The Blizzard of 1888

Looking east on Lake St. The Monroe House is in the center.

Looking east on Lake St. The Monroe House is in the center.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following article was written in 1966 for The Monroe Gazette by Charles R. Post, who was lifelong resident of Harriman. The family homestead spoken of in the article still stands.

By Charles Post

The blizzard of '88 is said to have started on March 12, and Father wrote it on the barn door, March 12, 13 and 14, saying, "Those are the three days the cows were not out of the stable."  But on Sunday, the 11th, the sun rose clear, it was not cold and the air was very still. Shortly after dinner Father said, "Charl, it is going to snow, we will go down and put the cows in." Before the cows were all in, the sun had gone out of sight and the snow had begun falling. When all the cows were in and the last door fastened, Father said, "This may be quite a snow before it is over with."

I had not yet learned much about the weather, but was guided mostly by the time of the year, so said, "I saw robins while coming from school last week, the frost is about all out of the ground, also you and grandfather were talking last evening about what lots you might plow up for corn with a snow plow."

I laughed and Father smiled as he said, "Yes,I know it is getting late, but we will see." And we did see.

Then I asked, "What makes you think it will be deep?"

Then he replied, "Well, for one thing it is com­ing from the northeast.  That is where most of our heavy snows come from. Also it is very fine. When the flakes are large, it won't last long; but with the fine snow, it is very still. Notice how plain you can hear that freight train going down, also the puffing of the big engine at the Green­wood furnace and that is three miles away. In summer that means rain, but at this time of year it means snow."

 

When the work was finished at the barn that night and we were going in for supper, the snow was up to our shoe-tops, still falling thick and silently, and the engine at the Greenwood furnace was puf­fing faithfully, for the furnace ran night and day.

While eating breakfast next morning, Mother asked, "What are we going to do about the young ones go­ing to school this morning?" 

Father replied, "The girls better stay home. Charl can ride down with me." 

After the cows were taken care of, we put the milk in the big sled and started out. It had turned much colder, the wind had changed from the northeast to the northwest and was blowing quite briskly, and the snow was flown along on top and filled our tracks level a short distance back of the sl­ed. The front of the sled dragged along through the snow which was now knee-deep. The horses walked all the way. 

Looking north on Stage. The National Hotel is on the right.

At the crossroads, I dropped off and went to the school. Another boy named Sam, who lived about 200 feet from the school, came, and a little later, the teacher. 

Father went to the creamery which was where the R.R. station is now.  

After he had emptied the milk, he turned about and was going to come around by the school and get me, then go home. But as he reached the line of the west side of the creamery and ice house, he saw that the wind was blowing in a direc­tion which caused a deep drift across the road. The horses, Old Dan and Mase, waded in until the snow came up to their stomachs, then stopped and turned their heads away from the cold wind and cut­ting hail. Seeing it was useless to try to go farther, Father set the empty cans up close in the front of the sled, got out and lifted it at the rear of the sled and called out loudly, "Come around Dan." This Dan understood as well as he did "Whoa."  The horse was anx­ious to obey, but it would be hard to do. Finally they were facedin the other direction and toward home. Father climbed back into the sled, set the cans way to the back end of the sled and sat on one. The horses now tried to make better time, but it was hard traveling. The tracks made coming down were now blown full and the sled dragg­ed all the way home. They stopped often for a rest. At last they were home. In the stable, where the harness was taken off and blankets put on, both horses lay down for a rest.

At 12 o'clock both the teacher and Sam went home for lunch. Sam did not return, but the teacher, who had about a three minute walk, came in and said, "Now, I have made plans for you to stay with me for tonight." 

I replied, "Oh, I could not do that. My folks would be out looking for me."

He stopped and looked out the window at the tall ash trees at the side of the road swaying in the wind, then there would come a gust of wind and snow taking the trees out of sight. Then he turned to me saying, "Do you think you can get through?"

 I answered, "Oh, yes. I have walked home in snows before when we had to walk in the lots at times." 

He said, "Well, then you had bet­ter not wait another minute, for it is very bad now and get­ting worse every minute." 

When it was noon Mother said [to my Father], "Now we will have a bite of dinner, then you ride Dan down and tell Charl to find some place to stay over­night." 

Father had been thinking of [me] since he left the creamery, but had said nothing to Mother as it would only make her worry. But now he felt that she must be told, so said, "Mary, neither horse can go thru now."
 

Then Mother suggested that he go over to Irv's and telephone to Jimmy Cronon's to stop me when I came from school. (The Irv refer­red to was Irving D. Smith, who lived where the Pine Tree School is now and had a phone connected with Mr. Cronon's store, which is now the post office.) 

Father replied, "I thought of that too, but after one look at the back road, which is full of snow from the top of one fence to the other, I know it would be useless to try."

Poor Mother. It was a hard day for her as well as for a great many others. She tried to get her mind off her troubles by knitting, then by darning stockings, but it was no use.

She looked at the clock and thought that in another half hour he will be out in this storm. How will he make out? She passed into the bedroom and lay down to have a good cry where the girls could not hear.  It was not long before she heard Father's call, went to the kit­chen and was surprised at see­ing me.

The fine hail had driven the snow into my clothing until the coat and cap were white.  Also there was a thin skim of thin ice over my face which I brushed off.  He pull­ed my cap off and threw it in the corner, then opened the door to the front room. Father said, "his ears," but mother had no need to be told what to look for. She went to the sink room and came out with a basin of water as cold as the weather and a towel which she dampened and held to my ears. Father took off my shoes and woolen stockings which Mother had knit for me when cold weather began. . He felt my feet and ankles, then arose and again felt my hands and wrists. Then he said, "No, Mary, everything is all right here."

"What time did you leave the school?" asked Mother. 

"Quarter to one," Ireplied as I glanced at the kitchen clock and noticed that it was five minutes to four. 

We had a good supper that night, slept well, and next morning went to the barn by going to the south corner of the door-yard where the snow was not so deep. The wind was as strong as it was the day before; also, it was cold. We milked by lantern light and fed the cows, but when hay was given to them they refused to eat it. Father knew what the trouble was and said, "We will have to get water to the cows today and it will be a big job." 

After breakfast, father got a tub that would hold two pails of water. We cleared a path to the milk-house and opened a door at the south end of the barn.  Although there were five doors to the barn, there was only the one at the south end of the barn where the snow would not blow in. There were 35 head of cattle and 3 horses. It made a lot of carrying; but that was not all, for the milk had to be carried to the house and that one door was the on­ly one that was used. 

The kit­chen was full of milk cans, some cooking utensils and the churn. Mother and the girls did the churning. There was milk on the table three times a day, and the pigs had all the buttermilk they could drink.  

Wednesday was the same as Tuesday, although the snow had stopped falling and at times the sun shone through the snow still blowing along and drifting in places.  Thurs­day the snow stopped blowing. It was clear and warmer. After the barn work, the horse stable door was opened for the first time since Monday.

Friday it was clear and the sun shone bright and warmer that it had for a week. After the cows were cared for, we started for the creamery. Mr. Compton and two men were with us, making five in all.  We kept in the fields where possi­ble, as the snow was not as deep there as it was in the road. We reached the creamery late in the after­noon and were told that they could not use all the milk, so we drove back home and found it was time to begin seeing to the cows again.

The bar­nyard was waiting to be cleaned up, the cans of milk in the kitchen were to be churned, the cans cleaned and carried back into the at­tic. In time, all the work which was caused by the storm was done.

Address:
1465 Orange Turnpike
Monroe, NY 10950

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