Sunday, December 26, 2010

"An Old Fashioned Winter", 1893

"Snow-Bound", engraving from The
Complete Poetical Works of John Greenleaf
Whittier (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and
Company, 1884).
The image depicts the Whittier Homestead
at Haverhill, MA, the setting for Whittier's
most famous poem.  James Russell Lowell
remarked of the poem that "it describes
scenes and manners which the rapid changes
of our national habits will soon have made as
remote from us as if they were foreign or
Today, most of us believe that New England winters have grown milder, and only seldomly are we visited by storms leaving heavy amounts of snowfall.  We consider snow-filled winters a "thing of the past". 

Surprisingly, Middleborough residents over a century ago were no different, nostalgically viewing the snows experienced in their childhood as well as the winter pastoralism so beautifully evoked in Whittier's Snow-Bound (1866) as relics of a by-gone era. 

When large storms in late February, 1893, passed through southeastern Massachusetts, leaving in their wake nearly twenty-four inches of snow, a correspondent for one of the local newspapers was prompted to label the season "an old fashioned winter."

Two feet of snow on the level this week confirms the truth of the impression which lingers in the minds of the populace that this is an "old-fashioned" winter. The roads outside the village have been badly drifted in many places. The drifts were especially deep on Titicut and Blackstone streets [across the Taunton River in Bridgewater] and some of them could only be passed by hard shovelling.

While "hard shovelling" is certainly not an enviable task, heavy snow and snow-bound households are nonetheless welcome and nostalgic reminders of winters past.

Unidentified newspaper clipping, February 23, 1893, Collection of the Middleborough Historical Association


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