ON THIS DATE in 1888, nineteen-year-old Minnie Freeman saved a classroom full of children from a freezing death during a severe Nebraska snowstorm. The schoolteacher marched 13 to 17 (sources vary) students through the blinding — visibility was just four to five feet — blizzard after winds had blown off a corner of the school’s roof. The students clung to a long string of twine attached to Freeman, who led them to a farmhouse three-quarters of a mile away.
The terrible 1888 storm is sometimes called the Schoolchildren’s Blizzard because it hit during school hours and caught many students and teachers off guard. One teacher in Plainview, Nebraska, lost all three of her pupils in the storm. The children, aged nine, nine, and six, died, and the teacher suffered frostbite so severe that her feet had to be amputated. As estimated 230 Greats Plains residents died in the blizzard.
Freeman received a gold medal from the State Education Board and more than 80 marriage proposals after newspapers reported how she saved her students.