For the last couple of days I’ve been hearing about this big snow storm that’s coming tomorrow, so I turned on the Weather Channel this morning for more detail about just how much snow we’re in for. What caught my attention, though, was a historical piece about a New England snow storm in 1888, and it sent me in search of Great Aunt Mari’s diaries…
I’ve been fascinated with history, and genealogy in particular, for a long time. My previous husband, Clint, and I researched his side of the family and learned quite a bit about people who lived in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. We traveled all over New England and some of our most memorable times together were in cemeteries, historical libraries, town halls, and book shops. We were blessed with an introduction to many of his 19th century ancestors through diaries left by his Great Aunt Mariah Putnam, who was born in the early part of the 1800’s and died in 1923. Great Aunt Mari lived all her life in Concord, New Hampshire. She was a ‘spinster’, but much loved by her siblings’ families and an integral part of her sister, Alma Fellows’ family of 14 children. The diaries span 50 years, although about half of the books were lost as they were passed down the generations. Aunt Mari faithfully wrote each evening about her day. With our modern eyes, we might think that much of what she wrote was quite trivial, but I’ve enjoyed reading- and imagining- what her days were actually like. What she chose to write, her turn of phrase, and her spelling add to my mental picture of her. Sundays she went to church, but not just one specific denomination. She and her female family-members chose the church that advertised the most interesting speaker. On Mondays, Aunt Mari washed clothes; Tuesdays were for ironing those clean clothes; and other days she wrote about household chores such as “washin up the kitchen flour” (sic). We surmised she meant floor. Spelling wasn’t standardized until sometime into the early (mid?) 1900’s. Clint and I spent one whole winter reading these wonderful diaries before bed each night, and when our youngest daughter was born that spring, we knew without a doubt that her name must be Mariah… Mariah Fellows Krauss.
I listened to the weatherman this morning telling the story of the ‘Great Storm of March 11, 1888’ and I wondered if Aunt Mari had written anything in her 1888 diary. As I mentioned, some of the diaries were lost over time, so I approached the shelves where I keep the diaries, fearing I might not find that year.
Mariah Putnam’s diary. The white label on the cover was attached later and says 1888
But yes! I gently thumbed through the pages of the small, leather-bound book until I found March 11th. She writes that it’s a dull day and talks about eating oysters for breakfast with her niece, Flora, then going to church with her niece, Augusta. “I went in Alma’s. Albert thinks he is some better.” Another niece, Ellen, came in to help Aunt Mari try on a dress and they, along with Flora, and “Gusta”, went to church in the evening. Nothing about snow, though.
Monday, the 12th- “Washed this morning before I came to the shop. Flora and I ate breakfast. It snows this morning…” (Aha!) “The forenoon after dinner I went down to Emmas, it snowed very fast. I stoped (sic) one hour & when I went home it was wretched walking. I had to change all my clothes.”
March 13th- “A very snowy morn. 2 ft of snow. (she wrote 30 in. above the 2 ft) Snow fell blocking up everything. I remained at home this forenoon. I shoveled path & etc.” She says several nieces and a nephew came in, then nephew, Fred, took her to the shop to work. Aunt Mari worked at the Concord Coach Company where she stitched seat covers. “this aft. It is squarly (squally?), the wind blows hard. Quite cold.” She says that night she played cards with several nieces and nephews. No more mention about the storm on the 14th. She went to the shop as usual in the morning, ate her dinner (lunch), and a man fixed her stitching machine. “I went home & got my supper of potatoes ham & eggs. Done up the work. I got my clothes in & Flora came & we retired.”
Here are a few photos I found on the Internet, taken after the Great Blizzard of 1888.