Blizzard of '88

The 1888 blizzard pelted North Adams and Berkshire County with snow for four days and caused widespread disturbance.

The Blizzard of ‘88 was the greatest snowstorm of the nineteenth century in Berkshire County. 

Snow started falling Sunday, March 11, 1888, and did not stop until four days later. A total sum of 37 inches fell locally and it was buffeted by 30 to 40 m.p.h. winds which piled drifts five to 40 feet tall. 

There was one death locally. Peter Horn, in his early 60's perished the second night of the storm when he lost his bearings and froze to death only a few yards from his own doorstep on West Road, Adams.  

Schools closed, milk deliveries stopped, and trains bogged down which put an end to mail deliveries for several days. One local resident recalled at the time that “a fellow named Waterman who had a delivery stable” broke most of the Williamstown roads. Faxon Bowen, of Pownal, and former mayor of North Adams was a boy on South Hill in Readsboro at the time of the storm. He recalls the drifts 40 feet high, making it necessary to tunnel from house to barn while the storm raged, and that oxen were used to break roads in the hill areas. He stated that “the snow settled fast and things were back to normal by the first of April.”  

It took hand shoveling through the main streets of the city to cope with the huge snowfalls, as there was no place to plow it to.  Husky men piled the snow in a wall between the street and sidewalk traffic. Shoppers brought weights to hold their horses in lieu of hitching posts which disappeared under the snow piles. It was said that ladders were used to climb the wall of snow from the street to the sidewalk. 

The former Tuttle & Bryant’s department store on Main Street had tacked up a large banner announcing, “great annual clearing sale,” which caused amusement. There was plenty of clearing but not much sale as customers stayed home to shovel. 

Chinese lanterns raised on long poles pinpointed the former Neyland and Quinn’s store on Spring Street, Williamstown.  The store was almost hidden from view by a huge snowdrift. The lanterns were lit at night and served to let customers know the store was open for business. 

Adapted from a story for the North Adams Historical Society.