The Big Snow

Below is another newspaper clipping I found in Ted Spaulding’s donation. Addie Howard Wheeler who attended Black River Academy in Ludlow had moved to Sangerville, Maine by 1920. She had a weekly column in the Vermont Tribune in Ludlow. Every week she sent in her memories of the Ludlow area or trips she took.

  Her column’s title was “North of Forty-Five.” She chose this title because Vermont’s border with Canada lies approximately at the 45th Parallel. The 45th is approximately halfway between the equator and the North Pole. So Addie was further north than Vermont.

  The article below appeared in the Vermont Tribune March 4, 1920. The photo with this article is of Willis Edson’s home up in Popple Dungeon. An ink inscription on the photo reads: “After the big storm Jan 16, 1918.” Perhaps this isn’t the storm she writes about, but it does document how exiting the home was done through windows. The last paragraph was written by someone at the Tribune.

Willis Edson’s place in the Dungeon. Photo provided by Ted Spaulding.

  By the Tribune’s “North of Forty-Five” Correspondent

The winter opened cold and cheerless. For days there was not much sun, with a cold and cutting wind. Finally the snow began to come down from the northwest bringing with it more cold, followed by a more keen and cutting wind. About the middle of February the snow was very deep. At that time there were several deaths and the roads were so bad that they were given up and other roads were made where the drifts were not so deep. These roads went right over fences and never knew that fences were there, and the bodies who died during those terrible storms had to be drawn out on hand sleds. This condition was not confined to West Mountain, but the whole state of Vermont was bound in the terrible grip of cold and storm.

The sheltered home on the warm side of the hill, where the great rocks and the trees protected it from the fury of the storm, offered a cheery welcome to all who entered. Ma was busy with her weaving, Little Gay with her knitting, while pa cared for the stock in the barn and busied himself with his woodpile, and the snow drifted into deeper piles and banked itself snug against the house. Not one ray of light entered the cellar. Little Gay was afraid to go down, while ma lighted a candle and so made the trip in safety.

One day pa came in after a long survey of the sky. He looked around the warm kitchen and observed, “I think we are on the eve of the worst storm of the season I have been studying the sky and observing the animals in the barn. They are very restless, stamping and snuffing and sniffing. Old Tim is the worst of all. This is one of the worst winters I ever knew. You need not hurry supper, ma, for I will make all snug in the barn before I eat. Little Gay must help me cut carrots for we must give the sheep an extra bite this cold weather.”

So he lighted a candle and went down cellar, returning with a basket of potatoes and carrots. These were cut for the stock into pieces of suitable size for each and placed near the fireplace to warm. Then pa raked over the fire, fixed it to his mind, went out and soon returned with a big back log on a hand sled. This he rolled off and rolled over and pushed it to the back of the fireplace. After fixing it aright he went out again and drew a large front log and fixed it well in front. The he filled in between with different sizes of split wood, after which he drew in lots of wood under cover.

“Heavens and airth, pa, do you expect we are to be snowed in for all winter?” cried ma, as she encountered the great pile in the shed. “Maybe we shall be, ma,” replied pa, there are signs a plenty.”

Little Gay went to the barn with pa to look after her pet sheep. Old Tim was squalking and jeering about, hissing and striking out his long snakelike neck, but he could not get out to give the sheep a tweak nor harm the cattle. Pa did the night chores faithfully and made every thing snug and fast before he and Little Gay left for the house. Little Gay bringing the lantern and pa the pails and shovel.

The lantern was made of a sheet of tin, punched with holes in a fancy pattern, then fastened together at one side, a top fastened to this, also punched with holes, drawn to a point at the top, where a ring was inserted. The bottom was taken out, a candle inserted in a tube made for it, lighted and placed inside. It gave a good light and was satisfactory for those who had never seen anything better.

“There,” said pa, as he stood the shovel up in the corner, “I can shovel out in the morning.”

“I should think your Massachusetts nose was a-smellin’ out trouble.” Said grandma.

“Well, ma’am,” said pa, “you yourself knew that a Massachusetts  nose is pretty reliable, and safe to depend upon, and its warnings are to be heeded”

This reply brought a satisfied smirk upon grandma’s lips and she knit pretty fast. The snow was coming down fast when supper was over. All through the evening it sifted down the chimney, sputtering upon the lusty back log, and clicking against the windows.

In the morning the household found the windows nearly covered and the room quite dark. After breakfast pa said, “Now we will try the door, ma, and see how it looks outside.”

So he began to unbolt the door, while Little Gay looked on. The door yielded slowly, but pa’s strength prevailed and at last it swung open wide and there before them was a white wall of snow which completely covered the door! There was nothing before them but snow!

“Heavens and airth,” cried ma. “Good land a massy,” said grandma. “O, pa,” cried Little Gay, “we are all snowed in. Can’t we get out anymore?”

“Just what I expected,” said pa. “The snow was well up before this storm. I felt sure this snow would reach the low eaves. We shall have to get the washtubs and the big brass kettle to hold the snow until I can get out. Maybe I can break through the drift farther out. Lucky I brought in the shovel”

And so pa toiled for hours and at last had a tunnel out to the barn where he found everything safe. It was great fun for Little Gay to run through the tunnel. Dicky Weaver, the cat, and Little Azer, the dog, thought it queer. Neither dared to go near Old Tim’s pen for his sharp beak was every where.

Addie Howard Wheeler Sangerville, Me., Feb 20

Some big snow stories have been going the rounds since the heavy storm, but the biggest one comes from Jacksonville, and it refers to conditions of some years ago and not to 1920. It is said that Charles Barber, who now lives in Whitingham, but then lived in Jacksonville, tunneled through a big drift so teams could go through and that the tunnel lasted about two months. It was large enough so loads of hay could be drawn through.

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