The Easter Blizzard


1873 Blizzard

Depot in Fairmont, Nebraska after the Blizzard of 1873.


At Eastertime, we expect to enjoy warm spring weather. But those of us who know Nebraska know that where the weather’s concerned, it’s often smart to expect the unexpected.

Early settlers in the state learned about the capriciousness of Nebraska weather the hard way. In 1873 Easter fell on April 13. With the holiday came a storm so severe it’s still remembered today as “the Easter blizzard.”

In recalling the storm Mrs. Ada Gray Bemis of York wrote, “It was Sunday when the terrifying, life-destroying storm commenced and grew in intensity for forty-eight hours. The afternoon had been dark and cloudy, deepening into rain, and as the darkness fell, changing to sleet before morning. Black clouds rolled up from the north and shortly before noon the next day a gale of wind with snow came with incredible velocity, blotting out the landscape and sweeping everything before it. At times the wind seemed to come from every direction. The air was darkened with a whirling, seething mass of powderlike snow which appeared to come up from the ground as well as down from the sky. It was like being in some vast maelstrom peopled with howling, shrieking, demons. I never since have heard any sound like the frightful roaring voice of that storm.

“We could not hear each other speak unless close together, nor see without a lamp burning. We placed a lamp in the window and kept it there during the storm. My husband ventured to the stable only a short distance away. When he opened the door a half-grown pig bolted out, passed him, and we never saw that pig again. Coming back, after he had removed his coat, jersey, and shawl tied around his covered neck, snow was found in his vest pocket.

“After midnight, the wind died away, and the snow stopped. When morning dawned, the world was made of snow. Our small barn was out of sight. Two sides of our house were entirely covered, and the digging began.

“By the next day reports of disaster and comedy drifted from house to house. At my father’s home when he opened the door into the kitchen in the morning he found the door (to the) outside open and a black and white cow in possession. It was afterward identified by a farmer who lived nine miles north of us. A neighbor whose shed collapsed, brought his horse into his one room sod house with his family.

“The tragedy of the storm was the death of a young woman named Kelley who with her baby started to walk to her father’s house. She was found a short distance from her goal, with the dead infant held next to her heart. We did not realize the gravity of the situation until it was over. It was a new experience in a place where all was new.”


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