History Nebraska Blog

A Tombstone and a Blizzard

Many tales of Nebraska blizzards can be found in the pages of the state’s newspapers. One such story, which originally appeared in the Chicago News, was published in the Kearney Daily Hub on May 16, 1912. Under the attention-grabbing headline “Ran into Grave in a Blizzard,” the article recounted the experience of an unnamed Chicago man who tried to drive a buckboard twenty miles through a blizzard on the Nebraska prairie and his narrow escape from death. 

Unfamiliar with Nebraska’s winter weather, the traveler set out on his journey amid falling snow. He said, “I had not traversed a half mile before the sheets of snow then falling became blinding. In fifteen minutes more I could not see my bronchos’ heads, the snow coming down in almost solid banks, while the cold had grown intense. I was not yet alarmed. I did not know enough about blizzards to realize my chance for life was about one in a hundred, so I kept my bronchos moving. But when I noticed, after an hour’s such travel, my bronchos plunging through drifts and the wheels of my buckboard sinking to their hubs in the loose, swirling snow, I began to think it was some storm.” 

His horses fell several times, but were able to recover their footing—until a muffled crash indicated that the buckboard had hit some solid object. The driver brushed away the snow, which had banked itself against the dashboard, and soon struck a “cold, hard surface. A moment later I saw a stone bearing the words: ‘Sacred to the memory of — ’A chill ran down my back." The traveler had stumbled upon a  lone prairie grave. 

He said: “It was impossible to attempt to go ahead in that wilderness afoot, and I did not dare go ten feet from my outfit to hunt up a house. The only salvation was to get the buckboard away from that stone. To do so I had to unhitch the bronchos, pull them to their feet and work them back to the rear of the conveyance and tie them there. Then I pulled and hauled on the buckboard until I got it free.” 

The driver struggled on and fortunately ran across a sod house, “the only one within five miles, occupied by a pioneer settler and his family. I was saved.” – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

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