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By Charles Nevers Holmes
[Mr. Holmes, a Massachusetts man of New Hampshire ancestry, is a long-time contributor whose reading has led him into unusual by-ways whence he has extracted much of the curious interest which this paper reflects. His allusion to the great storm of 1717 reminds us that it suggested to Cotton Mather the thought of the thaw which must follow. There resulted a lecture on the text, "He sendeth forth His Word, and melteth them." Mather noted a heavy snowfall on February 24 as well as on the earlier date. Even as late as March 7, Mather entered in his diary that business still had "an uncommon Stop upon it." Editor.]
A large part of the 1,700,000,000 people dwelling upon this little planet, which we call Earth, have never seen any snow; but a large part of the citizens dwelling in the United States have beheld snow, more or less of it. Indeed, winter's white mantle covers only about one-third of the 58,000,000 square miles of our world's land surface, varying greatly, of course, according to the seasons. In continental United States, snow sometimes falls in regions where it is unexpected, and the amount of snow-fall is different from year to year. Recently nature has been most prolific in snow storms, but we should remember that there is a record of a snow-fall during February 19 to 24, 1717, which had a depth of five to six feet.
Within the United States, the average annual fall of snow varies from ten to thirty feet in the West, and from eight feet in the East to no snow in the farthest South. However, even in tropical regions snow may exist upon high mountains; for example, not far from the equator, there is perpetual snow at a height of about. 18,000 feet (about three, and four tenth miles). In the Himalaya Mountains this snow-line approximates, on the north side, 20,000 feet, whereas in the Rocky Mountains it appriximates 11,000 feet. In Iceland,
near the Arctic Circle, the mountains are covered with perpetual snow at a height of about 3,000 feet, while, further north, the snow-line starts at about sea-level. In the northern hemisphere, snow has been seen to fall as far south as Canton, China (latitude 23°), whereas, in the southern hemisphere, it has fallen as far north as Sydney, Australia (latitude. 34°).
As we well know, a cubic foot of snow will not yield, when melted, a cubic foot of water. Water, when frozen, expands in volume; for example, an iceberg is larger than an equal amount of water. Snow owing to the lightness of its stucture, contains much less water than is contained by an equal amount of ice. As an illustration, seven or eight inches of very wet snow are equal to about an inch of rain, but it would require two or three feet of very dry snow to equal an inch of rain-fall. However, the average snow storm consists of about one-tenth water. That is to say, a snowfall of two feet is equal to a rainfall of about two and four-tenths inches. In other words, under usual conditions, a snow fall of two feet over the whole of continental United States, excluding Alaska and including southern regions where such a snow-fall is impossible, or an area of about three million square miles, would approximate a snow volume of 169 trillion cubic feet. That is, a snowfall of two feet would be equal to a cubical block ten miles in each dimension. If this huge cubical block could be placed beside Mt. Everest, the highest mountain in the world, it would loom more than four miles above Mt. Everest's summit.
Respecting the extraordinary snow storm of 1717, to which reference has already been made, the Boston News Letter (February 25th) published the following: "Besides sever
al snows we had a great one on Monday the 18th current and on Wednesday the 20th it began to snow about noon and continued snowing till Friday the 22d, so that the snow lies in some parts of the streets about six foot high." With regard to this storm the Rev. John Cotton wrote to his father (February 27), "I went to Boston, & by reason of the late great & very deep snow I was detained there till yesterday. I got with diffculty to the ferry on Friday, but couldn't get over went back to Mr. Belcher's where I lodged. Tried again the next day. Many of us went over the ferry, & held a council at Charlestown, & having heard of the great difficulty of a butcher, who was foundered, dug out, &c., we were quite discoraged: went back & lodged with abundance of heartiness at Mr. Belcher's. Mr. White & I trudged thro' up to the South, where I knew Mr. Colman was to preach in the forenoon, when he designed to give the separate character of Mr. Pemberton (who died February 13th). I ordered my horse over the ferry to Boston yesterday, designing try Roxbury way-but discoraged by gentlemen in town, especially by the Governor, with whom I dined, that I was going to put up my horse and tarry till Thursday, and as I was going to do it I met Capt. Prentice, Stowell, &c., come down on purpose to break the way & conduct me home-which they kindly did and safely, last night."
This snowfall of six feet was indeed extraordinary, but it should be compared with the depth of snow that overtook Mr. and Mrs. Donner, who endeavored to reach California, in 1846. They had journeyed as far as the Sierra Nevada Mountains when a heavy snow storm descended upon them. Their fate is thus described by an old-time guide-book, Crofutt's Trans-continental Tourist: "During the night, the threatened storm burst over them in all its
fury. The old pines swayed and bent before the blast, bearing destruction and death on its snow-laden wings. The snow fell heavily and fast, as it can fall in those mountains. In the morning the terror-stricken emigrants beheld one vast expanse of snow, and the large white flakes falling thick and fast. Still there was hope. Some of the cattle and their horses remained. They could leave the wagons, and with the horses they might possibly cross the mountains.
"The balance of the party placed the children on the horses, and bade Mr. and Mrs. Donner a last good-by; and, after a long and perilous battle with the storm, they succeeded in crossing the mountains and reaching the valleys, where the danger was at an end. The storm continued, almost without intermission, for several weeks, and those who had crossed the Summit knew that an attempt to reach the imprisoned party would be futile, until the spring sun should melt away the icy barrier.
"Early in the spring a party of brave men started from the valley to bring out the prisoners, expecting to find them alive and well, for it was supposed that they had provisions enough to last them through the winter. After a desperate effort, which required weeks of toil and exposure, the party suceeded in scaling the mountains, and came to the camp of the Donners." However, this rescue party arrived too late. Both Mr. and Mrs. Donner had perished. There is one very interesting fact concerning this early tragedy of the West. The Donners had cut down some trees near their camp, and, of course, the heights of the resulting tree stumps indicated the depth of snow when these trees were cut. "Some of them are twenty feet in height."
In Dr. Hartwig's "The Polar World," published long ago, there is considerable information respecting snow. He writes, "Snow protects in an admirable manner the vegetation
of the higher latitudes against the cold, of the long winter season. For snow is so bad a conductor of heat, that in mid-winter in the high latitude of 50° 50' (Rensselaer Bay), while the surface temperature was as low as -30°, Kane found at two feet deep a temperature of -8°, at four feet +2°, and at eight feet +26°, or no more than six degrees below the freezing-point of water. Thus covered by a warm crystal snow-mantle, the northern plants pass the long winter in a comparatively mild temperature, high enough to maintain their life, while, without, icy blasts-capable of converting mercury into a solid body howl over the naked wilderness; and as the first snow-falls are more cellular and less condensed than the nearly impalpable powder of winter, Kane justly observes that no 'eiderdown in the cradle of an infant is tucked in more kindly than the sleeping dress of winter about the feeble plant-life of the Arctic zone.' Thanks. to this protection, and to the influence of a sun which for months circles above the horizon, even Washington, Grinnell Land and Spitzbergen are able to boast of flowers.
"It is impossible to form any thing like a correct estimate of the quantity of snow which annually falls in the highest latitudes. So much is certain that it can not be small, to judge by the violence and swelling of the rivers in spring. The summits of the hills, and the declivities exposed to the reigning winds, are constantly deprived of snow, which, however, fills up the bottom of the valleys to a considerable height. Great was Midden
dorff's astonishment, while travelling over the tundra at the end of winter, to find it covered with no more than two inches, or at the very utmost half a foot, of snow; the dried stems of the Arctic plants everywhere peeping forth above its surface. This was the natural consequence of the northeasterly storms, which, sweeping over the naked plain, carry the snow along with them, and form the snow-waves, the compass of the northern namads.
"It is extremely probable that, on advancing towards the pole, the fall of snow gradually diminishes, as in the Alps, where its quantity likewise. decreases on ascending above a certain height."
Not only scientists but also poets have described the snow. In conclusion, it seems fitting to quote from Whittier's "Snow-bound."
"Unwarmed by any sunset light
Looked in like tall and sheeted ghosts.
By Winthrop Wadleigh
pay for the roads the tourists wear out. A gasoline tax would render the situation much more equitable.
The second advantage is that the owner of a heavy car or truck would contribute much more than the owner of a light one. The heavy cars wear the roads out more, burn more gas, and this will force the habitual driver taxes. The heavy trucks to a large extent are responsible for the poor condition of the roads and a gasoline. tax would force their owners to contribute their share towards the repairing of the damage they do.
The third advantage is that car owners who only drive a comparatively few miles in a season will not have to contribute more than their due share of taxes. As it is now, they pay just as much as though they drive every day in the year. With the registration fee reduced, they will pay more nearly in proportion to the distance they drive and this will force the habitual driver to pay his share toward the maintenance of highways. At the presenttime, it costs more to put a car on the road in New Hampshire than any other state, and the reduction of the registration fee will make it cheaper for the occasional driver, but more xpeensive for the habitual driver. This obviously renders the situation much more just.
A gasoline tax has been tried out in other states, Connecticut for example. It has worked successfully there. No reason can be given why it will not work successfully in New Hampshire also. A high degree of probability exists that it will. It certainly should be given a trial.
PORTSMOUTH, N. H.
By Joseph Foster, Rear Admiral (S. C.), U. S. Navy (Retired)
"M. Nelson, 1709."
"J. Whipple, 1788 and 1823." Lot No. 39, "Lower Glebe Lands," Portsmouth, N. H., at the S. W. corner of State and Fleet streets, is marked on the same ancient record: "J. Booth, 1709." "J. Sherburne, 1730." "Robt. Trail, 1799."
"Keith Spense (Spence), 1788." "Mrs. Spense (Spence), 1823." (Gurney's "Portsmouth Historic and Picturesque," Portsmouth, 1902, page 150. Also "Historical Calendar of Portsmouth, published by the Box Club of the North church, Portsmouth, N. H., Miss Frances A. Mathes and Mr. Charles A.
Haslett, editors," Portsmouth, 1907, page 20.)
Mary Whipple, daughter of Captain William Whipple, senior, and his wife, Mary Cutt, and sister of General William Whipple, signer of the Declaration of Independence, was born in 1730, married Robert Trail, born in the Orkney Islands, a distinguished merchant of Portsmouth, Comptroller of the Port until the Revolution, and afterward Collector of the island of Bermuda; and resided in this house then and
now standing at the southwest corner of State and Fleet Streets, old No. 82, new No. 340 State Street. She survived her husband and died 3d October, 1791, age 61
Robert and Mary (Whipple) Trail had three children, Robert, William and Mary. Robert and William went to Europe where they settled, and Mary married Keith Spence, Esquire, a merchant from Scotland Scotland who settled in Portsmouth-parents of Captain Robert Trail Spence, United States Navy, and grandparents of the late Commodore Charles Whipple Pickering, United States Navy of Portsmouth, and of James Russell Lowell, the distinguished essayist and poet, United States Minister to Spain. and England.
Keith Spence of Portsmouth, N. H., purser, U. S. Navy, 1800-1805, "a gentleman justly held in high estimation for his probity, intelligence, and nice sense of honor," was the bosom friend and mentor of Decatur (“Goldsborough's Chronicle," Vol. 1, page 228.) He was Purser of the frigate Philadelphia, when that vessel was captured by the Tripolitans, 31st October, 1803 (Cooper, Vol. 1, page 225,) and was a prisoner in Tripoli during the attack of 7th August, 1804, in which He his son distinguished himself. died suddenly at New Orleans, and Mrs. Spence buried there. survived her husband and died January 10, 1824, aged 69.
The stones of Mrs. Mary (Cutt) Whipple, Mrs. Mrs. Whipple, Mrs. Trail and Spence are in the North cemetery, Portsmouth, near that of their distinguished son, brother and uncle, General William Whipple, on the