Sunday, January 15, 2017
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
|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.