Do you want relief in the form of rain to put out the fires? There was a man who actually produced rain from 1902 to the great depression of the 1930s for places from Medicine Hat, Alberta to San Diego to Los Angeles to break droughts. Even though he left this earth 60 years ago, we can still learn about this man and his amazing practices.
Here is where all of it began. On July 15,1875 in the town of Fort Scott, Kansas from a Quaker family, a boy who would eventually make rain for Southern California from the 1900s to 1930 was born. Stephen and Marie Hatfield welcomed Charles Hatfield on a week that lightning struck and rain fell in a way that turned dusty streets into rivers ending a 2 year drought that plagued Kansas from 1874 to 1875. This must have been an interesting week to have the rainmaker to be born on.
Hatfield's father Stephen, was a salesman with the Singer Sewing Company before Charles was born and when the Hatfield's moved to Fort Scott, Stephen start his own sewing machine agency in the town and then sold it and then used the money to build a house for their family.
The Hatfield's moved to Minneapolis when Hatfield was five where the Hatfield's had four boys which only two of them survived infancy, Paul and Joel. Then they moved to the booming 16,000 people town called San Diego, California in 1890. The Hatfield's purchased a forty acre olive ranch in rural San Diego county and had three lots where they built houses. Unfortunately, when the Hatfield's arrived, San Diego was already in decline, because the larger town farther north, called Los Angeles with 50,395 people was more popular with better rail connections than San Diego. Before the end of the year, they followed the migration up north to the Cahuenga Valley (now Hollywood), where they were one of the first families to live there, with a house on a ten-acre apricot farm. Then they quickly sold the house and apricot farm finding that farming was at the mercy of the weather in that area and moved to South Pasadena and then to Pasadena.
In Los Angeles, Charles left school at the end of ninth grade to follow his dad's advice by working for the Robert B. Moorhead Agency selling New Home Sewing Machines. His father insisted that all his sons learn the trade to follow in his footsteps.
When he was not working, Hatfield was quiet in nature and you would have found him at the Los Angeles Public Library reading about his main obsession: people's attempt to control nature. The reason he was interested in this subject was that his family lived on a farm and had olive crops that when drought came would suffer. He never forgot about the drought talk in Los Angeles and as a boy in San Diego, Minneapolis, and Kansas in the early and mid 1890's.
When Hatfield was 26 years old, he began his rain making experiments when he visited his father's San Diego County olive ranch in 1902. One of his rainmaking experiments at the ranch was in April of that year, atop a windmill some 30 feet high above the ground, where he set up several metal pans which he poured a mixture of chemicals and water into. According to the Rain Wizard book, "He placed an electrical heater beneath the pan and then watched as a thin wisp of vapor rose into the air. People who passed by, the rising gas was unnoticeable other than its overpowering stench. He spent most of the morning stirring chemicals and replacing them when necessary and waited for the result. Before long, a misty fog began to fill the valley and by noon a light drizzle started to fall. After the sky cleared, Hatfield checked the rain gauge and he was surprised at what he saw. 3/100's of an inch of rain had fallen."
His father thought that Hatfield's interest in rainmaking was a waste of time. He encouraged Hatfield to continue working as a sewing machine salesman. His mom, though, took quiet pride in his endeavors and sensed that he was destined for greater things. Hatfield continued to work on his rainmaking experiments at the ranch until there was a serious need for rain in the town of Los Angeles in the winter of 1904. There was a bad drought in Los Angeles. According to the Pacific Rural Press, "The drought is seriously retarding plowing and seeding. Feeding is becoming very scarce, and although there is a fair supply of last season's hay in most places, the long continued use of dry feed has seriously affected cattle. The water supply is failing rapidly, owing to the heavy irrigation of orchards." By the end of January, the local clergyman declared January 31st 1904 a day to pray for rain.
Two days later, Hatfield and his brother Paul headed with their horse drawn wagon with their materials to the hills northeast of Los Angeles, where they built a tower similar to the tower at the ranch. People bet a prize of $50 dollars to Hatfield if he could make it rain. After it rained when he returned to Los Angeles, Hatfield said, "When I started out...conditions were extremely unfavorable for me..At 7:30 Thursday night the rain began, and at 10:30 o'clock there set a heavy downpour, which continued until 2'o clock Friday morning..Friday morning at 11:30 the rain began again and continued in showers until 8:30 o'clock at night." He was humble enough to share credit for the downpour with the preachers who prayed for rain on January 31st. He said, "I don't claim full credit for the downpour, but I do say that I was responsible for holding the storm in Southern California as long as it stayed. He received his $50 prize for sending rain on Los Angeles and returned to selling sewing machines and waited for a need to break a dry spell.
This rain producing frustrated George Franklin of the U.S. Weather Bureau in Los Angeles because he predicted that the rain would miss the city. Despite that, the businessmen in Los Angeles who paid Hatfield were satisfied. They cheered saying "Long live Rainmaker Hatfield, and may he reign longer!!
They loved him so much that they wanted him to come back to produce more rain for Los Angeles. He answered their plea and produced 18.22 inches of rain from January to March 1905. There was a break in the rain which the people demanded so that Pasadena could hold the annual Roses Parade (Rose Bowl Parade) on January 2, 1905. The Los Angeles Examiner praised him saying,
His name is Hatfield-Just simply Hatfield! The only name that Californians speak; Oh, Mister Hatfield, Here's to you, Hatfield- God bless you for that thankful heavenly leak!
After he produced the rain, Hatfield received a $1,000 prize for producing the rain. Raining in Los Angeles was called Hatfielding and the umbrellas were sold as "Genuine 'Hatfield' Umbrellas." After this, he produced rain for Dawson City, Canada in 1906 and then moved back to Los Angeles. As the 1900s rolled on, he told reporters that he had deals in the works: "ridding London of its fog, irrigating the Sahara, and breaking droughts in South Africa", which none of these became a reality which made people think he was deceiving people.
His big day finally came in 1915 when he was asked to produce rain for San Diego for the Panama California Exposition so that San Diego would be shown as a green oasis with abundant water. On January 4th 1916, the dam keeper at Morena Reservoir said that a light rain began to fall at the reservoir. There was already rain on New Year's Eve and all the areas reservoirs benefited from the rain. Morena Reservoir only received 0.13 inches of rain while Los Angeles received 2 inches. What does this rain have to do with Hatfield, isn't God the one who sends the rain? Yes he is. What this has to do with Hatfield was that he was asked to produce rain for Morena Reservoir.
Hatfield, if he could produce rain and fill Morena Reservoir to overflowing, would be awarded $10,000 dollars. On the journey to the reservoir with his brother Joel, instead of the usual single chest of chemicals, he brought two. That morning on January 4th, behind the black tar paper, he tended his pans of chemicals on the windmill tower similar to the other ones he built.
The local newspapers were filled with speculation about what Hatfield was doing in the San Diego Mountains. Some curious people even made the trek to the reservoir to see what Hatfield was doing and they heard explosions and rockets launched into the air. One said he saw Hatfield looking skyward waving his arms on the tower while he muttered a strange language, as if he was striking a deal with the heavens.
Things got stranger when the light rain turned into a downpour lasting for days. By January 10th, it was as if someone turned the heavenly faucet on San Diego. "Rather than relaxing, Hatfield increases his efforts to produce rain, his cloud attracting chemicals belching out more smelly fumes than ever before." according to the Rain Wizard book. One reporter said that "Hatfield worked day and night 24/7 and received quite a drenching himself."
Fortunately, the skies cleared, very briefly for two days, with blue sky. Then on Friday, January 14th, a wall of dark gray clouds approached San Diego from the Pacific Ocean. By Saturday, everyone was thinking about Hatfield. Was he responsible for the heavy rain?. Councilman Benbough though "He's hoping that it continues to rain so hard that Hatfield will have to build an ark."
Unfortunately, that serious of a flood was not out of the question. The skies continued to produce rain, so much that runoff was flowing from hillsides into all the areas reservoirs, including the Upper Otay and the Lower Otay Reservoirs east of Chula Vista. The Lower Otay rose five inches in eight hours. The Sweetwater Reservoir east of San Diego was rising a half an inch a day. At Morena Reservoir, Hatfield telephoned to report that "seventeen and a half inches of rain fell in five days, and that beats any similar record for this place that I have been able to find."
The people in San Diego were tired of the endless rain. The San Diego Evening Tribune suggested, "If Hatfield made it rain, he can make a lot of money by stopping it." Their request was not answered. According to the book, "By 2:00am on Monday, January 17th, the city was consumed by chaos as runoff entered dry gullies, canyons, and washes. Raging torrents now made their way to the city's reservoirs. The San Diego River, usually just a trickle, breached its banks and stretched a mile across side to side.
Hillsides collapsed and roadways gave way. Cars were abandoned in the deep mud, and canoes and rowboats now were the main transportation across town. Houses were swept off their foundations and flowed down the river into the ocean. All its bridges that linked the city to other parts of the area were washed out. It was a huge mess!! San Diego was cut off from the rest of the United States, the rest of the world.
Unfortunately, Hatfield was unaware of the havoc that was visiting the city. He then said on the telephone that the rain was just a warm up of what he had planned." You could have said, Wake up Hatfield!!, There is massive flooding happening in San Diego and not just in San Diego, but in Mexico. In the town of Ensenada, 83 miles south of San Diego, according to a Union reporter, "they had really heavy rain which poured in record breaking amounts in the memory of its oldest settler. It felt like a full fifty inches!" It made what San Diego was going through look like a mist of rain.
During January 25th through the 31st, It was eventful. There was good news and bad news. The good news was that Lower Otay Reservoir finally spilled over for the first time in their history. The bad news was that the reservoir's dam collapsed and killed 50 people. Everything from houses to trees and the Tijuana hot springs hotel in Mexico swept away in the flood waters downstream of the dam.
In San Diego, it was like a miniature Venice with its main street Broadway having water five feet deep. At Morena Reservoir, there was a nonstop rain pummeling on the lake and the dam keeper struggled against the wind to maneuver a rowboat to the outlet tower to open the gates of the dam to release water from the reservoir. Millions of gallons of water was flowing into the lake and they saw that five billion gallons of water flowed into the reservoir on January 26th. It was spilling over four feet deep at the spillway. According to the San Diego Union Tribune in the Rain promised, flood followed in 1916 article, At the end of the rainfall, "28 inches of rain fell in the whole month of January at Morena Reservoir, 7.56 inches fell in San Diego, and a heavy 36 inches fell at Lake Cuyamaca in the Mountains."
On January 31st, the dam keeper Maggie Swanson received a call from someone who wanted to lynch the Hatfield boys. When the Hatfield boys left their work area at Morena as they headed west from the mountains to San Diego, they could see why. "Everything was gone. The road was gone and the bridges were gone." In San Diego, the people were wondering if Morena reservoir spilled over and fulfilled the contract. Frankly, it didn't matter because they would threaten to sue Hatfield for causing damages to the city. The City Attorney Cosgrove looked for ways to avoid paying Hatfield.
Fortunately, despite the damages done to San Diego because of the flooding, the town now had five years worth of water supply if no rain fell for the rest of the season. Hatfield felt assured that the city would pay him for producing rainfall and even offered to produce rain again for Morena reservoir to prove that the heavy rains were caused by his chemical assault and not nature. But still, Cosgrove refused to pay Hatfield anything. Hatfield, in his complaint, explained his process "I remind the council that I told them I did not claim to produce rain from a cloudless sky, but to convert a light one into a heavy one...Therefore, my contract..implied..that all natural rains coming to Morena during my operations were so much my credit." The case dragged into 1917 whether Hatfield would get paid. After all this, the judge ruled in favor of the city council which said that the storms were acts of God.
Hatfield, after all this, didn't stop producing rain. He produced rain in Medicine Hat, Alberta to break a five year drought in 1919. In July and August 1922, He began experiencing with "something he had never done before." In Sand Canyon in the edge of the Mojave Desert, he set up a six foot tower four thousand feet off the ground. When he first started on July 26th it was a sunny day with clear blue skies and after he did his experiment, on Thursday, clouds began to form and for the next three days it showered and on Sunday there was immense rainfall which Hatfield said was one of the "greatest rainfalls ever known." "Legend has it, that it rained forty inches in three hours" according to the California: An Illustrated History book. He then stopped two forest fires two years in a row with his rain producing skills in Honduras.
After his trip to Honduras in 1931, Hatfield's wife, Maybelle, divorced him. During his whole career in rainmaking, the newspapers never mentioned his wife and the relationship was already over for quite some time because she was jealous because she was not in the newspaper. Unfortunately for him, his career was coming to an end too, with the construction of the 700 foot Hoover Dam beginning in 1931 and completed in 1936 on the Colorado River (Today, if Hatfield was still living, they might ask him to produce rain to fill the lake behind Hoover Dam, Lake Mead to end the drought) guaranteeing the Southwest a reliable source of water. Rainmaking became a relic of the past with farmers favoring irrigation for their fields.
Hatfield returned to selling sewing machines and got remarried to a friend from his school days, Martha McLain in 1937. Hatfield lived 21 more years until he died in 1958 at age 82 in Pearblossom, California. He was one of the most successful rainmakers who ever lived.
During and after his life, people made plays about him such as the Rainmaker by N. Richard Nash in 1954. Other people started to do cloud seeding such as Vincent Schaefer in 1946 when he scattered dry ice into the clouds in Schenectady, New York which produced snow. Cloud seeding is still done in the United States and around the world in countries such as the UAE and China.
I was inspired to write about Charles Hatfield because I was amazed to hear about all his rain experiments and how he was successful in producing rain for San Diego , Los Angeles, and the Mojave Desert. It gave me inspiration to research how to produce rain during our droughts in California and the West and the fires that have been going on.
Even though Hatfield was able to produce rain for various towns, God is the one who is able to control the weather and sustain the universe. The Scriptures say in the book of Job that "God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend. For to the snow he says 'Fall on the earth,' likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour. He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it...By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast. He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the cloud scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the inhabitable world. Job 37:5-7, 10-12 ESV.
The Rain Wizard: The Amazing, Mysterious, and True Life of Charles Mallory Hatfield by Larry Dane Brimner.
Wonders of Weather by Francis Nankin. Page 72-Rain on Demand. This is where I first heard about Charles Hatfield.
California: An Illustrated History by T.H. Watkins. Chapter 19-The New Rainmakers. Page 385
"Charles Hatfield." Wikipedia wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Hatfield
I hope that you enjoyed my article about Charles Hatfield and I hope that you learned more about him and what he did. Thank You for reading my post and God bless!!