Hazel Miner Story

Hazel Miner Story

submitted by Cece Albers


The following information regarding the life and death of Hazel Miner is taken from an account written by Mrs. Robert (Anna) Dunn, as recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds, Oliver County, North Dakota, in Book N of Miscellaneous, page 130, as of July 15th, 1936:

Hazel Miner was born April 11, 1904 and the date of her tragic death was March 16, 1920. Her father's name was William Albert Miner and he was born in Riceville, Iowa. Her mother's maiden name was Blanche E. Steele and she also was born at Riceville, Iowa. Mr. Miner, his wife and their oldest daughter, Zelda, came to North Dakota in 1903 and homesteaded in Oliver County. Hazel's sister, Zelda, was 5 years older than she; a brother, Emmet, was 5 years younger; another sister, Myrdith, was 7 years younger; and another brother, Howard, was 11 years younger.

On March 15, 1920 Hazel Miner, her brother, Emmet and her sister, Myrdith, were attending the consolidated school about 5 miles east of Center, North Dakota. For a few days previous, the weather had been nice and warm and much of the snow had melted and the coulees had a good deal of water in them. On March 15th, the weather became very cold, together with a bad snowstorm and a heavy driving wind estimated at over 40 miles an hour. Mr. Miner lived 2 _ miles north of the school which the children were attending. In the afternoon of that day, he started on horseback to meet his children at the school and guide them home. The three children, Hazel, nearly 16 years old, Emmet, about 11 years and Myrdith, not quite 9 years old, were accustomed to driving to and from school I a light sleigh. Arriving at the school, Mr. Miner hitched the horse to the sleigh and told the children to wait until he could get his saddle horse from the school barn, a few rods away. When he returned, he found the children had already started for home. Passing through the north gate of the school yard, they disappeared in the storm, and it was 15 hours later before they were found. The father, hoping to overtake his children hurried on, but soon realized they had lost their way. He went home, notified his wife of what had happened and again began searching for the children. An alarm was quickly given over the phone and several searching parties went out and remained until it became too dark and the search had to be given up until daylight.

On Tuesday morning, word came to Center that no trace had yet been found of the missing children and request was made for more help. A part of men volunteered for service. The land north and east of the school was searched without immediate result. Finally, the men struck a trail a short distance to the north of the school which trail was made by a single house and sled. The track led east, then south and again east, where all signs were obliterated by the wind and driving snow. From here, about 20 men, some on foot, others on horseback and several bobsleds, stretched out for a distance of over half a mile and started east and south, where in a coulee the upset sled, with horse still attached, was found. Evidently, the children had passed within 200 feet of their home but were unable to see it through the storm. The men hurried to the sled and found that Hazel had placed two blankets underneath the younger children and one over them. There was no room under the blanket for Hazel and the wind evidently kept blowing it off the children so Hazel had laid on top of it, on the windward side so that her body would hold the blanket down, and it did. It was there she met her death. Upon lifting the cover, Emnet and his little sister were found still alive.

Whether the children did not understand their father's injunction to wait for him, or whether the horse started off by itself is not known. The horse was very gentle and had not stirred after the sled tipped, but had remained in its tracks from Monday evening until Tuesday afternoon. The sled helped as a windbreak and had the horse moved, all three children would have perished.

Emmet, the older of the two children who lived, stated substantially, as follows: “That our papa told us to wait for him, but the horse started off and we could not hold her. After awhile we got into an awful place, a coulee with a lot of ice and water in it and the tugs came unhooked. Hazel got out and hooked them up and got in the water and was wet clear to the waist, and her shoes were full of water. When Hazen got the horse hitched up again, she led the horse until she was tired and then I led her, and when it next tipped over, Hazel was thrown out over the dashboard. Hazen then fastened the robe over the back of the sled to keep off the wind. The robe kept blowing down and Hazel kept putting it up until she couldn't any more. Then she laid down two blankets, had us lie down on them and put the robe over us. I told Hazel to get under the covers too but she said there wasn't room for us and for her and she didn't do it. She laid down on the robe in such a way to hold it and the snow drifted over her and over us. She kept talking to us and telling us not to go to sleep and telling us to keep moving our feet so they wouldn't freeze, and she kept punching us and told us to punch each other to keep awake. I tried to get out to put the cover over her but I couldn't move because she was laying on the cover. The snow old get in around our feet so we couldn't move them but Hazel would break the crust for us. After awhile she couldn't beat the crust anymore and just laid still and groaned. When she stopped groaning, I knew she was dead.”

The Monument of Hazel Miner now standing in the courtyard in Center was erected through the kindness of Hon. L.B Hanna and family, former Governor of North Dakota