Terrible List of Persons Frozen to Death in Southwestern Kansas

Men Perish Within a Few Yards Help – Mother and Children Dead

KANSAS CITY, Jan. 15 – Specials from Kansas say that the list of casualties resulting from the late blizzard grows alarmingly large.  Two women in Seward County, two brothers in Ford County, two unknown men in Ellis County, and a man in Lincoln County were reported frozen to death up to yesterday.  As returns from searching parties come in it is found that the frost king has claimed yet more victims.


A mother and two small children were frozen to death in their claim shanty, ten miles northeast of Garden City.  Their supplies of food and coal were exhausted and the father had started to Garden City for both.  He is still missing and it is believed he is frozen, and thus an entire family is swept away.


A young man named Elmer Smith started for his claim four miles from Scott Center, in Scott County, Wednesday evening, and was lost on the prairie.  He has not since been heard of.  It is supposed he became bewildered, and falling down was frozen to death.  At Syracuse, in Hamilton County, the bodies of M.F. Israel and another man, unknown, were brought in frozen to death.  They had perished within 100 yards of Israel’s house.


The body of Mr. Ford was found twenty miles away from his home in Finney County.  He had started from Lakin with a load of hay and had passed within thirty yards of his own house, as the tracks of his wagin in the icy snow showed, and blinded and bewildered by the storm, had moved on until he reached a final resting place, twently miles away.  His team was found within three miles of his body.


S. Higgs, who started to return home from Kendall about an hour before sunset, was found dead in the snow two miles east of the town.  He had passed within fifty feet of a house where he could have found shelter.  His body was found about 250 yards from the house.  He leaves a wife and four children.


Two young ladies by the name of Beetcher were found frozen last Thursday.  They with their mother, aged sixty years, started to a house less than a mile away and succeeded in getting within a few yards of the house where they were all found Friday morning.  The old lady was alive and will recover from her injuries.


H.O. Ward and George Chapman, of Syracuse, and Isaac Staffle, of Windom, Kan., started last Wednesday for Greeley County.  They were caught in the storm twenty miles out, and after turning their teams loose they started to walk back.  Chapman perished with cold shortly after starting, and Staffle got within five miles of town and died.  Ward got in at four o’clock Thursday morning with both feet frozen and will lose them.  Staffle’s body was found yesterday.  Chapman’s body and the teams are still out.


Two men named Meller and Powelson had a terrible experience in a journey from Wakeeney to Scott City.  They traveled together until one o’clock Thursday morning, when Meller gave up and sank to the ground.  Powelson tried to urge him to another trial, but his entreaties were of no avail, so he started on alone.  Meller remained where he was until one o’clock in the afternoon, when he summoned up strength to rise to his feet.  He walked a short distance when he stopped and cut his boots off his feet, and found that one of them was frozen stiff.  He hung his boots around his neck and started on.  His gloves were so frozen that he could not get them on, so was compelled to go barehanded.  he kept on his journey until the banks of the Smoky Hill River were reached, when he struck the camp of a number of Scott City gentlemen who were prospecting for coal.  They took him into the camp and poulticed his feet, hands, and face, which were badly frozen.  When he related his story, Isaac Ruddock, one of the prospectors, started for Scott City in quest of aid for the frozen man and for men to search for Powelson.  When Mr. Ruddock reached Scott City and related the state of affairs to the citizens, a large number started in search of the missing man.  The horses are also missing, and it is believed that both man and horses are dead.  It is said that Mr. Powelson had several hundred dollars on his person.  The relief party brought Meller in from the camp, and it is thought his life will be saved.


It is believed that the terrible report is but begun.  The above are principally from the Southwestern part of the State.  From the Central, the Western and the Northwestern part of the State no reports have been made.  The whole western portion of Kansas is dotted with claim shanties that are mere temporary structures of rough boards, and which would not afford protection.


If the loss of cattle can be spoken of in this connection that loss will be most severe.  In some instances entire herds have been frozen, and in other herds the losses will run from twenty to ninety per cent.  The great irrigation ditches and the railroad cuts were filled with dead cattle.  The greatest sufferers in cattle were the blooded and graded stock, the natives standing the blizzard much better.  The Lawrence Daily Herald Tribune, Lawrence, Kansas.  Friday, January 15, 1886. (c) Transcribed by Darren McMannis for the Kansas Council of Genealogical Societies, Inc.