Total Pageviews

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The School Children's Blizzard of 1888



The blizzard hit in mid-afternoon following a pleasantly warm day. It took folks by surprise. Temperatures dropped to -20 degrees and the terrible wind reduced visibility to zero.  Many of those who were caught away from shelter and tried to make their way home died.  This was especially true for school children, whom the storm is named after.  The storm killed 235 people and many more suffered frostbite.

Henry Paulsen was 11 years old when the blizzard hit Bennington on January 12, 1888.  It only snowed 6 inches; however, the strong winds created drifts 5 to 15 feet high.  He recalled after the storm was over, the only way they could get to the animals was through a door in the upstairs hayloft.  It took over a week to dig out the entrance to the barn.

The following stories about the storm were taken from Wikipedia;  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schoolhouse_Blizzard

Plainview, Nebraska.  Lois Royce was trapped with 3 students in her school and by 3 pm they ran out of heating fuel.  They attempted to reach her boarding house which was only 80 yards away but became lost in the blowing snow.  All three children froze to death.  She survived but lost both her feet to frostbite. 

Holt County, Nebraska.  Etta Shuttuck lost her way home and sought shelter in a haystack.  She reminded there for 3 days until she was rescued.  Her legs and feet had to be amputated and unfortunately she died of complications. 

Great Plains, South Dakota.  The school children were rescued by two men who tied a rope to the closest house and then headed for the school.  They tied off the other end of the rope, letting the children follow the rope to safety.  

Mira Valley, Nebraska.   Minnie Freeman led 13 students to her home, half a mile away.  She used a rope to keep the children together.  All her students survived.  She was heralded as "Nebraska's Fearless Maid"!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Beginning of High School Basketball In Nebraska

Roy Gordon’s Letters

1914 Benson High School Basketball Team:  Roy Gordon holding ball

I discovered some old letters in the attic of my grandfather, Roy Gordon when he was a senior at Benson High School.  They fill a few gaps in our family history and described the infancy of high school basketball in 1914.  It appears basketball teams were just forming.  Some schools had teams, others didn’t.  Roy was a team member and apparently responsible to contact other area schools to determine if they had teams and if they were willing and able to schedule games.  Transportation was by railroad not by bus or car and communication was by ‘snail mail’ since there were few phones and certainly no smart-phones.   


There were 5 letters.  The first is in granddad’s hand, written to Mr. W.H. Morton, Superintendent of Ashland Public Schools dated January 19, 1914.  

The letter was returned with a note on the bottom; “We have no basketball team” signed W.H. Morton.

My grandfather and his parents, Alex and Lucy Gordon were farmers who lived 1 ½ miles northwest of Bennington.   The Easter Sunday tornadoes of 1913 completely destroyed their home.  It was rebuilt later in 1914.  The letters suggest the family temporarily moved to Benson where Roy attended high school.  (Bennington’s District 59 Public School didn’t offer an eleventh or twelfth grades until 1924.)  Apparently, it was the responsibility of a member of the basketball team, possibly the team captain arranged the game schedule.
Hollyrood Farm prior to the Easter Sunday Tornado of 1913
Hollyrood Farm following the storm.

The remaining four letters were replies.  The first was from Robert Miller, Manager of the Arlington High School Basketball Team.  Mr. Miller suggested the teams played games at each other’s school.  I found it interesting that the opposing school paid expenses.  Those expenses was probably train fare.  



The next letter was from H.H. Reimund, Superintendent of Weeping Water Public Schools dated February 4, 1914.  Weeping Water didn’t have a basketball team either.  


The last two letters were mailed from Gretna, Nebraska by Frank Burns, who appears to have been Secretary of Gretna Public Schools.  He replied on February 26th by postcard.  The first letter sets a game to be played in Gretna on February 13.  The next is a postcard agreeing to a game on March 6; possibly in Benson.  





Monday, November 28, 2016

Happy Holidays

The Flower Posse has been hard at work making holiday decoration for town.  The two main features are snowmen and Christmas trees.  

The farm wagon in front of the Police Station has a 'crowd' of snowmen made out of tires and cutout wooden patterns.  The Christmas Trees were made out of garland and tomato rings.

Members donated other items and came up with some really creative ideas.  


The Flower pots in front of  the City  Office and Library got a touch of 'Holiday Spirit'.  

The park benches even got a little holiday cheer. 


This fall the Flower Posse created a Sass Memorial Iris Garden made up of nearly 75 varieties of award winning Sass Irises.   Its located in front of the Police Station.  Part of the garden includes 30 some individual stepping stones.  Members got together for a "concrete pouring party".   Members acquired a concrete mixer, 10 sacks of 'ready mix', and the Zaruba's back yard.  We used the 'bucket rings' that we used for the iris propagation beds for forms. The ladies came prepared with all sorts of ideas and materials to decorate them.  Many of us came away with 'dirty hands'.  


So,  next year when these irises start to bloom, come visit the new garden and use these stepping stones to get really close to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of these beautiful flowers.  Remember, they are the official flowers of Bennington.


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Spears and Fire

The Bennington Historical Society convened their November meeting by marching over to a member's home and starting a fire in their yard.  What followed was a ceremonial fire ritual.  Marshmallows were subjected to the fire until they burst into flames which were quickly smothered between graham crackers and sheets of chocolate.   Some folks call this making s'mores; however, it is much more.

Bennington Historical Society S'more Party

Making s'mores is a very personal thing.  There are those who only want a 'light toasted' marshmallow while others want a blazing infurnal until only a black charred skeleton remains.  This process undergoes a critical eye, from the creator rather than from others.  Not one criticism or self righteous remark was uttered which is remarkable from what we witness on TV now adays.  Friendship and tranquility reigned supreme as the hot chocolate and schnapps was passed around.  All was good with the world. 

 
Society's Vice President hard at work


There is something special about sitting around a fire on a cool night with friends.  A fire is hypnotic, it relaxing and somehow reassures us that everything is OK.  In survival classes, its taught one of the first things you need is fire; it's a necessary psychological "friend".  Possibly we need more fires today?
Sometimes it's easy to forget our Country is full of wonderful people and we are so blessed.  
Serious relaxing and bonding going on.  

The night was a success.  No serious burns were reported and it appeared everyone left a little more relaxed and happy.  



Friday, October 7, 2016

Bennington 3rd Graders Learn about Bennington's History

For the past 2 years, the Bennington Historical Society has been working with local sponsors in the development of historical information signs throughout town.  Currently there are 27 signs showing old images and describing their significance.  Today, I was working the the yard and I saw a large group of children and their teachers looking at one of the signs that is on Everyday Fitness.  Mrs. Clause was explaining to the 3rd graders that Bill's Highway Service was once their 65 years ago.  They then proceeded down town on their historical tour.


Here is the class down on the Molley, Warehouse and South Second Street corner looking at an image taken 120 years ago of the Arp Implement Dealership that use to be across the street.


Here the kids are looking at an image 103 years old showing the old business district lined with horses and buggies instead of cars.  Can you imagine?   We want to thank these Bennington Elementary teachers for working this into their student's curriculum.  

Have you taken time to learn about the history of your Community?   If not take a walk and enjoy yourself.  Down below is a map where they can be found.  If you are interested in sponsoring a new sign or donating photographs contact Gordon Mueller at 402-614-7509.


Saturday, September 3, 2016

Heritage Days at Fort Atkinson State Historical Park. Oct. 1-2


Fort Atkinson has reenactments the first weekend of each summer and the next and last is October 1-2.  We had the pleasure to attend during the September reenactment.   It was a beautiful day and what a treasure in our own back yard.  You have to go and take the kids and grandkids.

 Volunteers are dressed in period dress and uniforms.  Here is the drummer and he was really good.  We caught him 'tuning' this drum.  
We even caught the officers eating lunch.  One interesting fact is that during one bad winter, nearly have the garrison died of scurvy and starvation because provisions couldn't get in; remember this was the 1820's.  After that they began growing and raising their own food.  They were quite successful.
This is Judy and she was starting to actually prepare a dinner.  They were having a pork loin stuffed with apples and a yam pudding.  Cooking from a fireplace took skill!
They demonstrated weaving, spinning yarn, making lace and other important crafts and skills.
Making lace

Quilt making
School was even in session.
The blacksmiths were busy showing how red hot metal could be shaped into nails, hinges, and other tools and implements.  It was really interesting.  

Remember "Heritage Days"  October 1-2.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Thinning Down the Sass Irises

Flower Posse planting irises. (l-r) Ginger McGurk, Ellen Dahlstet, Dee Krejci, Gordon Mueller, Bob Zuruba.

The Flower Posse was busy again, this time thinning and replanting irises from the display and propagation garden on Main Street.  The garden was originally planted two years ago and the plants loved their new home, growing and spreading.  Last spring was a beautiful bloom.  The plastic rings are being replaced with brick and the plants thinned out and replanted.  The surplus plants are being transferred to a new garden in front of the Police Station.  There the Posse is developing a garden of all the award winning Sass Irises.   
The Posse will be thinning other flower beds this fall.  Surplus plants go to volunteers and are given to residents during Bennington Daze and the Iris Festival which is held in the spring.  Those interested in joining please contact the Bennington Historical Society.