Country Facts and Folklore
By Andy Reddick


Various sources from time to time have mentioned the solar eclipse of Saturday, August 7, 1869. Bird artist William Savage went to the Quaker Monthly Meeting in Salem. As the shadow began to draw over the face of the sun, there was a strange yellow hue to the darkness that lasted about 10 minutes. Birds and chickens ran about in confusion, some actually going to roost. Air became cool and a murky cloud hung in the northwest.

The eclipse of the sun was total in Bentonsport, according to the editor of the Star News who vividly described the event when he was 77 years old. By invitation, he had accompanied several people to the top of the flouring mill where they observed the eclipse through smoked glasses.

The view from the top of the mill was rare in itself. Toward the north and west, the river could be seen winding through forested hills, and the picturesque little town specialized in long streets running parallel to the river. As the moon crept over the sun, shadows darkened the woods to the northwest and silhouetted the buildings along the bluff east of town.

He could see the old Academy and the Tussey house high on the hill, the "Grandma Hancock" home and three churches with sunshine still on their spires lying against the darkened bluffs, and he could make out the homes of the Rehkops, the Sanfords, the Greefs, the Greens, Captain Hancock, the Braggs, Billy Masonís old home, Kecks stone house, Masonís Hotel, and high on the bluff was Captain Payneís house.

In the swift coming darkness, cows and pigs ran down the hill from the wooded pastures, chickens made unusual noises and began to roost, and "Cal" Montgomery nicknamed "Gully" came whistling up the stairs with a lighten lantern.

He said that he would never forget the awesome corona around the darkened sun! They continued watching the dark shadow creep south and east over the landscape as if taken over by a fairy land with shadow overhead and far in the distance. Once light began to overtake the shadow, they found their way downstairs and out onto the street again.

(contributed by Rich Lowe. Source: "Star News" newspaper, Pasadena, CA article by Kate Fegtly Tucker on the Total Eclipse from Bentonsport.)

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Contributed to the Van Buren Co. IAGenWeb Project by Andy Reddick