The Odessa Record -

Harrington news

Hard Harrington winters of the past

 

--Photo courtesy of Heather Slack's personal photo album.

In 1937, a rotary snow plow cleared roads in the vicinity of Harrington, spraying the white stuff all the way out into the adjacent fields.

Winter

As told by Mrs. John F. Green, "The winter of 1887-1888 was one of the coldest on record, the mercury going 30 degrees below zero, but we were good sports even when our breath froze in icicles on our bedding. In May we moved to the Lake Creek Ranch. The trip seemed interminable. In the fall A.L. Smalley took up a homestead near us. When he could no longer stand the solitude, he came to the ranch and begged for something to do to earn his board. We employed him to teach the children, as we were outside of the school district. It was another severe winter, with heavily drifted snow and we didn't get our mail for six weeks. I didn't see a woman's face for six months. Our first visitors were Lizzie Williams and Wallace Freeman, who stopped for repairs when their sleigh broke down."

A common tale seen in many stories of those earliest of pioneers to the Harrington Wheat Belt parallel this version by Thomas Kerr sometime shortly after 1888: "Twenty acres were broken, a well was dug, the land was fenced, the crop was cut with a scythe and saved with a hand rake. Then the terrible winter of the 'big snow' came. Deep snow filled the coulees and the canyons. It covered fences. It came early, the settlers were unprepared. There was no fuel. They stripped the fir posts of their bark. Families moved together into one house to save fuel, and prevent death by freezing. A little cook stove had to warm an entire household. There was no feed for the stock. In some instances they had to be fed seed wheat to keep them alive. Family provisions dwindled. Stocks could be replenished only by long and arduous journeys."

Edward J. Kitt told of a different aspect: "To save hauling quantities of water for laundry purposes, Mrs. Kitt would pack a lunch, load the children in the wagon and take the laundry to a lake where she heated water over a bonfire and after washing the clothes, dried them on grass, or a rope she strung for that purpose. Full water barrels were taken home that evening. Snow was melted in winter to provide water."

When the Kupers family first came from Walla Walla they built a barn by excavating into the side of a hill, setting up timbers, covering the top with brush and then adding a covering of straw over the brush for the roof. "But the first hard winter, the weight of the snow crushed in the roof and we had to turn the horses out. Two cows and a young calf were housed in the lean-to of our dwelling house. We were that near out of feed toward the end of February, I think it was the year of 1889, when a real winter suddenly set in, that we had to cut down cottonwood trees so the horses could eat the buds off the branches."

The E.J. Grinnell household in the Lake Creek district faced other difficulties with their range cattle being over 50 head. In those days the native bunch grass covered the range and unless the winters' snows were too heavy and deep, cattle and horses could paw off the snow and feed well. "However, in the 90's the hard winter when the snow covered the feed too deep to be pawed off, thousands of horses and cattle perished of starvation and exposure. The large stock raisers, among them the Morgans and Ensleys lost hundreds of head of stock." This is confirmed by a historic article in The Record entitled "The Hard Winter of Okanogan County" which spoke of temperatures dipping to 40 below, animals lost in snow drifts and trapped in places where ranchers could not reach them.

Snow came in November in 1898 with the inhabitants enjoying snowballing. At Thanksgiving the news read "Editorial: Thursday dawned clear and fair upon our little town, ushering in the day upon which we are all supposed to return thanks for benefits received in the past year, but hardly had 'old Sol's' rays broken over the snow covered hills when a mist arose which caused objects to assume queer and fantastic outlines. Nevertheless many sleigh bells could be heard – 'Jingling, Jingling, all the day.' Public services were held by Rev. Jesseph, in Strickler's hall, and were well attended." By December, they wrote: "Newland Bros. Hardware, Furniture, Implements. Those Studebaker Cutters and Bob Sleighs Are Here – And So Is The Snow. Come in and Get Prices Then Buy One." (Citizen: 11-25-1898)

"The Storm. As if in defiance of the statement which appeared in the special edition of the Lincoln County Times, that there were no extremes of weather in Lincoln County, the elements have been giving us an example of what can be, within the last two weeks. First the gentle (?) Chinook took the snow from us, the mercury was down the tube until every thing was quite solid. Friday the quiet snow began falling, continuing for three days, but not quietly, for when the citizens emerged from their homes Sunday morning they found the wind howling over the hills and hurling the snow into every available knot hole and crack in a way which reminded old settlers of the winter of '89 and '90. The storm continued until Monday morning, drifting the snow in large piles and making sleighing anything but a pleasure. Tuesday morning dawned bright and clear, but all day the mercury hovered around the zero mark and Wednesday early-risers found it down to 22 degrees below, then people began telling of the cold weather they had seen in Minnesota and the Dakotas, until you felt as if it wasn't very cold after all." (Citizen: 1-06-1899)

Through the years various word pictures are painted about the depth of the snow. J. E. Turner found the snow had drifted about his house as high as the roof. He dug out with a fire shovel to where he could get a real shovel. Bob Tuttle in 1932 living nearly 8 miles south of Mohler stated, "Where the snow and dust blew over the rimrock at my place there were drifts 15 feet deep." Others recalled the fun as did George E. Knapp when he wrote (1922-26): "Alice continued at Liberty school for another year. She rode on our old pony, Cricket, and for several days she drove Cricket hitched to an old stoneboat, which served as a sled on the snow that had fallen. There was no brake on her sled, so she had to use her foot for a brake."

"Turner Takes Snow Picture. Among the snow or winter Kodak pictures taken by H.C. Turner, is one of the big rotary snow plow clearing snow from the North Central highway near the Charles Lindstrum place. It shows the snow being shot entirely away from the highway in a shower by the big booster fan that forces it through the spout after the snowbanks have been chewed up by the large rotary augers which force the snow from both sides to the center where the fan boosts it clear of the highway. Snow pictures are hard to take, but this one is an exceptionally fine one." (Citizen: 2-19-1937)

 

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