Winter in 1909
I admit that I love to see the first snowfall of the winter, especially if I am inside near a cozy fire and looking out.
There was a time when I could hardly wait for enough snow to build a fine snowman, but now I confess that my biggest concern is if the old snow shovel will hold up for one more season.
This winter, the area around Greene County has had more snowfall than usual, and winter has just begun. People still talk about the blizzard of 1978 (?), and the very heavy snow storm in the 1950s When we have unusual amounts of snow, we tend to remember.
Today, we will learn about 1909. The date was Jan. 12. The reporter for the newspaper began the column in this way “King Winter riding on the crest of the cold wave that has been sweeping across the country from the Northwest arrived in three parts Monday afternoon and night and in passing deposited a heavier snow than has been seen here in a number of years. During the night a full-fledged blizzard raged and Tuesday morning fully eight inches of snow covered the ground. Those who had to “break” the paths had pretty hard sledding and it was near noon before the walking became even comparatively easy, and then everyone had to walk “Indian file.”
Remember that this was 1909. Very few automobiles would have been around, and those would have been “dry docked” for the winter months. Transportation was by horse and sleigh or by train or traction line
The traction line service was very late because the tracks had to be cleared. The railroads fared even worse, with trains arriving anywhere from fifteen minutes to three hours late, with the trains coming from the West, where the blizzard was the most severe being the latest.
The train from St. Louis, three hours late, “looked as if it had burrowed through a solid bank of snow.”
However, as Greene County folks are won’t to do, the day began to get better when the residents got the sleighs out, put bells on the horses harness and enjoyed the excellent conditions for a sleigh ride.
It was expected that those who had horses who could run well In snow would be going up and down Second Street in Xenia racing their steeds. This was an event which delighted young and old. There were favorites, of course, as is the case in any kind of race. The men and sometimes women, would bring their horses and sleighs while residents would stand on the sidewalks, waiting for the races to begin, cheering for their favorite horse and driver.
Thermometers showed varying temperatures, some as low as 6 degrees below zero. Yellow Springs reported 4 below while Goes Station residents claimed to be the coldest in the county at 8 below zero.
Some folks were confined to their homes due to the drifting snow, while farmers took teams and shovels to clear main roads as much as possible. Union road was reported to have drifts as high as a man’s head.
Postmen who were expected to deliver the main through snow, etc. often had to give up deliveries because of the road conditions. On Feb. 1, Joseph Marshall began his mail route at noon, but apparently the wagon was overturned, throwing him into the snow where he hit his head and lay for some hours before being found by a local farmer.
The newspaper printed on Feb. 16 reported that “The storm of sleet and snow which has been sweeping across the country from the northwest, during the past few days has arrived in this section and as a result the employees of the railroads, traction lines and telegraph and telephone companies are working overtime to keep things moving.”
Ice had been forming on tree limbs and wires from the rain and sleet. The temperature dropped again, causing the wires to break in many instances.
The ice forming on the trees was beautiful, and many folks brought out their cameras to remember the sight, but it was tough for those who had to repair wires broken by falling limbs, or just from the weight of the ice. The streets and sidewalks were ice-coated, making traction a challenge for pedestrians.
Telegraph and telephone customers were often without any means to communicate. Railroad despatchers were unable to keep track of their trains
Telephone and telegraph wires were so heavily iced that many were causing the wires to snap, and some were so heavy with ice that the wires were pulling down the poles which held them as well. Cross arms were being pulled away, and in some instances, the poles themselves were snapped in two.
For the traction lines, the employees were doing their best to keep the tracks clear enough to allow the cars to move freely, and the employees were told to “get there as soon as possible, and hurry back.”
Obviously, they did not have the advantages we have today. Today, the salt trucks are out early when snow is expected, the roads are cleared quickly, and snow blowers and snow shovels are wonderful assets to each of us.
Fortunately, we don’t have too many winters such as the one in 1909, but when we do, folks around here remember for years the big snowstorms and the blizzards of days gone by.
Joan Baxter is a local historian.
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