Blizzard fizzles; Editor looks back to actual historic snows

Snowblowing in Delran 1-27-2015

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the so-called “Historic Snowstorm” left two inches of soft powder in Delran (5 miles north of Riverton).

But it may have been enough to turn the late-January issue of the Gaslight News into a Post-Groundhog Day Issue, so I posted the PDF today. I will stuff envelopes and mail the newsletters as soon as I get them from Joie Budget Printing in Cinnaminson.

I do recall some historic snow storms. Well, maybe not in the meteorological sense.

Years ago, I waited for the KYW Radio announcement or the phone call from the colleague a step up from me on the Riverton School phone tree (and then I, in turn, called the next teacher) to give me the word, “No school.”

Upon returning to school the next day, students were all a-buzz with stories of snowball fights and sledding at Double Bunkers.

Historic or not, Riverton kids (and a teacher or two) enjoyed the day off. Often, though, a Spring Break would be adjusted or the school calendar extended farther into June to make up the day.

Skaters at RYC, 1908
Skaters at RYC, 1908 Lee Cook, Sonny Wright, Mr Allen PHOTO CREDIT: ELSIE WATERS

Each generation seems to define its own version of The Good Old Days and it amazing how the sight of an old photo or the scent of wet socks drying by the heater grate can reboot those memories.

What will the kids of 2015 regard as their Good Old Days?

Snow and ice have certainly caused their share of fun as well as commotion here over the years.

In 1900, the steamer Twilight became icebound near Trenton, and Charles Biddle rescued fifteen ice skaters with his boat when they got caught on a Delaware River ice that was breaking up.  In 1903, two young Riverton men saved another skating party from drifting ice, again by boat.

sleigh in snow, New Era, Feb 8, 1934, p3
sleigh in snow, New Era, Feb 8, 1934, p3

The Feb. 8, 1934 New Era, Riverton’s now defunct hometown newspaper, described how Benjamin Lippincott’s mule-drawn wicker sleigh thrilled “the younger generation of Riverton” when  it came into town.

In 1979, former HSR President and Town Historian Betty B. Hahle wrote in the Gaslight News:

In 1888 “Receipt Book” of Wm. F. Morgan …”The Great Blizzard occurred March 12th 1888.” (added) “The second occurred Feb. 12 and 13th 1899. It snowed for 52 hours.”

In researching his excellent Nov. 2009 GN article, The Fascinating Fitlers, former HSR President Gerald Weaber found:

Dale Baker Fitler was born in Riverton  exactly nine months after the famous snow blizzard in March 1888. Drifts reached  fifteen to thirty feet high along the riverbank.

Joseph F. Yearly - shoveling snow in front of J.T. Evans sheds 1940
Joseph F. Yearly – shoveling snow in front of J.T. Evans sheds 1940

Now, that blizzard really was historic. The Blizzard of 1888 was of the most famous snowstorms in American history, it hit the eastern United States March 11th and 12th 1888. The Great White Hurricane paralyzed communities from Maine to Chesapeake Bay. Cities became isolated when telephone and telegraph wires snapped, trains stopped, and roads became impassable. The National Weather service estimated that 40 inches of snow-covered New York and New Jersey. Philadelphia claimed high winds blew up to 60 miles an hour, creating snowdrifts 40 to 50 feet high.

It’s a good thing we missed out on that kind of historic snowstorm this time.

Riverton Readers of all ages, what historic, or just plain memorable, snowfalls do you recall? -JMc


Published by

John McCormick

Teacher at Riverton School 1974-2019, author, amateur historian, Historical Society of Riverton Board Member 2007-2023, newsletter editor 2007-2023, website editor 2011-2023

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