Lancaster, NY, Snowstorm of October 22, 1880

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The oldest chronicles of Lancaster afford no parallel to the October snowstorm which visited this town last Sunday night. About ten o’clock in the evening a few wandering and isolated flakes were seen to fall here and there, and there were indications in the air that something was “a-brewing” in the upper regions, but there was nothing that forboded the heavy avalanche that came down a few hours later. During the night people were awakened by unusual noises, like the crackling of burning timber, imagined for a moment that the house was on fire in the story below him. But on going to the window and looking out, he discovered that the light was but the reflection of the moon on the newly fallen snow, and the crackling was caused by the breaking of the overburdened boughs of his shade trees. Another gentleman who arose in trepidation, discovered on going to the window that the rumbling on his roof was caused by the sliding off of huge quantities of snow which had gathered there since he had retired to rest. But a general surprise awaited everyone the next morning. Every familiar object was either buried deep, or entirely covered over with a thick mantle of the “beautiful.” From the doorway to the street there was a heavy body of snow which even a January might be proud of. No walks! No streets! Everywhere a wilderness of snow. The trees, as yet undivested of their heavy foliage, were bending low beneath their heavy burden; many of their stoutest branches were broken, and lying in shapeless masses upon the ground. Fruit and shade trees which had withstood the tempests of fifteen years, were literally crushed by this fall of snow which came down so noiselessly. Many apple, pear, and cherry trees, have borne their last harvest of fruit, and it will take a great many years to replace them.

At early dawn there was a lively demand for shovels, and men and boys turned out with a will to shovel a path, while some attempted to relieve the imprisoned trees by shaking off the white burden. Then a few teams turned out to “break roads.” Those whose business called them to Buffalo, attempted to wade through the drifts in the center of the street, and made their slow and tedious way to the depot. The mail train from Buffalo, due here at 7.50, came in nearly on time: but after stopping at the station, it was found impossible to get under motion again, for the snow on the track was thick and heavy and blocked up the wheels so completely that locomotion soon ceased. Shovelers were employed to clear the way, and several times it backed up in order to gain an impetus, but each time it came to a standstill after moving a rod or two. It was detained here till twelve o’clock but finally after getting on to the west bound track, it proceeded to Alden. The St. Lous [sic.] Express, No. 5, due here at 7.33, from the East, was nearly an hour late, and came in closely followed by the accommodation due here at 8 o’clock. Both trains were delayed here by the snow till about 10 o’clock. The next passenger train from the East was nearly an hour late, and did not reach Buffalo until after noon. The New York Express from the West due here at 8.48, was detained till nearly 12 o’clock. In the afternoon the trains ran quite regularly. The view along Main and other streets beggers description, and we confess ourselves unequal to the task. The large shade trees which adorn our principle thoroughfare, and whose opposing branches nearly touch each other in the center of the street, were many of them horribly dismantled and their broken boughs encumbered the highway.


We have not been able to gather in a complete list of the losses sustained by individuals by this heavy storm, and perhaps it would at present be impossible to form an accurate estimate, but the following have been just reported to us.

Damage to barns

The roof of the new barn of Mrs. Krim, just erected on Railroad street, is completely demolished. A large lumber shed on Pleasant Avenue owned by John Leininger, is a heap of ruins. The roof of the barn owned by Henry Little on Factory Street and occupied at present by Mr. J. T. McLaughlin, was pressed in by the weight of snow, and by its fall demolished two buggies, one of which was the property of Mr. McL, and the other of Mr. Horace Thatcher. Luckily, two horses, which were in the barn at the time of the disaster, escaped uninjured. A barn belonging to Mr. N. B Gatchell was likewise rendered roofless. The awnings in front of the stores of F. Balthasar and George Deck were demolished. The brick walls of the house of Dr. Bissell on Main St., now occupied by H. C. Williams, were pushed outward by the weight of the snow on the roof, so that a beam fell out, but luckily assistance was rendered in time to prevent any serious damage and the wall can be easily repaired.

Probably the heaviest sufferer by the storm is Dr. F. H. James, whose elegant garden of shade and fruit trees is sadly mutilated and disfigured. The roofs of his sheds at his glass factory are also destroyed. The beautiful shade trees in front of the residence of Wm. H. Grimes are badly injured. Many of the fruit trees belonging to Mr. William H. Bonnell, and those on the adjoining lot now occupied by Mr. A. D. Porter, are completely ruined. This storm will long be remembered by our townspeople as being the most ill-timed and destructive that has ever visited this beautiful village. Had it come a fortnight later, the trees would not have suffered so severely; their summer foliage not yet divested by the winds, proved their destruction.

The storm seems to have been confined to a small area; very little snow fell in Buffalo or Williamsville. The heaviest fall was in Lancaster.

(source: The Times, Lancaster, Friday, October 22, 1880)

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