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JIM: The big snow of January 1917

The snow brought travel to a standstill in Pellyton, wreaked severe damage on a Gradyville meeting house and the Elrod mill shed, witnesses couldn't make it to Columbia for Judge Carter's Circuit Court, and much time was spent by Columbia businessmen raking snow from rooftops after Goff Bros. Livery Stable roof caved in. It's all contained - and much more - in this work by JIM -
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Come mid-January 1917 and several days thereafter, a long spell of disagreeable weather dominated conversations across county. In the News edition dated the 24th, the Gadberry correspondent reported "some of the worst weather of the winter," with the snow "about eight inches deep on the level." (On a brighter note, the writer commented, "it has been a fine winter on wheat and grass...")

Up in Pellyton, the scribe called the mantle of white "the largest snow that has fallen for thirty years" and stated travel had come nearly to a standstill. Mr. W.M. Wilmore, long time correspondent for the Gradyville section, gave second voice to the curtailed road traffic, noting, "The snow and ice has knocked out the Drummers from coming to this place for the past ten days."

Mr. Wilmore continued by saying, "The big snow that fell here the first of the week [referring to the week beginning Sunday, January 14th]" was the deepest one that we have had for years. When it began to slip off the roof of the Methodist church in our city it took the flues off even with the roof."

Front page news items included a brief note informing readers that "The snow brought down the roof the Elrod mill shed," and in Columbia, considerable damage occurred when a barn belonging to Mr. N.M. Tutt and rented by Goff Bros. Livery "went down last Wednesday night [17th] under the heavy weight of snow." Of the vehicles occupying space in the structure, "quite a number...were more or less damaged."

Observed the paper in connection with that event, "Quite a number of business men, on the square, after Goff's barn fell in, took the precaution to have the snow raked from the roofs of their houses and sheds."

The foul weather also took a toll on justice in Adair County. Many -- most -- witnesses couldn't make the trek from out in the county into Columbia for Circuit Court, called into session a few days earlier by Judge Carter of Monroe County. Judge Carter continued nearly all the of the cases to the May session, adjourned court, and left for home.

This round of wintery precipitation extended considerably south of Adair County. In a letter dated January 15th and written near Belton, Texas, Eld. Z.T. Williams reported the weather there, which had been ideal since his arrival several days earlier, began to turn on Friday the 12th and "by Saturday morning the thermometer registered 31 degrees above zero." Come Sunday the 14th, the high temperature reached only 26 with "a sleet on the ground. Just enough to make it slick." As he penned the letter next day, Eld, Williams remarked, "There is a 7 inch snow at Dallas and over north Texas," then added, "They say this is unusual weather here and I guess it is, and would be a little unusual in Kentucky."

Little did Adair Countians -- even those as far-flung as Texas -- realize this fit of nature's pique presaged what would come the following year. To borrow (with permission) from eleven years ago from the late, unlamented Cyrus,

"The winter of 1917-1918 was a doozy. Snow fell on the night of December 7, 1917, and by Monday, January 15, 1918, a total of twelve snows had fallen since winter's onset. Even more fell after that, and the good people of Adair County didn't see the ground until February.

"And with the snow, came cold--breath-taking, bone-biting cold.

"The temperature in Columbia on Saturday morning, January 12th, fell to a frigid sixteen below zero, and the next edition of the Adair County News noted it was the overall coldest patch of weather in thirty years."

This story was posted on 2017-01-22 06:41:48
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