On December 24, 1830, it began snowing in central Illinois. By Christmas Day, there was a foot of snow on the ground. By New Year’s Day, the snow was three feet deep and still falling. Precipitation fell almost continuously for nine weeks, sometimes as snow, sometimes as sleet or hail that froze into an icy crust. For most of that time, the thermometer hovered around zero degrees, occasionally dropping as low as twenty below, and only climbing to above freezing twice. In some areas, the depth of the snow reached four or five feet. The snowfall threatened the lives of humans and animals alike, as both found their food supplies buried.
Those who survived the "winter of the deep snow” called themselves snow birds and considered themselves the true original settlers of Illinois. In 1882, a group of male snow birds formed a Snow Bird Club for the purpose of calling on old settler ladies every New Year’s Day. A copy of this photo, depicting the 23 members of the Club, was given to each lady they visited in 1884.