National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Severe Thunderstorm Threat from Northeastern Oregon to Southeastern Missouri; Red Flag Warnings In The West

Severe thunderstorm winds and hail are most probable today into tonight from eastern Oregon across the northern Rockies/Plains to parts of Illinois and southeastern Missouri. Further Southwest, strong winds and low humidity have led to areas of Red Flag Warnings from southern Washington to central Arizona. Read More >

The blizzard of May 3-4, 1905 was the latest and worst spring blizzard in western South Dakota. It killed thousands of cattle, horses, and sheep as they had already shed their heavy winter coats and were soaked by rain and then chilled by the colder temperatures and strong winds. Many others drowned in streams and drifted over steep cliffs.  The storm was named the “Great Equalizer” because some stockmen with the largest herds suffered the greatest losses—in some cases, 80 to 90 percent.  The storm also hastened the end of the open range when cattle grazed across the unfenced prairies.

The storm moved from Colorado slowly northeastward across Nebraska and intensified over eastern South Dakota on May 4.  Rain began on May 1, 1905 with 1.72 inches measured at the downtown Rapid City Weather Bureau Office (WBO) on the 1st and 2nd.  The rain changed to snow on May 3, with 9.0 inches measured and 5.6 inches falling on May 4 for a total of 14.6 inches and four day precipitation total of 4.16 inches.  Temperatures were not extremely cold, with lows in the 20s.  No official weather stations were in the northern Black Hills, where reports described the snow as three to four feet deep, but Spearfish in the foothills received 24.0 inches of snow.

The plains of western South Dakota between the Missouri River and the Black Hills were just becoming settled with new homesteads. Very few towns existed as the railroads had not come across the area from eastern South Dakota.  Only a couple of weather stations kept records, including Fort Meade recording a total of 4.95” liquid precipitation (but no snow measurements), Oelrichs with 1.80 inches, and Pierre with 2.34 inches.

In March 1955, the meteorologist-in-charge of the Rapid City WBO, Mr. Fred H. McNally, asked listeners of his daily radio forecast to send their accounts of the blizzard.  Many of them recalled vivid details of the storms.  Their letters below have been edited for typographical and minor punctuation and grammar errors to improve readability.  A few words may be misspelled due to interpretation of handwriting.  The towns listed after their names were their residences in 1955; they mentioned where they lived during the storm in the body of their letters.  Relatives of the authors and others mentioned in these narratives are welcome to contact us at w-unr.webmaster@noaa.gov

Harry (Cap) Merritt, near Silver City:
    My recollections of the episode of the lost Herd
It was on April 10 or 11 that we went to work for the Stearns Cattle Co on a Trail Drive to the good grass country in eastern Pennington Co.  We unloaded at the little siding of Brennan about 6 or 7 miles southeast of Rapid City on the C&NW R.R., on or about April 14th.
    There were about 20 Men and Boys in the outfit including the Wagon Boss and Cook.  We got along fine as the grass was up about 4 to 6 inches.  Our horses were in pretty good shape and weren’t ridden down like they would be in the fall.  After leaving the unloading pens we did not drive the cattle very hard, just grazed them until they got filled up which took about 5 days.
    Then we started to drive a little about 6 or 7 miles per day.  There was plenty of water and lots of grass so there wasn’t too much work, just keep them moving east, that was the direction to the grazing grounds.  We got to the Cheyenne River and the ice was mostly all out but the River was up.
    We had some trouble crossing the river on account for the quick sand.  That is where I witnessed the greatest roping fetes I have ever seen or expected to see, Arizona (Slim), a big 6 footer and no fat with a southern drawl, told and showed us all what a (catch) rope was for and how to use it.  After we had crossed the river and got up onto the higher ground our Wagon Boss, a Mr. Portwood, told us to take it a little easier as we were clear out of all danger now.
    Each man had to work all day and then take his turn at (Night Hawking).  Well we were just doing fine until it started to rain and everybody was up and at ‘um.  It rained for about 2 days & then started to snow and get colder and it seemed like everyone was mad and wet all the time. Our beds were wet.  We were all wet & so were the cattle and our horses.  Well the more it snowed the worse it got until everyone was sore at everybody else and everything. On May 8th the wind came up and we had a real Blizzard.  These cattle being from the South had never been in [that] kind of a predicament before and they just drifted with the storm and about all we could do was keep them together.  But as the Wind increased in strength and the Snow began piling up it was a pretty tough job just to keep them in one bunch.  After so long a siege in that Blizzard it was next to impossible to hold them at all.  We tried to mill them but they would not face the storm, just turn and drift with it.  We had been in the saddle about 3 days and nights when the wind got a lot stronger and those steers must have thought this is no place for Texas cattle and just took off.  We had used every known Device and Method known to a Cow Poke to turn them but to no avail and the whole 8,000 head went over the Wall it seemed to me in nothing flat.
    I never did see men so down hearted and sick as they were for a couple of days so we got our horses together and pulled back to a little plum thicket where [we] could get some dry wood.  We built a fire got, some warm chuck in our mids and then started for the River and Rapid City.  All the way back to town we passed lots and lots of frozen cattle and horses that had drifted into washouts and draws trying to find some kind of shelter and froze to death.
    That was the worst storm with the largest losses to the Stockmen that I ever heard of.  It has been estimated that 70 to 80 percent loss.
    This is enough the starting of a young lad wanting to be a Cow Boy account
    The men in this outfit as I recall were Dad Portwood, with his sons Jack and Eddie, Ellis Merritt, Charley Potter, who took his father’s place after learning of a daughter’s death.  He rode one saddle horse about 100 miles without stopping to get home to the family.  Shorty Prime was the Cook.  George Chase was the scout.  His job was to find water and grass about 3 days ahead of the herd.
    I don’t suppose I would have been on this trail drive had it not been for this uncle who was fresh out of Missouri and that was his Nickname.  They played all kinds of tricks on any newcomer.  He being left handed they said he had to have a left handed horse & saddle.  There were good wages in those days: 30 dollars per month if you could do the work.  A boy got from 12 ½ to 15; I got 12 per mo.
    When we got back to R.C. we learned that there had been an awful blizzard in town and the snow was 4 feet deep on both Main and St. Joe Streets.
    That was the worst and last May blizzard that I remember of.  It took western SO Dak. quite a while to get over that one.
      
Nellie Harris, Rapid City
    I’m answering your plea for some information about the May blizzard 3rd & 4th of May 1905.  My husband Jesse Harris had homesteaded on Sage Creek—south fork was where our house was and as everyone said our place was like the hub of a wagon wheel some distance from all towns that sprung up when the homesteaders came to that section of the state and the railroads came though.
    Morris Kelly had about eighteen hundred cows on the Randolph and Robinson places where he had a possible section of land fences as a pasture to hold horses and cattle for branding and other uses.  The houses, springs, and corrals were handy for his riders and round up crews.  When the storm struck it was like a blizzard in the winter starting with a cold rain high N.W. wind which drove cattle and horses.  The rain turned to ice and snow.  We had about sixty head of cattle and some of the Jack and Marah Huggens’ cattle.  We hadn’t turned our stock out on the range but they were held at the north end of the ranch.  When the storm got bad all cattle and horses came to the sheds and house milling as they came.  Jesse was at Joe Meiners’ ranch north of us—it was three miles between Joe’s house and ours—Jesse had his slicker on this saddle which he thought was lucky as the wind blew the rain through any little hole.  He put his horse in the shed leaving the saddle on as he said it was better for the horse after such a hard ride and mud was never worse—said he was lucky he got to the top of Quinn Table.  The storm was so bad and his horse knew when he got to the ridge that led home.  Jesse noticed all of Kelly’s cattle had broken the fence and were in what is known as a run around, a high bank and dry with lots of brush growing in it along with trees, mostly cottonwoods, this about a quarter miles from our house.  I was frightened when our cattle and the Huggens’ stock milled along the creek bank south of our house.  I was so afraid some might have been shoved over the 12 or 10 ft. bank into Sage Creek which was out of banks and roaring so terrible but they had drifted to where the banks cut the wind off and they didn’t go any further.
We only lost one cow and her calf.  We figured she got so chilled [she] may have got pneumonia while calving after the worst of the storm had passed.  Kelly didn’t lose even a young calf from his bunch just south of our house although there were a lot of little calves arrived through the storm.  Our oldest son Monroe Harris was just five years old.  His dad had told him not to follow him out where our cattle were and supposedly he had stayed near the house as he knew how wild cattle would chase anyone or thing.  Just as his dad got close to the bank of the low places he called his dad telling him to look out for that stock of horns as a muley cow we had come looking up toward them.  Our cattle weren’t wild, but the Huggens’ cattle weren’t to be trusted and to our very great surprise a young cow we raised had her second calf after this storm was really wild after having to fight wolves, coyotes, and all the wild animals.  She wouldn’t even let anyone on horseback come near her calf and even though we kept her until she was nearly 17 years old she never got over it.  This was a very great disappointment as he had played with this cow from the time she was born—rode on her back, milked her, hung to her tail to stop her, so as any kid losing a pet it was hard to understand for a kid.
Joe Meiner was caring for his parents’ cattle and his sister and brother-in-law the Fred Cobbs’ cattle which he had running on a school section east of his place north of our place when the storm struck. These cattle scattered, some trying to get back to Meiner’s feeding grounds.  Some just drifted with the storm—all draws mostly deep ones were full of water like raging rivers.  Cattle were drowned or stuck in mud.  It was terrible.  Meiner’s loss really heavy and out of Cobbs’ about 60 or so all that were ever found was twelve head.  F. Cobbs thought it was queer Joe had such tough luck but it was just the lay of the land—where stock couldn’t get behind high banks and other for a little shelter, things were really tough.  Stock drifted with the wind and the trails will be in the badlands a very long time.  This was all before radio and weather reports.  Everyone watched the weather and really we can still tell the weather pretty much yet.  Dakota City was the nearest post office next [to] Creston and it was 8 or 9 miles across Quinn Table to the river (Cheyenne) where the Mallow (Jens) and Kelly ranch were.  Resin (?) Payne ran the Mallow ranch and Maurice Kelly’s men stayed at the ranch north of Mallow’s.  All lost cattle and horses and sheep.  It was terrible.  There were no roads or bridges at that time, just round up trails and trails the occasional settlers made.
Sage Creek changed channels in places making more run arounds where cattle and horses got stuck and if they weren’t found in time they would die and this was one of the things riders had to watch for weeks after this terrible storm.  As Jesse and Joe Meiner were riding one day looking at a run around saw what looked like a couple brush sticks move.  After getting closer by foot they saw it was a critter—as the muddy nose was sticking up.  They hurried [and] got [an] axe [and] cut brush to walk closer to the set of horns and got a rope on them, started getting the horse pulling finally got the cow, as it turned out to be, out of the mud, then it got her on a “stone boat” sled pulling her to Joe’s house to care for her.  She got alright in time and they wondered how many went down in that mud.  Some Kelly steers—3 as I remember—got in a mud hole on our place and one of his riders, George Randolph, needed help to get those steers out.  Jesse helped him but Randolph’s rope broke just as he got that last longhorn out of the mud.  Then even though the steer could hardly stand, he made a dive at Randolph’s horse and as he was near a big cottonwood tree, Randolph grabbed a branch and climbed the tree and as horses are trained to stand where reins are dropped, Randolph was afraid the steer would upset the horse so a tree was handy and up he climbed tearing his overalls nearly off.  The steers finally left.  Jesse had his horse and rode slowly away to entice the steers away so poor Geo could come down from his perch.  Jesse came to the house [and] got needle [and] thread to sew George’s torn overalls.  Geo never got through cussing those steers.
It was hard to cross the Cheyenne River at that time if the river was down.  The med would risk it at Dallas Sisson (?) had a boat to cross and they’d manage to get to Dakota City for groceries, kerosene, mail, or any extras they had to have.  It was a long way to Rapid City through such a winding of roads.

After comments about a few other events and people, she concluded:  “All these men are over the great divide and missed so very much.  I’m an old timer; born [and] raised here.  Born Aug 31 1882 near Hayward.”

Grace Fairchild, Philip
I didn’t hear your weather forecast this morning but a party called me via phone & said you asked for information on May 5 1905 blizzard.  I should know about it as we were one of the heavy losers due to the storm.
    At our place 25 N.W. of Philip it began to rain on May 3 about 4 o’clock.  I had washed clothes that pleasant morning & my husband S.B. Fairchild & hired man had gone to Pedro after fence posts.  Clouds began to form about noon & by 4 o’clock it got cold & began to rain a very cold rain for 2 nights and one day & toward morning of that day the wind began to blow hard. Stock had shed their winter coats.  There was plenty of grass in places 6 inches high.  This cold rain & wind started stock drifting. By dark of [the] second day it was snowing hard & of course drifting & stock traveling with the storm.  By the morning of May 5 the already filled water holes were full of heavy slush.  Blinded & traveling with the blinding storms stock drifted into these water holes & couldn’t move to get out & froze to death.  Some got caught on fence corners & perished.  Stock drifted into our barnyard from as far as 35 mi. N. & N.W.  Fortunately the storm hit at evening so folk were inside but one woman living down the creek from us had been at a neighbors a short distance from her shack, thought she could make it home.  She was found frozen when the storm let up.  I forget her name right now but Henry Kertzman of R.C. might remember.
    Henry Kertzman & a couple of boys rode into my place after the morning of May 6 looking over the damage the storm had done.  This storm, & I have no way of knowing wind velocity of course, lasted 2 nights & one day.  Wet heavy snow.  Not too cold.  I had tomatoes & cabbage plans in an open porch & they did not freeze but that 2 days of cold rain & 2 of snow & wind on top of that chilled stock to death & of course drowning.
    I got on a horse & rode with Henry K & boys to see if we had anything left.  In 2 adjoining water holes about ¼ to the S.E. of us we counted 60 head of cattle & many horses.
    Sticking out of the slush & snow we saw a pair of horns moving.  Henry Kertzman threw his hope over them & pulled out our bull.  All the life we could see was he blinked his eye lashes.  We got a team & stone boat & loaded him on it & hauled him to the shed, heated rocks & covered him up.  I had a pint of whisky in the house & by opening his lip, I dribbled by teaspoons full that pt. of whisky down the bull’s throat.  We left him & rode again after dinner.  The boys thought that was a waste of good whisky.
    We had 180 head of cows & 2 yr. old steers & 60 head of horse. We had lost 91 head of cattle & 40 head of horses.
    Two years later we found one horse 45 mi. to the S.E. of us near Midland.  That will give you some idea of the wind.
We were 12 years growing out of that debt on the cattle & paid 10% interest & 12% compounded. No fun.
    Of course you are interested in the weather not hard luck stories, but if you want any other data I can give you I will try to furnish it.  I am nearing 74 years old but seem to have a pretty good memory about anything I want to remember.   It’s just as well to forget a lot of things, you know.
I have lived on our original homestead since 1902.  I am in Philip this winter but plan to go home about Apr. 1. I have lived on the ranch alone for years but my 8 children make such a fuss about me there in the winter that I hole up somewhere for a few mo. During the most of the winter so am in Philip this winter.

Caleb Hale, Box Elder
    Regarding the May storm of 1905, “The Great Equalizer”, as the smaller stockmen called it.  I might mention a few facts concerning it.
    I am a stockman 70 years old and was born in Rapid.  My father was a stockman and came to Deadwood in 1897—so I can qualify as an old timer, I guess.
    The storm commenced with rain accompanied by high wind which quickly turned to sleet mixed with snow and long before the storm was over all lines of communication were broken down from the weight of accumulated ice on the wire whipped by the high wind.  Electricity (a small factor in those days) was dead—trains didn’t run and Rapid was completely isolated for a few days.  The snow did not drift scarcely any and visibility was never at zero as I have often seen it in other storms.  As soon as the storm was over once could go most anywhere horseback or with a team but the going was plenty heavy—deep mud covered with several inches of wet slushy snow.  We had our horses and cattle near where Owanka now is.  In those days horses were an important item to the stockman both as a necessity in his business and also as a source of income.  They suffered (percentage wise) the greatest loss of any livestock and a singular thing was that the fattest ones died first—you see green grass has started and the horses that wintered in the best conditions had shed their winter coats of long hair while the thinner ones hadn’t.  We picked up the trail (after the storm) of our horse herd and followed it—soon a fat dead horse—a little farther another and so on until we caught up with the remainder about 25% of the original bunch a few days before.  Without exception the remaining ones were thin and long haired—every fat sleek horse had chilled to heath.
    With our cattle the story was different—we lost about 20% and it was the thinner weaker ones that perished.

M. B. Porte, Cottonwood
    I heard you say this A.M. on the 7:10 weather broadcast that you would like to hear from old timers that were here during the 1905 storm.  I guess you remember me as I was talking with you a while ago about my brother who lived at Wanblee when you were there.
    I will never forget that blizzard.  My brother Herman & I were wintering cattle here on Old Ash Creek at our old home.  We were batching that winter & one of had to do the cooking and the other had to do most of the riding & caring for the stock.  It was all open range at that time & stock on the ranges could drift back & forth of their own free will and there were thousands of them to do so.
    It had been a very nice open winter until as I remember the first day of May.  It started to rains from the NE & rained all that day & the stock drifted S.W.  Then the wind changed & rained from the S.W. & those same cattle drifted back to the N.E. again.  The 3rd of May the wind got around to the N.W. & it kept of raining & getting very cold.  It started to snow that afternoon about 3 o’clock and I never saw it snow any harder.  A cold wet snow.  The livestock by that time were chilled to the bone after 3 days of rain.  It stormed all night & the next day the fourth of May.  That was the worse blizzard I’ve ever seen & I have been here since 1889.  The creeks were bank full of water & were also full of snow.  Lots of stock drifted into the water holes & creeks & were too weak to get out.
    After the storm the sun came out & it got very warm.  I saddled a good horse & rode out to see how bad it was & believe me it was bad.  I found horses dead everywhere.  I remember I saw a bunch of horses at the head of a draw about five miles away & when I got to where they were I fund that they were all dead.  They were in fine shape so stock had wintered fine but they just couldn’t take that storm.  I counted 75 head of dead horses on that ride some of our own & some of our neighbors’.  One of our neighbors lost 125 head of grown horses.  Another neighbor had some 250 head of cattle in a good pasture.  They drifted to the south side of the pasture & stood there until the [snow] drifted over the wires & they could get out.  They counted 125 of grown cows dead in about 15 miles.
    We live 35 miles northeast of Wall.  In that country hundreds of head of stock went over the wall, and sheep died by the thousands.  There was snow banks 15 ft. deep on the 16th of May.  It was a bad one, Mr. McNally, & I hope we never get another one like it.  I always say that I am never sure of spring until after the 10th of May.
    I hope this letter will answer your request.  It is the way it happened here in our part of the country anyway.Herbert (Jake) Handley, Cottonwood, SD
About that May blizzard. I saw it & it was a rough storm.  At the time, I was at a camp that would be about 35 miles north & west of where Philip now is, at that date the town of Philip did not exist.  It began with rain at night, had been a fine day preceding—this rain turned to snow, after about 24 hours & then snowed for a couple of days & nights.  The stock loss was severe; I’d guess the loss at 80 percent, in cattle & horses.  Stock drifted with the North West wind—they got into the water holes full of water & covered with snow & there they died.  We got together a crew for skinning cows & horses after the storm was over—there was five of us in this crew—we skinned till the smell drove us out of the skinning business—salted the hides & hauled them to Fort Pierre by team.  Salt got to be scare out our way, about then.  Here are the names of this skinning crew, & by the way I am the only one of the crew alive today—Freeman Rose, Ulrich Taddiken, Jim Braddock, Ludger LaBreeque, & myself.  All of these parties were stockmen at that time, except me. I was just a young fellow, who worked for my living on ranches here in the Pedro area & out to the east & south.  This storm broke some stockmen for good & others started again on borrowed money & won out again.  After that big snow we had a good summer, much rain & big grass.  LaBreeque bot a bunch of 200 steers then at Rapid City from Corb More & made up for some of his loss.  If I could see & talk to you, [I]could tell many things connected with this May Blizzard, things that take too long on paper.  If I get up there to Rapid sometime I’ll talk to you about it—may be up before many weeks.  We live 30 miles north of Cottonwood S.D. & 40 miles North West of Philip S.D. just east of Pennington County line.

Mrs. J. L. Peterson, Midland
    My husband who is 88 years old remembers well the May storm of 1905.
    Hundreds of cattle drifted down from north of Ottumwa country to where he was living at the time along Burnt & Mitchell creeks. The cattle stayed in this location and lived, but a great many small calves died from exposure. The wet snow covered the faces of the cattle and as the creeks were full of water they drifted into the water holes and were drowned.
    As he remembers no lives were lost. There were no cars in those days and cattlemen and cowboys stayed “put” until the blizzards were over.

William Phillips, Viewfield
I have just heard your weather news and forecast and you finished by asking to hear from someone who had went through the storm of 1905 in May.  I will give you a brief outline now and in about two weeks I will call on you and go over it more thoroughly.
    We were living 7 miles east and 2 miles south of New Underwood at that time. On May 1st at three o’clock in the afternoon it started to rain.  Nice and warm that day, [the] grass [was] up good and green. The rain continued all night and by the morning of the 2nd it was more sleet than rain, by evening no more rain, all sleet and snow and by this time the wind was blowing real hard. On the morning of the third it looked like the evening before possibly the wind may have been harder. By morning on the fourth no change from the previous day, but by ten o’clock it began to let up. At 2:30 in the afternoon the sun was shining bright and the wind was only a breeze.  Lots of snow—the last drift near where we lived disappeared about noon July 4.  We saw it in the morning when we went to celebrate and it was gone when we came home.

Lebner Thorson, Cottonwood, SD
I have heard your mention of the blizzard of May 4, 1905 on your weather forecast the past two days.  I am 66 years old and have lived on my father’s ranch 12 miles north of Cottonwood S Dak most of the time since 1890.  I remember the blizzard of May 1905 quite well.  We had 2 or 3 days of cold rain before the snow started.  On the afternoon of May 4 1905 wind changed to the northwest and snow began to fall.  By nightfall snow was drifting and visibility was less than 80 rods at times.  Storm continued all night and well into the next day.  There were drifts along the creek 5 to 6 feet deep in some places.  Some of the drifts lay there 2 to 3 weeks.  Thousands of cattle and horses died.  Most of them in creeks and water holes.  The stink of the dead animals was awful.  The coyotes and wolves had a feast for a long time.  That was the most destructive storm that I have ever seen in this country and I have seen many of them.  Some ranchers lost nearly all their livestock and some lost very few.  I hope that this brief account will please you.

Ruth Matson, Sturgis
Sirs, in listening to the radio I heard you ask about the blizzard of 1905.  We lived 4 miles east of the present Weather Bureau [at the Rapid City Airport] and as I recall May 1 was a beautiful day and everyone for miles brought their stock and turned out to pasture or loose on the range.  The morning of the 2nd was chilly and cloudy; the morning of the 3rd was drizzling and foggy. At noon, a cold rain at about 2 o’clock turned to snow and the wind was steadily rising.  By dark the blizzard was bad which continued the next day.
    As I recall the weather wasn’t too cold but stock chilled and as the wet snow stuck to them, closed their eyes and they piled up in side draws and gullies and died.
    Being a child I remember my mother taking a bushel basket and bringing in the meadowlarks to dry off and hog-tying the little calves and putting them in the hay mow and taking a team and pulling the hides off the dead stock for the following 2 weeks and that the 4 of July the Indians were still pulling cattle out of the drifts at the foot of the wall south of Wall S.D.

Walter Ferguson, Plainview
    The May storm was May 4, 1904.  Started raining a nice warm rain then turned to snow.  Had a bad two day blizzard.  The cattle and horses were all shed off and that made it bad for them.  That storm was more destructive to stock than any storm I ever know of.  Jim Cox had just turned his cattle hose on Lake Flat and when that storm struck.  It drifted them over the Bad Land Wall (the town of Wall was named after that wall).  There were around 500 head of cattle and horses dead along the fence they called the nine mile fence west of Elm Springs.  Some rumors have it that the May storm was in 1905 but that is wrong.  It was May 4, 1904.
    If you want any more data on this storm just let me know.

Staner Trople, New Underwood
I heard you on the radio in regard of the May Blizzard of 1905.  I was working for Paul C. Murphy at the time of that blizzard.  It began to rain the first of May and it rained until the 3rd and then it began to snow.  The drifts were 8 to 10 ft. high.  We had two bands of sheep.  We only lost 5 or 6 sheep.  But there was a big loss of stock on the range about 90 percent of the stock that had shedded died.  It was nothing to see 50 to 75 dead in a bunch along a fence.  It broke most of the cattle outfits.  If you want to know more about you can see me at Underwood.  I have lived in Pennington County since 1886.

Eugene H. McPherson, Sturgis
My ranch is 36 miles northeast of Rapid City in Meade Co.  I have been here and in the stock business my entire life.  I would like to give you my experience with the May storm which took place on May 3rd and 4th 1905.
    I was subpoenaed as a juryman for the May term of circuit court for Meade Co to be held in Sturgis and rode a saddle horse into Sturgis on May 3rd to be there early Monday morning the 4th.  The day was a real nice day, warm and sultry until about midafternoon.  It set in with a warm rain and toward evening it turned colder and began to snow.  Soon the wind came up quite strong and the blizzard was on.
    When the storm was over I got excused from jury duty and pulled for home, and soon saw that the loss in livestock was heavy.
    The general loss in cattle wasn’t heavy; however some ranchmen did take a heavy loss.  The loss in horses was the heaviest this country ever experienced before or since.  It was common to find as many as two or three up to twenty five dead horses in draws or pockets where they had gone for shelter.
    My brother Charlie had a broke team he had stabled all winter and used for feeding around the ranch.  They were all shed off slick.  He turned them out that nice morning and they got caught in the storm and he lost them both. He had just refused $300 for them a few days before the storm.  Those days horses were bringing good money as it was before the automobiles and tractors took over.
    Hoping this will meet with your request.

Jacob Smith, Stockton, CA
    My son wrote me that you wanted to get in touch with someone who could give you an account of the storm of May 6th 1905.  I will try to do that to the best of my ability.
    It started to rain on May 3rd and rained all day.  My cousin and I put about 25 head of my horses in the corral that day and on the morning of the 4th we went out to find 3 chilled to death and it had started to snow.  It snowed all day, and on the morning of the 5th it was nice and clear and not too chilly.  We went over to drive some cattle out of the school section and on our way home we counted 24 head of head horses in a ½ mile distance.
I understood a man by name of James Cox turned lose 1000 head of Texas steers on the Lake Flats and after the storm only rounded up a few of the Texas brand.

Miss Margaret Martin, Belle Fourche
    While I was not in the Wall vicinity during the May blizzard of 1905, I was teaching on Lower Alkali about 14 miles east of Sturgis and I remember that storm fairly well.
    April had been warm and lovely and things were quite well advanced.  On Monday evening, the 30th of April, it began to rain quite hard, as I recall, and it rained all that night and all the next day and that night the rain turned to snow, into a regular blizzard in fact, that lasted until Thursday noon.  Drifts were two or three feet deep, perhaps deeper in places.  The storm caused the loss of many young birds, and horses on the open range as they had shed their winter coats, but there was little if any loss of cattle.

Fred Reynolds, Rochford
    I was listening today on the radio weather forecast in which you asked for information in regard to the May storm 1905.
On the morning the storm started, my father started on the road towards Deadwood about daylight, foggy, with a team & old fashioned high wheeled wagon.  By the time he got to Dumont, he said the snow was packing up against the front end of the wagon box making travel very slow, he only got about 2 miles more & stopped at a ranch house.  I cannot say how long it was until a train came along, but several days.  He walked from the ranch house to the railroad about ¼ miles & about 10 miles to Deadwood, returning on the next train to Rochford.  I can remember very well of measuring the snow the next morning after it started, as near as I could tell where not drifted it was 4 ft., just under my arm pits as I walked from house to barn.  That is the deepest snow in any one day & night I have ever seen.  We managed to have all our cattle come home & had no losses, but they got a bit hungry as we were practically out of feed.  Cattle had been turned on range about April 1.
Whatever you do, don’t send any more such storms.  I am a bit too old to made 4 ft. of snow.  I measured the height of [the] wagon [as] 35 inches, the amount that fell in one forenoon.

J. A. Jobe, Lead
    Today on your noon broadcast you welcomed any recollections of the big snowstorm of May 1905.
    That was my first spring in the Black Hills and I well remember that storm as it affected Lead.  The state convention of the Modern Woodmen’s lodge was held in Lead during the last week of April.  The convention ended on Saturday, April 29th and that evening a local band gave a concert at the corner of Main and Mill Streets.  It was a lovely warm evening and no snow in sight, but shortly after midnight a rain began which soon turned to a very heavy wet snow.  This continued thought Sunday and Sunday night and by Monday morning all traffic was at a standstill.  The Northwestern narrow gauge train and the Burlington trolley did not operate between Deadwood and Lead for several days on account of the blockade.  The Burlington passenger train enroute from Deadwood to Edgemont became stalled about four or five miles south of Deadwood and was marooned there for over thirty hours, on Monday May 1st.
    The Modern Woodmen delegates could not get out of Lead for three or four days and then had to be taken to Deadwood by sleighs drawn by horses.  The Northwestern main line train was then able to get out of Deadwood.  As I recall, the storm lasted three days but the heaviest amount of snow fell during Sunday and Monday.  The snow was so deep on Main Street that someone dug a tunnel from the Gushurst store on the north side of Main street to the May store across the street.  Of course you probably know that Lead’s Main Street is very narrow.  The tunnel was made principally for the fun of it and the snow being very wet would stand tunneling.
    During the same storm the Sanford Dodge Theater Stock Company which had been performing in Belle Fourche for several evenings were marooned over there for several days after the close of their engagement.
    I did have some snapshots taken of Lead’s Main Street at that time and have often since wished I had kept the pictures.  In 1905 the Homestake installed a rain gauge, but I don’t know if [it] had been installed prior to the big snow.

Mrs. Margaret Wilkinson, Custer
You said on your weather report today that if anyone had anything on the big snow in1905 you would like to hear about it.  It certainly seems strange that only yesterday I was cleaning out the bottom shelf of my book case when I came across my husband’s diary.  I looked in it and pasted on the back was a clipping cut out of some paper, but it was headed Deadwood S. D. It stated that there were “102 inches of snow in the Hills, the most snow in the memory of man in the Black Hills.”  The word May and in another place it says 1904 and 1905 written in pencil.  Farther up in the Hills around Portland and Terry, it was still heavier—over 11 feet having fallen and there was still 5 feet on the level.  I wonder if any one remembers that.  It also said that sleighing since Oct 14 had been continuous.  I have copied this just about as it was printed.
We were living in the Eastern part of the state at that time so I don’t know where my husband cut the clipping—perhaps Mitchell or Sioux Falls paper.

Train in the northern Black Hills after the blizzard
Train in the northern Black Hills after the blizzard. Photo courtesy of Minnilusa Pioneer Museum.