{www.fulkerson.org} Dead on the Plain Dead on the Plain
On the death of John W. Fulkerson, who was frozen in the blizzard of November 26, 1896. By Mrs. Viola (Snyder) McManis.


Out on the cold bleak prairie,
On a cold November day,
A team and lonely rider
Were slowly wending their way.
Yes, on they came, but slowly,
For they had a heavy load,
He had been away to the mountains,
His sled loaded with wood.

A blinding storm was raging,
It was nearing to the close of day;
but on he urged his horses,
Till he found he'd lost his way.
Then he unhitched his horses,
And tried to reach his home,
On and on he wandered---
Ah, what will be his doom.

There was naught to guide him onward,
Or tell him which way to go,
While fiercer grew the tempest,
And faster came the snow.
Oh, for some hand to guide him!
Will he ever reach his home?
Ah, no! He's lost on the prairie,
And round and round he roams.

But soon he found 'twas useless;
Yes, found all was in vain,
He was lost, alas! on the prairie,
Out on the storm-swept plain.
And there with the storm around him,
He fell upon the ground,
And there when the storm abated,
His frozen form they found.

Did he see the light in a window?
He had turned to go that way,
And if they had but known it,
Could have helped him on his way.
Did he call for help, I wonder?
If he did he called in vain;
There was no one could hear him,
Out on that cold bleak plain.

Yes, out on the great wide prairie,
Where none could hear his cry,
All alone with his sorrow,
There he had to die.
Yes, there with no one with him,
To know if he suffered pain,
With naught but the storm around him,
He died alone on the plain.

With nought but the sky above him,
The snow for a dying bed,
With none of his loved ones near him,
To hear the last words he said.
Did he call for wife and babies?
If he did he called in vain;
There was no one near to hear him.
He died alone on the plain.

And there lay his lifeless body,
No watchers by his side,
To fold his hands o'er his bosom,
Or tell us how he died.
And there the searchers found him,
They did not search in vain,
Yes, there in the snow they found him,
Frozen to death on the plain.

Not far away in a shanty,
Was a wife and children four,
Eagerly watching and waiting,
To see him enter the door.
They had but little fuel,
Their neighbors were far away,
And what they must have suffered,
I'm sure I cannot say.

All alone with her little children,
All through that terrible storm
From day to day she waited,
Hoping that he would soon come.
It was well she did not know
That she would wait in vain,
It was well she did not know
That he was freezing to death on
the plain.

The snow blew in around them,
Their wood was almost gone.
Oh, is there not some one,
To save them from the storm,
Or must she and her children,
freeze and starve and die?
Ah, no; there is some one
To hear her pleading cry.

Kind neighbors came to her rescue,
Before it was too late,
And all their deeds of kindness,
Herein I will not state.
But all of their love and kindness,
Could not drive away the pain,
When they told her that Johnnie
Was frozen on the plain.

Far away, his parents, as they sit
By their warm fireside,
Knew not their boy was lost,
On the prairie wild and wide.
They did not know his wife and babies,
Were suffering with the cold;
If they had, their anguish
Would have been untold.

But it was far better for them
That they did not know,
They could not have reached him,
Through that blinding snow.
But o'er the wires a message,
To those parents came,
Come at once, for Johnnie
Has frozen to death on the plain.

Then they came and took him,
Back to their old home,
And loving friends and neighbors,
Placed him in the tomb.
But oh, there is nothing will
Drive away the pain,
When they think that Johnnie,
Died alone on the plain.


John W. Fulkerson was a native of Illinois. His father was Jacob H. Fulkerson, a Civil War veteran who had homesteaded in Ramsey Co., North Dakota. John grew up working on the farm with little formal education, as did his wife, Sophia Nelson, daughter of a Norwegian immigrant. He followed in his father's footsteps, staked his claim near Leeds, North Dakota, and put up a one-room box house for his family.

On that fateful November day he rode out on his wagon, drawn by a pony and an old horse, headed for Turtle Mountain to get firewood. Before reaching home he was overtaken by one of North Dakota's terrible blizzards. The blizzard continued for three days, a violent storm of blinding snow with deadly, freezing winds. John's old horse got loose from the wagon and was found at a neighbor's hay stack, a signal of trouble at the Fulkerson home.

Sophia and their four little boys were trapped in the cabin. All they had to eat was a cake she had baked the day before the blizzard struck. She took the boys and two dogs into bed with her to keep them from freezing. In the midst of the storm, the fiercely blowing snow breached the cabin. Only the bed and its seven occupants stood out above the snow on the floor when neighbors arrived to rescue them on the third day. John's frozen body was found on the prairie, a mile and a half from his home.

Sophia kept the farm going for nine more years, then moved her family to Canada where she filed on her own homestead. She continued to brave the cold winters of the plains until her death in 1917.