The blizzard of January 12, 1888, which became known as the “Children’s Blizzard” because so many children died trying to go home from school, was one of the deadliest winter storms in the upper Midwest.
The Black Hills area was spared the worst of the storm compared to eastern Dakota Territory, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa. A remarkable aspect was no lives were lost in this area, despite the severity of the storm and its sudden onslaught. Most of the people in southwestern Dakota Territory lived in and along the Black Hills and in a few towns south of Rapid City, which were more protected than the plains. Although residents were relatively new to the Black Hills, many people thought it was the worst storm they had ever experienced.
The storm mainly affected transportation and communications, which isolated the Black Hills area from the rest of the region. Deep snow drifts blocked the Fremont, Elkhorn, and Missouri Valley Railroad tracks from Chadron, Nebraska to Rapid City and Whitewood, the only railroad line to the Black Hills, for days. The Western Union telegraph line went down as the storm hit, preventing information from reaching Rapid City, including the Cold Wave Warning issued by the Signal Office in St. Paul, Minnesota. Telephone service between Black Hills towns remained operational, allowing information from outlying areas to reach the media.
The U.S. Army Signal Corps office had recently moved to Rapid City from Deadwood, with observations starting January 1, 1888. The office was located in the Sweeney Building on the southwest corner of Main and Seventh Streets.
Snow started to fall during the early morning hours of January 12 and ended about 1120 am local time. A total of 1.5 inches of snow was measured, but given the strong winds and the observation location on top of the three story building, some of it likely blew off before it was measured. Temperatures fell throughout the day from a high of 14 degrees shortly after midnight as cold air poured into the area. By 8 pm, the temperature was -10. Sustained north winds reached 30 mph. By 5 am on Jan 13, the temperature had dropped to -21 degrees. The low that morning was -25 degrees and high was only -10 degrees. Several low temperatures in the days following the storm set records that still stand today, and January 1888 ranks as the fifth coldest January in Rapid City.
The late Frank Thomson of Spearfish provided a vivid recollection of the blizzard in a note to the Rapid City Weather Bureau (dated April 15, 1965): “It began on warm morning about 10 o’clock or sooner [and] ended 4 o’clock next morning. Electric—chimneys sparked—storm only 300 to 400 high—storm slid under the warm air. Snow like flour—could not breathe in it. I was 7 years and stuck my head around corner of house and nearly choked before I got indoors again. Snow banks like sand—horses made no tracks—snow drifts 30 feet wide—then bare ground 30 feet—then another drift—next day clear and cold.”
Following are daily entries from the Rapid City Signal Service office station log. Articles from local newspapers the “Rapid City Journal”, “Black Hills Daily Times” (Deadwood), and “Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times” provide a comprehensive documentation of the local effects of the blizzard and provide interesting anecdotes on related events.
Thursday, January 12
Signal Office Station log: Killing frost in A.M. Gale: 12:05 pm – [wind] 29 [from the] N, 12 N pm ended 12:20 pm. Light snow set in during the night continuing until 1:20 pm and followed by rapidly falling temperature. Total depth unmelted snow in 24 hours 1.5 inches. Yellow sunset.
The “Rapid City Journal” noted “The usual January thaw has not developed to any alarming extent as yet, but there is a chance for it yet before the month is out.”
Friday, January 13
Signal Office Station log: Killing frost in A.M. Cold wave signal ordered up on 12th reached here today. Light snow began 2:00 pm, ended 4:00 pm. Total depth unmelted snow in 24 hours 0.8 inch. Cloudy sunset.
“Rapid City Journal” articles:
STOPPED AT RAPID CITY
The Effect of Yesterday’s Blizzard on the Railroad—A Singular Storm
The storm of yesterday was a singular one. In several respects this is true. The high wind, the light snow and the somewhat severe cold made up a day altogether unpleasant. The wind commenced between four and five o’clock in the morning, and for two or three hours fairly howled. Then the snow was flying all the time, and every place where the wind could penetrate was blown full of the beautiful. The mercury did not fall much until late in the afternoon, and then it dropped until ten degrees below zero was reached: the amount of snow accompanying the wind was not large, and was drifted solidly into all available corners.
On the railroad the worst effects of the storm were felt. The snow was backed into the cuts and low places so hard as the force of a high winds could drive it, and passage was almost impossible. Train No. 3 on the Elkhorn line was reported into Rapid City as two hours late. It proved to be more than three hours before the train arrived. The train was abandoned here, as was also the freight from the north. In the cuts between here and Chadron and between here and Whitewood the snow is drifted so badly as to make passage impossible. The engine that pulled No. 3 into Rapid City lost its headlight in a drift a few miles south of Brennan [Brennan was near Lamb Road and Old Folsom Road east of SD Highway 79 south of Rapid City]. The snow was so hard that the ponderous engine was raised from the track several times, not being heavy enough to force through the snow to the rails. The enginemen report several narrow escapes from being turned over into the ditch. The abandonment of the train here seemed to hurt a number who were on board and who wanted to get through to Whitewood or some other point. In the upper country, and who had gone from the hotels to meet the train, only to hear that it would go no further.
Railroad men are of the opinion that the trains will be running all right and on time today.
A Singular Feature
A noticeable feature of the storm on yesterday was that while the sun shone brightly enough in the west end of town, a few blocks east the storm was raging violently. North and east the air was full of flying snow, and the wind whistled and roared with wild glee. South and west the sky was clear, the sun was bright and the air was not disturbed by more than a brisk breeze. The phenomenon is unaccounted for.
- A number of people from outlying precincts are detained in town by the very bad weather.
- A foot of snow fell in Deadwood on Wednesday night, as reported by telephone.
The “Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times” reported:
THE WEATHER As Reported by Telegraph and Telephone
The Wires Down Below Chadron
Chadron, Jan 12 – One of the worst blizzards to which this section of Nebraska has ever been subjected, is now and has been prevailing since an early hour this morning. All classes of business have suffered more or less, and it is feared the losses on cattle driving before the furious elements will prove extremely heavy. Advices from Oelrichs report about the same conditions there.
Communication, with other portions of the state by telegraphic is impossible, as the wire are down. Indications are, however, that the storm is general, and that great losses and much suffering will ensure all over the state.
Spearfish, Jan 12 – A terrible blizzard has prevailed here since an early morning hour. Snow drifts waist deep have formed in many places, and all ingress to and egress from the city has been almost entirely prevented. The coach to Deadwood, however, went out on regular time.
Telephonic advices received from Sundance, state that the storm threat, has, if anything, been severer even than around Spearfish. Meager information obtainable from the few ranchmen venturing into town, conveys the idea that great suffering and loss will most probably result to cattle on ranges contiguous hereto. The storm is now thought to have spent most of its force, and a universal hope exists that before tomorrow morning, the elements will have again quieted down.
Sturgis – The blizzard prevailing here today is pronounced by all who are by long residence in Dakota, well qualified to speak advisedly of such occurrences, one of the worst, if not the very worst, that they have ever witnessed. The wind howled dismally, and it is estimated traveled at a rate of speed not less than fifty miles an hours. The Northwestern coach left here on time this morning, but no other effort at communication with Deadwood or other points, save by telephone, has been made, few having the desire or hardihood to venture in the face of the storm. No ranches have been in town today, and consequently it is impossible to specify any damage that may have already resulted on the adjacent prairies. Grave apprehensions are entertained that cattle and other livestock on the ranges have suffered severely, and that losses will prove heavy. Hotel men are the only ones who are at present deriving any benefit from the occurrence, all passengers coming down by this mornings’ Northwestern having been necessarily compelled to remain over until a train arrives.
Rapid – Like all portions of the Hills with which communication has been obtainable, Rapid has suffered severely from today’s blizzard. The storm is generally pronounced one of the hardest that has ever visited this section. The ordinary wheels of commerce are blocked, and the day has been given up to the discussion of the possible and probably disastrous effects the raging elements will work. Cattlemen in the city are gloomy, and though generally reticent indicate a fear that the storm will entail severe losses on stock. The inward bound train reached this place several hours late, and was held here for fear it might prove impracticable to reach the Whitewood turntable tonight, heavy drifts and snow banks having been plowed through below, and every reason existing to believe like difficulties would be met between this and Whitewood.
Whitewood – A heavy wind began blowing here at an early hour this morning, and has continued with unabated fury throughout the day. Accompanying it has been a continual fall of snow, making the conditions described best by “blizzardy”. No train has arrived from the east, though the local agent states that the one now in Rapid may be expected u tomorrow morning. No serious damage has yet been reported, though it is generally believed that when reports come in livestock will be found to have suffered severely.
Deadwood – When the sun sank to rest Wednesday evening, and even at the hour when the average Deadwoodian retires to that rest which an easy conscience, and the indulgence of a healthy appetite at supper, generally assures, few anticipated that they would waken to the realization Thursday morning, that during the hours of the night, one of the heaviest storms to which the country has ever been subjected would have then been prevailing several hours. About midnight Wednesday, light fleecy clouds began collecting in the western horizon, and thence spreading, speedily darkened and obscured the entire heavens. At that hour little or no wind was felt, and according to policemen, and others, whom choice or necessity made wakeful not unusual current of air was noticed until four o’clock in the morning., About this time, a heavy fall of snow commenced, very shortly followed by one and then another gust of wind, blowing at a very high rate. The storm, gathering force as it continued, became by rapid degrees of a truly blizzardy character. Wild and raging, snow drifts, waist deep, were created on almost every street in the city; and the wind continuing several hours with unabated violence, proved decidedly the most disagreeable disturbance of the elements that has been observed here for several years. The mercury in the meanwhile fell rapidly, and from 40 deg. above at noon Wednesday, dropped to 12 deg. below at the same hour Thursday. Sheltered as this city is by surrounding hills, the full fury of the storm was not as severely felt as in neighboring valley towns, where from special telegraphic and telephonic reports received last night at this office, it is learned that perhaps the worst blizzard that has ever swept through the Hills is just over. Toward night the downfall of snow ended, the clouds cleared away, and the sun, after for a brief hour again kindly shedding light on the city, sank below the brow of McGovern Hill in a cloudless sky. At ten last night, all wind ceased; a calm rested over the city; the starts shone clearly, brightly and coldly, whilst the mercury in private thermometers registered eight degrees below zero.
From the “Black Hills Daily Times”:
The worst storm of the season for this locality at least, began late Wednesday night, and by yesterday morning amounted to a blizzard. Snow fell rapidly, high wind prevailed and low temperature was reported everywhere. In Deadwood the thermometer registered zero throughout the day, and at 8 o’clock last evening 6 below. Effects in the city are disastrous to business of all kinds, little or knighting doing anywhere. Effects abroad are indicated by prostrate wires and interrupted travel by rail and otherwise. The Elkhorn train due at Whitewood at 12:15 was three hours late at Buffalo gap and five hours late where it was abandoned. No express for the south was dispatched from Whitewood. A freight starting at noon, reached Black Hawk with difficulty, and a short distance below became stalled and was abandoned. All cuts are reported full and it is possible that the road will not be open today. The Northwestern sent up a lead coach from Sturgis. It experienced much difficulty but arrived safely. As a rule hack lines to outlying points were hauled off. The storm abated before dark, and the evening was calm, clear and cold. Herewith are thermometrical readings at points indicated at 9 p.m., as kindly gathered by Arthur Marble [of the telephone exchange].
Lead City -10
Bald Mt -11
Spring Valley -7
Buffalo Gap 20
Saturday, January 14
Signal Office Station log: Killing frost in A.M. Yesterday’s snow again blocked up the railroad and traffic is suspended from Chadron, Neb north to Buffalo Gap, Dakota. Clear sunset.
“Rapid City Journal” articles:
WORSE THAN OUR WEATHER The Borean Blasts Being Served to People Elsewhere on Earth
ALL BUSINESS SUSPENDED Along the Northern Railroads on Account of Deep Snow, High Wind and Low Temperature—The Worst Storm on Record
THE GENTLE BLIZZARD An Unchecked, Unlimited Blast from Boreas—The Delights of Travel
If the weather outside the Black Hills is as much worse proportionately at present writing, what an awful time the people who don’t live here must be having. For the oldest inhabitant doesn’t recall anything worse that what we are not undergoing in this section, and yet it is known to be so much worse elsewhere that each dweller in Rapid City drew a little closer to the fire on yesterday, and returned thanks his or her residence was in this place and not somewhere else, where the full sweep of the cruel north wind could beat down on and freeze the marrow in any one exposed. It was bad enough here. The mercury all day ranged from six to twenty degrees below, and the wind blew steadily from the north. The storm has been an awful one. No loss of life has been reported yet resulting from this blizzard, but the returns are not all in yet. There were lots of accounts of frozen faces and fingers, and ears and noses in Rapid City yesterday, but none were serious. No one ventured out save those whose business called them, and these did not stay longer than absolutely necessary. The bitter cold and the whistling wind had the town outside between them.
The railroad men suffered the worst. A snow plow and engine were started north early in the morning and a passage was found through the snow to a point above Blackhawk. The snow plow then returned to Rapid City, and later in the day was started south. The passenger train that was laid up at this station on Thursday morning was sent out, leaving here about noon. Whitewood was reached late in the evening, after lots of hard work. The snow plow that left here for the south after dinner was not heard from yet ad six o’clock, and may or may not have got through all right. The drifts are packed in the cuts as hard as ice, and the work of clearing the track is difficult and dangerous. The wheels of an engine will ride up on the snow, and the danger of being derailed is so great that the utmost caution must be used in moving. There is no intimation as yet regarding the mail form the east, and Agent Baldwin thinks that there will be none through until one day next week. As soon as the storm subsides sufficiently the track will be cleared, and an effort made to keep it open.
- The electric light succumbed to the conquering cold last night, and was none. Kerosene illuminated the stores faintly, but sufficiently.
- The number of times the average citizen said that yesterday was the coldest day he ever saw cannot well be estimated, but some of them said it so often that they actually believed it.
- The mercury fell last night at six o’clock to twenty-two degrees below zero. At eleven o’clock it was only twenty degrees below. The night was about as cold as was ever experienced here.
The cold wave signal was hoisted yesterday. The St. Paul [Minnesota] signal officers are derelict in their duty, or this is a snap “on the side” which they are not supposed to notice.
The Cold Wave
Considerable grumbling was heard on yesterday, and not a little fun was poked at the signal service because the cold wave came along without any assistance from the bureau. The flag with the black center did not surmount the staff until yesterday afternoon. The reason for this was the failure of the telegraph company to transmit the following order sent out from St. Paul on Thursday: To Observer, Rapid City: Hoist cold wave signal. Temperature will fall twenty to twenty-five degrees before Saturday. WOODRUFF, Lieutenant.
The wires being down, it was impossible to get this order through, and consequently the flag did not get up on time. It went up yesterday, all right.
Thomas Sweeney has ordered a set of signal service flags, and Observer Evans has made application to the Washington office for daily indications. They will be bulletined daily from the top of the Sweeney block on Main Street.
A Cold Trip
Notwithstanding the severity of the weather yesterday, Abram Winne and wife drove down from Hill City. They did not feel very uncomfortable until they struck the prairie and the wind struck them. They reached town without having been frost-bitten. L.C. Fern and Ed Shedd came down from the same place, but were longer on the road, and Ed had his face somewhat frosted.
The “Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times” reported:
THE WEATHER Delayed Mails and Trains Yesterday The West Bound Train Below Long Pine
The Weather Record
The mercury has been on a tear, and as to all unusual exhilaration and excitement, must follow corresponding despondency or depression, so to the summerlike weather enjoyed here Wednesday, followed a blast of winter’s breath, than which stronger and colder has seldom, if ever, been felt in the Hills. The events of Thursday’s storm, as chronicled in yesterday’s issue of the Pioneer, gathered from all points with which telephonic or telegraphic communication was obtainable, were succeeded by clear and calm weather, whilst the mercury in thermometers at all points from which information could be gleaned, demonstrated that the temperature prevailing was several degrees colder than any observed for last winter or as yet for this. Mail intercourse with points east of and beyond Sturgis has been completely cut off, and after that mail which should have arrived Thursday, but will not reach here before this afternoon, if then, is received, post office, railroad, and Northwestern state officials decline to encourage an idea that any other can be reasonably expected for several days. The western bound train, which should have reached Whitewood yesterday, was when last heard from snow bound at Emmet, a way station, some fifty miles east of Long Pine, and with no immediate prospect of the blockage being raised. Even should the train succeed in proceeding thence, the fact would afford little reason to hope for any material betterment of conditions, as before Chadron was reached, the worst and heaviest drifts along the line of the road, would be encountered, and the changes are, a delay of several days thereat necessitated. Special dispatches received in this office last night conveyed the above facts, but before fuller and more elaborate particulars were received, telegraph lines again went down, cutting off further information.
A freight train is tied up at Hermosa, and the passenger reaching Whitewood yesterday afternoon, from Rapid, is still there waiting orders. An engine and snow plow, will leave the latter place at seven o’clock this morning and endeavor be made to clear this end of the track. It is safe to say, however, that no reason exists for a belief that any eastern mail, after that expected Thursday, and to arrive today, will be received in this city before Monday and perhaps not then.
From the “Black Hills Daily Times”:
Reports from the ranges are to the effect that stock is in fine condition, grazing good and the situation generally all that could be expected.
Sunday, January 15
“Rapid City Journal” articles:
The Railroad Men Succeed in Getting the Best of the Storm as Far as Chadron
The road is open—that in trains can be moved between Whitewood and Chadron. Not that the movement of the trains is accompanied by any degree of pleasure, or even comfort. On the other hand, the operation of the road entails what the railroaders denominate “grief”, and a great deal of it. The passenger train that left here on Friday morning reached Whitewood about eight o’clock in the evening. The trip was difficult from the start. Event thought a snow plow had gone ahead, the wind blew the snow back into the cuts as fast as it was thrown out, and the track would be blocked within a short time after the passage of a train. The snow plow that started south from here on Frida afternoon laid all night on the track near Brennan, stuck fast in a big drift. Yesterday evening this outfit was shoveled out, and returned to Rapid City. A third track clearing outfit, that left Chadron, laid all night on the road near Buffalo Gap.
Yesterday Conductor Leader left Whitewood, with the snow plow in charge, and made the run through to Rapid City without any very great difficulty. He was followed by Conductor Flanders, with the passenger train that had gone up Friday. Conductor Neylong went north, and Leader and Flanders continued on their way south. Tow light engines that had set out from Chadron to assist the passenger train got in, and turned around here, and went back. The track is open all right now between Chadron and Whitewood, and unless a storm comes up again, trains will be moved regularly between these points.
Not much could be learned of the status of affairs on the main line, save that the track is badly blockaded in the neighborhood of Long Pine [Nebraska], and that there is no telling when a train will be gotten through. Agent Baldwin said last night that there was little prospect for an eastern mail here before Tuesday or Wednesday, thought a train might get through tomorrow.
During the snow blockade, when the mails are very irregular, the telegraphic news furnished by “The Journal” is particularly acceptable. The report of yesterday morning indicates that the stress of weather experienced here is general throughout the northwest, and, indeed, that the situation of affairs in Northern Dakota and along the Northern Pacific in Minnesota and Montana is far worse than it is here. From all directions come reports of deep snow, low temperature and wind winds. Railroads are blockaded, stages reported lost and fears are entertained that there will be great loss of life. The Black Hills escape better than the surrounding country. A discouraging report is that there is still another cold wave on the way from Idaho. As the present indications here are for warmer weather, it is to be hoped that this promised freeze may not strike us.
The “Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times” reported:
THE WEATHER The Falling Barometer and Train Movements
That subject more generally discussed, perhaps than any other during the past few days, the weather, again demands attention. Friday nights a self-registering thermometer, at J.K. P Miller’s Ingleside residence, at one time registered thirty-seven degrees below zero. The exact hour when the mercury fell to this point is unknown, but it is generally supposed to have been between the hours of two and four o’clock yesterday morning. After sun up, some softening was observed, the mercury at one time, in front of Gaston’s office, and Treber’s store rising to two degrees above the zero mark. About three in the afternoon, however, it began falling rapidly. And at eight o’clock was again 12 degrees below. At other points surrounding no material difference was observed in the quotations received Friday night.
The last copy of the Rapid Journal received in this city, dated January 13th, contains the substance of an interview with a cattle man of that city, who spoke with a confident belief that Thursday’s storm had done little or no appreciable damage to stock on the ranges. It is hoped that this opinion will prove correct, thought a contrary belief had been before engendered. The storm was undoubtedly as severe a one as stock have had to contend with in many year, and as it was followed by extraordinarily low temperature, a natural fear was entertained that this interest would be called on to sustain heavy losses. Further and fuller information, impossible as yet to obtain, may establish this fear ill founded, and good reason is urged for anticipating such will be the case, as stock were certainly in better, healthier and stronger condition than they generally are at this season, and therefore better able to withstand the fierce attack of the furious elements.
From the “Black Hills Daily Times”:
METEOROLOGICAL Low temperature Prevails-Delayed Mails-Blockaded Roads
Temperature at various points in the Hills as reported at 10 o’clock last evening, was as follows:
Cliff House -12
Central City -22
Lead City -16
Bald Mt -23
Buffalo Gap -20
Spring Valley -14
Although the thermometer at no time after sunrise, yesterday, indicated as low temperature within ten degrees as prevailed continuously Friday, the atmosphere seemed equally frigid and frequently much keener. Friday night will long to be remembered for its intense cold. The mercury stationary at 22 below throughout the day and night, dropped at 5 a.m. to 24 [below]. At Central it indicated 33 [below] and at Lead 36 below. Gradually the mercury rose to 8 below and became stationary until evening, when a decline as indicated in the foregoing table occurred. Clear skies and no wind to speak of were reported from all points. Travel was resumed, the Galena hack making its first trip in two days, and stages from Sturgis, Whitewood, Spearfish, and Carbonate, arriving practically on time. A number of freight outfits also put in an appearance, but, it is to be hoped, not ladened with perishable cargoes.
Reports from the railroad are indefinite and not assuring. A snow plow dispatched from Whitewood at 7 a.m., arrived at Rapid in good time, with little difficulty, and was closely followed by the express, which was necessarily indefinitely sidetracked at that point owing to a heavy blockage between that station and Buffalo Gap. An engine, starting south Friday evening, encountered huge drifts a short distance south of Rapid, and endeavoring to force its way, was derailed and still lies in the ditch. A snow plow from Chadron arrived at the Gap late in the afternoon; and reports simultaneously received, were to the effect that the road east was entirely open. These, however, were subsequently contradicted, and later still, assurance was received by wire at Whitewood that the road would be open late last evening, and that a through train would arrive today provided new drifts did not interfere. This latter is not thought possible by well-informed railroad and stage men at this end of the route who fancy that if the road be open to the Gap, the many well-filled cuts thence to Rapid, will occasion much delay. They look for no through train before tomorrow.
Late in the afternoon a rather sickly outfit arrived from Rapid with a sample of Thursday’s mail. When and where, if ever, missing portions will eventually be found, is a conundrum to be answered in the future. Nothing arrived from St. Paul, Yankton, Sioux City, or, in short, any point north of the Northwestern railroad and very little from any direction. The arrival, therefore, was more of an aggravation that aught else.
Another day without reports of loss of life or great suffering, strengthens hope that miraculous escape was vouchsafed the district. Still we should be prepared for sad recitals when distant points are heard from.
Tuesday, January 17
“Rapid City Journal” articles:
Opened at Last
By continuous efforts, and at the sacrifice of considerable money and no small discomfort to management and employees, the Elkhorn line was cleared on Sunday, and a mail train was run through to Chadron on Sunday night. Yesterday morning early the train was started for Rapid City, and arrived here about half an hour late. This train brought in the mail which was due here last Friday. The train which will arrive this morning will bring four days’ mail with it.
The freight train which goes through here, bound south, in the forenoon, on yesterday morning met with an accident at Blackhawk, by which two cars were derailed. This delayed the passenger train going north for some time, so that is was fully an hour late when it returned going south. The track is now clear from Whitewood to Missouri Valley [Iowa], and with the promise of warm weather the employees hoe to keep it so for a while at least. They have had “grief” enough.
Froze His Hands
A herder named Forestel, who has been spending the winter with Joe McCloud in his Battle Creek ranch, came up yesterday to consult Dr. Jones about his hands. One of the cold days last week Forestel took a long ride on horseback, and as a result is now carrying both hands done up in bandages. He has frozen three fingers on his right hand and tow on this left so badly that they may yet require amputation.
- The electric light thawed out on Sunday and yesterday sufficient to allow it to be turned on again last night. Its presence was welcome.
- The Black Hills isn’t the worst country to live in by a long chalk. Only one man has been frozen to death in this country this winter. The reports from Eastern Dakotas are different.
From the “Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times”
From the valleys immediately contiguous hereto nothing has been learned. No deaths have been reported, and it is hoped none have been occasioned. A well-known cattleman now in the city, admitting he has received no positive information from the range, declines to believe stock losses will prove heavy. His opinion to a contrary conclusion is firm, and based on the fact that the duration of the blizzard was limited to a few hours, and thought he temperature accompanying it was severe, it did not last long enough to produce anything like the loss that has been anticipated would develop by people resident in the Hills, unacquainted with the conditions governing successful ventures in stock raising. Cattle were in prime condition fatter and stronger than is usual at this season and consequently very much better, able to stand the attack made. The reasons assigned are certainly weighty, and entitled to such consideration as shall work a suspension of public belief, that great loss has been sustained until particulars when obtained, conform or dispel the impression.
Wednesday, January 18
“Rapid City Journal” articles:
The reports of death and disaster spread by the late storm are coming in, and they are, indeed, bad enough. Here, in the Black Hills country, there was little suffering, but upon the bleak prairies, to the north, northwest, northeast, east and south, many lives were lost. The telegraph has informed the readers of “The Journal” of many casualties. Such are always reported in the wake of severe winter storms in newly settled prairie regions. It is not many years since many deaths from freezing were reported from the lower Elkhorn Valley. Now, in that region such things are almost unheard of. As the country has become thickly settled of course the danger is lessened, but the storms themselves do not seem to be as severe as of yore. Settlers generally believe the general planting and growth of timer to have had much to do with the change. But in the settlement of all the prairie country of Iowa and Nebraska the people have had such experiences as are now reported. Here, in the Black Hills country, is it different. The blizzards which result in loss of life elsewhere are here almost unknown. Though the late storm raged fiercely on every side, entailing loss of life, within what is properly termed the Black Hills country there was comparatively little suffering.
After the Storm
Papers coming from the states now were printed during the prevalence of the storm, and while it was at its fury. The accounts are graphic in the extreme, and inclined to be a little sensational, though all agree that the late storm was without exception, the worst on record. The telegraphed accounts, which have been published in The Journal, were in no wise exaggerated. It will be a long time before all the misery of the storm will be known, or the losses reckoned.
Clearing the Walks
A great deal of hustling around with snow shovels, and in fact all kinds of shovels, was noticed yesterday, many residents having anticipated the warning of the street commissioner. A lot more hustling will have to be done before the walks are cleared of the beautiful, and the chances are that the work will eventually devolve on Old Sol. It is usually his part to clear the walks. People ought to make an effort, in the interest of pedestrians, to remove the snow from the sidewalks shortly after it falls. Snow that comes like the last did brings with it an excuse for neglect, and may be allowed to remain where it drifts until warmer days come. But when the air gets warm the drifts ought to be dumped into the ditches, and without waiting for an official order from the council.
- Not a man is reported to have frozen to death in the Black Hills during the recent storm. Not another section of equal area in the storm’s track has done so well. The cold here is never so severe as it is east or south.
- The signal service promises a continuation of warmer weather that has been enjoyed during the last twenty-four hours. No one will feel particularly bad over this prospect.
Thursday, January 19
“Rapid City Journal” articles:
Loss of Stock
During the late severe storm, it is stated that William Hecht sustained a loss of nine and Frank Murphy six head of cattle. Clover Sickler, who came up from his ranch on the lower valley yesterday, says the storm at his place was absolutely terrible. The temperature was extremely low and the wind drifted the snow so badly that a man was unable to see anything at a distance of a few yards. It is expected that stock will be found to have drifted into gullies, which always results in heavy loss.
Stood the Storm Well
D.H. Clark came in yesterday from a visit to his stock range. He says he did not go out on the range far, but looked around the home ranch closely. So far as he is able to tell from observation, no stock perished in the late storm. All seemed to be moving around lively, and the points and hills, where the snow had blown off, were covered with stock browsing. The grass is not so long as on the lower places, but is sufficient to sustain life. The snow in that region was much heavier than here, but is not drifted very badly, the wind having been lighter. If a season of warm weather ensures and continues until the snow goes off, the stock down there will not suffer much. If another heavy snow comes, or if another cold snap freezes things up again, the stock will have to do some pretty tall rustling to keep alive on the range.
From the “Black Hills Daily Times”:
The train due at Whitewood yesterday at noon was detained three hours by drifted cuts at Buffalo Gap and between that town and Rapid. The track was finally cleared and for the first time in a week, the road from Missouri Valley to Whitewood was free of obstruction. Indications of another storm are plentiful, but the company is in excellent condition to battle with the elements. The last storm located the vulnerable points of the road.
Friday, January 20
“Rapid City Journal” article:
And still the reports come in of death and suffering resulting from the storm. But those who read of this “Dakota blizzard” must know that it has not been confined to Dakota by any means, but extended over the entire northwest, and that in the entire Black Hills country of Dakota there is not a single death from freezing or even a case of extreme suffering reported.