Thursday, May 12, 2016
While reading Weevils in the Wheat: Interviews with Virginia Ex-Slaves, I kept running into references to Cox's Snow. Many of the former slave interview subjects used Cox's Snow as time reference point. I finally found a reference to this incident that was printed in Historical and Industrial Guide to Petersburg, Virginia by Edward Pollock, which was published in 1884. Interestingly Pollock, too, noted that African Americans used the blizzard as a chronological marker. Pollock explained the snowstorm:
"On the 18th of January, 1857, the heaviest fall of snow ever witnessed in this latitude blocked all the roads so that travel was almost impossible, and brought the ordinary occupations of out-door life to a stand-still. Fences and hedges disappeared. This condition of affairs, in which an inhabitant of the great Northwest would have felt thoroughly at home, caused much inconvenience and suffering to a community accustomed to mild winters and a light snow-fall. Dr. Joseph E. Cox, of Dinwiddie, while out driving with his friend, Mr. Traylor, was overtaken by the storm and fatally frozen before he could reach shelter. His companion was severely frost-bitten, but survived his injuries, and in time recovered. The doctor was a most estimable citizen and the impression produced by his death was so profound that the storm has ever since been referred to as 'Cox's Snow.' Indeed, among the classes who felt its severity most, it became an epoch from which succeeding time was measured, and it was almost as common, a quarter of a century ago to hear of certain events having occurred 'since Cox's Snow,' as it became in later years to be reminded of that Elysian period which existed, in the language of the colored brethren, 'fo 'de wah.'"