LYON COUNTY GENEALOGY
BLIZZARD OF '88
Following is the personal recollection of the infamous blizzard of '88 which we want to share with you. This story was given to Darlene Johnson, Larchwood, Iowa.
John A. Scott, as told to Lee Scott.
Being close to eighty, I would like to share some times I've seen. But I'd like to look back an extra twenty years and bring my grandfather, John A. Scott and my father, Albert L. Scott, in the picture. I am going back to the late 1880's when my grandparents were living on a farm northwest of Lester, Iowa. I am mentioning this to bring my grandfather's experience in the blizzard of Jan. 12, 1888 into this story. In the spring of 1888 he moved to a farm near Ben Clare, which is still in the family. Anyway here is the story of the blizzard, written by John A. Scott shortly after the blizzard.
On January 12, 1888, the northwest experienced, as I experienced it, one of the worst blizzards on record. At that time I was living on a farm about 2 miles northwest of Lester, Iowa, and as I remember it, the day up to about 4:00 in the afternoon was cloudy and warm and snowing a little. About 4:00 I went out to the barn to do my chores and was in the barn only a few minutes. When I came out I noticed that the wind had changed to the west and I could hear a roaring noise in the northwest like a heavy loaded freight train. I stood for a few minutes--listening to the roaring sound, not realizing what was coming, but shortly I noticed the telegraph poles and fences 1/2 mile away were disappearing. Then I began to realize that a blizzard was coming. I was still near the barn, when I looked to the west only 20 or 30 rods away I saw a tremendous bank of snow and ice approaching. In a second it struck me with such terrific force that it was with great difficulty I succeeded in reaching the house only a few feet away. It had turned extremely cold and when I got inside the house and took a survey of myself, I found my ears, eyes, and nose so full of ice and snow that I could hardly see or breathe.
Just a few minutes before the storm struck, one of my brothers, who lived about 80 rods east of my place and who was out of water for his stock, came over to my place with a couple of his horses to water them. As the well was about 30 rods north of my house he had just arrived at the well a few seconds before the storm struck him. I called to him and told him that a blizzard was coming and he replied "let 'er come". He soon realized what he was up against, and would never have gotten in if he had not held on `to the fence that led up to the barn, and then he did not get to the house until about 8 o'clock. The storm raged in great fury all night and a part of the next day.
One of my neighbors, Mr. Byron Cleaveland, who lived about a mile and a half northwest of where I lived, suffered a great loss in the blizzard, as two of his boys, 13 and 16 years of age, were frozen to death with 90 head of cattle, while watering them at a nearby creek.
The boys did not follow the cattle or go with the storm, but wandered off to the south, going almost directly away from the house as their tracks the next day plainly showed. After wandering south about a half mile they turned and faced the storm a few rods west, when they came to a few hay shocks that had been left in the slough. Becoming faint and weary they laid down on one of the hay shocks and perished there.
The next day, in the afternoon, the storm abated somewhat and in looking toward Mr. Cleveland's I saw about a half dozen men working over there. I made up my mind that I would walk over to where they were and see what they were doing. On my way over I had to cross the same slough in which the hay shocks were that I have mentioned. When I came within about 20 rods of the hay shocks I saw a dog wandering about one particular shock, so I went over to see what I at first thought was a dead cow or horse. But when I came close up to the shock, I was astonished to find it was the two boys, lying flat on their backs frozen stiff. So terrific was the force of the wind that the ice and snow had cut little holes in their faces, large enough to insert the end of a match.
The good old faithful dog, who was there with the boys, had laid in between the boys all night. The younger of the two boys had put his left arm around the dog, probbly when they first laid down in shock. Marks of the boy's arm showed plainly on the dog's wooly back the next day. Just about the time I discovered the frozen bodies of the boys, I noticed Mr. Cleaveland, who up to this time had no knowledge of the whereabouts of the boys, going from the house to where the men were at work, digging out the 10 or 12 head of cattle that were yet alive.
I left the frozen forms of the boys with the faithful dog, and hurried across to meet Mr. Cleaveland, and informed him of the fate of his two boys. The expression of sorrow that showed in Mr. Cleveland's face, I shall never forget. Up to this time he had received no information of the whereabouts of the boys, but thought they had got in some farm home and would return after the storm was over.
As it was now nearly sundown, I suggested to Mr. Cleveland that we return to the house and get a hand sled of some sort and go and bring the boys in, as we could not take a team on top of the deep snow and crust of ice that had formed. We succeeded in getting the boys in a little after dark, when the bodies were prepared for burial.
Mr. Cleveland in telling of the disaster, said it was his custom to water his cattle about 3 o'clock in the afternoon each day, and as his windmill was broken, he had the two boys drive the cattle about a half mile east of his place to a little stream called Mud Creek. The boys had watered the cattle at the creek and had returned with them to within 30 or 40 rods of the house when the blizzard struck. The cattle turned and went with the storm, most of them stopping at or near the creek where they had been watered. Just a few minutes before there was about two or three feet of snow along the side of the creek and there was where most of the cattle perished. I never witnessed such a scene. Some of the cattle were lying flat on their back with feet straight up, others were head up and in all kinds of positions. A goodly number of them had ice balls frozen to their lips with such weight it partially tore the lip from the gums. Mr. Cleaveland with the help of the neighbors managed to save 12 or 14 head out of the 100, and some of them were badly frozen.
There are a number of accounts of the final result of this blizzard. Some say the town of Lester was named after one of these Cleaveland boys. One small child upon hearing this story said, "What did they do for the other brother?' No comment.
Another old timer's take says that Cleaveland boys used to play around or near the old stock yards in Lester at the Great Northern railroad track. As kids will do, he used to write his name on the railroad cars so the "brakies" and the railroad men used to refer to cars as "Lester" when they had to switch and hence the "switch grew into the name of the town.
February 6, 1919
An entire change of officers and nearly a complete change of stockholders in the Citizen's savings Bank of Lester was made last week. E.C. Roach, the former president, and S.S. Davenport, cashier, disposed of their holdings of stock to Fred Haegele, Wm. Lauck, Wm. Hansen and B.C. Hewlett, and at the election of officers held Saturday the following were chosen to conduct the affairs of the bank. President, F.L. Sutter; vice president, Wm. Lauck; cashier, B.C. Hewlett. Together with those officers Fred Haegele and Wm. Hanson constitute the board of directors.
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