Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘pennsylvania’

 

Some thought that it might be a killer that waited in hiding to pounce on the unsuspecting. Others thought that it was where other killers hid their dead. It was both, and while cautious, the residents of McSherrystown didn’t fear the pits of sand around them, perhaps because the body count accumulated over decades.

 

oldquarry

This shot of an old sand quarry give you an idea of how the McSherrystown quarries might have looked. Courtesy of http://www.rossbullock.co.uk.

In September 1901, a dead newborn baby was found in one of the sand holes from the quarry in McSherrystown. “The body was wrapped in the sleeve of an undershirt, which was next bound with a cloth and then enclosed in newspaper,” the New Oxford Item reported. A coroner’s inquest determined that the baby had been born alive, but no marks of violence were found on the body. The child may have suffocated in the sand. The parents were never found.

 

Whether or not the baby was the first person killed by the sand, he was not the last.

In December 1905, the New Oxford Item reported, “The ghastly discovery was made by several school boys, who, on their way home, while passing over the hill, saw a bundle lying in one of the sand holes. A scramble was made for possession of the bundle, and on picking it up the paper covering tore, and the body of a male child rolled to the ground.”

The boys were frightened at first, but they were boys. They quickly recovered and began spreading the story of how they had found a dead body.

The coroner’s inquest was only able to determine that the child had been dead for about a week when he had been found. Once again, the killers were never caught.

The sand holes around the town gave up their secrets reluctantly and then not all of them.

In October 1907, a horse and cart were buried under 20 feet of sand. The driver, Levi Reed, only narrowly escaped the same fate.

Reed had been loading the wagon with rough sand that needed to be put through the crusher to make it finer. “Levi Reed, who was near the horse, felt the tremor as the sand shifted and quickly he succeeded in reaching the edge of the bank, thereby saving himself from being drawn in,” the New Oxford Item reported.

A month later, Reed had another close call in the sand holes, but his partner, John Frock wasn’t so lucky. They had a contract to supply sand for the building of the York and Hanover trolley and were loading a wagon with sand. “They were working at the base of a jagged wall of sand above. Without warning this wall of sand shifted, sliding with force to the bottom of the hole,” the Gettysburg Compiler reported.

 

3b874cb0c7f44607fb49c87a55692278

This shot of an old quarry shows how close they could be to residential areas. 

 

The sand buried Frock, and he suffocated. Rescuers dug his body out from beneath two feet of sand.

In 1914, Urban Gouker fell 20 feet into one of the sand holes. He sustained multiple broken bones. He was lucky. At least he lived.

Another resident who was lucky to avoid being killed in the sand holes was William Farley. He was driving his car on Third Street in McSherrystown and failed to make a turn in the road. His car slid off the road and into a sand pit 25 feet below.

“Although the machine, a touring car, landed in an almost perpendicular position, with its radiator buried in a heap of rubbish in the pit, the driver crawled from the automobile apparently unhurt, but later was reported confined to a bed at his home suffering from pains in his head,” the Hanover Evening Sun reported.

In December 1915, the Gettysburg Times reported that residents of McSherrystown had seen the shadowy form of a woman had been seen wandering near the sand holes, supposedly searching for her lost child. The newspaper pointed out that it was a ghost story that circulated from time to time in the area.

“Fictitious as the story is, it, however, recalls the fact that the dead bodies of three infants have been found in these quarries, at various times, within the past twenty years, the last child having been found one Sunday about ten years ago, wrapped in a white sheet,” according to the newspaper.

Besides hiding bodies, the holes were also used as the town dump. This created a fire hazard from time to time as the trash would catch on fire.

In 1930, a group of school boys hit the mother lode in a sand hole when they found cases of unopened beer buried in a hole. It was believed that the beer had been seized in a raid in which law enforcement officers had failed to dispose of the alcohol properly.

The boys, who were ages 7 to 13, found the treasure trove. “One boy had two cases of it in bags. They drank some of it and sold some at five cents a bottle to anyone who cared to take a chance,” according to the Hanover Evening Sun. Some of the boys also imbibed and were drunk when the police found them.

The 1930s also saw the town begin to fill in some of the sand holes, which had fallen into disuse. One area was filled in and turned into a playground. Other areas were partially filled in, which at least reduced the depth that someone might fall. However, some holes remained open even into the late 1940s when one hole was used as a local swimming hole.

It also allowed the sand hole to claim a victim by drowning when an 81-year-old man was accidentally knocked into the hole and died.

When the last hole was filled in, all of the secrets hidden in the sand were covered over, and given the depth of the holes, may never be discovered.

You might also enjoy these posts:

Read Full Post »

 

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of three posts about the civilians who were taken as prisoners of war by the Confederate Army after the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863.

libby-prison

Libby Prison in Richmond, Va., where the Gettysburg civilian prisoners were kept for a time.

In March of 1865, the country was still at war, but the end was near. The Confederacy was collapsing and the Union was pressing its advantage and forcing the Confederate Army to retreat.

They would not surrender easily, though. Just a couple weeks earlier, 40 McNeill’s Rangers had snuck into Union-occupied Cumberland, Md., and kidnapped General George Crook and General Benjamin Kelley from their hotel rooms. They escaped back into Virginia and delivered the prisoners to the infamous Libby Prison where they were promptly ransomed back to the Union.

The generals’ incarceration hadn’t even lasted a month. They were lucky.

Around the same time negotiations were underway to free the generals, several men returned home to Adams County, Pennsylvania. They had been missing for 20 months. They weren’t victorious soldiers. They were farmers, postmasters, and ordinary citizens. They were also a secret, or perhaps, a shame of the Confederacy because these men were civilians arrested by the Confederate Army at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg and marched back to Virginia when the Confederate Army retreated.

“The hostages were selected from three target groups. They were agents of the government such as postmasters or tax collectors, they defied or criticized the invaders or they were prominent citizens in the community,” James Cole, a descendant of one of the hostages, said in a 1994 interview.

On July 2, 1863, Confederate soldiers arrested Samuel Pitzer and his uncle, George Patterson on the suspicion that they were spies. The rebel sharpshooters were hidden behind the Pitzer Schoolhouse and surprised Pitzer and Patterson.

The two men argued that they were farmers not spies. The soldiers told them that they would have to go to the headquarters for a hearing.

“As they did not find any firearms upon us they assured us that we would not be held after the hearing. When we reached headquarters however Major Fairfax said it was too late to give the hearing that night and put if off till morning,” Pitzer wrote of his experiences years later and reported in the History of the St. James Lutheran Church.

The following day, the Confederates were defeated and started their retreat. All thought of the hearing was forgotten and the prisoners were forced to march south, accompanied by a guard who stood beside each prisoner.

Emanuel Trostle, was another Gettysburg farmer. He lived with his wife and child on Emmittsburg Road. During the battle, a Confederate colonel rode up to his farmhouse and warned him that his family was in danger because of the battle.

“Mr. Trostle, who was crippled at the time, and walked with the aid of a staff and crutch, told the colonel that he could not pass through his pickets. The colonel told him that he would take him through, and accordingly did so,” the Gettysburg Times reported in 1914 when Trostle died.

Trostle had second thoughts the next morning, though. He worried about some of the household goods that he had left behind and headed back, accompanied by a friend. They got as far as the pickets before they were captured.

“He was taken to the battle-field, expecting to be paroled, but the firing opened before the parole could be made out. He was taken to Staunton, Va., walking the entire distance of 175 miles; was on the road six days, and for three days had not a mouthful to eat,” according to the Gettysburg Times.

When the Confederates left Pennsylvania at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg, they left with eight civilians: George Codori, J. Crawford Guinn, Alexander Harper, William Harper, Samuel Pitzer, George Patterson, George Arendt, and Emanuel Trostle.

Here are the other parts of the story:

 

Read Full Post »

tommixcircus8large

The big top and midway of the Tom Mix Circus (formerly the Sam Dill Circus). Courtesy of circusesandsideshows.com.

Early Wednesday morning, July 19, 1933, a long train arrived in York, Pa., and stopped near the fairground. The Sam B. Dill Circus had arrived.

“Young America, having caught the infectious circus spirit is likely to be in ahead of both morning orb and circus and be on the lot along with enthusiastic adults to greet the show train on its arrival there,” The York Dispatch reported the day before the train’s arrival.

The unloading and setting up of the circus tents and shows worked smoothly. All of the performers knew their jobs. They had been doing it multiple times each week since the circus had opened its season in Dallas, Tex., on April 9.

Wagons containing the menagerie were rolled down ramps. Trunks were carried off to other areas. Elephants and roustabouts worked to raise the big top as the sun rose. Within a relatively short time, the big top tent was erected and the performers went to work preparing their equipment inside while the roustabouts set up the bleacher seating.

By the time everything was finished around 9 a.m., the cooks in the circus kitchen had breakfast ready.

The Sam B. Dill Circus was scheduled to play two performances, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., for York residents.

“Sam B. Dill’s Circus isn’t the biggest circus in the world but what it lacks in size it makes up in quality,” the Amarillo Sunday News and Globe wrote about the circus.

Dill had managed the famous John Robinson Circus, but when it was sold to the American Circus Corp., Dill had struck out on his own. Though not a large circus, Dill’s circus was popular and tended to sell out its performances.

After breakfast, everyone had a short rest and then they began to scurry around getting the menagerie wagons harnessed to horses and in a line. Performers dressed in their bright and flamboyant costumes. At noon, “a long column of red, gold and glitter, with bands playing and banners flying will move sinuously out of the Richland avenue gate,” The York Dispatch reported.

From the Richland Avenue, the parade moved east on Princess Street, then north on George Street to Continental Square. From the square, the circus moved west on Market Street and then back to Richland Avenue. Thousands of spectators lined the route to watch the performers, hear the music, and marvel at the wild animals.

The first wagon was the band wagon where Shirley Pitts, the country’s only female calliope player, conducted the band. Then came the wagons pulling tigers, monkeys, seals, and more. Other flat wagons featured clowns goofing off and Wild West displays.

When the parade arrived back at the fairgrounds, many of the spectators followed them. Although the big top wouldn’t open until one o’clock, they wandered the midway, playing games, getting an up close look at the menagerie, or visiting some of the shows in the smaller tents.

The three-ring show under the big top had dozens of animals such as Oscar the Lion, Buddy the performing sea lion, camels, zebras, horses, elephants, dogs, monkeys and ponies.

Christian Belmont swung on the trapeze, along with aerialist Rene Larue. Mary Miller performed a head-balancing act. The four Bell Brothers showed off their acrobatic skills and Betha Owen owned the high wire. Among the clowns, young Jimmy Thomas was noted as the “youngest clown in the circus world.” He traveled with his mother Lorette Jordan, who was also an aerialist with the show.

The circus also liked to feature a western movie star with its Wild West acts. In 1933, that performer was Buck Steel. The following year, Tom Mix joined the circus. He had been a major western movie star who had seen his popularity decline in the 1920s. In 1935, he bought it from Dill and renamed it the Tom Mix Circus.

Following the second performance at 8 p.m., the performers broke down the circus and loaded it back on the train to head out for the next city by midnight.

You might also enjoy these posts:

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

While the George Washington Masonic Lodge in Chambersburg, Pa., wasn’t the first lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons in Franklin County, it is the oldest and April 23, 2016, marks two centuries of service in the county.

Lodge No. 79

The first Masonic Lodge in the county was formed in 1800. General James Chambers, son of Chambersburg’s founder Benjamin Chambers, served as the Warrant Master. Over the next five years, the lodge met 54 times and then closed its doors, not having gotten a strong membership base.

This didn’t end Freemasonry in the county, though. Men continued to travel great distances to meet and fellowship at other lodges. However, the rigors of long travel for a relatively short meeting grows old quickly, and a group of men began petitioning for a new lodge to be formed in Chambersburg.

635853400538363680-cpo-sub-121015-masonic-templeGeorge Washington Lodge No. 143

In 1815, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania acted favorably on the petition and issued a warrant on January 15, 1816, to George Washington Lodge No. 143. The lodge was constituted on April 23, 1816, and the Masons began meeting at various locations around the town.

“The meetings were first held in the Franklin County Courthouse, but that was considered an inconvenience,” Mike Marote, a member of the George Washington Lodge. Another location where the Masons met was Capt. George Coffey’s Inn, but no one is sure where that inn was located in town.

The Masons purchased land for their temple in April 1823 and Silas Harry, a bridge builder, set the work to build the temple for $2,500. The final structure was a two-story brick building that was 32 feet wide by 67 feet long. The foundation stone was laid on June 24, 1823, and the building was occupied on September 16 of the following year.

The 1830s saw a period where Masons were persecuted in the country and the George Washington Lodge decided on December 3, 1830, “to go dark” as Lodge Worshipful Master Kevin Hicks said. The charter was returned to the Grand Lodge in 1831, essentially disbanding the lodge, but the Masons still met quietly and out of the public eye.

During this time, the Masons didn’t own the temple and it was used as a church printing office. The lodge reconstituted itself in 1845, but it wasn’t until 1860 that the George Washington Lodge was able to repurchase the temple for $2,000.

The Burning of Chambersburg

When Confederate General Jubal Early demanded a ransom from Chambersburg in 1864, the people weren’t able to pay it. Early ordered the town burned and $1.7 million in property was lost in the resulting flames.

One area of the town was left untouched, though. The Masonic temple and the buildings in the half block area surrounding it were unscathed.

“Confederate soldiers were posted out front prevented other Confederate soldiers from burning the lodge,” Marote said.

The reason for this is that as the orders were being given to burn Chambersburg, an unnamed Confederate officer saw the lodge and took steps to save it. The surrounding buildings were also preserved because they were so close to the temple that if they had burned, they might have caught the temple on fire.

“Because the temple wasn’t being burned, women and children were able to take shelter inside,” Hicks added.

Since the officer was never identified, the story is considered a well-authenticated legend. Many of the other details have been verified and the half block around the temple was left untouched while the town burned around it.

Teachings

While there is much fellowshipping among the Masons, there is also instruction. Masons learn various speeches, passwords, and signs to move through 33 different degrees. Hicks noted that a man becomes a Master Mason at the third degree, though.

“We are learning what I call moral lessons with allegories,” Hick said.

Though generally believed to be a Christian group, Masons include many faiths. The one requirement is that Masons must believe in a higher being. Each lodge has a book of faith on its central altar. The George Washington Lodge uses a Bible that is more than 100 years old, but other lodges can include a book of faith for the predominant religion of the lodge.

“Freemasonry is not a church,” Hicks said. “I look at it as a steady moral compass. You treat people like you want to be treated.”

Masons are involved in many civic activities and participates in parades and building dedications. They can be identified in full regalia that includes tuxedos, top hats, and aprons.

“We have a belief in working for the greater good and for the good of the community,” Hicks said.

Although the teachings are private matters for Masons, the public has occasionally been invited in to witness these meetings. The last time was in December 2014. It was so well received in the community that not only were all the seats in the meeting room filled, but 37 additional chairs had to be brought in to accommodate the crowd, according to Hicks.

Hicks would also like to open the temple up, on occasion, for artists to come in and use their time in the temple for inspiration for their art. He would then set up the social room as an art gallery where the artists could sell their works one evening.

Other Lodges

Franklin County currently has three other Masonic Lodges: Acacia Lodge No. 586 in Waynesboro, Mount Pisgah Lodge No. 443 in Greencastle, and Orrstown Lodge No. 262 in Orrstown. A fourth lodge, Gen. James Chambers Lodge No. 801, has recently merged with the George Washington Lodge to make both lodges stronger.

The George Washington Lodge boasts a membership of around 800 Masons.img_2501

200 Years

To celebrate its bicentennial year, the George Washington Lodge will have a luncheon and rededication of the cornerstone of the original lodge on August 23, 2016. Oddly enough, as of August 2015, the lodge was still unsure as to where the original cornerstone was located. They are hoping to find buried beneath the earth before the ceremony. There will also be an evening banquet at Green Grove Gardens in Greencastle. The Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania will be the featured speaker.

Other posts that you might be interested in:

 

Read Full Post »

lf

One of the unique desk sets made by Edward Woodward. He used artifacts collected from the Gettysburg battlefield.

Edward Woodward was a creative man who came to America from England in the mid-1850s seeking an opportunity to display his creativity. What he found when he and his father arrived in Baltimore was a land of simmering tensions that soon erupted into the Civil War.

On April 19, 1861, a regiment of Massachusetts soldiers was transferring between railroad stations in Baltimore. To do this they had to disembark one train and march through a city filled with Confederate sympathizers to another station where they could board a train to Washington.

The sympathizers attacked the soldiers, blocking the route and throwing bricks and cobblestones at the Union men. The soldiers panicked and fired into the mob, which led to a wild fight involving the soldiers, mob, and Baltimore police. When all was said and done, four soldiers and 12 civilians had been killed. These deaths are considered the first of the Civil War.

Woodward was living in the city at the time, and although it is uncertain whether he saw the melee or heard about it second hand, it affected him.

He was a gunsmith by trade and associates who were Southern sympathizers encouraged him to go South where he would be appointed as the superintendent of a gun manufacturing plant.

His reply was, “I will never go against the flag that waved over me when I crossed the boundless sea to this land of liberty—on it there is no rampant lion to devour nor unicorn to gore. Oh may that flag forever wave until time shall be no more,” according to some of Woodward’s papers still with his family.

At 47 years old, Woodward was not an ideal recruit as a soldier even though he knew his way around a rifle. Instead, he went and joined the Union Relief Association and began caring for sick and wounded soldiers. He went into the hospitals and fed them as he spoke with them.

When the federal government took over Point Lookout, Md., and turned it into a large hospital for Union soldiers and a prisoner-of-war camp for Confederate soldiers in 1862, Woodward volunteered to go and help. However, his time there was cut short when he was severely injured. Though his injury and how he received it is not known, it was severe enough that he had to return home to recover.

Once he recovered, he still wanted to help care for the soldiers. According to family papers, he “volunteered to go to the battlefield of Gettysburg, which he did and remained, until the closing of the hospitals, never making any charge or receiving any pay for his services.” He came to Gettysburg as a member of the Christian and Sanitary Commissions, but when they moved on, he stayed behind to continue helping the sick, but to also start a new life.

He soon resumed his work as a gunsmith in the town. However, he also started a cottage industry in creating souvenirs from the relics of the battle. Woodward created desk sets that contained pieces of artillery shells and weapons. He also made engraved belt buckles from pieces of artillery shells. Some of these items sell for thousands of dollars today.

His obituary in the Star and Sentinel notes, “He was a man of considerable ability, and was known to nearly every student of Pennsylvania College within 25 years.”

Meanwhile, the Homestead Orphanage opened in 1866 to national fanfare. There was much to admire about the operation at first, but then Rosa Carmichael was hired in 1870 as the matron of the orphanage. Things soon began changing and rumors spread that the children in the orphanage were being mistreated.

A story about two of the orphans, Bella Hunter and Lizzie Hutchison was one of the early warning signs. When the two girls tore their dresses, Carmichael made them wear boys’ clothing for two months. This seemed to be the tip of the iceberg as other stories started coming out.

“All sorts of stories were told,” Mark H. Dunkelman wrote in Gettysburg’s Unknown Soldier. “Mrs. Carmichael was said to have suspended children by their arms in barrels. She had hidden mistreated victims from the prying eyes of inspectors. Most scandalous of all were tales of a dungeon in the Homestead cellar, a black hole eight feet long, five feet deep, and only four feet high, unlit and unventilated, where she shackled children to the wall.”

It was also noticed that the orphans were no longer allowed to decorate the soldiers’ graves in Soldier’s National Cemetery on Memorial Day. It all finally became too much for Woodward who had cared for some of those dead soldiers in their last day.

He expressed his anger in a broadside, simply called “Poem” that he then distributed throughout town. The poem criticized her treatment of Bella and Lizzie, calling her “a modern Borgia” and wrote of the orphans, “They are kept like galley slaves, while strangers decorate their father’s graves.”

He wrote two other poems that have survived. One is titled “Woman’s Sin was a Blessing.” It talks about how Eve should be viewed as a good and gentle woman and not simply as the one who brought about the Fall.

The other poem is called “What Did the Soldiers Endure” and deals with Woodward’s wartime work in hospitals. It reads in part:

“They left their homes surrounded with every pleasure

To defend the flag, their country’s greatest treasure,

The native born American, and the volunteer exile,

Marched to the battlefields in rand and file—

 

“How cheerfully they marched, no fear, wounded they fell,

Devoted to the flag they admired and loved so well.

On the street you see a man with an empty coat sleeve

And another on crutches, oh! how it makes us grieve.”

Edward Woodward died on January, 28, 1894, at the age of 79. Although he had been in ill health for years, the end came quickly. He fell sick on a Wednesday and died on Sunday from “inflammation of the bowels,” according to the Star and Sentinel. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Bertel_Thorvaldsen_-_CupidIt was a bit early for Valentine’s Day, but Gettysburg Burgess William G. Weaver was called on to serve a cupid in January 1950.

He announced at a meeting that he had received a letter addressed to the “Burgermeister” of “Gettysburgh.” The letter was “printed in German script,” according to the Gettysburg Times and was from two women in Hamburg, Germany.

Amelie Schmidt, 48, and Margarethe Lange, 45, wanted to correspond with single men in Adams County. Schmidt wrote that she weighed 170 pounds and Lange wrote that she weighed 155 pounds. Both women said that they were good cooks and housekeepers and they included pictures with the letters. However, since the women only spoke German, any interested male needed to be able to read and write German.

“Through a somewhat sketchy interpretation of it, the burgess deduced that the two women think they would like the United States much better than Germany, and would like to come here,” the Gettysburg Times reported.

Weaver announced a week later that he had gotten his first “nibble” from a man interested in the “friendship circle.” It didn’t come from an Adams County man, though. An unnamed Carlisle man called the burgess asking for the names and addresses of Lange and Schmidt.

“Adams county men may be more cautious, or maybe they haven’t got around to inquiring yet, but the female of the species has not been backward about expressing opinions,” the newspaper reported.

Weaver said that he had also received calls from two women who were outraged that Weaver announced the letter and its contents. Weaver told the newspaper that the gist of the calls was, “We’ve got enough old maids in Adams county now, we don’t need any more.”

The mail-order bride industry can trace its roots in the United States to the American West. The number of men in the West far outnumbered the women so it was difficult for men to find themselves wives.

Asian workers would arrange with a mail-order bride service for brides to come from China or other Asian countries to marry them. It was the business version of arranged marriages.

Successful western farmers and businessmen would write to churches and family in the East or ran advertisements looking for wives. The women would write and send pictures and a courtship would take place via mail until the women agreed to marry a man they had never met in person. They were willing to do this as a way to gain financial security and even explore life on the frontier.

The 1950 incident wasn’t the first time that the Gettysburg burgess had been asked to help arrange marriages. In the lead up to the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913, a resident of St. James, Mo., wrote to Burgess J. A. Holtzworth in late May. He noted that he and a group of four or five other Missouri veterans were coming to Gettysburg for the reunion. They aged veterans were hoping that the burgess could direct them toward some single women.

The Missourian wrote, “…if you have got a few good widows or old maids who would like to marry and go west, we can accommodate a few. They must be good housekeepers and not too young.”

The Gettysburg Times reported that the burgess would forward the names and contact information of any women who were interested in applying “for the position of unsalaried housekeeper.”

It’s wasn’t reported whether the burgesses had any success in arranging marriages.

Some other Gettysburg stories that you might like:

Read Full Post »

human-fly-1024x821

A Human Fly in action.

During the Sunday night performance, thousands of people gathered to watch the Human Fly, George Oakley, repeat his daring deeds. After his first stunt, his assistant, Anna Vivian Murray, urged him to rest a bit before scaling the tall bank building.

Oakley waved off her concerns and told her that he was in a hurry and wanted to leave Chambersburg that evening. It would be at least 9 p.m. by the time that he finished.

“He kissed me and sent me upstairs with the tube,” Murray said later.

Murray went into the building to wait at the second-floor window and Oakley soon began his climb. Minutes later, as he neared the fourth floor and hooked his cane on the inner tube, the crowd heard a “dull snap.” The inner tube had broken and the cane went flying off into the crowd.

“His fall was unbroken except by one man who rushed in in an attempt to save him,” The Repository reported.

Oakley landed on his left side, smashing hard against the pavement. The crowd screamed and several women fainted. The police had trouble getting to Oakley because the crowd was so thick.

Four men lifted Oakley and put him into a cab. Murray, who was said to be his wife, had reached his side by that time. Oakley was conscious. He asked for a priest and how far he had fallen.

“Only three stories. You’re all right. George. You’re more scared than hurt, you’ll be all right,” Murray told him.

This was not Oakley’s first accident in his six years of daredevil climbing. His first accident had actually happened earlier in the year on July 4. Oakley fell 1 ½ stories while climbing a building in Scottsdale, Arizona. He had walked away from the fall with an injured left hand.

However, his climbing partner had been killed in plane stunt a few weeks earlier. He had made a parachute jump and his chute had failed to open.

An examination at Chambersburg Hospital showed that Oakley had a number of broken bones including lower vertebrae, his pelvis, ribs, left arm and his breast bone with many of the bones being broken in multiple places. According to The Franklin Repository, his “nervous system suffering much from shock.”

Oakley remained conscious for several hours. Father Noel of Corpus Christ Catholic Church arrived to deliver last rites. Thoughout the night Oakley’s condition grew worse and Murray and a young boy stayed by his bedside.

Oakley died early the next morning. His body was taken to H. W. Cramer’s for preparation for burial.

His wife, Clara, arrived from Cleveland, Ohio, which surprised many people because Oakley had introduced Murray as his wife and the young boy as his son. According to Oakley’s WWI draft registration card, not only was Oakley married, but he had three children.

During the coroner’s inquest, Murray admitted that she and Oakley hadn’t been married, but had been planning to wed.

“I loved Oakley as I thought I could never love any man. We were to be married within a month. I never knew he was a married man, if he really was,” she said.

More importantly, she told the jurors that Chambersburg had been the first time that she had held the inner tube for Oakley’s climb. Chief Byers and Motorcycle Officer Suder tested the tube using the top of an open door at police headquarters to stretch the tube over. Suder said it broke under little strain.

It appeared that a faulty or weak inner tube was the culprit. Coroner Shull ruled that death accidental.

Catch the first part if you missed it:

Death Certificate

The Human Fly’s death certificate.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: