It was 80 years ago when a blizzard dumped over 20 inches of snow statewide causing 10-foot drifts and traffic to come to a standstill.
The Jackson Historical Society has a scrapbook detailing how 125 men, women, and children had to be rescued after a pair of locomotives from Chicago & North Western Road froze up in the drifts. The train stalled for 14 hours as temperatures plummeted to 22 degrees below zero.
Betty Rose-Limbach said “gandy dancers” were brought in to help clear the snow. “Those guys stayed at the Jackson Hotel and they were paid to shovel out,” she said. “We also had a picture in our family of somebody standing on a snow bank by the telephone lines and they could walk over the telephone lines; that’s how much snow there was.”
Rose-Limbach also relayed stories about how “the drifts were so high in Jackson people could walk up on the roof” and “my dad said birds froze right to Lake Winnebago.”
The Milwaukee Sentinel published accounts of people marooned on the train. It was stuck about a half-mile north of Jackson. Passengers ‘crowded forward into a dining car and one coach to keep warm. Soon these, too, became too cold for safety. The train crew started a fire in the diner’s charcoal stove.’
Passengers past the time playing cards and some played dice with lumps of sugar marked with pen or pencil. The Milwaukee Sentinel wrote, ‘Mrs. Isaac Anderson, Chicago, strummed away at her banjo and sang to amuse the crowd’ and ‘F.W. Sobe, a North Western road service department officer, passed out aspirin for women and cigarettes for men.’
Because of the dangerous cold, passengers were eventually relocated to the Schneider hotel in Jackson. Proprietor I.G. Schneider was reportedly “overwhelmed by the large order for accommodations. When the crowd arrived he summoned women relatives and put in emergency calls to all local bakers, grocers and butchers. Forty pounds of meat was ordered for dinner.”
The next afternoon around 3 p.m. a train was made up and hauled the passengers back to Milwaukee.
Photo courtesy the Village of Jackson