Weather rambling — December 1890

Maury Thompson
5 min readDec 7, 2023

Winter weather had set in.

“Lower Saranac Lake was frozen over Wednesday night, and all the Adirondack lakes and ponds are now closed water,” The Morning Star of Glens Falls reported on Dec. 1, 1890.

At 2:30 a.m. on Dec. 2, the temperature three degrees below zero on the thermometer in front of Ferris & Viele’s store in downtown Glens Falls.

At South Glens Falls ice harvesting crews were setting up to begin work as soon as the ice on the Hudson River was deep enough.

Low temperatures on the morning of Dec. 2 ranged from 10 below at Chestertown and 7 below at Warrensburg and Lake George to 20 below at Saranac Lake.

“It was four degrees below zero at Bolton Landing on Dec. 2.

“All the Adirondack lakes and ponds are covered with ice,” The Glen’s Falls Messenger reported.

At 4 a.m. on Dec. 3 it was four below zero at Glens Falls.

On Dec. 4 it was eight below zero at North River, the coldest of the season, so far.

“Glen Lake is entirely covered with ice,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 3. “Another day of freezing weather, without snow, and its glazy surface will afford an excellent field for skating.”

It was not a day without snow.

“This is a good morning to begin practicing with your snow shovel for the winter. The fall is not heavy, but it is enough to get your hands on,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 4. “The snowstorm which set in about eight o’clock yesterday morning continued (in some communities) through the day and night, but less than an inch fell here. In the evening the snow changed to sleet, and this morning there seemed to be a fine foundation for sleighing.”

At Warrensburg, the snow spoiled “fine conditions” for skating at Bard’s Pond, The Morning Star reported on Dec. 5.

“The sleighing was fairly good yesterday, and there were nearly as many sleighs as light wagons coming in from the country,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 5.

“Most of the young people at Luzerne have been in the height of their glory for the past week, skating on the lake,” the Luzerne correspondent reported in The Morning Star on Dec. 6.

“This is the time of year to take down the fur coats — you who are so fortunate to have such garments,” The Morning Star quipped on Dec. 8.

“There are ten inches of snow in the lumber woods in the vicinity of Griffin, Hamilton County,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 8. “The sleighing is good, and the Morgan Lumber Co.’s agents have telegraphed here for teams. Several teams will start this morning for Griffin with their horses, fully equipped for lumbering.”

It was 14 below zero at Middle Granville and 18 below at Fort Ann the morning of Dec. 8, The Granville Sentinel reported.

“December has truly come in like a lion, and many are looking for the lamb that prediction says will follow.”

An editor was not happy.

“Ugh! — Where are the theorists who contended that the temperate zone had been shifted several degrees in a warmer clime?” The Morning Star grimaced on Dec. 9

“Another installment of snow. It comes just in the nick of time,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 12. “The sand has mixed in with our old supply of the ‘beautiful’ and almost whipped out sleighing.”

“Sleighing is fairly good in the country about, but not as good as it might be by any means,” The Glen’s Falls Messenger reported on Dec. 12. “The snow does not pack and will not until the weather moderates, and it is now well mixed with dust and dirt. A sleigh runs easier, however, than a wagon.”

Lake George froze over on Dec. 13, the earliest in history, The Morning Star reported on Dec. 19.

The steamer Chateauguay which operated between Plattsburgh, Burlington and Port Kent was scheduled to cease operation for the season on Dec. 20, unless Lake Champlain ice built up sooner.

“Another cold wave struck this section Saturday morning. The thermometer registered 10 to 16 below,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 15.

At Fort Edward it was 19 below at Davis News Room at 7 p.m. and 20 below at the St. James Hotel.

In Moreau it was 28 below at the residence of Benjamin Metcalf, and 26 below at the residence of M.D. Richards.

Ice being harvested from the Hudson River at Fort Edward was between eight and ten inches thick, The Morning Star reported on Dec. 17.

“Snow is one foot deep and there is good sleighing. Lumbermen are happy. Logs and bark are on the move,” the South Johnsburg correspondent reported in The Morning Star on Dec. 20.

“The thermometer registers fifteen degrees below zero Saturday morning,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 22.

The worst was yet to come.

“Charles Eldridge, proprietor of the North Creek stage line, was unable to make his usual trip to that place Saturday on account of the roads being badly drifted in consequence of Friday’s storm,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 29, 1890.

The frigid weather expedited ice harvesting.

“The work of filling the City Hotel icehouse was finished on Saturday. The filling of the Globe Hotel house will commence today. Bennet, Church, Bovar begin their annual harvest a short distance above the falls this morning,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 29.

It was 25 degrees below zero at Saranac Lake the morning of Dec. 30.

In other December weather news collected from historic newspapers of the region:

1889

“Wednesday morning of last week at Saranac Lake the thermometer indicated twenty below zero, eight below in Plattsburg,” The Morning Star reported on Dec. 13.

The weather on Christmas was “as warm and balmy as a June day,” but it did not dampen the enthusiasm of holiday shoppers, The Granville Sentinel reported on Dec. 27.

“Even if there was mud and rain, our merchants enjoyed a very good holiday trade. The People’s Cash Store was especially crowded with customers, and two extra clerks were necessary.”

1880

“Venner says we are going to have a thaw about the 14th. If such is the case, the good housekeeper can finish up the cleaning which was so suddenly interrupted by cold snap,” The Commercial Advertiser of Sandy Hill, now Hudson Falls, reported on Dec. 3.

“Venner’s great snowstorm is to take place this week. Eleven feet of snow. Think of it! Enough to make sleighing until next Fourth of July,” The Commercial Advertiser reported on Dec. 22.

“Venner’s big snowstorm has failed to make an appearance in this section,” The Commercial Advertiser reported on Dec. 29.

1869

“The sharp cutting grip of winter relaxed a little on Saturday, and on Sunday a regular thaw set in, soon accompanied by rain, which carried away all the snow we had,” The Warren County Times reported on Dec. 17.

“Since Sunday morning, when we were favored with a fall of some six inches of fresh snow, the air has been jubilant by night and day with the tin tabulation of little-tiny bells, which has contributed largely to make business a pleasure here and hereabouts,” The Warren County Times reported on Dec. 24.

Whimsy turned to melancholy.

“A big thaw for little snow set in on Saturday last, and continued till Wednesday with a heavy rain on Thursday, which about made a finish of what little sleighing there was left,” The Warren County Times reported on Dec. 31.

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Maury Thompson

Freelance history writer and documentary film producer from Ticonderoga, NY