The second week of January 1888, an unexpected blizzard hit the Plains states. It had snowed on the northern and Central Plains January 5 and 6. The next four days had been terribly cold, so when the temperatures increased from 20 to 40 degrees the morning of January 12, people in the area thought it safe to leave their homes for town, school or just be outside.
But the weather played a cruel joke. An arctic cold front collided with the warm, moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, and the temperature dropped over 50 degrees, to 20 below zero.
High winds and heavy snow accompanied the fast moving storm that first hit Montana early January 12. It swept through the Dakota Territory and reached Lincoln, Nebraska at 3 p.m.
Thousands of people died, and many schoolchildren got caught in the blizzard.
The story of the Schoolhouse Blizzard as it has been called, made such an impression on my maternal grandmother, Myrtie Crabtree Briggs (born in 1891 in Nebraska), that it was one of the stories she repeated to her children and grandchildren.
Part of Grandma Myrtie’s story was about a school teacher who had gotten her students to safety by holding on to a rope.
Ida Higginson, Myrtie’s mother, was a school teacher in Nebraska in 1888. Ida and her family were homesteaders. Ida Higginson would marry John Crabtree at the end of 1890. John and his family were also homesteading in Nebraska.