A 15-year-old girl from Center saved the lives of her siblings in a deadly blizzard

Weather Whys

The mid-March blizzard of 1920 barrelled through with fury and ended with the power of a sister’s love.

It all started on Monday, March 15th of 1920 when a strengthening low-pressure system – the blizzard – bared down on North Dakota. The wind was intense. By the 16th, that Tuesday, the storm’s center was in Southern Canada, but it isn’t the center that has the highest impact, it’s the outsides of that low. The winds continued on the backside of this low through much of the morning of the 16th.

In Center, North Dakota, 15-year-old Hazel Miner got lost on that first day, Monday, March 15th. She was with her 10-year-old brother, Emmett and 8-year-old sister Myrdith. They were separated from their father when the horse that was attached to their carriage unexpectedly ran off. The carriage toppled over in a coulee and with zero visibility, it left Hazel and her siblings stranded in the dangerous storm now bearing down in full force.

Hazel, just shy of 16 years old, covered her siblings with a blanket and opened her jacket to hug them and laid on top to keep them warm and to keep their blanket from uncovering them. She kept them awake by telling stories and singing songs. Night fell and it wasn’t until the next day that they were found. Exposed to the brutal storm for 25 hours, Hazel succumbed to the blizzard.

Because of her bravery, Emmett and Myrdith lived to tell their story. According to the Center Republican, Emmett went on to be a painting contractor in Bismarck. Myrdith went onto live in Chewelah, Washington.

Over the years the story has been told over and over again on the anniversary to keep the memory alive. Emmett told his story to the Center Republican in the early 1980s. In it, he recounts hearing the search dogs that never found them.

In 1936, then governor, L.B. Hanna had a monument installed outside of the Oliver County Courthouse to honor Hazel’s heroism. It reads, “To the dead a tribute, to the living a memory, to posterity an inspiration.”

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