average temperature and precipitation was used to forecast pending weather conditions.

Weather observing and recording has been a significant part of the United States Department of Agriculture Weather Bureau. Based on this information from the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Weather Bureau’s locally observed and recorded averages, forecasts and predictions are made in newspapers and the “Farmers’ Almanac.” “The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” founded in 1792 has been forecasting regional weather for centuries.

Our grandson, Brandon Gumm, uses the almanac’s advice and weather predictions in regard to planting his vegetable garden. Local volunteers are recognized by the states’ US Weather Bureau’s Section Director and are provided with standard temperature and precipitation instruments and recording notebooks.

Probably the first local person to observe weather and record it in writing was Mr. MBW Harmon located near Pickering. However, in the late 1880s, Harmon’s recording of precipitation and temperature were recorded at inconsistent intervals and were measured with non-standard instruments. His reporting of temperature and precipitation to the bureau lasted only a year or two. The two outstanding official pioneers in weather observing, recording and forecasting weather in Nodaway County are John Robert Brink and Roland Montgomery. Both had reporting tenures of 30 years or more. In their obituaries, there is more information about their volunteer weather observation/recording than about their vocations.

The most noted official Nodaway County observer and reporter for the Missouri Weather Bureau was JR Brink. Brink began observing using standard equipment and reporting following standard procedures in 1894 and continued his responsibility until 1934, the second longest official Missouri tenured weather reporter. JW Pulliam of Gorin, Scotland County, had the longest tenure as he began in January 1882 and Brink officially began in January 1884.

Rosco Nunn, northwest Missouri section director of the US Weather Bureau praised Brink in a letter to Brink in which he said, “Certainly, no one has given more attention to the weather records and weather service than you, for you have not only been an observer but an active agent in the dissemination of forecasts and making the weather service valuable to your community in its various phases.” Being an official weather observer and recorder was an avocation not a vocation; in other words, one serving in that capacity was a volunteer. The weather observers had substantial occupations. 

JR Brink, the son of JQ Brink, was born September 27, 1857, in Ross County, OH and in 1865, at the age of eight, he moved with his family to Graham. JQ was in the mercantile business and was interested in informally observing and recording the extreme weather circumstances. Upon graduating from secondary school, JR was involved in the mercantile business with his father, but at the age of 22, he attended the University of Missouri and became the editor of the Mound City newspaper. As the editor, he relied on the weather station located in Oregon, MO, for weather-related reports and articles about extreme weather conditions. In 1880, he married Helen Kavanaugh and the couple moved to Maryville where JR became a telegrapher. He began the process of becoming the US Weather Bureau’s Nodaway County Station in 1882 and became official in 1884. At this time JR owned a grocery store known as JR Brink and Co. In 1914, JR took the position as superintendent of Northwest Missouri Normal School’s construction and maintenance. He also taught classes on weather observing and recording. JR Brink died May 14, 1934, at the age of 76.

In the spring of 1934, Roland Bruce Montgomery became the official US Weather Bureau reporter and recorder of temperature and precipitation for Nodaway County. Montgomery was born October 3, 1881, in Burlington Jct. He graduated from Maryville High School, Maryville Seminary and the University of Nebraska. Montgomery became joint proprietor with his father of a clothing store and a shoe store in Maryville. In 1938, Montgomery became the superintendent of grounds and maintenance at Northwest Missouri State College. During his 30-year tenure as Nodaway County’s official weather reporter and recorder, Montgomery recorded the area’s highest temperature and drought in history in 1934 and 1936 and the record-holding snowfall on the first day in January 1936. He held the official Nodaway County volunteer weather reporter and recorder position until he died on January 3, 1969.

JR Brink and Montgomery created a legacy through their volunteering commitment to officially reporting and recording the weather occurring in Nodaway County. This official observing and recording temperature and precipitation continues at the Maryville water plant.

Thanks to George Gille, Mary Bohlken and Sheila Smail.

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