Archive for Thursday, May 2, 2013

100 years ago: Local youth suffers fatal fall from downtown fire escape

May 2, 2013


From the Lawrence Daily Journal-World for May 2, 1913:

  • "A fall from the fire escape on the south side of the Fraternal Aid Building last night about 10:30 o'clock caused the death of Walter Ecke, 17 year old son and only child of Mr. and Mrs. Julius Ecke of this city. The boy fell a distance of about sixty feet.... Other boys rushed to his aid, but he was unconscious when the arrived and died a few minutes later in the office of Dr. E. R. Keith to which he had been carried by his companions.... Lawrence boys have long been in the habit of climbing up the fire escapes of the F.A.A. building when dances are in progress within, just to look on. It was for this purpose that Walter Ecke ascended the fire escape last night. The Alpha Tau Omega Annual Spring Party was going on inside the hall and perhaps a dozen boys were looking on from the fire escapes outside.... The tragedy of last night was one which has been feared for some time."
  • "Floyd Winters, 3 year old son of Mr. and Mrs. Rolly Winters of Vinland, was drowned late yesterday afternoon in a cistern at the Funk blacksmith shop. The father had brought some work up to the shop and was accompanied by his two little boys. He left them playing at the wagon but later found that the younger was gone. A search for the child was begun and for two hours the parents and others searched for the missing boy. At seven o'clock last night they found his lifeless body in the cistern. Evidently the little fellow's play led him to the curb of the cistern and then to his death in the water below.... The tragedy causes much sorrow in the entire county."
  • "Late this afternoon Justice J. B. Wilson bound Ross Phenicie over to the District Court to stand trial for the death of L. N. Crell last Saturday afternoon. Phenicie, driving a car, struck Crell in North Lawrence killing him almost instantly. The coroner's jury held that the man's death was due to careless and negligent driving on the part of Phenicie. Phenicie's bond was fixed at $500 which was given and the young man released."
  • "Kansas and Manhattan track teams are at it this afternoon on McCook Field. The Jayhawker went into the meet confident and with the dope in their favor. The Aggies had hopes of springing a surprise or two on the Jayhawkers and fans were led to expect a rather classy exhibition."
  • "Dr. Gillispie reports this morning a case of small pox which was discovered yesterday. The case is a very mild form of the disease and will be thoroughly isolated from the public. The man is a stranger in town, coming here from Kansas City. He will be taken to the county farm where he will be quarantined in a tent until absolutely recovered from the disease."


Sarah St. John 5 years, 1 month ago

The original report included some distressing and graphic descriptions of the young man's fall from the fire escape, the sound it made, the resulting injuries, etc. There are times when I hear people talk about modern news reports being all in-your-face and leaving nothing to the imagination, but believe me, the stuff in the early 1900s was even more so. Some of the descriptions of farming accidents, recovery of bodies after a fire, etc. are quite gruesome to our modern eyes.

About the Phenicie motor accident -- Although it was not the first auto death in Lawrence, it may have been the first fatality of a pedestrian hit by a car. I am still researching that. Its novelty would explain the strong crowd response. The first actual auto-related fatality, as far as I can determine, was the accident involving Martin Babb in November 1910: “Skidding on the Bowman bridge at a rate of speed too great to take the sharp turn, a heavy five passenger automobile Saturday tore away the protecting rails and overturned as it fell twenty feet. Martin Babb, 19 years old, the son of David Babb, died of his injuries yesterday morning. It was the first fatal accident to occur in Lawrence since the introduction of motor cars. Interment will be made at Oak Hill. Martin was a senior in high school.”

Of course there were plenty of other accidents involving horse-drawn vehicles, electric streetcars, etc. But deaths involving autos were still rare 2 1/2 years after the Martin Babb fatality.

Lastly, I must apologize for the inconsistency in the spelling of the name of the pedestrian in the Phenicie accident. Sharp-eyed readers must have noticed by now that on some days it's Crell and other days Creel. The original news reports spell it first one and then the other, and I haven't been able to find a record of the poor man to settle the question, so I've just been reproducing the back-and-forth 1913 spelling. Sorry if this is causing any proofreaders out there to gnash their teeth. :-)

FlintlockRifle 5 years, 1 month ago

I would guess every thing was hand written, and some peoples hand writing is not as good as others, maybe some reporters used typewriters .

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