Newspapers and the Associated Press wire service received the daily indications as a matter of course, but now extra telegrams must go out to the Signal Service stations in Minnesota, Dakota Territory, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Chicago, some twentytwo stations in all, as well as to the principal railroads serving the region. There was no sign of the Grabers’ farmhouse at the end of the field. Winds gusted to 50 miles an hour, throwing up twentyfoot-high drifts, snapping telegraph poles, and snarling the live telegraph and telephone wires that the poles carried. All through the twelfth, the cold high continued to build into Alberta and northern Montana even as Signal Corps observers in Dakota and Nebraska tracked the progress of the advancing low on their plunging barometers. Andreas panicked and shouted for Peter to come and help him. Seventeen below at Omaha. “The stress of misfortune had not only destroyed hope, it had brought out the evil 268 THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD side of many men. Then, at three o’clock, the 158 THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD sky suddenly blackened and the wind veered from south to north. Like Lena, Addie eventually was able to walk unassisted on a wooden foot. abs 72 THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD The Shattucks lived in Holt County, Nebraska, for two years after leaving Seward behind, but they never really got used to it. His enthusiasm for the project has made every aspect of the research and writing that much more rewarding. The temperature that day never rose out of the single digits. Eager to use every minute of the good weather that morning, they had left the children at home in the care of Austin’s mother, Kari, and gone out to work in the barn. Eventually he went to work for the Dakota Farmer, the region’s premier agricultural publication, and over the years he rose through the ranks to become managing editor, editor in chief, and publisher. Two years later, grief-stricken and bereft, Johann Kaufmann died. abs For the five Schweizer boys, the end was probably peaceful. Below 87 degrees, they began to lose their grip on reality. She had been following the fence for what felt like miles and still no sign of the house. The wood of the drays was already rimed with snow and frozen solid as rock, but for the first couple of minutes none of them felt 134 THE CHILDREN’S BLIZZARD the cold through their thin clothing. Wind out of the east and barely any temperature change—from �4 to �3. The story was not new to me even before my marriage into the Zerger family, because I too am a “descendant” of the great blizzard of 1888. They found out that covering with snow was wrong when they came back as the snow had started up a heat in the animal and it began to revive and commenced to struggle out of the snow and it got worse frozen than ever. There was a culvert thrown across it that served as a bridge, but it might be hard to find in the storm. As one prominent Nebraskan wrote in his pioneer memoir, “Twenty years after the storm I visited St. Petersburg, Florida, and heard the Minnie Freeman story with all the horrors of an Arctic storm accompaniment being discussed among those at the table where I ate my first meal in that town.” abs “We had been calling every storm a blizzard,” the Reverend S. F. Huntley wrote a friend in New York, “but then [after January 12] decided that we had never had a blizzard before and never wanted one again.” The three Huntley children recovered from the touch of frostbite they had suffered during the storm, as did Fred Weeks. But he did survive. “I have been their pastor for two years and was personally acquainted with them and their circumstances before they went to Holt county, Nebraska two years ago. The last bits of moisture condensed and froze and fell glittering in tiny crystals from the cloudless sky—diamond dust, meteorologists call it, a sign that the coldest, driest weather is building in. Prologue Books consulted for historical background on the Gilded Age include America in the Gilded Age: From the Death of Lincoln to the Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Sean Dennis Cashman (New York: New York University Press, 1993); America’s Gilded Age: An Eyewitness History by Judith Freeman Clark (New York: Facts on File, 1992); The Gilded Age, H. Wayne Morgan, editor (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 1970); Unity and Culture: The United States, 1877–1900 by H. Wayne Morgan (Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Books, 1971), and The Gilded Age: Essays on the Origins of Modern America edited by Charles W. Calhoun (Wilmington, Del. When the body sleeps, its core temperature drops, metabolism slows, heat escapes more quickly from the surface, shivering ceases—all of which hastens the loss of the dwindling supply of bodily warmth. We know for certain Ben and Sarah Shattuck were living near Seward in November 1882, because that’s when they joined the town’s Methodist Episcopal Church. Infants were accidentally dropped in snowdrifts. For Benjamin Shattuck that meant that just two years after he and his family moved out from Ohio, the 160 acres of prime Nebraska prairie belonged to him. He was confident that the horse would get them back safely. “As soon as Mr. Knieriem told us I put on my coat and came right over to let you know.” Abi, having listened to the entire exchange, was beside herself. Some stood with their heads anchored to the ground by globes of ice as large as bushel baskets that had formed from their congealed and frozen breath. abs In Saint Paul, Lieutenant Woodruff had Sunday off—actually, just Sunday morning and afternoon. Heroines 245 But the greatest coverage by far—and the largest share of the money raised—went to Etta Shattuck. Until that day, Anna Kaufmann had spent her entire life in the village of Waldheim amid the wide windswept fields of the Ukrainian province of Volhynia. Strangely, their minds were affected before their bodies. The snow that fell when these plates and columns grew heavy enough was hard as rock and fine as dust. Deep enough so that all of them could lie down together side by side. They feel flushed with a sudden glow of wellbeing. Because they practiced a different kind of Protestantism from their neighbors, they had been expelled from their farms in Emmental in the Canton of Bern in the 1670s. Ole and Karen watched helplessly as Andreas shivered with fever in the unheated steerage quarters. According to Sergeant Glenn, those who chose the former were “principally persons familiar with the western storms and who fully appreciated the danger of going over the open prairie in a ‘blizzard.’” But not all of those who left or dismissed the children were ignorant or careless. The advance party had already built sod houses and plowed small fields. She was a very good wife and it makes me feel that I wish I was dead. He never returned. The teachers realized that they could not, that they must not, send the children out in these conditions. The science of meteorology, though barely out of its infancy, was advanced enough to predict the intense cold wave that came in the wake of the storm. The relief soc. Only one of the girls lived north of the schoolhouse, beyond the ravines on a deeply cut up section of the Bohemian Alps. . By itself, the strengthening low would have kicked up some stiff wind on the Great Plains, blown the snow already on the ground into drifts, maybe spat out a few inches of new snow before subsiding: a typical midwinter storm; certainly nothing historic. As the dark frigid months dragged on, they ate their belts and boots and trousers— and then they ate the clothing of the men who died. Signal Corps regulations were exact in this regard: With the exception of the two barometers that were to be cloistered indoors and shut up inside their wooden cases when not in use, all other instruments—the four thermometers, the rain gauge, the wind vane, and the anemometer with its four little cups for catching the wind and measuring its speed—were to be set up outside, exposed to the elements (the thermometers had be protected from the sun’s rays inside an openwork box). For the Allen boys it was bliss. Minnie Freeman took center stage as the Gibson girl, all apple cheeks and chin-up, commonsense bravery, while Lois Royce lurked in the shadows as the languishing heroine of a penny dreadful. The plowed farm fields were either deep in drifts or crusted furrows, according to the whims of the wind. By Christmas, starvation loomed again, just as it had those first two winters. Which is perhaps another way of saying that the quiet, gentlemanly Lieutenant Woodruff was very much a man of his time and place and rank. My next book, Partisans: Marriage, Politics, and Betrayal among the New York Intellectuals, belongs in the second category. William Inman, the principal owner of the Liverpool-based line that bore his name, was determined that his modern iron-screw steamers provide steerage passengers safe, sanitary passage without “the discomforts and evil hitherto but too common in emigrant ships.” The passage of the Schweizers was not without tragedy. Call me even more intrigued! S.F. How a man who confesses to having been snowed up for the last nine days can estimate the loss of life with more accuracy than newspapers in constant telegraphic communication with the whole territory is incomprehensible.” What was at issue here was not just the accuracy of the death toll figures, but the truth about the climate of the prairie. She moved her lips and tried to summon the voice to sing hymns. Sixty seconds later, he came within a whisker of getting blown off. They piled on in masses of bodies and they had each other for warmth and a bit of shelter. Practically overnight the prairie boomtown had a feed and coal store, a blacksmith shop, a building contractor, hotel, lumberyard, and a business mysteriously identified as a “purveyor of liquid hardware.” By September 1881, just weeks after its founding, Groton boasted two rival newspapers: the Mirror and the Groton News, which prided itself on beating the Mirror into print by two days.
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