Sunday, May 10, 2009

Thomas Gray and the Cold Winter

Every winter I reach a point in time when I wonder why on earth I live in the northern USA. Then spring arrives in Scipio; the smell of lilacs and mock orange fills the air; the hummingbirds begin to dive and dart around the feeders while the blue jays squawk away and I remember why central NY is such a great place to live.
Winters can be harsh, and the new exhibit at the Scipio Town offices have some photos that show just how harsh they were only a few decades ago. The photos contributed by a former resident show snow banks on Skillet and Wyckoff Roads that reach to the tops of the telephone poles!
While those photos are from the 1940’s and 1950’s, it is not unusual for our wintertime environment to be harsh. The Fulton History website had an article from the January 28, 1914 Syracuse Post Standard that caught my eye.
According to the Post Standard, there was an extreme cold spell around January 14th, 1914. During that time, a Thomas Gray, age 63 and living alone, fell asleep beside the stove and when he woke several hours later, the fire had gone out leaving his extremities numb from the cold.
Even though he started the fire and tried to warm himself, the damage had already been done to his feet and hands. Two days later, a neighbor discovered his condition and called for help for Mr. Gray. Dr. Hoxie of Sherwood and Dr. Smith of Fleming came, and tried to send Mr. Gray to the hospital but he refused.
By the day of the article in the Post Standard, his condition had worsened and at the urging of Reverend Doran, he finally took the train to Auburn City Hospital, where he had several toes from both feet removed due to being frozen.
We forget sometimes how our early settlers had to work so hard just to feed their families, and to stay warm in the winter. Even in the early 20th century, before electricity came to Scipio, life was harsh and required a kind of constant vigilance to stay ahead of the game.

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