This file portion of www.watertownhistory.org website
1881, 1898, 1910 and 1947
03 x 1881
March 5, 1881 snow storm
National Hotel (Lindon House), Main and Water
Hacketts Marble Works and St. Bernardís in distance
At the end of the first week of March of 1881, Mother Nature closed down the city and isolated it from the outside world by favoring Watertown with an accumulation of over 6 feet of snow.† Trenches were dug to navigate oneís way around town and trains were stalled.
Click to enlarge
The Watertown Historical Society has a number of images of the 1881 snow storm
No 1:† Flood, 1881, Main St. bridge destruction
No 2:† Flood, 1881, Main St. bridge destruction, Phoenix engine house in distance
Reminiscences of an Old Fashioned Winter , by F. O. Ray
From Lake Mills Leader of February 7, 1929
In the winter of 1881 I was janitor of the old school building.† In the first part of the winter I had no shoveling to do as but very little snow came until after January 1, 1881.† On Monday morning in January, I started for school to start my fires.† I walked down to the roadway as no one attempted to keep their walks cleaned.† I reached a cut in the road in front of where Mr. E. Moore now lives and got in a snow drift that came nearly to my shoulders.† Thinking I could not get through there I turned back and went on the hill back of Oscar Wollinís house and turned across the fields to get to the north end of North St.† I found the banks above the fence posts and to get through I laid down on the snow rolling over and over until I got through.† No school was held that day as only about a dozen scholars were able to get through.
In February the snow came on so frequently and heavy that on the comer of the school grounds in front of the high school building it was 2 1/2 to 3 feet deep.† It was packed so hard that I had to work two days getting the walk cleaned.† It drifted so deep on the west side of the west building I shoveled one whole Saturday making a path to the outside toilet.† The drifts finally became so deep that I could not throw the snow to the top of the drift so I tunneled through the deepest part, making a tunnel 30 feet long and high enough for a six foot man to walk upright.† There was enough crust over it so that the little girls of the school walked and played over it until it softened later in the spring when it began to settle.
On May 9, I drove to Waterloo over the old road, and the snow was up to the hubs of the buggy on the hill just east of the cemetery two miles out from Lake Mills.† The fields were bare but along the roads was the remainder of the drifts that had piled up in the winter.
I drove to Farmington making the trip one day and returned the next, and had to be on the watch all of the time so as not to meet a team with a load on one of the deep cuts.† I did, however, happen to meet a team with a load of wood in one which had just passed the place widened to allow passing.† I had to unhitch the horse from the cutter, lift it up on top of the drift, then lead my horse by so the load could pass.† I then took the cutter down, hitched up and drove on.
Waterloo was without mail for two weeks owing to the cuts being filled with snow so hard that the snow plows could not work their way through.† It was dug out by hand and when the first train went through, every window on one side was broken by striking the bank which had not been dug back far enough.† Lake Mills got their mail by bus from Jefferson, the trains on north and south roads not being tied up.
02 23††††††††† Saturday and Sunday Watertown was enveloped in by all odds the worst snow storm that has visited us since the memorable one of March, 1881, which continued four days. The storm was quite general throughout the Northwest.† It played havoc with the railway service for the time being, reports showing that there was a genuine blockade which was with difficulty broken up. Very few people ventured from their homes here on Sunday.
01 07†††††† Bad Storm
One of the worst snow storms in years visited Watertown and vicinity last Tuesday afternoon and evening.† Nearly a foot of snow fell and the heavy wind drifted it badly.† Quite a number of trains on the railroads were abandoned in the early part of the day on Wednesday and the country roads were nigh impassable.† The rural mail carriers were unable to venture out far into the country.† This is the severest winter ever experienced here, there being now nearly five weeks of steady cold, the thermometer registering since early December around the zero mark and nearly every night 10 to 15 below zero was the record.† Snow is banked everywhere, there being about three feet on the level.† Wednesday night the thermometer registered 20 to 24 below zero.†† WG
12 19†††††† Don't Let Your Children Eat Snow
Children must be taught that snow is unclean and therefore, dangerous to eat, according to a Janesville doctor.† The pretty white substance is certainly tempting and the child on its way to school catches from a fence post a handful and eats it.† Or some other enterprising youngster mixes a glass of "snow ice cream" and enjoys the pleasures of a soda fountain without the aid of a nickel.
A bit later the child is taken with diphtheria, tonsillitis or some other disease although it has not been, apparently, exposed in any way, to contagion.
Remember that the snow not only keeps down the dust, but also brings it down from the air, where it has been floating during any period of fair weather.† Notice after a snow storm the exquisite purity of air and the common clearness of landscape near and far.†
Choose the whitest snow and let it melt, closely covered.† If you examine this dirty snow water and observe the sand, cinder, hairs, and so on you will not eat even the most attractive snow.
The microscopic dust plants which surely accompany them are the real sources of trouble.†† WG
†† 01 30 1947
The storm was listed as being the worst one since 1910 with drifts throughout the city several feet in height and conditions much worse in the rural areas.† In less than a 24-hour period over 17 inches of snow fell.† WHS_005_543