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Odd Wisconsin Archive

So Cold Their Noses Fell Off


During a bitter stretch in the winter of 1925, the editor of the Rice Lake Chronotype decided to ask local old-timers about the famous bone-withering cold of January 1877, when local thermometers had supposedly stood at 68 degrees below zero. He tracked down retired lumberjacks Paul Fournier, Henry Dietz and Hans Borgen, who gave him the following "re-lie-able" information.

They told him it was so cold back then that winter lasted all summer. And it wasn't until the next fall that the weather turned really cold. Snow fell so deep where the Little Gimlet River joins the Big Auger that the forest was completely covered. Loggers had to dig down through the snow to find the tops of the trees. Then they shoveled a 100-foot hole, lowered axemen on ropes to chop the base of the trunks, and lifted the logs out on chains.

Fournier claimed one morning was so cold that when the camp cook set a boiling coffee pot on the stove, it froze solid, and so quickly that the ice remained hot. The frigid conditions produced a frostbite epidemic. "One of the crew was kept busy," he said, "picking up the ears and noses that froze and dropped off the loggers, and for a time threatened to tie up traffic on the tote roads."

The three old lumberjacks agreed that the following winter was not so bad. Temperatures averaged 40 to 50 below, so the crew worked all winter in their shirt sleeves and straw hats. The next winter, 1879, was even milder still, and since then we've all grown accustomed to the normally warm Wisconsin winter.

You can read more lumberjack tall tales in our Wisconsin Biography and Local History Collection of newspaper clippings.

[Source: "Some Cold Days in Bunyan's Camp." Rice Lake Chronotype, January 14, 1925, page 1]
:: Posted in Curiosities on December 6, 2012

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