Remembering the great blizzards of
Feb. 5, 1885 & Feb. 12, 1899
A Great Blizzard of February 5, 1885
Originally published in the Emmitsburg Chronicle on February 12, 1899
The cold wave and snow blizzard which struck this section of the country on Wednesday of last week, continued in all its fury until Sunday morning, at which
time the cold and fierce wind that have prevailed in full way for four days abated. During Saturday night the cold wave gave way to a more warmer
atmosphere, and on Sunday morning a thermometer registered 10° above 0°, indicating that the backbone of the cold wave have been broken, and giving promise
a more favorable weather, which was hailed with delight by all
Buggy in front of Hokes Tavern after storm
Emmitsburg was practically cut off from the outside world, except by telegraphic communication, for four long and weary days. Friday and Saturday were the
most disagreeable days that have been witnessed in this section four long time, and it is hoped that the elements will not give us a repetition of these
days for a number of years to come. During these two days to wind carried the snow and blinding sheets, drifting all the roads leading to this place shut,
and making traveling and possible. Friday morning a thermometer registered zero, and Saturday morning it was 4 degrees above. In some of the public roads
the snow was drifted in banks, from 10 to 15 ft. high. The streets in the talent were also considerably drifted, and only two teams passed the Chronicle
office last Saturday, in order to reach the public square, these teams were compelled to travel on the pavements for some distance, at different points. The
storm is said to have been the worst that has visited this section of the country since 1857, at which time the roads were completely blockaded with snow
and remained in that condition for several days
11 Hours in the Snowstorm
The Emmitsburg railroad was blockaded worst that anytime in the history of the road. All last Thursday night and Friday morning, while attempting to keep
the road open by running the engine back and forward from this place to Rocky Ridge, the engine stuck fast in a large snow bank a short distance north of
Dry Bridge, and whilst trying to get the engine out of its perilous condition, the two back wheels under the tender jumped off the track, when all hope of
getting the engine out of the snow drift was abandoned. The persons on the engine when it ran into the snow bank, were the engineer, Cornelius Gelwicks, the
firemen, Theodore Burdner, and the president of the road, William H. Biggs.
It was just three o’clock on Friday morning, when the engine became snowbound, and the above named gentlemen were compelled to remain in the engine, as an
attempt to seek shelter at any nearby farmhouse where proved fruitless and perhaps the men would have perished in the snowstorm. The suffering the men went
through with was almost beyond human endurance, and as there were no means by which they could better their condition, they made the best of their
situation, and shivering and half frozen, waited patiently for the day light to dawn, when they found that they were snowed in on all sides, the engine
being almost entirely covered with snow. They remained 11 hours in the snowstorm, it being two o’clock on Friday afternoon before the men got out of their
perilous condition. Mr. Biggs managed to walk to town, and was about exhausted when he reached here, while the engineer and the firemen found shelter and
something to eat at a farmhouse. Mr. Gelwicks was so badly frozen that he has been on the sick list ever since.
A large force of men went to work on Friday morning to shovel the drifted snow from the railroad tracks, but the cold was so intense, and the wind blew the
snow so angrily that the men were compelled to quit work, not, however, until after some of the men had received frozen noses, ears and feet. Their work
amounted to nought as the snow blew in the cuts faster than the men could shovel it out. The same condition of affairs existed on Saturday and no efforts
were made to clear the tracks.
The railroad company offered $.20 per hour for men to work on Sunday, and the wind being calm and the snow having stopped drifting, 70 men went to work were
shovels on Sunday morning, and by evening the cuts were cleared as far as McCarren’s Crossing in the engine which was covered were snow several hundred
yards beyond that point was shoveled out of the snow.
About noon Monday the track was cleared as far as the engine, and after considerable effort to men succeeded in giving the two small wheels under the tender
on the track again. There being no coal or water near to make the fire in the engine, all large rope was fastened to it, and the men started to pull the
engine into town. They had not gone very far when the rope broke and all hands fell to the ground. After gathering themselves up again and fastening the
rope securely, they made a new start with her heavy load and succeeded in getting the engine safely to town around one o’clock in the afternoon
No mail left this place from 4:50 p.m. Thursday, until 10 a.m. Monday, when it was hauled to Rocky Ridge on a hand sled by John Long and Charles Smith. They
arrived here at 5 p.m. the same day for several mailbags, which was the first mail received by our people since Thursday night.
The snow plow from the Western Maryland Railroad with two engines attached to it, when to work on the Emmitsburg Road sometime Monday night, and succeeded
in opening the road from Rocky Ridge to Dry Bridge, about 2 mi. south of town. The drifts between that point and Rocky Ridge been so deeply and solidly
packed, that the snow plow stuck fast several times and had to be shoveled out. When they reached Dry Bridge with the plow, they were afraid to attempt to
go under the Bridge for some reason. The men running the snow plow, said that they encountered no such snow drifts on the entire Western Maryland road as
they came in contact with all the Emmitsburg Road, and that in all their railroad experience, never saw a road drifted as bad as the Emmitsburg Road.
The first train to run on the Emmitsburg railroad since last Thursday night arrived here at 12 o’clock Tuesday and continue to run on time up to Wednesday
at 9 a.m.. Snow fell Tuesday night to the depth of about 2 inches On Wednesday morning strong wind was drifting the snow in every direction so by the
afternoon traffic on the railroad had to be suspended, owing to the deep cuts on the road being again filled to such a depth that the engine could not go
through them. A number of men went to work Thursday morning to reopen the cuts, and by night the road was cleared to Rocky Ridge, and the train started
running on schedule Friday morning
Wednesday evening the mail was sent to Thurmont, and the carrier arrived here Wednesday night at nine o’clock with the mail. Thursday morning’s mail was
sent to Thurmont in a sleigh, and the morning mail was received here at 10 a.m. The first mail to Gettysburg since Thursday of last week was sent to that
place by horseback on Wednesday morning.
All the country roads were drifted shut, making traveling and possible except by going through the fields. The snow drifted in many places several feet
higher than the fences. By Tuesday noon nearly all the roads leading to this place were opened sufficiently to admit traveling with teams. The snow that
fell Tuesday night was blown into the deep cuts, which again blockaded the roads and necessitated to reopening of many of them.
Among the persons from this place were caught in the blizzard and were snowbound for several days were Major Horner, who went to Baltimore Thursday evening
and did not get home until the first train came in over the Emmitsburg Road at noon Tuesday. He attempted to come home on Friday morning, and were snowed up
at Emory Grove for five hours, and as the train couldn’t get any further, it was returned to Baltimore with its passengers.
Mr. George Steckman, who went to Baltimore the first part of the week, was also snowbound on the train on the Western Maryland road near Westminster, who
was six others passengers secure the services of a guide, and started out in the storm to find a place of shelter, and after wandering around the country
for some time, finally arrived at a farmhouse, where they secured a nights lodging and breakfast. On the following day Mr. Steckman continued on the train
Mr. Albert Patterson, of the firm Patterson Brothers, of this place, was snowed up in the vicinity of Thurmont, where he was compelled to remain two or
three days until the roads were sufficiently opened to permit traveling. He arrived in this place at noon on Tuesday, and company with Mr. Steckman.
Harry G. Beam and Charles Long who had taken some horses to Baltimore a few days before the blizzard, were also in the same predicament as the other
Four traveling men arrived in this place on this seven o’clock train Thursday evening and stopped at the Emmit House, intending to leave the following day.
On Friday morning they found everything snowed up so tight that they were compelled to remain until the following morning. They had a monopoly in the town.
A more happy, at the same time, a more discontented crowd, no one could desire to see, and their imaginary powers concerning the weather and as to when they
would be able to proceed on the trip, is beyond description. Some of them were so anxious to get home or to their next stopping place, that they could not
wait any longer than Monday noon, at which time two of the gentlemen started on foot for Rocky Ridge, while the other two remained a few hours longer, and
were taken to Thurmont in a sleigh. They will never forget the time they were snowbound Emmitsburg, although they were well cared for and provided with
comfortable quarters. Come again, gentlemen, and we hope the elements will be more favorable.
A Great Blizzard of February 6, 1899
Originally published in the Emmitsburg Chronicle on February 12, 1899
A Blizzard of no small pretensions visited, not only this section, but its effects were General throughout the
county, a many points was the worse ever experienced, and can be just termed the end of the Century Blizzard. The cold was terrible in this section, having
zero rather for several days, accompanied by heavy fall of snow, and are reaching cold wind, which may travel impossible, and the suffering endured by those
who were compelled to be out of doors a few hours was terrible, to say the least. Many persons in this neighborhood are suffering from the effects of frozen
years, hay and its, and feet.
A record of the weather of the past week shows that the cold was a record breaker for this section of the country. The following thermometrical observations
were taken at this office at, or a little before seven o’clock, each morning: Friday morning, February 10 at 6:45, 6° below zero, one hour later on the same
morning the Mercury stood at 10° below zero; February 11, for degrees below; February 12, zero; February 13, four degrees above zero, February 14, 6° above
zero; February 15, four degrees below zero, February 16, 14° above zero.
Friday of last week is said to have been the coldest day here in the memory of man. The Mercury in a thermometer stood at the zero mark from about nine
o’clock in the morning until five o’clock in the evening, and join all this time the sun shone bright, yet its rays have little or no effect on the
For monitors at other points in town differed somewhat from the record of the temperature given above. Some of the thermometers are said to a record of the
temperature as low as 20° below zero.
A comparison of the cold weather of the present blizzard, with that of the snowstorm which commenced on February 7, 1895, shows that the temperature was a
degrees colder on last Friday in the coldest day during the 1895 blizzard. The coldest in a record here during that storm was two degrees below zero.
The Snow Storm
Snow began falling here around five o’clock on last Saturday evening, and continued all night and all day Sunday, Sunday night and all day
Monday. Owning to the prevailing winds and interesting nature of the Snow it was impossible to accurately state the depth of the Snow, and the difference of
opinion prevails as to its depth. Some claims Snow fell to the depth of 20 inches, others place it at 30 inches. It is credibly stated that there is more
snow on the ground now than any time since the great snowstorm of water of 1856-57.
The wind began blowing sometime Sunday night and continued in all its fury during Monday, and until sometime that night, when it sees blowing, having
completed its great work of blocking all the roads.
Every road leading to this place was so badly blocked with snow drifts as to make them impassable. The public roads were completely closed. The Snow was
drafted as high in some places higher than the fence.
Streets Look like a Klondike Village
On Tuesday morning the streets of Emmitsburg presented in appearance seldom seen. At some places the Snow was piled up against the houses as high as a
window. In reality, the streets, with their immense banks of snow, look more like those of a Klondike Village, than the Maryland town. Workmen were engaged
nearly all day in shoveling snow from the pavements, and putting them in a passable condition. A number of our young man rode horses through the streets and
broke a road as best they could.
The railroad tightly closed
The Emmitsburg railroad did not escape the fury of the storm, but received its full share of the snow. Every cut on the road was drifted level full with the
snow, while at some of the large cuts the snow was piled up a few feet above the level. This it will be seen that Emmitsburg was entirely cut off from
communication with the outside world, except by means of the Telegraph service. As soon as the Snow stopped drifting, workmen were put to work in shoveling
Opening the public roads
The supervisors have been busily engaged shoveling opened the public roads for the past few days, and traveling is again being resumed. The turnpike road
leading from this place to Thurmont was opened on Thursday afternoon
As a result of the great storm which closed the roads, the people of Emmitsburg were deprived of mail facilities for several days. The first mail carriers
to reach this place were those from Zora and Eyler. The Gettysburg mail carrier made several attempts to reach Gettysburg, but his efforts were fruitless.
Unsuccessful efforts were made on Tuesday to take the mail to Rocky Ridge, and to bring the mail from that point to this place.
The first mail to reach this place since last Saturday evening, arrive between four and five o’clock Wednesday afternoon. The mail being carried or
horseback from this place to Rocky Ridge and from that point back to Emmitsburg. The trip to Rocky Ridge was an adventure is one, and was made only by the
most persistent efforts. The snow banks encountered on the way were immense, and at times it was with considerable difficulty that the horses worked her way
through the drifts. The trip to Rocky Ridge was made by Joseph Long & son, and Clarence McCarron and Postmaster Horner.
Yesterday the mail arrived in this place at 10:25 a.m., being brought from Thurmont via the turnpike, by Mr. Long
Snow plow on the Emmitsburg Railroad
About noon yesterday one of the Western Maryland Railroad Company’s snow plows was put to work clearing the Snow from the tracks of the Emmitsburg Railroad.
It was thought that the trains will be running on the Emmitsburg Railroad sometime today.
The Snow plow, with three big engines back of it stuck fast in the Snow in the dry bridge cut. The Snow plow was run into this immense banks are full force,
but the plow came to a sudden standstill, being unable to go through the snow. Even the engines were buried in the snow. It required several hours of
shoveling before the plow and the engines were freed. After they were released from their uncomfortable position at a late hour last night, the plow and the
engines were taken to union bridge to re-coal, and are expected to return in finish the work this morning. At the hour going to press this morning, the road
has not been open.
Read other stories remembering Emmitsburg events of old
Have your own memories of Emmitsburg Blizzards of old?
If so, send them to us at email@example.com