The Nebraska History Library recently received a donated book from a University Library in Kansas that was inscribed by Minnie Freeman Penney. Minnie is of course associated in Nebraska with the infamous January 12, 1888 blizzard that struck the Nebraska and the Midwest. The following is the text that appears on the Historical Marker located south of Ord in Valley County: “On January 12, 1888, a sudden fierce blizzard slashed across the Midwest. The temperature fell to between 30 and 40 degrees below zero. A howling northwest wind swept the plains. The storm raged for 12 to 18 hours and is probably the most severe single blizzard to have hit Nebraska since the settlement of the state.
“Sometimes called “the school children’s storm,” the blizzard caught many children away from home. Many acts of heroism were performed by parents, teachers, and the children themselves. The story of Minnie Freeman has become symbolic of these many acts of heroism. Miss Freeman, still in her teens at the time, was teaching at a school near here. When the wind tore the roof off the sod schoolhouse, Miss Freeman saved her pupils by leading them through the storm to a farmhouse a half mile away. Many other teachers performed similar acts of heroism, and at least one lost her life in the attempt. No accurate count of the total deaths from the storm is possible, but estimates for Nebraska have ranged from 40 to 100.”
The exploits of Minnie were later recorded in the popular Victorian parlor song, “Thirteen were Saved, or Nebraska’s Fearless Maid.” Minnie married Edgar Byron Penney in Omaha in 1891, but they made their home in Fullerton. She was politically and socially active in Nebraska. Although they maintained their legal residence in Fullerton, they moved to Chicago in about 1923 where her husband became president of the C.A. Mosso Chemical Company. She passed away in Chicago on November 1, 1943.