The Critical Ice Storms of 1937

The winter of 1937 was a year of much ice. Prolonged ice coverage on the land was the most stressful time on livestock in years.

The winter of 1937 was a year of much ice. Prolonged ice coverage on the land was the most stressful time on livestock in years.

On the night of Jan. 6, a round sleet fell, followed by a layer of freezing rain. This layer of ice laid on the ground approximately five weeks. Each time a new sleet would fall things got worse. It soon accumulated to the point it was so thick it was hard on both the livestock and the people.
Farmers also had to find creative ways to get their horses to water. Some farmers took manure out of the barn and used it to make a path; others put gunny sacks on the horses’ feet, and chopped a path in the ice.

Many times the animals would start to slip on the ice and wouldn’t be able to stop until they fell. It’s hard to estimate the number of cattle, horses, and mules that had slipped on the ice and were found dead with broken legs, or so badly injured they had to be killed. A farmer near Gilman City lost 14 head of cattle. Nine of the cows smothered to death under a haystack while five fell on the ice and froze to death.

The only way a person could walk on the ice was to wear something on their shoes. One man made cleats out of mowing machine sickle blades for peoples’ shoes. A schoolboy used a pair of skates to skate to school for two of the winter months.

— researched by Wilbur Bush