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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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The Hard Winter

The Hard Winter

GRHC - December 23rd, 2009

Glance at the Past, a local history radio project presented by the Grand Rapids Historical Commission and the Community Media Center. Today, the desperate tale of the Winter of 1842-43.



When early residents of Grand Rapids spoke of the “hard winter” everyone knew that was the winter of 1842-3. Snow fell to a great depth in November and December. The squirrels had a premonition of what was coming; in November an editorial item in the Enquirer newspaper announced: “The squirrels, it is said, are pushing south in large numbers. Those wise in such matters say that this betokens a severe winter.”

Snow fell two feet deep on November 18th and remained until April. A dozen sailors who had been wrecked near Point Betsey, worked their way along the shore to Port Sheldon, and about the first of December came through the woods on foot to Grandville, led by Abram Pike, Charles Hathaway, and an Native American guide. They had not traveled far before they found the snow nearly up to their chins; they camped in the forest for two nights, and finally reached Grandville on the third day.

On March 29, 1843, it was noted that for more than four months the weather had been cold and freezing, with snow from two to four feet deep; it did not abate until April. The deep snow caused large numbers of cattle to perish from starvation.

In late March the temperature was 22 degrees below zero and ten degrees below on April first. Also in April men were able to drive fully loaded ox teams on the ice of the Grand River. In mid-April the snow in the woods was still about four feet deep.

With few roads, no vehicles, and no snow plows one wonders how well we would have survived that “hard winter.”



Full Details

TitleThe Hard Winter
KeywordsGlance at the Past, snow, winter, cold, history, 1842, radio, WYCE, Grand Rapids, Historical Commission
Pubdate StringDecember 23rd, 2009

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