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Winter of the Deep Snow
(Jonesboro Gazette, Jonesboro, Illinois, Friday, 8 Jan 1915)
Transcribed and submitted by Darrel Dexter

We often hear the old settlers refer to "the winter of the deep snow."
Fifty years ago Illinois citizens were wont to refer to events as having happened before or after "the winter of the deep snow." This great weather drama occurred during the winter of 1830-31. On Christmas Eve, 1830, it began snowing, the storm coming from the northwest, and it kept on snowing. Later the weather grew bitterly cold and the wind became a veritable hurricane. The snow began piling high in drifts or was sifted deep over the prairies, as far as the eye could see.

For days and days this condition continued. Rail fences entirely disappeared and the snow reached the lower branches of the trees. Domestic animals and game were first to suffer, for all vegetation was buried deep and the steams were locked in ice and filled from bank to bank with great drifts of snow. The animals had neither food, water, nor shelter. Thousands of domestic and wild animals perished. Settlers' cabins were lost in the terrifying expanse of snow. Day after day for weeks the mercury registered 10 degrees below zero or lower. Hunters caught away from home reached their homes with difficulty or perished on the prairies or in the forests.

Many of the bodies of those perishing were not found until spring had melted away their snow graves. For sixty days there was an almost unbroken succession of sunless days. In the central part of the state the average depth of the snow was three or four feet. On top was a thick, hard crust which bore the weight of the heaviest man. Wild game in Illinois decreased rapidly as a result of the big snow. Unable to run because their small feet sank where men were borne up, thousands of deer were slaughtered for food, others wantonly.

Much game perished of exposure and starvation, and for years afterwards their bones lay upon the prairies whitening in the sun. Thousands of wolves perished, and when the snow disappeared they were skinned by the settelrs and their skins made into roes and fur coats.
--Hillsboro News

In Southern Illinois, which in 1830 was a thickly wooded section, and also by reason of its sheltering hills, conditions could not have been so rigorous either for man or beast. The wild game could doubtless find refuge and comfort in the dense forests, thickets, and brakes, while numerous springs furnished water if the lakes and streams were frozen solid. At any rate, so far as we know there is neither record nor tradition in Union County of the deep snow and bitter weather of the winter of 1830-31.
(Jonesboro Gazette, Jonesboro, Illinois, Friday, 8 Jan 1915)


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