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York County’s ‘uncommon,’ deadly snowfall of 1772: ‘The poor animals struck through’

This photograph, from York, Pa.’s, 225th anniversary book in 1966, serves as a reminder that York County has always had its share of big snows, like the current nor’easter. Also of interest: Readers tell about those blizzards of 1993, 1996 and For years, York countians have eyed amazing, destructive Susquehanna River ice jams and Ice upon ice pic tells chilly tale of York County’s 1996 blizzard.

York County’s earliest history books highlight one particularly devastating snowfall.
The nature of the snow made it deadly for deer and no doubt other wildlife. But it also left a shortage of venison for decades – perhaps a century – thereafter.
John Gibson’s 1880s history of York County tells about the “uncommon” fall of snow locally in January 1772 – 3 1/2 feet.
Then came a heavy rain which froze, forming a thick crust… .

“Nearly every man and boy now turned out to chase deer, for while the hunter could run fleetly on the crust, the poor animals struck through; and were unable to proceed far,” Gibson wrote.
Some deer in the higher elevations or in remote areas survived, but otherwise the deer herd was nearly “extirpated” by hunters taking a short-term view.
Families had full bellies of venison that winter. But their stomachs were still growling years later.
“Before that time deer were common throughout the county;” Gibson wrote, “since then but few have been found.”