There were ten feet of snow on the level in Sierra Valley and twenty five feet of snow on the Yuba Pass, which was not opened until July 4th of that year. There was a snow slide to the river, filling it 200-300 feet deep with snow. It took three houses and killed three people. That winter a Chinaman froze to death in La Porte and they had to dig through thirty-five feet of snow to bury him. The snow was forty two feet deep in the streets of the town. In April of 1890, two Sierra Valley ranchers, Frank Humphrey and C.G. Church drove cattle from Sierraville to Johnsville by the regular route through Mohawk Valley. They found fifteen feet of snow in the streets of the town and drove their cattle right over the roofs of the buildings to the slaughter house below town. The snow was tunneled under from house to house with steps leading down from the top of the snow. When one of the steers tumbled through into the alley below, he had to be killed so he could be removed. It was quite customary in the old days in those mountain towns, if anyone died during the winter, to make no attempt to bury him until spring.
C.G. Church of Sattley, born 1863 in Sierra Valley and died there in 1944, talks about the big winter of ‘89 and ‘90 in articles he wrote in his seventies.
In part, he writes, “I had come home to Sattley in November with my ox team and Ruffle Foules, my brother-in-law run a six horse team to Sierra City and Downieville, hauling hay and grain.
“We loaded about seven ton of hay and it began to blow and snow. I pulled the front wagon to the top of the summit and next morning there was ten inches of snow at Sattley. We got to the summit and there was over two feet of snow but we had to go on down hill to Clark Station where there was three feet of snow and next morning, you could not see the lead team. The snow was four feet deep. Mr. Ed Freeman and two sons, Willie and Eddie with 25 head of beef and 3 head of extra snow horses used Old John on the lead and managed to get through to Sierra City that night. Freeman went on to Downieville with part of the drive while the boys got as far as Clark’s Station with those horses which stayed there two months and if we’d not unloaded the hay those horses would have starved. When that storm ceased there was ten feet of snow on the summit.
“In February I moved my work cattle to the George Humphrey ranch four miles below Sattley. During this month six feet of snow fell and we had a terrible time feeding the cattle. The last of March we broke trail over the McNair summit via where Calpine is now into Mohawk Valley taking eight days. We went on skis. The cattle had to go single file very slow.
“Mr. O.B. Dolley, uncle of Fred of Sierraville had a store at Johnsville and you had to go down seventeen snow steps to get in his store. There was over 20 feet of snow on the Pass; 10 feet at Sattley. A good snow shoe horse was worth money those days.
“Mr. Bill Copren, father of former Assessor Bill Copren operated an eight horse freight service from Truckee to Sierra City. On the Fourth of July he hauled the first wagon over the summit. In spring or summer of 1890 they had to grade a snow road over what they called the Sardine Bridge at Sardine Creek. Southern Pacific Railroad was blocked for two weeks and they had to bring the first Rotary Plow from Rocky Mountain. During this period Sierra City and Downieville were a month without fresh beef.”