This and subsequent pages, will be newspaper accounts of the Blizzard of 1949. Used by permission from the Holt County Independent Newspaper Office.
HOLT COUNTY INDEPENDENT,
Thursday November 25, 1948:
O'Neill and the most of Northeastern Nebraska are gradually digging out from one of the worst snowstorms that has ever hit this country since the Blizzard of '88. This is the opinion of the Oldtimers who can remember back through the years.
The Storm started early Thursday morning and continued to fall until Friday evening when the wind went down and the snow quit drifting.
Sometime during the night, the state snow-plows went into action and most of the roads were open by Sunday night with the exception of Highway 20 which was closed east of Orchard.
The snow in O'Neill piled up, especially on the north side of the street, in the business district and cars parked all along the side of the street were completely covered with snow.
Traveling men, who had stayed here during the storm started digging out their cars Saturday morning, using different means with a team, wreckers, and tractors.
One amusing incident was when a salesman hired some boys to dig out his car, showing them where to dig, and when they got down to where they could see his car, found out that it wasn't his.
O'Neill evidently was the center of the storm. From all accounts there was more snow fell here than at any other place along the line, as reported by travelers who come from both directions after the roads were open. Reports are that the storm was worst from New Port east to Pilger. West of here a football game was played at Springview while we were having the storm.
One life was lost in the storm, that of John Haun, of Spencer, who suffered a heart attack evidently from exhaustion, as he tried to get his truck out of the snow. He is from Spencer, and was about a mile east of the road that goes to Page on Highway 20. He was in a car with Earl Rodman and Ray Funk, whose car had also stalled. He passed away about 10 o'clock Thursday, after suffering a heart attack.
The East Bound passenger train on the Northwestern was held at O'Neill Friday morning, snowbound here until about 4 o'clock Saturday morning. The locomotive on the passenger was running out of water early Friday morning and they called the firechief to see if water could not be put into the engine with a fire hose. The roads were blocked with snow and it was impossible to move a firetruck, so engineer John Osenbaugh, of the State Highway Department, sent out a snowplow about 9 o'clock to break a road so that water could be put in the engine and keep the passengers on the train comfortable. The more hardy people on the train made many trips to the business district to back food and coffee and there was no suffering among the stranded passengers. The West Bound passenger due about 6:30 that morning was held at Fremont. A snowplow was run ahead of it as far as Long Pine and turned around and went back east ahead of the stalled train here.
A party of Ewing men left there at 11 o'clock Saturday afternoon and finally got through to save Mr. and Mrs. George Harris of Riverton, WY, who had been snowed in the car on Highway 20 northwest of there, since Thursday afternoon. The cars gasoline supply had given out in the early hours Friday morning and the couple had bundled up as best they could for more than 30 hours in their heatless car to keep from freezing.
The Wyoming couple had started for their home from Sioux City on Thursday. After being rescued they were taken to the Roy Rotherham home and given food.
Roy Sauers was one of those marooned in the storm. He left here about 4:30 Thursday morning for Gregory, SD and going by way of Atkinson north to Butte, when within a few miles of Butte, his car became stalled on the edge of the road. He remained in the car until daylight then walked across the prairie to some buildings only to find them deserted. He returned to his car and finally a passing trucker pulled his car back up on to the grade and he continued on to Butte.
He then decided to start for home going by way of Spencer and got as far as the house on the top of the north side of the Niobrara River where he hold up until the snowplows had opened up the road. He returned to his home here about 1:30 A.M. Sunday morning.
Clyde Streeter, who lives on the John Schmidt farm north of this city, was taken ill during the storm and it was necessary to bring him to O'Neill where he could be given medical attention.
A call for help was sent out Sunday morning and about 40 men went out from here to shovel the road out, so that he could be brought here. About three miles of road had to be shoveled and with men working from both ends he was finally gotten into O'Neill about 4 o'clock that afternoon.
Tuesday evening he was taken to Lincoln to the Veterans' Hospital where he will receive medical attention.
Probably the most disasterious loses suffered in the storm is that of the turkeys at the Tri-State Turkey Farm south of O'Neill and the Corkle Turkey Farm east of O'Neill. The loss in both of these places may run as high as 5000 birds.
Clark Williams, manager of the turkey farm, says that it is impossible to tell at this time what their loss will be, but will run between 2000 and 4000 birds. Mr. Corkle is also unable to tell just how many he lost, but may run as high, or higher, than that of the Tri-State.
The Tri-State had about 10,000 birds on their farm at the start of the storm and they were all under shelter, but the snow drifted in on top of them and buried them.
Three hunters, Woody Grimm, Ben Oetter, and Ace Wicks became marooned 28 miles south of Atkinson. They left here early Thursday morning with snow falling thinking it would be a good day for ducks and their last day of the present season, but they say they did not see any ducks.
These men stayed at the Fred Boettcher ranch 28 miles south of Atkinson where they remained until Saturday morning about 9 o'clock, when they decided to walk to Atkinson, a distance of 28 miles. They arrived in Atkinson about 10:30 that night walking all of the distance, but two miles.
O'Neill was without electricity about 2 and a half hours Saturday evening from 5 to 7 o'clock. Many of the other towns near here on the system had been getting power at different intervals during the storm and O'Neill was cut off to give them a share of the juice.
The deisel engine here furnished most of the electricity for this section of the country as the highline was broken near Belden, Nebraska.
The snow piled up here higher than the cars parked on the north side of the street became quite a problem in being removed. On Monday, the city tried the method of washing the snow down the storm sewer with a fire hose, but this proved futile. So a crew of men, dump trucks and tractor loaders took over the job early Tuesday morning. It required all of that day to remove the snow in the block east of the Golden Hotel with the men working until about 10:30 that night. Wednesday they were working on the block west of the First National Bank. Four loaders and hand shovelers kept the dump trucks busy. It will probably require two or three more days to remove the snow in the business district. In the residence district only two or three streets have been opened, but late Wednesday a caterpillar tractor with a plow made of planks is being tried to clean the outlying streets.
One lone widow was blocked in for two days, but suffered no ill effects having had plenty of fuel, etc., inside the house.
All traffic was suspended, and business was at a stand still. The town school resumed classes on Monday as most of the students from the rural areas were at school on Thursday and remained in town with relatives and friends.
Several cars, two or three, on main street were almost buried in the drifts. The local snowplow began opening the principal streets about noon Saturday and on Monday and Tuesday, most of the snow on the main street had been removed by means of tractors, trucks and gravel trucks at the expense of the business places. Three of the local truckers were in Iowa where they had gone on last Wednesday and early Thursday and did not reach home until Sunday evening.
Many farmers and ranchers had stock drift with the storm and much of this has not yet been located. The extent of the loss is not known, but the reports so far is nine head of cattle. Wayne Smith sustained the heaviest loss, having had 5 head smothered. Ernest Burell and Hamp Smith each lost one, and Ray Beed, two. It is reported there are several head of dead stock down on the Beaver, but do not know whose they were.
We have not learned much about the rural schools, but are quite sure that few, if any, have reopened since the storm. It is rumored that one teacher and pupils were prevented from leaving the school building for two days. This is evidently true, but their experience could easily have been duplicated, but we have not learned the name of the teacher or district.
Chambers was without mail from Thursday morning until 1 o'clock P.M. Monday.
HOLT COUNTY INDEPENDENT,
November 30, 1948
Dear Editor, Here is a human interest story that developed in our own community during last weeks blizzard.
At about noon on Friday, November 19th, two young men appeared at our door out of the blank whiteness of the swirling snow that enveloped us. They were young Bill Held, from the Kellar Church neighborhood, and his friend Marvin Nichols, of Bartlett. The boys were exhausted, wet and cold.
They had left Bill's home at 7:30 that morning on horseback, but after battling snowdrifts for one-half mile and having their horses down several times they unbridled them and turned them toward home, but the boys continued their way on foot.
At the Williams Jutte farm they rested and warmed for a while, then battled their way on to our place, another two and a half miles on top of the three miles they had already come and their destination was still another 3 miles north east of our place.
You see, Bill had 18 head of cattle in our northeast pasture and he was trying to get to them. Well, Bill and Marvin rested and dried their clothes at our place and at 1:20 P.M. they were ready to try again.
It seemed impossible for a human to battle that storm that far. My husband attempted to give them a lift up the highway in a jeep, but after scooping and pushing for a quarter mile they struck out through the pasture and he returned home.
Those were about the longest four hours we ever spent. At 5:00 P.M. the daylight started to fade and we knew the odds would certainly be against them if dark caught them out in that storm. At 5:20 P.M., voices and footsteps approached the house, and I tell you that was a happy moment for us. Bill had found his cows along the south fence of the pasture, and they had driven those 18 head of cattle ahead of them back through that raging storm, over three miles and into our corral for protection from the wind.
Those were two mighty weary boys that night. Over 11 miles on foot in that storm and almost 8 miles of the trip in the face of it. But the true American spirit shown out of their eyes that night as young Bill remarked: "You know, if those cows had died up there, in that storm, and I hadn't made an attempt to help them, I could never have lived with my conscience."
Don't you think this is a fine example of our American youth of today? I do!
Mrs. Floyd Mills
O'Neill, Chambers Route