Winter of the Big Snow in 1896-1897

The winter of 1896-97 is often referred to as the winter of the big snow.  Pictures showing huge drifts on Main Street are usually from that winter.  The train to Cooperstown was snowbound for days and Ernest N. Johnson made six trips to Sanborn with a team of horses to get the Cooperstown mail, following the railroad tracks as the only road passable.  Winter came early as it began raining on the 28th of October and by the morning of the 29th a blizzard was raging.

Mrs. Andrew Brosten wrote home to Norway November 26, 1896 telling about one of the snowstorms that winter.  They lived on what is now the Maynard Jensen farm and the Vatne farm she writes about is now the Bill Clausen farm.

"Today and yesterday, what dreadful weather.  We cannot see more than a couple of drifts from the windows.  It is the worst snowstorm anyone has seen here.  Everything freezes so we dread the morrow.  It has been a struggle for the men to give the horses and cows a little hay and water they haven't had for two days and the pigs are snowed down completely.”

"Today, the 27th, just as bad, maybe worse.  They have tried to carry water for the cattle.  We think we will snow down or blow away, it storms so we are afraid the whole house will go.  We burn in the stove so it is red-hot and still we freeze.”

"Today the 28th it is calm and what a sight.  Einar laughed when he looked out as the snow was over the windows at Andrew Vatne's and the barn is barely visible for snow.  Here there isn't much snow around the house but in a deep valley below the house, yes, it is completely full so it is just level area to look at.  It is just impassable on all roads.  There are many that try to get to town but it is impossible with horses.  On many places there is 16 feet of snow in the road.  People are beginning to dread the long winter.  Many have not threshed yet and now this terrible frost so all our potatoes have frozen.”

"Today, the 30th, they have to dig a new well as where we watered before there is over 20 feet of snow.  Hans Haaland had to shovel snow into the house so he could get a little hole to crawl out.”

"It is now December 4th, we will try to get to town today but it snows as bad as ever.”

Source: Griggs County History 1879 - 1976 page 11


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