Blizzard of 1888

The east side of Main Street in Middletown after the Blizzard of 1888.

It wasn't the snow. It was the velocity. And the cold.

And the snow.

The official snowfall measuremenet for Hartford was a mere 19 inches, but that was taken at Trinity College, where the howling winds of the Blizzard of 1888 were hurling the snow down to Broad Street. Unofficial, and probably more accurate, measurements for this city were 36. Middletown got 50 inches, Marlborough 48, New Hartford 42.

The wind, however, is what built the reputation of the storm. New Haven recorded winds of 60 mph, and in other parts of New England the maximum velocities rode up past 70.

Like a child's hand in a sand box, the wind pushed the snow into drifts. There were city streets where the snow was scooped almost clean from one side and piled two stories high on the other.

A drift in Cheshire stood 38 feet high.

The storm attacked the Northeast from March 11 to March 14, and it shut just about everything down.

Death Takes No Snow Day

The storm was severe enough to kill people.

The blizzard-related toll was about 400 people, most of whom died because they went outdoors and got lost or were knocked over by the wind and swiftly covered in snow.

Two women, Bridgeport factory workers, set out for home in the storm Monday night rather than compromising their reputations by sleeping in mixed company at the factory.

They were found dead in each other's arms on Wednesday when the digging-out commenced.

Roscoe Conkling Among The Victims

Roscoe Conkling was a former U.S. Senator from New York who had risen so high as to be mentioned prominently as presidential timber in 1876 and 1880. He was handsome and eloquent but also unbearably arrogrant and egostical. These latter qualities, possibly compounded by his flagrant adulterous affair with Kate Chase Sprague (daughter of U.S. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase and wife of a senator from Rhode Island) had caused his star to sag in the Washington heavens and led to his subsequent ouster from office.

Now a lawyer, Conkling worked all day at his Wall Street office on Monday and then tried to walk home to his his hotel residence on Madison Square. A young associate, William Sulzer, accompanied him as far as the Astor House Hotel and tried to persuade Conkling to duck in there with him.

Conkling wouldn't hear of it and continued through the storm on a trek that lasted three hours and saw him trapped, at one point, up to his shoulders in a drift. The 59-year-old, who boxed daily for exercise, collapsed in the lobby of his hotel. He died five weeks later from complications arising from exposure.

Adrift In A Miracle

For complicated logistical reasons nobody knew that Gurdon and Legrand Chapell of Montville, aged 9 and 4, left their family's farmhouse on Monday afternoon and tried to cross two fields and a pasture to their grandparents' house. The two got lost, took cover behind a stone wall and were covered with snow.

Before he lost consciousness, Legrand heard his brother say, ``We'll never get out of here. We will die, but I can't go and leave you alone, and I can't carry you.''