Winter in Ohio County
Wintertime was hard in Kentucky. Sometimes great drifts of snow piled up that had to be cleared from the paths to the well and privy. Shoveling and clearing walkways was another job for the boys. Looking after the livestock meant going every day, sometimes twice a day, to chop and break up the ice on the spring where the cows watered. Cows got so thirsty they followed the boys to the spring to get a drink. Water was heated and put out in the chicken pen so the chickens and turkeys could get a drink. All of the farm animals had to be cared for in winter first thing, and, with the fall of nice new snows, if time was left over, it was also a time for bobsled rides and making snowmen. Green River sometimes froze completely over, several layers, and when that happened, the young people had quite an enjoyable time skating on the ponds and rivers.
There were times in winter when the steamer boat couldn’t get down Green River because it was frozen over. Needless to say, folks and merchants were always made happy when it made its regular trips again. Sometimes in January and February, farmers were collecting hogs and cattle for shipment, so they were always glad to see the days start lengthening, the river start rising, the ice all out, and boats passing again so trade, commerce, and shipping could continue.
On cold winter evenings, when it was bad weather, it was a time for burning wood and coal. While it was sleeting and snowing outside, the Cox family sat around the fireplace piled high with wood they had cut during fall. While they ate apples, picked out hickory nuts and walnuts, and listened to the wind whistling and howling around the corners of the house, the children enjoyed all the old yesteryear stories their parents told. The family shared a closeness at these times and enjoyed talking to each other and discussing everyday happenings. They felt blessed, even when they were reminded that while farm work was hard, it also had its rewards.
In some years, December, January and February in Kentucky brought in deep snow and ice, especially, when it rained and then froze. When sleet and snow fell on top of this, folks might not see the ground all month, as it continued this process. Ice might become five to seven inches thick and completely cover the ground for an entire month or more. Weather like this caused hardships and some people suffered as a result of it.
However, the Cox family always had plenty of hog meat in the smokehouse, eggs from the henhouse, a crock or two of sauerkraut, barrels of flour and meal, and since they milked several cows, they had plenty of milk and butter. So they got along pretty well in prolonged cold weather. Like most everyone else, though, the biggest difficulty they experienced in cold, icy weather was looking after the cattle and livestock.
Some other families, though, were not so fortunate and may have suffered from hunger when it was impossible to travel anywhere, even if they had the money to buy food. People who could not get around on the ice had a hard time even getting enough firewood to keep their families warm, and according to one newspaper article, many of them cut the shade trees out of their yard for firewood.
Toward the last of November many wagon loads of tobacco were going to Fordsville, and many more passed through en route to Owensboro. As the New Year neared, farmers in Ohio County were about through delivering tobacco. Many communities pooled their tobacco at either Fordsville or Hartford. Some of the larger tobacco growers took their crop to Owensboro in Daviess County.
Usually, in February, Ohio County farmers were making use of any fair weather that came their way and were starting to farm again. They were busy plowing for corn, sowing oats, buying their seeds, and getting ready for another year of farming with big preparations for a large crop. Farmers who grew tobacco were hard at work burning plant beds and getting the burn beds ready for the new tobacco seeds.
Excerpt from the book written by Janice Cox Brown: "The Life and Times of James William Cox 1838 – 1931 and Mary Elizabeth Mitchell 1844 – 1903 of Ohio County, Kentucky".