Out of the Past: The Drought of 1936

       By Steve Cichon

As many of Hamburg’s usually lush green fields of produce were dusty and dead for lack of water, people around Western New York and around the country were starting to fear that in the wake of a nationwide drought, food prices would go up as variety and availability of crops was far less than average.

“Housewives in Buffalo are buying large stocks of canned goods to store away in case rumors of a food shortage and high prices this fall materialize,” reported the Courier-Express.

Cattaraugus County had its smallest potato crop in 70 years. In Hamburg, some farmers were able to irrigate their fields, but by late summer, the biggest concern was for the area’s milk supply. The creeks where dairy farmers watered their cows were either low or dried up.

The nationwide heat wave of 1936 was among the most severe ever recorded in North America, and added to the misery of The Dust Bowl and The Great Depression for many across the country, including in Hamburg and Western New York.

William D. Stetler, a vegetable grower on Gowanda State Rd. for decades, stands by his ruined corn crop.

Irrigation of crops was not as easy as turning on the water, as was shown at the Hamburg farm of Will Stagmeier.

Dust flies as the earth is worked on the Water Valley farm of Fred Gressman.