The winter of 2008-2009 is remembered as bitterly cold. Sub-zero temperatures with massive snowfall. In that kind of nasty wintery weather, North Dakotans are thankful for such inventions as polar fleece, Thinsulate, and engine block heaters. But back in the 1920s, those helpful inventions that keep us so toasty and safe were not around.
Farm kids in those days traveled to country schools via horse and buggy. And it was on this date in 1920 that a blizzard hit the Center, North Dakota, area. For safety reasons, school teachers made sure their students didn't venture into snow storms alone.
The three Miner children - Hazel, Emmet and Myrdith - patiently waited for their Dad to arrive at school. With his children loaded safely into the sleigh, William Miner asked them to wait while he got his own horse ready to go. But, before their father returned, the children headed into the blizzard.
What should have been an easy journey home for the Miner children quickly became a winter nightmare. The wind blew 40 miles an hour that day. Blinding snow made navigating impossible for Hazel. Their sleigh hit a coulee, dunking 15-year-old Hazel up to her waist in freezing cold water. Once on track again, the sleigh hit an obstruction and overturned. Ever mindful of her siblings, Hazel spread a couple blankets and asked the younger kids to lie down. She covered them with a robe. In the howling wind, the blankets soon blew about and the children were not warm enough. Hazel opened her coat and laid down on top of her brother and sister, acting as a weight to keep the blankets in place.
All through the night, Hazel talked to 10-year-old Emmet and 8-year-old Myrdith. She had them wiggle their feet. They sang songs and recited prayers. They did what they could to keep awake and alive in the cold.
When a search party found the Miner children 15 hours later, Hazel was frozen solid. She was found lying with her arms outstretched, covering her siblings from the blustery winter storm. Both Emmet and Myrdith survived, due to their sister's bravery and unselfishness.
In 1936, a stone monument was erected in honor of Hazel Miner and her bravery. The monument can be found outside of the Oliver County courthouse.
Dakota Datebook written by Jill Whitcomb
Minot Daily News.com-Hometown 2008-"Stranger, Read it"- posted Oct.1, 2008 by Andrea Johnson. http://www.minotdailynews.com/page/content.detail/id/519546.html?nav=5576
Ancestry.com- Hazel Miner story-taken from an account written by Mrs. Robert Dunn from the Register of Deeds, Oliver County, ND. http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/ndoliver/hazelminer.htm