HOMESTEAD NATIONAL MONUMENT, Neb.- January 12, 2017 marks the 130th anniversary of a weather event that equally tragic and fascinating.
The Children's Blizzard, the Schoolhouse Blizzard, or Schoolchildren's Blizzard. It goes and went by many names, but whatever it's called, it's widely believed to have been one of the most severe weather events to strike the Great Plains.
According to Homestead National Monument historian Robert Marcel, The blizzard hit on January 12, 1888, catching people off-guard on an otherwise pleasant winter day. In the end, the storm took between 200 and 300 lives, many of them children. Marcel writes that the storm is remembered in mosaic near the ceiling of the Great Hall in the State Capitol Building in Lincoln, it's recalled in books and plays, and it's an indelible part of our cultural memory here on the Great Plains. He says the weather event also led, in part, to the creation of the United States Weather Bureau in 1890.
Even the Freeman School that's now a part of the Homestead National Monument of America was in the middle of the storm. "Daniel Freeman who was the first homesteader, and two children going to the school here," Homestead National Monument Chief Ranger Susan Cook said. "He had an older son here visiting. He sent that son to the school with provisions and a violin," Cook said. The provisions were for survival, and the violin was used as entertainment to keep the kids' minds off the storm.
There are several books written on the subject. One is "The Children's Blizzard" by David Laskin. 130 years later, this huge storm that hit the Great Plains is still remembered.