Snow days, snow days
Today, it seems the announcement of “blizzard conditions” brings a combination of
happiness (NO school! NO work!) and dread (shovel us out…..some of us have to
work). Of course, prior to the big snow, we stop at our local grocery, where milk and
bread fly off the shelves. We hunker down and hope the lights stay on so we can watch
TV and be on our devices.
But it wasn’t so long ago that blizzard conditions were not announced, and instead came
down with all of Mother Nature’s fury. From the time Wright Country came to be in the
mid 1850’s until the dawn of radio and TV, being always prepared was not only wise, it
could save your life. Stories in the Monitor and other local papers reflect the conditions
1875 - Alvin Udell started from Garner to Belmond. He had gone but a few miles when
a blinding storm made it impossible for his team to get thru huge drifts. His sled and load
were left behind, as he went with the horses until one of them gave out, and then the
other. Throughout the night, he pushed on, ending up at Elm Lake where he stumbled
upon a farm. One horse ended up at Twin Lakes (Cornelia) and the other made it to
Hickory Grove (north of Belmond). The sled had not been found, as the man had
traveled 35 miles – 25 on foot.
1883 - When the blizzard was it’s worse, a Lake township farmer bundled his five
children into a one-horse sleigh and started for school, a nearly 3 mile distance. The
next week this was corrected to a Dayton township farmer, as no one in Lake township
wanted to be associated with such a person.
1917 - All day Sunday Worst Blizzard in year rages – all trains taken off roads. During
the same year the newspapers report a shortage of coal, and that people may have to
burn corn instead. Coal was shipped in by the trains – along with many other
provisions. When the trains could not run, townspeople were in danger of running out of
1936 - The Winter of ’36 stands out. During the time period from January 18-February
22, the average temperature in Iowa was 2 below zero! One February blizzard started
on a Monday and lasted until Tuesday, and then blowing winds hit. Temperatures dipped
to 30 below. All traffic, including trains, was at a standstill. However, our county sheriff
Roy E. Wilson, and county attorney F.D. Riley, bravely headed home from Iowa City.
They had to stop multiple times to dig the vehicle out, and finally made it to Dumont (east
of Hampton), where they gave up for the night. The next morning, they took off again,
following snowplows, and arrived in Clarion eight hours later. Another report was that
Miss Sadie Kuhn, teacher in Wall Lake township, had her car stall and her legs froze
from overshoes to knees before she was able to get help. This teacher’s name will be
remembered by more than one reader!
Imagine drifts so high as to cover a building. It happened in Lincoln Township, when a
Mr. King discovered his hog barn covered. He had to dig down to find a door that he
could crack open enough to put ears of corn in, one at a time, to feed his pigs.
County Engineer P.T. Struck reported that some country roads could not be opened, as
the snow was too deep, and there was nowhere to push it. He encouraged farmers to
use their bobsleds over open fields to travel. Floyd Bisgrove of Lake Township brought
17 neighbors into town to get supplies on his bobsled. Several of his riders brought
shovels, to dig out when they got stuck.
As electricity became popular, many farm homes kept the gas stove - it was the only
source of heat if the electricity went out! The photo above shows a train plow trying to
break thru drifts. Enjoy a few more pictures of "the good old days!"