The winter of 1880-81 will ever be referred to as one of the worst since the settlement of Lyon County.  The three and four day and night storms, with blinding snows and low temperature, blockaded all traffic in the north half of Iowa.  Wagon roads, village streets, business houses and railroads, were shut in for weeks at a time.  The fuel question was a serious one to combat and thousands of bushels of excellent ear corn were consumed in stoves and in some instances, in railway locomotives.  Coal and wood could not be had at any price.  Corn was then selling off of railroads, at fifteen cents per bushel, hence was, in fact, cheaper than four or five dollar soft coal.  Mail trains were suspended for ten days on most of the northern roads.  Much suffering was endured and many lost life or limb by reason of freezing.

As late as April 15, 1881, the blockade was still on.

At Rock Rapids, as well as smaller towns in Lyon County, provisions were getting very low, and no mail had been received direct for weeks.  The situation was serious.  A groceryman at the above town, J. Spaulding, started for Worthington, Minnesota, for a supply of goods much needed, and he was authorized to procure what mail he could bring with him.  The trip had been tried once before by his son, who failed to get far enroute.  The Rock Rapids Review, in speaking of the trip, said: “About the only thing to break the monotony for several weeks, in the line of eatables, besides Geisers & Sons steak, was a keg or two of kraut, partly matured, furnished by C.A. Fisher of Little Rock, which by the way, was decidedly nice!  No mail afforded us news for nearly two months!  We had been within a week or two of a through train, a time or two, but invariably a blizzard or snow would head us off.  Mr. Spaulding became our real benefactor.  He reached Worthington without trouble, the same day he left here.  But there he found nearly as bad a situation as we had here.  The hotel fare was found there to be good, with meat, bread and potatoes!  The snow shovelers had eaten the town up!  However, he managed to procure a limited supply of canned fruits, but not a pound of sugar.  The mail for Rock Rapids was found stored away in six large sacks, one of which was a regular mail sack, the others canvas pouches for papers.

“The car was half full of delayed mails.  Mr. Spaulding reached home Saturday about one o’clock a.m. and was gracefully met by our postmaster, who was on the lookout for him.  The distribution commenced a half-hour later, and was not concluded until 9 a.m., ex-Postmaster Hall assisting him part of this time.  Early Saturday forenoon our citizens were lugging mail matter home in the direction of all points of the compass.

“We had telegraphed the enterprising express agent at Worthington to ascertain if there was any paper lying around his office for the Review, but that distinguished functionary had probably had the top of his head shaved and hired it out for a skating rink, and could not find time to reply, although the LuVerne operator is authority that the message had been promptly delivered to him.  Mr. Spaulding bounced him, regarding the matter, with an order from Mr. Chase for the paper, when he give in and produced a three weeks’ supply.  He is a nice one!”

Following the snows of January and February of 1881 came the raging floods of April.  The Rock Valley suffered extremely—public and private property being ruthlessly swept away by the over angry streams.  The water had never been higher but once—in 1875.  Three fine bridges, built at an aggregate expense of $7,800, were among the public losses.  Rock Rapids and Doon were about equal sufferers.  Berkholtz Brothers’ mammoth gristmill was only saved by heroic efforts.


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