Jill Lepore writes about the “horrid snow” that hit New England in 1717. Here is a taste:
This winter, this is nothing. Over nine days in 1717, the Northeast endured what was ever after known as “the great snow.” At the end of February came what first looked to be beastly (“a great storm”) but what, after what followed, appeared no more than a measly, beggarly storm (“stiddy rain & snow”). The real dumping started a few days later. “4 foot deep in ye woods on a Level,” one farmer reported from New London. Another and still more fearsome storm arrived the next day. In a letter to a friend, Cotton Mather called this one “an horrid snow”: “People, for some hours, could not pass from one side of a street unto another.” In his diary, Mather enthused that about “as mighty a snow as perhaps has been known in memory of man.” In Connecticut, the drifts got as high as sixteen feet. On Long Island, eleven hundred sheep were buried beneath a blanket of white. Some cows, blinded by snow and ice, wandered into the ocean and drowned; more died in fields and, weeks later, when the snow finally melted, they were found, “standing dead on their legs, as if they had been alive.” In New Hampshire, you had to climb out of your house from a second-story window. “Not fit for man nor beast.” No horse could brave it. Nor any ships. “No vessels are arrived this week,” the Boston News-Letter reported. Rivers were frozen in Philadelphia. You could try snowshoes. In Boston, people walked around on stilts. From Rhode Island came this word: “Such a violent storm of deep snow as has been here of late, was never known before, by the Oldest Livers.”
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