Harrison County, Iowa Settlers Encountered Incredible Snow

Harrison County, Iowa settlers encountered snow so heavy one man cut a hole in the barn roof to water livestock.

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Early Harrison County, Iowa settlers built their barns and houses in the timber and used the open prairie for grazing. There were reasons: Although the soil was very rich in the timber, settlers had to clear the ground before it could be planted, a task which required much time and labor. And they liked the shelter of the woods in the terrible winters.

One of the coldest winters occurred in 1856 when a blizzard, thought to be the worst storm in over 100 years, buried all the buildings one settler had erected on the open prairie. He was able to dig himself out of his house and work his way to the barn where he cut a hole in the roof so he could water his stock.

My great-grandfather, a boy at the time, said the snow reached five feet in the timber and the drifts were much higher on the open ground. Caught with insufficient fuel, his family cut down a nearby tree and drug it to the house for burning. 

Ruth Divelbess Crispin
Wichita, Kansas

Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.