Real cold war occurred here during 1890s
By W. T. Block
Reprinted from the Beaumont Enterprise, Saturday January 30, 1999.
NEDERLAND -- If some January day, you should tire of 80 degree temperatures and should wish for some snow, please dont pray for too much, for on at least one occasion, Feb. 14-15, 1895, Jefferson and Orange counties were paralyzed when 31" of snow fell in 24 hours. Galveston Daily News of Feb. 17, 1895, revealed:
"...Beaumont has made a record for herself that perhaps has not been equaled before...in the state. Besides the disagreeable distinction of claiming the heaviest snowfall, she also can claim the distinction of having used on her streets the first snowshoes ever made in Texas..."
"Last night (Feb. 15) Messrs. Al Doucette and W. G. Hinman walked down Pearl Street, wearing shoeshoes that fully sustained their weight.... They had a crowd at their heels watching the sight..."
Conditions were similar at Orange, where "...the locomotive that does the switching could not plow through the snow that averaged 26" above the rails... In some places snow drifted to a depth of 6 feet..."
Weather in Civil War days was equally as cold and bitter. Sgt. H. N. Connor of Co. A, Spaights Battalion, wrote in his diary on Jan. 1, 1864, as follows:
"...Reached Liberty, frozen stiff... Horses, saddles, blankets, clothes frozen stiff. One soldier frozen to death. Today the ice held the weight of the horses, causing them to stumble and fall...." In 1864 the ground on Galveston Island "was frozen solid with ice one inch thick..." (Galveston Weekly News, Nov. 22, 1864)
On March 28, 1867, the same newspaper reported that "...the cold was so severe that the steam pipes on steamers, steam sawmills, etc. froze and burst. Such severe cold so late in the month of March was never before known in Southeast Texas...."
The year 1899 witnessed a repeat performance when the temperature dipped to 4 degrees in Beaumont. Both Galveston Daily News and Sabine Pass News of Feb. 16th noted that:
"...Last Sunday was the coldest day ever known in Sabine Pass. The temperature registered 8 degrees, the previous record being 11 degrees... The Pass was frozen over, a solid sheet of ice connecting Texas and Louisiana. Skating was indulged in on the Lake above here..."
Early Dutch immigrants at Nederland often told of catching the train to Sabine Pass at that time, where they skated all day on the ice.
Also along McFaddin Beach there were tons of "...fine specked trout from 3 to 9 pounds and mullet galore... They had become helplessly benumbed in the cold water, were soon washed ashore, where they quickly froze..."
Some Sabine residents shoveled the frozen fish into wagons and sold them to the local stores or to lumber schooners docked in the harbor. The sides of two schooners, the "St. George" and "H. H. Chamberlain," were punctured by ice floes in Sabine Lake, where the ships soon sank.
As recently as Jan., 1935, three days of sleet blizzard left 25,000 cattle frozen in South Jefferson County. You could almost walk from Sabine Pass to High Island on the backs of dead cattle.
So neighbor, keep your ice skates honed and your snowshoes handy! There is no meteorological law that says the same weather cant repeat itself.
W. T. Block is a historian and author.