- Associated Press - Monday, February 2, 2015

CENTER, N.D. (AP) - People still remember Hazel Miner in Center, 95 years after the teenager froze to death in a sudden spring blizzard while protecting her little brother and sister from the harsh elements.

High school principal Tracy Peterson said the school library has several books on the subject.

Sixth-grade teacher Claudia Albers said she teaches a unit on the Miner story every March. The story serves as a reminder to the children of just how quickly the weather can turn dangerous, even if temperatures have started to warm up in February and March.

“I have copies of some of the original newspapers,” Albers told the Minot Daily News (https://bit.ly/1xZnlUg ). “We read the story … I usually use it in March too and (talk about) what do we need in a blizzard.”

Albers, a Center native, also incorporates a magazine article about Hazel Miner and a speech written by her daughter.

Albers said she also talks with the children about how far technology has advanced. In 1920, when the spring blizzard struck, North Dakotans didn’t have a reliable way to predict changes in the weather.

Hazel was one of 34 people who died during the three day spring blizzard in March 1920. On March 15, 1920, classes at her one room rural Center school house were let out early because of blizzard conditions. The children’s father rode to the school on horseback to guide his children safely home. He hitched the horse to their sleigh and told them to wait while he got his own horse. The horse guiding the sleigh took off on its own before he got back and it headed in the wrong direction.

Fifteen-year-old Hazel was holding the reins, with her two siblings, Emmet, 10, and Myrdith, 8, as passengers. She was lost and unable to see in the blizzard conditions. Hazel’s sleigh hit a coulee and overturned. Hazel, up to her waist in slushy snow, tried to set it right but failed. They turned the sleigh into a makeshift shelter, waiting for help to arrive. Hazel kept her brother and sister moving and talking. She spread blankets over them and eventually also unbuttoned her overcoat and spread it over the two younger children. She laid over them to keep them warm. Eventually, Hazel stopped moving. When a search party found the three Miner children the next afternoon 25 hours after they had set out from the school house Hazel was dead but her two siblings had survived because she kept them warm. Their horse was still standing nearby.

“We talk about what kind of person was she,” said Albers, who emphasizes Hazel’s bravery and how heartbreaking her death was. In one of the newspaper articles at the time, it is said that Hazel’s mother fell asleep while the search party was out for the children. She said later that Hazel came to her in a dream and said, “I was cold, Mama, but I’m not anymore.” Chuck Suchy also wrote a song called “The Ballad of Hazel Miner” that Albers plays during the lesson.

“Some of the kids, the girls especially, have tears in their eyes,” said Albers, when she teaches the story. She said most of her students have never heard of Hazel Miner and find the story interesting.

If the weather permits, Albers said she and the class will walk down to the county courthouse in Center to see the monument erected to Hazel in 1936. It reads: “In Memory of Hazel Miner April 11, 1904 March 16, 1920 To the dead a tribute, To the living a memory, To posterity and inspiration.”

Today, there is also a housing addition in Center named in Hazel’s memory. Peterson said the story puts Center on the map.


Information from: Minot Daily News, https://www.minotdailynews.com

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