The 1898 blizzard

Last week, I wrote about the Willard snowplow and the 1898 blizzard. Some of that history came from Mary Harris. Mary kept a scrapbook of newspaper clippings she found interesting. She has four pages of clippings concerning the blizzard. Not having mail in those days would be similar to us losing internet today. Mail was our connection to the outside world. Below are a few clippings Mary kept.

Snowplow at Chester Depot, March 1899. Town Hall cupola visible left background. Photo provided by Chester Historical Society


“The wrapper factory was obliged to suspend operations Tuesday forenoon, it being impossible for the girls to get to the factory on account of the big snow storm.

“The night sleeper south due here at 1:30 A.M. arrived about 10:30 Tuesday morning. The stages from Londonderry, Weston and Grafton could not get through. The town will be without mails for 12 hours.

“The twenty inches of snow that fell Monday night followed by the blow in the morning so closed the thoroughfare leading into to town that with the exception of the mail from Rutland, no mails reached us Tuesday, and the doings of the outside world were a blank to the denizens.

“The storm of Wednesday was the worst Chester has experienced since 1888. The wind reached a velocity of 50 miles an hour, business and all travel were suspended. Those who came into town early in the morning had to remain in town until Thursday morning. Drifts 10 and 12 feet deep were very common occurrences. Stages from Londonderry, Weston and Grafton have not been seen since Tuesday; it is doubtful if they get through by Saturday. Trains have been stalled, mails delayed and it will cost the town a good many dollars to break out the roads.”

The Grafton Stage

“The Grafton stage was unable to get through either Tuesday or Wednesday but pulled in on time Thursday.”

The Weston Stage

“The Weston stage didn’t make an appearance Tuesday and did not arrive Wednesday until 8 o’clock in the evening and even then it was necessary to change horses in Peaseville.”

Westminster West

“No mail reached us Tuesday and Wednesday not until about 7 o’clock, four hours late. The drifts at the top of the hill between here and Saxtons River were heavy. The roller and four horses and six or eight men were all day until dark, working the road out in that direction.”


“A regular blizzard struck here Tuesday, the worst one for years. The stage from Saxtons River to Townshend did not get through Tuesday. The Chester stage was unable to get beyond a short distance above Houghtonville Wednesday. The back roads are in a state of blockade.”

The Londonderry Sifter

“The snow storm that set in last Tuesday and continued for 24 hours gave us 15 inches and wound up with a big blow. The roads everywhere, on the mountains, at least, are terribly drifted and in many places will have to be shoveled out which will take several days. At this writing Thursday we have no mails since Tuesday and with little prospect for any until night.

“The mail train started Wednesday morning and reached West Townshend about the middle of the afternoon but could go no further. Thursday morning the snow plow, with two engines attached, started from Brattleboro and reached here about 11 o’clock. This will probably insure the regular mail train up to-night.

“The stage started Wednesday morning but was obliged to return. It again started yesterday morning and got a little over a mile from the village where the road breakers with four horses were found stuck with no alternative but to shovel quite a distance. With the prospect that it would take till noon to break through to the North village it returned. So we will certainly get no mail from that direction until to-night Friday.”

West River Railroad

“The narrow gauge train went through to South Londonderry Monday night, but was held there Tuesday, by instructions. The snow plow started from here about noon Tuesday and reached South Londonderry at 5. The plow came down Wednesday, and the regular train followed, reaching here and hour or two late. The train was obliged to stop yesterday morning at West River bridge, the snow thrown from the broad gauge tracks blocking the smaller road. The passengers were transferred to the Boston & Maine southbound train. In the afternoon the narrow gauge track was cleared, in turn blocking the Boston & Maine tracks, and the 2:13 Boston & Maine train had a wait of about three hours before the track could be cleared”

Temperatures during the blizzard

“-26 at Bellows Falls, -38 at George A. Westen’s farm in Westminster, Chester -36, Charlestown -34, Cheshire Bridge -37, Westmoreland -42.”

This week’s old saying. “We grew up so poor we didn’t get middle names.”

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