The year of the deep snow was significant in many ways. As well as being a notable event in itself, it not only marked the transition from pioneer days to a pattern of civilized growth for Springfield, but it also was the year Abraham Lincoln entered Sangamon County for the first time.
The autumn of 1830 was warm and wet with the grass still green and the leaves on the trees in December.
On Christmas Eve, the snow began falling, softly and steadily. It snowed all night and by morning it was a foot deep.
The snow continued to fall until by December 30th, it was 3 feet deep. On New Year's Day, warmer air brought rain, which froze as it touched the drifts, forming a light crust. More snow fell, reaching a level of 5 feet with the drifts being much deeper. The thermometer dropped until it averaged 20 degrees below zero.
At first, people had a lot of fun with sleigh rides and snowmen. Zimri Enos, a young boy at the time, recalled later, “I have a vivid recollection of the pleasure we boys had with our little had sleds, sliding down the hills and hitching on to the sleighs and sleds going along the streets. Sometimes there would be as many as a dozen strung after one sleigh.
They later suffered a great deal. Since the autumn has been so mild, farmers had delayed in gathering their corn and they couldn't get to their woodpiles. The deer were nearly all killed as they were caught in the snowy crust and devoured by the wolves at night. Prairie chicken and wild turkeys died in large numbers while hundreds of hogs and cattle were frozen to death in snowdrifts.
The tragedies were numerous. A William Saxton from Loami went hunting and was found dead several days later about one mile from his home where he had sunk down, appearing to be asleep.
Samuel Legg started to go from Sugar Creek to Pleasant Plains, and his remains and those of his horse were found the following spring, having been nearly consumed by wolves. A man starting from the timber on Horse Creek to chase a wolf while the snow was falling was found dead with his horse and dog about 40 miles from where he had started.
As people suffered and died from the cold and hunger. Pascal Enos with his strong team of oxen “saved the day” by bringing food and firewood to the stranded families, thus keeping the town alive during the seemingly endless winter of 1831.
The winter of the Deep Snow became the time mark for the settlers of Sangamon County.
Everything of importance occurred before or after that remarkable winter. Those who came to Sangamon County prior
to that date were dubbed "Snow Birds". The Snow Bird Club was long prominent in Springfield and functioned
actively until the late 80's.
© Debbie Quinn