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[. . .]
4 in phr by sun; In indications of time: The sun being (so many hours) above the horizon, (so many hours) after sunrise or before sunset. [First attested nearly a century earlier in an English source, but evidently not common there (and not recorded in OED or EDD); the relation to other senses of by is not clear.] chiefly Sth, S Midl, formerly also NEng old-fash or obs
1676 (1878) MA Hist. Soc. Coll. 5th ser. 5.26 eMA, We went cheerfully together from thence about 2. T. P. [=p.m.]; got to Sandwich about a quarter of an hour by sun: lodged at Percivals. 1700 (1879) Ibid 6.2.10, Came aboard about 2 hours by Sun, and landed at Mrs. Butler’s Wharf before 3 p.m. 1716 Church Entertaining Passages 28 eMA (as of 1676), About Sun-set he with Sabin his pilot mounted their Horses at Rehoboth, . . and by two Hours by Sun next Morning arrived safe at Plymouth. c1776 (1783) Amer. Wanderer 285 VA, We contented ourselves with making seven leagues, arriving about an hour by sun at the agreeable little town of Joigny. 1797 Federal Gaz. & Baltimore Daily Advt. (MD) 13 Sept [3]/5, A fellow answering the above description was seen last evening about an hour by sun, in a thicket of bushes, on the country seat of Philip Rogers, esq. 1828 (1930) W. Sewall Diary 122/1 ME, Having settled up fairly with every person, sat [sic] off about two hours by sun with my family and moveables. 1836 Allen Triennial Baptist Reg. 79 neGA, School is opened every morning at sun-rise. . . The classes are then engaged in school exercises till breakfast, about 1½ hours by sun. . . At dinner the interval of rest extends from an hour to an hour and a half . . Scholastic exercises are then resumed and continued till within 2½ hours by sun, when the School closes by prayer, and teachers and students all repair to the labors of the farm. 1864 Gilmore Down in TN 163 cTN, I got ter the edge uv the woods . . ’bout a hour by sun. . . I lay thar till it war thick dark, an’ then I crept ter the r’ar door. 1887 Barton Wind-Up 66 eKY, Don’t be in a resh, Tom. Hit’s a couple o’ hours b’ sun yit. Stay ’n’ hev supper. 1892 Milburn Lance Cross & Canoe 668 ceIL (as of c1840), The hours of the day were told by the motions of the heavenly bodies—so many hours before sun-up, and so many after sun-down; and after the rising, it was one, two, three hours by sun, and so on until noon, which was always called dinner-time; and after that, three, two, and one hours by sun. 1893 Shands MS Speech 22, Among the lower classes of society, it is usual to reckon time by the sun; so “an hour or two hours, by sun” . . means an hour or two hours before sunset. 1899 (1912) Green VA Folk-Speech 103, By-sun, adv. Counting by the sun; an hour by sun: when the sun is an hour high. Ibid 232, An hour by sun, an hour before sunset. 1902 DN 2.234 sIL, ‘A hour by sun,’ etc., completes the list of phrases designating the morning periods. 1903 DN 2.317 seMO, Hour by sun. . . An hour before sunset. 1906 DN 3.119 sIN, He quit plowin’ an hour by sun. 1908 DN 3.322 eAL, wGA, Hour by sun. . . An hour before sunset or after sunrise. 1915 DN 4.227 wTX, Hour by sun. . . An hour after sunrise or before sunset. 1917 DN 4.409 wNC, SC, KY, By. . . After. “An hour by sun”; i.e., past sunrise. 1917 Times–Picayune (New Orleans LA) 4 Oct 8/5 swLA, Now young folks stay out until it is almost late enough to hear the midnight call of the chanticleer, and get up next morning an hour by sun feeling like old Scotch. 1954 PADS 21.23 SC, By sun. . . Before sundown. 1954 Harder Coll.cwTN. 1956 McAtee Some Dialect NC 7, By sun. . . the time before sundown estimated by the height of the sun above the horizon; “an hour by sun.” c1960 Wilson Coll. csKY, By sun. . . An hour or time before the sun sets. “We’ll be through an hour by sun.”
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Etymological Supplement:

1583 in 1847 Munro Acta Cancellariae 521, Which commandment the said deponent endeavouring to perform in all respects, repaired to the said Wright’s house, accompanied with the said two witnesses, about an hour by sun in the afternoon of the same day. [The “commandment” was to be carried out “before the sunsetting of the said day]

<https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=msu.31293008401600;view=1up;seq=581>

1701 Veryard Account of Divers Choice Remarks (London) 285, Our captain, suspecting it might be an Enemy, bore off, hoping the Night might favour our escape. . . What we did, was to little purpose; for they came up with us above an hour by Sun, and two others came in sight; so that all three apear’d under the Colours of Alger, and the first saluted us with a Broad-side.

<Eighteenth Century Collections Online; ESTC#: T138037>

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