Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties
Including Personal Reminiscens of Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902

Stories of Pioneer Days

Page 134

In December, 1830, it commenced snowing and it snowed till the middle of February, 1831. It is remembered by all the old settlers as "the winter of the deep snow." It created great hardship all over the country. People were not prepared for it. The feed was out in the fields; the stock did not have sheds to protect them; the roads were impassable; the tops of the corn shocks could just be seen.

We lived in the west part of Salem before we moved into the hotel. My father had a team of horses and a cow and had a few acres of corn on Thomas Watkins' farm, a mile west of Salem. The roads were covered from four to six feet deep with snow with a hard crust on top that would let a horse down through, though a man could walk on top. Father would start out in the morning and be gone all day and dig out enough corn fodder to feed two days. It snowed every day for two months and the track that was broken one day would be filled the next.

Every person now living who was born before that winter is called a "Snow Bird." I was born just before and have my snow bird badge which was given me at the Old Settlers' meeting at Sugar Grove four years ago. I prize it very highly and would not trade it for a hundred wild turkeys running at large in Oregon.

I don't recollect the deep snow, yet I have heard it talked about so much that I sometimes think I saw it.

There was very little traveling in those days. It was all the snow birds could do to stay at home. There was not much to travel for. The farmers had their bread and meat at home. If they ran out of meal they had their hominy mortars at home and could soon make some coarse meal. They had salted down their pork that was fattened on acorns. They did not take a daily paper as we do now. I doubt if there was a daily paper taken within the bounds of Menard county. Indeed, I doubt if there was a daily paper printed in the state.

But it kept on snowing until the snow birds began to wonder if it was going to snow all summer. In February it began to thaw and the waters raised till they measured higher than they ever had before or since the days of Noah's flood.

The country then was full of deer, wild turkeys and prairie chickens. The snow would not hold up the deer; their sharp hoofs would cut through and they would sink down, while the wolves could travel on the snow and devour the deer. The deer finally got so thin that the wolves could find nothing but hide and bones to pick. That winter nearly cleaned the deer out. The other game did not fare so badly.

Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson



1902 Index

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Illinois Ancestors