1881: Winter in Bozeman

Outside the winter had completely arrived. The snow proved to stay steady until the next spring. From October 30 until my departure that followed in the beginning of February, I experienced a winter in snow and ice and with low temperatures which I had never before or later in life experienced. With the snow, the cold came shortly after. Here, the low temperatures would freeze the mercury in some winters, and that is only the case at -38.89°C (-38°F). The days became shorter. Therefore, I had to finish my daily work in the tannery early, due to the lack of artificial lighting. The rest of the time I make myself useful in the house. In the early mornings the long and wide floorboard in front of the entrance way had to be cleaned almost daily, due to the snow that fell overnight. The paths from the main house to the other structures, the smoke house, stable and barns, are soon covered in snow banks.

One evening I go and get myself a horse from the meadow in order to ride into town. Before I can put on the harness I take a broom and sweep off the long icicles from the horse’s mouth and shoulder. I intend to visit the Pythagoras Lodge, which belongs to the Knights of Pythias whom I joined half a year ago in Newark. Even though I was unknown to them, I was greeted like an old companion and welcomed friendly. My horse is standing tethered outside in the meantime, calmly awaiting my return. At midnight only I return to the farm. After I took off saddle and harness, I release the horse back in the fields, up in the snowy hills. It is strange but it proves the high nutritious value of the prairie grass, which horses and cattle find underneath the snow throughout the whole winter and harsh cold. Only rarely, when it is cold for a longer period of time, the farmer gives them some oats.

On November 9, we receive visitors from Fort Ellis which is a few miles away, a lieutenant and the regimental doctor along with his wife. They also come by the tannery and wish to buy a few pelts. The next day, it was St. Martin’s day, was the farmer’s birthday. Mrs. Gottschalk and I gave him a bottle of Sherry from California. I had nearly gotten out of the habit of consuming spirits. During our visits to town, which were done several times a week on horse or by sleigh, we barely pass by a brewery to have a glass of beer. There the beer is only half the price as it is in the saloons, where they charge 25 cents (1 Mark) for a glass. That is actually the smallest coin, there is no change given for it. If you buy a cigar, a schnapps, a glass of beer or consume anything else, everything has to be paid with at least 25 cents (1 Mark).

translated by Julia Strehlau-Jacobs

One thought on “1881: Winter in Bozeman

  1. Ursula Howland says:

    Yes, I can attest to the low temperatures in Bozeman in some of the winters. My first winter in town was 1990 – 91. The first cold spell lasted about 7 days – right around Christmas. I lived by a creek and the thermometer on the outside showed -40°C at 5 AM in the morning. We skied in Big Sky at -25°C. Not a lot of folks wanted to make more than two runs before going inside to warm up again.
    Throughout the season we had four of those cold spells lasting from 5 to 10 days.

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