A blog about living in Aberdeen, New Jersey.

Monday, March 3, 2014

History: Snowstorm of March 1914 (5 Mar 1914)

A heavy snowstorm which hit the Matawan area on Sunday 2 March 1914 severely disrupted local transportation, mail deliveries, and telephone and telegraph services, according to the headline story in the 5 Mar 1914 edition of The Matawan Journal. "Public Traffic Impeded by Snow Storm." Fifteen inches of snow fell over a nearly 24 hour period, drifting in spots to depths of ten feet or more.  As for the trains, it was the "biggest tie up since 1888."

Tree branches and utility lines became heavy with the wet snow and fell dangerously onto neighborhood streets and blocked the progress of the local trolley and regional railroads.

Some of the local trolley drivers were unable to return home for two days. A trolley left the tracks near the Catholic church and a plow came off the tracks close to the Matawan Station. A group of about a hundred men returned the car and plow to the tracks on Tuesday, using the plow to clear the snow between Keyport and Matawan, including large drifts in Oak Shades and on "the gashouse hill". By the night time they had shoveled to Little Street, at which point service was restored between Keyport and Matawan and the train station.

A group of 14 teachers heading to Freehold ended up stranded at Matawan. They found accommodations at the Woodbine and Aberdeen hotels, which filled up quickly. They ate their meals at the latter at the New York and Long Branch Railroad's expense. A theatre troupe also found shelter in Matawan, albeit in the train station as they refused to pay to rent rooms.

About a hundred rail passengers heading south on Sunday became stranded just south of Eatontown, prompting locals to supply food and drink until their train could be dug out on Tuesday. Sunday afternoon Pennsylvania Railroad and Central Jersey Railroad trains out of New York reached their destinations Monday afternoon.

An adjoining article on the front page told of a stage and a sleigh, each carrying eight persons, which were heading from Matawan to Keyport on Sunday evening when one of the teams of horses became ensnared in electric wires near the old Suydam property and felled. One horse was returned to the stable while the other lay in the street all night until the electricity could be shut off. The operator took the nearly lifeless horse to a nearby stable but expected he would have to kill it.

UPDATE: I wondered about the gas house hill, so I did some digging. In the fall of 1887, when trolley service was being established between Keyport and Matawan, the gas house was situated near a bridge over a gully north of the Matawan train station and south of St Joseph's Catholic Church, according to "Keyport: From Plantation to Center of Commerce and Industry," by Jack Jeandron, pp 74-75. Today that location would be where Lower Main Street crosses the Garden State Parkway, according to the author. The trolley line ran only as far as the train station in those days but covered Maple Place, Broadway, Front Street, and First Street in Keyport.


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