The Hood River News, Hood River, OR., January 7, 1949, page 2


     (Ed. Note: The following article, written by the late Mrs. Alma L. Howe, first appeared in the Hood River News of 1929.)

     We are having a dry fall and winter so far, much like the winter of 1884-85, only it began snowing on December 13 and snowed almost continuously for a month. After that there would be an occasional snowstorm, so we had 12 feet of snow. All roads were closed after the men with teams did their best to keep them open.
     A train was caught below Viento and held there for three weeks. Two other trains were held at The Dalles. Provisions were taken from Hood River to the train below. Men were paid $10 per trip to take 100 pounds on a sled down the railroad tracks. The people on the train were made comfortable by using rail fences and by gathering wood nearby for fuel.
     A crew of men were shoveling from Cascade Locks and the train crew and those passengers who could work were working on this end so they finally got the train released. There was great rejoicing in Portland when the snow bound train came in. Measles broke out on the train, but no lives were lost and all made the best of the situation.
     When the men abandoned the work of keeping the roads open they devoted their time to making snow shoes. No two had them alike, but they were the only mode of travel. On Christmas Day the lower sash of the windows was covered with snow. For that Christmas I dressed up my little girl's two dolls afresh and she did not know them but when about hunting for Martha Jane and Annabelle to add to her family. Our fences were out of sight for four weeks and we did not see the ground for about nine weeks. Flowers were blooming by the time the snow went off. There was an upper current of air from the west with a lower one from the east which brought the moisture in the form of snow.
     In the spring the young trees were found broken in five places, showing where the storm had changed its mind five times -- enough to melt the snow and settle it, then beginning again.
     We lived at that time on what was known as the state road west of the city limits, now the Columbia river highway. S.F. Blythe and Samuel Crocket, who lived on the Staten place, were our are nearest neighbors, three-quarters of a mile away.
     We lived at that time on what was known as the state road west of the city limits, now the Columbia River Highway. S.P. Blythe and Samuel Crockett, who lived on the Staten place, were our nearest neighbors, three-quarters of a mile away. We had plenty of corn meal and had killed a hog. Mr. Crockett had salt and some white flour which he traded with us for pork and corn meal. He said salt and flour was not much good without meat and gravy. Mr. Blythe had milk and butter which he traded for corn meal and pork, so we fared a pretty well, only it was a long time before I could relish corn bread.
     We all ran out of sugar. We were without lights for quite a time, but we were not alone in that. Coal oil lamps were our only lights, except candles. Many did not fare as well, and so many did not have wood and had to use fences and dig their way out to trees. Many stayed in bed more than they wanted to, just to keep warm. There was not a thing to eat on the shelves in the stores when the blockade was raised, or thawed out. Many people lost their stock that winter as the storm caught them out on the range.
     One day I felt I must know how my sister, Mrs. D.J. Parmenter, and her family were getting along. They lived where I now live. I started out in snowshoes made from a piece of flooring six feet long, with the front end pointed and drawn up with a piece of wire, a block of wood to keep the heel from slipping backward, a leather strap on the instep and a long pole to balance myself. I went the mile and a half up grade but was glad when I slid down the bank to her home. I rested at Mr. Blythe's before going and coming. I began calling when I got near the house and my sister thought I must be coming from above or she was hearing things. They were really glad to see me and I was relieved to know that they were well. They too, were out of oil, except for the lantern, which was kept for barn work.
     It was a hazardous trip. No one could have gone after me had I fallen and I doubt if I had gotten off my snow shoes whether I could have gotten on again. But I was careful and went over the fences as if they were not. I got back home on time, thankful that all was well.
     The older Indians told me of a big snow many years before the white man came.

©  Jeffrey L. Elmer