Archive for Tuesday, December 6, 2011

100 years ago: Tragic event on ice-covered Kansas River

December 6, 2011


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for Dec. 6, 1911:

"While attempting to save his little pet dog who had broken through the ice on the river, Albert Johnson, 10 years old, ventured too far out on the treacherous ice and was himself lost beneath the black icy waters of the Kaw river yesterday evening shortly after 5 o'clock. The body was recovered a little more than an hour afterward.... Albert and his little dog had been playing along the river bank during the afternoon and were having a great time. Teddy saw a stick out on the ice and darted after it. His weight was too much for the thin coating of ice and he broke through. He struggled for some time against the ice but seemed unable to break his way through to the bank or to crawl out on top again. Albert saw the predicament into which his dog had fallen and not realizing the dangers attending rushed out on the ice to save his little pet. A moment later and the ice broke the second time and the little master was also beneath the cold water. His shouts were in vain and as no one was able to assist him the brave little hero sank out of sight. About an hour later his cold, lifeless body was taken out of the watery grave, while the little dog for whom the boy had given his life walked up and down the bank, barking and whining plaintively. He had been saved, but the little master who risked so much to help him perished in his efforts.... Albert and Teddy had always been friends. They had learned to love each other and to play together as two children play. They were always together at home and at play. When Albert went to school Teddy followed and waited outside.... G. J. White of California, who is visiting here, and another small boy are the only witnesses to the tragedy. When Mr. White saw the boy go through he immediately ran for a brush to reach out to the boy to pull him ashore, but there was nothing loose that he could get a hold of in time to save the boy. When at least he had unloosed a small shrub and was about to reach it out to the little boy the latter had lost his hold on the edge of the ice and slipped away beneath."


Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

This tragic event that happened one hundred years ago is similar in some ways to a horrific event that happened to my ancestors long before before this event in 1911 took place. I can't even think about it right now, but the French Revolution (1789–1799) was current news at the time. I'll try to write about it in the morning.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

1) I made a long distance call to my mother just now, who is one of the family historians, to make sure I got as many details about exactly what happened as correct as possible. I learned that I made a massive error last night. The event I am referring to happened over four decades before the French Revolution (1789–1799). Instead, it happened here in the United States just as the winter thaw was beginning to happen in 1742.

If historians in the future wish to further research this event, there should be archives describing it in further detail in the archives at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska in a few to several decades. They most likely will be filed under "the Scrivner Archives". It's not going to be possible for me to have this event researched in any more detail right now, that most likely would take a few weeks. But I do know the basics of what happened just as the spring thaw was beginning to occur in 1742. But, I do not know the state it occurred in, nor do I know the name of the river.

There was a family named Wayman that lived on the banks of a river that was commonly walked across in the dead of winter, when it was perfectly safe to do so. But, when dark streaks started to appear in the ice it was no longer safe to do so because then it was just about to break, and any weight at all would cause it to do so.

The dark streaks were starting to appear at the end of the winter in 1742, so there was no more walking across the river this winter, and that was common knowledge. At least, to anyone that lived anywhere near there, and in 1742 people simply didn't travel very much.

A couple members of the Wayman family saw a frightening event - a man and a woman were starting to walk across the river! It was too late to do that now, the ice would surely break, and there would be no way to save them. So they began to scream at them to go back, they could not walk across the river any more!

They screamed and screamed at the man and woman, who just kept on trudging across the ice towards them. Between the two of them, they were carrying a large chest, and the woman was carrying a small bundle.

In every way they phrased it as they screamed and screamed at them to go back, the man and woman simply ignored them, and kept on walking across the river.

There simply seemed to be no way to get them to understand! What was the problem? Didn't they understand plain English? Apparently not.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

Well, I guess it wasn't the United States just yet, not in 1742!

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

2) There were cracking sounds as the dark streaks turned into cracks in the ice under the man and woman. Then very quickly, the ice gave way, and the man, the woman, and the chest began to fall into the freezing water.

The last thing the woman did as she fell into the freezing water was look at the Wayman family, and with all her might, throw the bundle she was carrying towards them. The tiny bundle slid safely across the ice to very near the shore, where the Waymans were able to safely retrieve it.

In only an instant, the man, the woman, and the chest disappeared into the river, and no trace of them was ever seen again.

The Waymans took the tiny little bundle into their house and unwrapped a blue blanket that had a fancy yellow crest on it, and the initials: J. F.

Inside was a tiny baby, and that was all. Back in 1742, adoption agencies as we know them did not exist, so now there was a new member of the Wayman family. The Wayman family used the initials they had found on the blue blanket, and named him Joseph Francis.

Joseph Francis is one of my ancestors.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 6 months ago

I will try to learn more details about the Wayman and Francis families if and when it is possible for me to do so. There has been extensive genealogical work done, and it is all on file in the family archives that are to be left to the University of Nebraska at Lincoln at some point in the future. But, it will almost certainly take months for me to have this event researched. I will come back to this page and post more details if I am able to do so.

Sarah St. John 6 years, 6 months ago

That is such a great story! Wow, Ron, if that little baby was your ancestor, it just shows how very close you came to not existing at all!

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