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biography of george washington eddey 1863 - 1928


This biographical sketch of George Washington Eddey and the History of the Block Island Weather Station was contributed by Mr. Gary W. Eddey, grandson of George Washington Eddey, a Weather Bureau Observer who had the longest tenure of all Block Island weather observers . These histories were constructed from records in the National Archives, historical records on Block Island, family records, and reference to Gustavus A. Weber’s The Weather Bureau Its History, Activities and Organization , Appleton and Company, New York, 1922.

George Washington Eddey was born on February 22, 1863, in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, and died October 13, 1928, on Block Island, Rhode Island, where he is buried. He grew up at 63 Huron Street in Greenpoint, eight blocks from the Continental shipyard where his father, Carnes, was a ship carpenter. One year before he was born, the Continental Works Shipyard had launched the first of many Ironclad Monitors which his father had helped build. New York Harbor and the great wooden and iron ships built in the New York and Brooklyn shipyards provided an introduction to the sea and the maritime industry for young Eddey.

When George was a young adult the shipbuilding industry in New York had diminished in size considerably. He sought out a different career path than his father and found one that involved the sea but in a different way than could have been conceived of by his father. Paralleling the changes in American society, he became one of the many workers who made the transformation from a manufacturing to a service career.

In 1887, at the age of 24, George W. Eddey began working for the Weather Bureau at Block Island under Observer Sgt. P.J. Cahill, U. S. Signal Service. The Signal Service had opened a station on Block Island in 1880 when the first telegraph cable was laid between Pt. Judith and Block Island. In January 1888 his formal evaluation for the U.S. Signal Service lists him as 25 years old and unmarried. He was also issued his first uniform from the Signal Service at this time. In May 1888 he was reassigned as assistant Observer at the Oswego, NY, weather station. Official records of the War Department Signal Service state, “21 May, 1888, Private George W. Eddey, Signal Corps, left (BI) station this morning at 0830 a.m. by steamer, the George. W. Danielson, pursuant to SO No. 32 dated Washington, D.C. April 30, 1888.

In July 1889 Geo. W. Eddey was transferred back to Block Island under Observer Sgt. William Davis. In May 1890 he was transferred to and put in charge of the Titusville, Florida, station. In May 1891, he was transferred to the Jupiter, Florida, station. It was at this time that the Weather Bureau was transferred to the Department of Agriculture on July 1, 1891. Eddey hung up his uniform shortly afterwards and remained with the Weather Bureau as a civilian. In September 1891, he was back on Block Island with William Davis. In November 1892 he was transferred to the Wilmington, NC, weather bureau office as the Assistant Weather Observer. In September 1893 he was again transferred back to the Block Island station as an Assistant Weather Observer. He again worked with Davis, the veteran Weather Observer. In September 1895, while still assigned to Block Island, he was promoted to Head Weather Observer and received a salary of $1,100. In November 1895 he was transferred to the Duluth, Minnesota, Weather Station as the Head Observer. Documents from the national archives suggest that he was transferred to Duluth to fix internal problems at that station. In February 1896 he was given authority to make local forecasts. Soon after, in August 1896, he was transferred to the Green Bay, Wisconsin, station as the Head Observer. He remained at Green Bay until his wife became terminally ill, and he then requested a transfer to a warmer and more “healthy” climate. Concerning this period and his former role at Block Island, the following information was chronicled in one of Block Island’s early weekly newspapers, “The Mid-Ocean”, in two articles published in the July and August 1896 editions:

“Mr. Geo. W. Eddey (is) pleasantly remembered by many visitors and islanders as the assistant observer and telegrapher at the local weather bureau and cable office here.... His wife (Nellie) is the daughter of Leander A. Ball, Esq., proprietor of the Union House Hotel. Mr. Eddey had many warm friends here and his departure from Block Island was regretted by all.”

In November 1899 he was transferred to the Abilene, TX, weather station as the Head Observer. His wife Nellie died in Abilene in April 1902. He stayed there until 1912 when he was transferred back to Block Island. He remained there until his retirement in 1926. He remarried -- to his wife’s sister, Lillie, who is buried with him on Block Island. He died in 1928 and was buried in the Block Island Cemetery. This cemetery has a caretaker and is a beautiful spot to visit on any day, regardless of the weather.

George W. Eddey worked his entire adult life for the United States Weather Bureau and had the distinction of serving longer than any other Weather Observer at the Block Island Weather station. He began and ended his career on the island and spent approximately 16 years, including his last 14 years in the Weather Bureau, living in the Weather Bureau House on Beach Avenue. Like an earlier Observer, Walcott Day, he was related to settlers on the island. From his burial site in the Block Island Cemetery can be seen the beautiful Georgian style Weather House that he called home for many of his years on the island. The Weather House was sold by the Government in the early 1950's and named to the National Register of Historic Places in September 1983. The building is still referred to as the Weather House and is now a bed and breakfast. The memory of George W. Eddey is memorialized in a stained glass window in the Primitive Methodist Episcopal Church near the old town center (now also a Bed and Breakfast).

Written and compiled by Gary E. Eddey
30 Edgehill Ave
Morristown, NJ 07960

Special thanks to Rob Downie, Wynn Eddey, and Captain Skip Theberge, NOAA Corps (ret.)

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Last Updated: June 8, 2006 9:24 AM

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