This segment features a news item from Fayette County’s past. This week we examine a story from the January 14, 1886 edition of the Republican Standard called “Snow Bound.”
With this January’s subzero temperatures still fresh in our minds, it seemed fitting to bring up another wretched moment in Fayette County’s weather history: The Storm of 1886, which the Republican Standard deemed “a landmark in the conquests of King Blizzard.”
After a mild holiday, the first sign of bad weather came on Friday, January 8, 1886:
“The old mountain began to roar and rumble, ominous of a pending storm. About dark it began to snow . . . The storm raged without cessation through Saturday and Saturday night, blowing, snowing, drifting and freezing. Before Sunday morning it had become too cold to snow, but the windstorm prevailed more or less until Sunday night. The snow was nearly a foot and a half deep and the mercury had dropped to below zero.”
Drifting snow halted services like mail delivery and coal hauling. Many families spent the weekend conserving what little coal they had, only to learn on Monday that the stockpiles were inaccessible even to two-horse carts. In order to reach the Snyder pile west of Uniontown, “a delegation of some 20 men with snow shovels” set out to dig a path by hand.
On the railroads, delays stretched on for hours as locomotives got stuck in the drifts. “The local trains were terribly demoralized,” wrote the Republican Standard.
Just like our more recent bout of frigid weather, the Storm of 1886 affected most of the United States, destroying crops in the south and wrecking ships in New England. In the west, cattle herds — including those of Theodore Roosevelt — were devastated by the frigid temperatures. The full extent of the damage would only be realized in the spring, when what remained of the scattered herds was rounded up.
In comparison, the storm’s effect seems to have been slight in Fayette County. A correspondent from Masontown even managed to look on the bright side, waxing poetic about his “Walled City”:
“‘Walled’ not with brick or stone, but almost completely walled in with little snowflakes, so exquisitely banked across every path, lane, road and street, that art blushes at the scene, and to think it a patron, would faint at the thought.”