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      2-15-1878: Sleigh-ride Party Ruined

      The ladies of Ishpeming planned a sleigh ride and party at Humboldt for February 15, 1878. It promised to be a grand affair. However, gentlemen would only be allowed to take along one bottle of whiskey apiece. The whole event hinged on snow; so it was most likely cancelled. Two days before the party, a reporter in Marquette wrote: â??Here it is the 13th day of February, and we sit in our den with a straw hat on, handkerchief around our neck to keep off the sunâ??s rays which reach us through the window. Outside, the earth is bare as in summer, parasols over the heads of our fair ones are manyâ?|rowboats are bounding oâ??er the waters of the bay.â?? Sleighing was â??completely ruinedâ?? in Negaunee and rubbish piles, usually buried in snow until late March or April, were completely bare and tinder dry.

      Over other parts of the U.P., it was the same story. John Longyear traveled Menominee country as an agent for the Keweenaw Canal Company. He called the winter of 1877-78 the â??Snowless Winter.â?? â??Almost no snow fell during the season,â?? he recalled. â??Lumbermen were put to great expense and inconvenience thereby, as they depended on snow to help move the logs.â?? He reminisced about a trip through the south central U.P. between the Paint and Michigamme rivers. There was â??just a sprinkle of snow on the groundâ?? in the region during February, â??just enough to make it white.â??

      The winter of 1877-78 was the warmest winter on record in Upper Michigan--bar none. Comparisons can be made with this winter and other mild, open winters, but they all fall short in some way. For example, the winter of 1931-32 began very warm; December 1931 ended over nine degrees above average, while the next January wound up just over 11 degrees higher than the long-term norm. However, the latter part of winter cooled, with March actually coming in a bit below average. The winter of 1986-87 proved an exceedingly mild season with a warm March. However, there were a couple of late snowstorms, the heaviest of which edged into the first couple days of April 1987. In 1878, it kept warming well into spring. February and March both ended at 16 degrees above normal. Over 130 years of records show that the winter of 1877-78 stands alone for both its warmth and lack of snow.