Cold and Snowy

Maud Green in snow

This picture shows Maud Green in the yard of the Ralph Green home in Dayton sometime in the first part of the 20th century. Snowstorms were a welcome occurrence in early Dayton as snow-packed roads were easier for sleighs than muddy, rutted roads were for wagons. However, the accompanying frigid weather made travel uncomfortable and hazardous.

The Ottawa [IL] Free Trader, January 15, 1881, p. 1, col. 3

Last Sunday night and Monday saw some of the coldest weather of the season – the Mercury in Ottawa standing at about 20 below – thermometers vary more than watches. At Dayton they claim 26 below, and at Streator 24 at 8 o’clock. Anyhow it was cold. The week thereafter was milder. On Thursday for a few hours there was a driving snow storm, drifting badly, however. Ice cutting goes on for private houses, the crop now being some 20 inches thick, and of fine quality.

April 2, 1881, p. 8, col. 1

Dayton, March 30. – The last great snow storm (Saturday, March 19,) has completely blockaded our roads, the lanes and some main roads being filled with snow, covering the fences in many places. By a six or seven miles circuitous our citizens have been enabled to drive from here to Ottawa. Our “oldest inhabitants” say it was the hardest storm for 25 years. It isn’t often we have five months of solid winter. Two months and a half of extremely cold weather and two and a half of deep snow. With farmers the spring work will come on all at once and farm laborers will be in active demand.

February 20, 1886, p. 2, col. 4

Dayton, Feb. 16. – The river is clear of ice here – it went out last Saturday and Sunday, but as it formed a gorge near Howland’s place, the water is backed up quite high here. The heavy mush ice began running on Tuesday morning, and threatened a repetition of the great flood of last year.

The lane leading into town from Ottawa has been full of snow and impassable until the recent thaw, when a road was broken through. It is almost impassable yet, however, and a number of tip overs were reported this week. Dayton people drive to Ottawa via Chas. Olmstead’s.

February 11, 1888, p. 2, col. 4

Dayton, Ill., Feb. 7 – Another fine snow storm has commenced this morning which will make the sleighing still better. It has been excellent this winter, and during the past few weeks the weather has been warm enough to make sleighing thoroughly enjoyable. We have a very fine drive from here to Ottawa on the feeder, and as the ice is about 18 inches thick it is perfectly safe. The young people have been improving the times with sleighing parties in the surrounding neighborhood. They had a very enjoyable party a week or two ago at the large and commodious residence of Lew Robinson, Esq., in Rutland township, and last week they were entertained by Mr. and Mrs. H. B. Williams, of Ottawa.

The Hazards of Winter Travel

snowdrifts

After the Fox river bridge at Dayton was washed out in the 1870s, traffic between Dayton and Rutland was difficult. There were two places where the river could be forded during low water and there were times in the winter when the ice was firm enough to allow crossing. The ice was uncertain, however, and could not be counted upon. The only other option was to go around by Ottawa and cross on the bridge there.

Dayton was isolated even further when heavy snow made the roads impassable. To make matters worse, when the snow melted, the mud was an equal obstacle to travel.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, January 8, 1881, p. 8, col. 3
Dayton, Jan. 5. – The river is now being crossed at this place on the ice.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, February 19, 1881, p. 8, col. 1
Dayton, Feb. 16. – The “thaw” of last week was unable to start the ice at this place, with the exception of that on the rapids above the woolen factory, which moved down and broke up our ice bridge. We are thus left without any means of communication with the other shore. The great snow storm on last Friday and Saturday has given a new impulse to sleighing and the “merry sleigh bells” are again heard all over the land. East and west lanes and the roads are, however, most of them, impassable on account of deep snow drifts. The thermometer at this place last Monday morning recorded 14 degrees below zero.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, March 19, 1881, pp. 4-5, cols. 6 & 1
The “beautiful snow,” as far as sleighing is concerned, has departed for the last time this winter we trust. The streets and roads are left in a terrible condition, being in places almost impassable on account of the water, slush, snow and mud. The lane from Dayton to the main road to Ottawa has been blocked with snow for about five weeks, so that all travel is by the way of Mr. Olmstead’s. The thaw and light showers have not raised the water in Fox river at this place to a very noticeable degree. The ice is still in the river, and has probably become so softened that it will do no serious damage to dams or bridges.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, June 4, 1881, p. 8, col. 2
Dayton, June 2d, 1881
The river is falling slowly, and is now being crossed at both fords. Fishermen and sportsmen are here in great numbers. The Earlville people seem to have struck a “boom” and are turning out en masse for a good time fishing and camping out.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, February 6, 1886, p. 7, cols. 3-4
The river is all frozen over solid and teams are crossing below the paper mill.

The Dayton bridge had been out since the early 1870s and not until 1885 was a plan for its replacement finally put into action. It still took two years before it opened. (For the story of the Great Dayton Bridge Affair, click here.)

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, April 2, 1887, p. 4, col. 6
From Dayton
Dayton, Ill, April 1st, 1887. – Our bridge is finished at last and open for public travel. It is a very fine three span iron bridge, the neatest one on the river, and is a fine addition to our village. Of course every one will use it now that it is constructed, and it was noticed that about one of the first to use it was one who had fought the hardest.

A Sudden Change of Temperature

winter-storm

From Jesse Green’s memoirs:

I will give an account of the most sudden, and greatest change in temperature, in my recollection, which occured in the early winter of 1837 & ’38.  I left home about noon when it was drizzling rain sufficient to wet my clothing, and when I reached a point a little below Starved Rock, it commenced turning cold so fast that I ran my horse as fast as he could go to Utica, and by the time I reached the hospitable home of Simon Crosiar, it had frozen the ground hard enough to bear up my horse, and my clothing as stiff as it would freeze from being wet.  I had to be helped from my horse, and saddle and all together my clothing being frozen to the saddle, and I do not think I could have gone a quarter of a mile farther.

The next day returning home it was a terrible cold day, my left side against the wind was nearly frozen by the time I reached Ottawa, where I went into a store to warm myself, and all I could do to prevent it, fell asleep in a short time, I heard a number say that during that blizzard, they saw chickens frozen in their tracks.

Jesse was a year off in his memory of the event, as the “sudden change” happened on December 20, 1836, but he well remembered the after effects, as did many others. The meteorological background of the sweeping cold front, and a number of stories of Illinoisans caught as Jesse was, can be found here.

Almost a Tornado

TwisterRural Happenings

Dayton, June 19, 1879. – Our town and the surrounding country was visited last Saturday by a terrible strong wind and rain storm, almost a tornado. Old residents say it was the hardest storm that has visited our place for many years. Trees by the score were blown down, fences demolished, and a general confusion ensued, The new residence of Mr. Welke, almost completed, was moved six or eight feet off the foundation. Mr. W. happened to be on top of the building at the beginning of the storm, and judging his position to be too perilous, got inside when without a word of warning his building commenced sailing off. It is needless to state that our teutonic friend was somewhat frightened. About one half of our centennial flag pole was broken off and blown down into the street. Three or four large cherry trees and as many apple trees, on the Stadden property, were broken down. But the most destructive feat of the storm was the almost entire destruction of a crab apple grove on Mr. Jos. Barnes’ place southwest of town on the lane leading to Ottawa. Here large trees were broken and hurled with great force across the pasture, over the fence to the other side of the road. Mr. Barnes had a great deal of fence blown down and eight or ten nice large trees on his place broken off. Mr. Eisenhuth’s barn south of town was completely demolished, not a stick left standing. Nearly all of the roof of Mr. Stadden’s barn east of town was blown off. In fact from all accounts our place seems to have been in the centre of the tornado.1


  1. Free Trader, June 21, 1879, p. 8, cols. 1-2

Graphic By:Cartoon tornado from 365PSD.com

Floods – Tornadoes – There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

Disaster-Whirlwind-Tornado

Dayton, June 19, 1879. – Our town and the surrounding country was visited last Saturday by a terrible strong wind and rain storm, almost a tornado. Old residents say it was the hardest storm that has visited our place for many years. Trees by the score were blown down, fences demolished, and a general confusion ensued, The new residence of Mr. Wilkie, almost completed, was moved six or eight feet off the foundation. Mr. W. happened to be on top of the building at the beginning of the storm, and judging his position to be too perilous, got inside when without a word of warning his building commenced sailing off. It is needless to state that our teutonic friend was somewhat frightened. About one half of our centennial flag pole was broken off and blown down into the street. Three or four large cherry trees and as many apple trees, on the Stadden property, were broken down. But the most destructive feat of the storm was the almost entire destruction of a crab apple grove on Mr. Jos. Barnes’ place southwest of town on the lane leading to Ottawa. Here large trees were broken and hurled with great force across the pasture, over the fence to the other side of the road. Mr. Barnes had a great deal of fence blown down and eight or ten nice large trees on his place broken off. Mr. Eisenhuth’s barn south of town was completely demolished, not a stick left standing. Nearly all of the roof of Mr. Stadden’s barn east of town was blown off. In fact from all accounts our place seems to have been in the centre of the tornado.1


1. The [Ottawa, Illinois] Free Trader, June 21, 1879, p. 8, cols. 1-2