Thursday, November 18, 2010

"The Chateaugay Thaw"

I'm posting this poem to participate in Bill West's The Second Great American Local Poem and Song Genealogy Challenge. Not finding a poem associated with my own ancestors, I'm sharing a poem which my husband's parents clipped from a newspaper for us many years ago. They did not note the name or date of the newspaper.

My mother-in-law was born in Chateaugay, New York, not far from the border between the U.S. and Canada, and both sides of my husband's family have lived in the Chateaugay, Malone, Gouverneur area for several generations. Some readers who have lived or traveled in the North Country may identify with the snowy scene. Some of you may have no idea that the winters up north can be monstrous cold and snowy and sometime deadly. Still, Northerners can see the humor in the snow and cold winters, as attested to by this poem.

In an online search I found "The Chateaugay Thaw" attributed to both Anonymous and to Rev. Alanzo Teall Worden but could find no documentation to support either. I almost think it's come under the heading of folklore/legend because I found several variations.
The Chateaugay Thaw
by Rev. Alanzo Teall Worden or by Anonymous

A story is told of a traveler bold,
In the days of the Hartford coach,
In a big blanket rolled, for the weather was cold,
Here he was just as snug as a roach.
But the snow gathers deep as onward they creep,
And the snow rising higher he saw.
And the driver he cried to the man at his side,
“We shall soon get a Chateaugay thaw.”

Then the man in the coach, lying snug as a roach,
Gently smiled like an infant at sleep,
But the horses’ slow gait never told him his fate
In the snowdrifts so wide and as deep.
At last came a shout and they tumbled him out,
And a sleigh was his fate, then he saw
But a man with a song, pointing to the sky,
Saying, “here comes a Chateaugay thaw.”

“Let it come” said our man, “Just as quick as it can,
For I never was fond of the snow;
Let it melt from the hills, let it run down the rills,
Then back to our coach we may go.”
But the wind raised the song and the snows sailed along,
And the cold it was piercing and raw,
And the man in the rug from his covering snug,
Wished and prayed for the Chateaugay thaw.

When the sleigh with it’s load reached the old Malone road,
Where the drifts reared themselves mountain high,
Malone on the west buried deep out of sight,
Left a white desert plain ‘neath the sky.
Not a fence nor a tree could the traveler see,
As he covered close down in the straw,
And the driver he sighed as the prospects he eyed,
“By George, here’s a Chateaugay thaw.”

While he spoke, lo! the snow hides from the track,
And is drifting high over the sled.
Then the traveler bold, though decrepit and old,
Hurled the driver down in the straw,
Crying out, “Driver, speak, e’er my vengeance I wreak,
What d’ya mean by a Chateaugay thaw?”

Then the old gossips say, he arose in the sleigh,
And extended his hand o’er the scene,
And he laughed and then shrieked,
And the sleigh groaned and creaked,
And he said, “I will tell you just what I mean.
"When the north wind doth blow and there’s ten feet of snow,
And the ice devils nibble and gnaw,
When the snow fills your eyes and the drifts quickly rise,
This is known as a Chateaugay thaw.”

Then the traveler arose and he smote him with blows,
And they sank in a deadly embrace.
And none knew the spot till the June sun was hot,
And a hunter by chance found the place.
Here they made them a grave,
Where the storms loudly rave,
And the epitaph lately I saw.
“Two men lie beneath and they came by their death
Frozen stiff in a Chateaugay thaw.”


  1. That's a great one, Nancy. And if your folks came from that area, it certainly is family related!

    Thanks for participating in the Challenge!

  2. The Big Chill! Brrrzy-wrrrzy!!!

  3. I was born and brought up in Ellenburg Depot which is about 15 miles east of Chateaugay NY and I still travel through the village quite often. I remember hearing about a "Chateaugay Thaw" in my earlier years. Yes, the weather around there can be pretty nasty to say the least.

    1. My husband's mom was from Chateaugay, then after marriage moved to a small town north of Watertown. Even there it was cold, though probably not so cold as Chateaugay. Thanks for visiting and leaving a comment, Anonymous.

  4. I was born in Malone. Spent enough time up in that area to know, I don't dig snow!

    1. Hi, Dawn. It surprises me how many people stay in that area, especially as they grow older and the snow becomes harder to deal with. I loved snow as a child, not quite so much these days.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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