A Visit to the Past

Managing Editor Sandi Duncan visits the place where the Farmers' Almanac began, nearly 200 years ago.

Some people say David Young resembled the actor Basil Rathbone.
Some people say David Young resembled the actor Basil Rathbone.

Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to take a field trip to East Hanover, NJ, the place where the Farmers’ Almanac’s founding editor, David Young, lived, wandered, and ultimately where his gravestone was placed.

It was really great to meet with John Deep, John Esposito, Rich Ford and Carl Vidal, all members of the East Hanover Historical Society. These men know a lot about this town’s very famous and historical past, as well as our founding editor David Young.

Young was an astronomer, poet, teacher and Almanac maker. He was born January 27th, 1781, in Pine Brook, New Jersey, son of Sara (Mott) and Amos Young, a farmer. He was a great-grandson of Robert Young of Scotland, who had settled in Perth Amboy, New Jersey in 1685.

While there is no photograph or likeness** of David Young known to exist, the stories, also confirmed by the historical society’s research, describe him as a man who carried himself with a natural dignity. His manner was always deferential and kindly and though he often outwardly appeared absent-minded, it was recognized that his deep thinking in the abstract would cause these periods of contemplative reflection.

He taught school but I learned last week that he wasn’t the best of teachers due to his inability to discipline the children. There is no record of his education, but he was a very scholarly man, highly advanced in physics, mathematics, astronomy, literary and technical writing, farming, and lecturing.

The men I met with last week also told me that Young walked everywhere — he never rode a horse — even though he was known to give talks in New York and Pennsylvania.

While visiting East Hanover, I drove past the house where he and his wife Mary lived, parked near a stone where he allegedly was known to lay on and gaze at the stars, and also saw his gravestone.

Young started our Farmers’ Almanac in 1818 and continued to edit it until his death on February 13th, 1852. The 1853 Farmers’ Almanac, published by Benjamin Olds of Newark, New Jersey, still carried David Young’s name on the cover, even after he had died, because the calculations had been made by him prior to his death. Fortunately for all of us, Young’s Farmers’ Almanac, the very same one I work for, has continued to be published every year since 1818, and still continues to use many of Young’s suggested calculations as well as his name on the cover.

I wanted to share this with you as it was a rewarding experience to be reminded of the amazing history of our Farmers’ Almanac.

**UPDATE October 2013:  I was recently contacted by Kathy Fisher, the president of Pine Brook, NJ, Historical Society. She informed me that Young was born, lived and died in Pine Brook, NJ (close to  East Hanover). She also said that according to her records and history, Young resembled Basil Rathbone, the famous actor who played Sherlock Holmes. Thanks Kathy for the update!

Here are a few pictures taken that day, courtesy of John Deep.

If you ever get a chance to visit East Hanover, NJ, stop by the First Presbyterian Church, which not only is a historical site in and of itself, but it’s where David Young’s, Editor and Philom., gravestone resides.

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Sandi Duncan is the Managing Editor of the Farmers' Almanac. Click here to read Sandi's full biography.

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