March 16, 1920
Center, North Dakota
Hazel Miner (15) dies while protecting her younger siblings Myrdith and Emmet (8 and 10 respectively) during a massive blizzard
The morning of March 15 seemed “fairly nice” and the locals of Center did not assume a blizzard was heading into the area. By the afternoon, heavy wind and snow began to assault the region and the students of a one-room school were collected by their parents one by one. William Miner arrived around 2 p.m. to escort his children home.
William hitched the horse and sleigh together which Hazel had driven to the school earlier that morning, and bundled the children in blankets to keep them warm. He told Hazel to drive the horse north to a gate while he retrieved his own horse from behind the school, and would help lead the group home. Hazel soon lost sight of her father in the snow and, after waiting some time, attempted to continue her way home alone. Similarly, William could not see his children and assumed he had passed them in the blinding snow, and made his way back home to, he assumed, reunite with the children. “Dad lost us right there,” Emmet recalled in a 1963 interview. “He thought we’d started home, and started riding home to catch up with us.”
The fierce snow and wind disoriented Hazel and the horse, and the group realized they had been headed in the wrong direction after noticing telephone lines which helped serve as a landmark. They corrected course but the horse soon broke through some ice covering slush and water. Hazel attempted to lead the horse from the slush and found the harness had detached, forcing her to wade into waist-deep water and ice to reattach the tugs. The lower half of her clothing became completely soaked.
The children continued their trek, with Emmet helping to lead the horse when Hazel became too tired. Eventually, the sleigh tipped to the side and the children were unable to right it. Hazel then decided their best chance at survival was to use the sleigh as a shelter and to wait out the storm, which had winds of 40 mph (64 km/h) and gusts reaching 70 mph (113 km/h). Hazel used two blankets and a robe to cover her younger siblings, and laid on top of the articles to prevent them from being blown away. She did not join the children under the coverings for fear her wet clothing and legs would freeze them.
As night fell, Hazel cautioned Emmet and Myrdith not to fall asleep and to keep each other awake by talking and singing to each other, even if she should fall asleep herself. She also instructed the children to continue to move their hands and feet as much as they could beneath the restrictive coverings, and would break the ice as it formed sheets over the children to help them to move their limbs. Hazel also unbuttoned her coat and spread it out over the children as a final layer. “She sort of fell on us, and her open coat helped cover us,” Emmet recalled decades later.
Hazel talked less and less as the night drew on, until she became silent entirely. “I thought she must be dead,” Emmet said during his interview, “then I kept talking to Myrdith so she wouldn’t go to sleep.”
Around 30 to 40 locals had assembled a rescue team on March 15 to search for the lost children. They were found at about 2 p.m. on March 16. Hazel had already died, but Myrdith and Emmet were able to recover. Some 400 people attended Hazel’s funeral.
The blizzard, considered to be the worst the area had experienced since 1902, subsided on March 18. Hazel was one of 34 lives reportedly claimed by the storm.
A stone memorial was erected in Hazel’s honor in 1936 which, in part, bears the inscription: To the dead a tribute. To the living a memory. To posterity an inspiration.
Tait, Annette. “ND town remembers girl who died 100 years ago shielding siblings from blizzard.” AGWeek. March 16, 2020. Accessed: March 16, 2021. https://www.agweek.com/community/history/4991342-ND-town-remembers-girl-who-died-100-years-ago-shielding-siblings-from-blizzard
Olson, Tim. “Hidden History: The sacrifice and strength of Hazel Miner.” KX News. September 26, 2019. Accessed: March 16, 2021. https://www.kxnet.com/good-day-dakota/hidden-history-the-sacrifice-and-strength-of-hazel-miner/
“Hazel Miner and the 1920 North Dakota Blizzard.” The Voice before the Void. March 15, 2015. Accessed: March 16, 2021. https://www.thevoicebeforethevoid.net/hazel-miner-and-the-1920-north-dakota-blizzard/
Eriksmoen, Curt. “Heroic teen lost her life in spring blizzard.” Bismarck Tribune. December 14, 2008
Moore, Fred. “Hazel Miner’s Devotion Is Recalled by Brother.” Greensburg Daily News. March 20, 1963
Moore, Fred W. “Blizzard of 1920 and the Courage of Hazel Miner.” The Daily Register [Harrisburg, Illinois]. March 18, 1963
“Brother She Saved Recalls How Hazel Miner Met Death.” The Bismarck Tribune. March 16, 1963
Eastman, Allan. “Browsing Around.” The Bismarck Tribune. January 6, 1949
“Hazel Miner Died In Storm One Year Ago.” Grand Forks Herald. March 15, 1921
“Story Of Heroine Told At Funeral Of Hazel Miner.” Jamestown Weekly Alert. March 25, 1920
“Girl Heroine Of Dakota Blizzard.” Morning Register [Eugene, Oregon]. March 17, 1920
North Dakota, Red River Valley Genealogical Society, Pioneer Files, 1880-1953. Digitized: https://www.ancestry.com/imageviewer/collections/62067/images/FS_004299666_00370?treeid=&personid=&usePUB=true&_phsrc=ybl1&_phstart=successSource&usePUBJs=true&_ga=2.177978279.385915309.1615844409-1974064398.1608518424&pId=4094
Unit 7: Set 5: Floods & Blizzards – Hazel Miner. State Historical Society of North Dakota. Accessed: March 16, 2021. https://www.history.nd.gov/textbook/unit7_prettygood/unit7_5_hazel.html
Hazel Miner. Find a Grave. Accessed: March 16, 2021. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/95447167/hazel-miner