Major North’s Buffalo Hunt Ended by a Blizzard

About midnight the wind changed to the north, bringing rain and sleet, and within an hour a blizzard was raging on the open prairie.

Minnie Freeman

Minnie Freeman, heroine of the blizzard of 1888. RG2411-1692



Minnie Freeman Penney was a young schoolteacher who during the blizzard of 1888 led her pupils from their Valley County school to the shelter of a neighboring farmhouse. A collection of Nebraska pioneer reminiscences published in 1916 by the Nebraska chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, includes both her memory of this storm, and an account of an earlier one in 1871 taken from the diary of her father, William E. Freeman.



This earlier blizzard befell a party of buffalo hunters led by Major Frank North, famed leader of the Pawnee Scouts. After leaving Grand Island, the party, including six wagons and four buffalo horses, crossed the Platte River and went into camp. About midnight the wind changed to the north, bringing rain and sleet, and within an hour a blizzard was raging on the open prairie. The horses were covered with snow and ice and there was no fuel for the campfires. It was decided to try to follow an Indian trail south. Little progress could be made and they soon camped near some willows that afforded a small amount of protection to their horses.



Major Frank North

Frank North in uniform about 1867. RG2320-39



For two days the storm continued, accompanied by intense cold. The men finally determined to find shelter and in groups of two and three left camp, following a creek along which they hoped someone had settled. A sod house occupied by two English families was found, where the group was received hospitably. During the night the storm abated and next morning, finding all the ravines choked with heavy snowdrifts, the hunters decided by vote to abandon the hunt. They dug out their belongings from under many feet of snow and started their return trip. The journey home was full of accidents, bad roads, and drifted ravines.



North later admitted that of all his experiences on the prairie, including those with the Pawnee Scouts, “this ‘beat them all’ as hazardous and perplexing.” 



Read the historical markers commemorating two of Nebraska’s worst blizzards: the Blizzard of 1888 and the Easter Blizzard of 1873 on the History Nebraska website. “I’m Never Going to be Snowbound Again, the Winter of 1948-1949 in Nebraska,” from the Winter 2002 issue of Nebraska History, is also online at the History Nebraska website.  – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications  

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Nebraska airmail in the 1920s

Nebraska airmail in the 1920s

Lincoln’s Final Decree

Lincoln’s Final Decree

Throwback Thursday Photo, North Side Community Center

Throwback Thursday Photo, North Side Community Center

About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.