The above drawing rawing shows a man, facing left, wrapped in a blanket and trudging through snow on the Great Plains, perhaps in far eastern Kansas on the Santa Fe trail. The artist, Daniel Jenks, wrote in his diary at Camp No. 5 - 110 Creek, Sunday, April 3, 1859, "I pushed on ahead of the teams [in the snow] reached a log cabin which prov[ed] to be a mail station.
Source of image: Library of Congress
During the April 1-3 timeframe, a blizzard swept across the Plains States bringing 12"-18" snow across parts of the region. 18" snow fell at Kearney, NE and 12" fell at St. Paul, MN.
From a letter from Fort Kearney [Kearney, Nebraska] dated April 2, 1859:
I arrived here last evening in a snowstorm—one of the worst I ever saw. It stormed all night and is storming yet at 10 o’clock A.M. The snow is about 18 inches deep and drifting four feet, and as cold as any day I have seen this winter. We slept in our wagon last night, or rather lay there shivering, the snow drifting in on us about two inches deep. We nearly froze to death. This morning our horses were so cold that we thought they could not live; we buckled our blankets around them and broke for the fort—eight rods, and found them all in bed, but we burst right in on them, and although we met a cold reception from Uncle Sam’s boys, yet we told them we must have some hot coffee, and we are feeling better over it.
This is the second snowstorm we have suffered since we left and have had very cold weather for a week, the ice freezing on our whiskers every day while traveling. We have got along very fast, but have had a hard time of it—camping where there was no wood, and getting up at 2 o’clock and starting on to keep from freezing…
Source: “Snow Storm—Suffering—Slim Success,” Holmes County Republican, April 21, 1859.