On December 14, 1807, Nathan Wheeler, Justice of the Court of Common Pleas,
observed a bolide approaching from the northern horizon at 0630 hours. The
fireball vanished into a cloud and left a train of smoke and sparks for half
a minute. A minute later, Justice Wheeler heard three loud explosions prior
to a rumble that sounded like "a cannon ball rolling across the floor."
William Prince and his family were awakened by what they thought was
lightning and later discovered that the supposed strike had left a hole in
their front yard. Upon hearing stories of stones falling in other parts of
Weston, he unearthed a 35-pound fragment from the hole, broke it apart and
gave it away as souvenirs.
Several others witnessed the bright fireball and subsequent impact, and Yale
professors Benjamin Silliman (the first to ever teach a science course in the
United States, chemistry at Yale in 1802) and James Kingsley soon gathered 330
pounds of the H4 chondrite as well as numerous witness statements. Less than
50 pounds can be accounted for today, much of which is institutionally held.
Thomas Jefferson, then-President of the United States and known as a scientific
statesman, was rumored to say at the time, "I would more easily believe that
two Yankee professors would lie than that stones would fall from heaven."
Recent research has suggested his words were somewhat different ("A cautious mind
will weigh well the opposition of the phenomenon to everything hitherto observed,
the strength of the testimony by which it is supported and the errors and
misconceptions to which even our senses are liable. It may be very difficult to
explain how the stone you possess came into the position in which it was found,
but is it easier to explain how it got into the clouds from whence it is supposed
to have fallen?"), but there is little doubt that Jefferson's Embargo Act, which
became operational only eight days after the Weston fall, likely colored his
judgment about the true extraterrestrial origin of this meteorite.
The New England states, Connecticut in particular, were most affected by the
Embargo, and New Haven, as only one example, never recovered as a seaport.
Relations between Jefferson and Connecticut were strained at best. Nevertheless,
he was intrigued by the fall and ordered an investigation by one Nathaniel Bowdith
of Salem whose findings supported those of Silliman and Kingsley, thus confirming
the first witnessed fall in North America by European settlers.