Portsmouth, OH Boating Accident, May 1895
A WHITE CAP
Upset the Frail Boat and Threw Six Men Into the River.
Four Young Men Sink to a Watery Grave and Two Escape.
The Horrible Affair of Saturday Night, Which Cast a Gloom Over the City Sunday.
William Elliott, Samuel Weaver, Richard and Henry Rainer the Victims--Dilligent Work Falls to Recover Their Bodies--Circumstances Making the Shocking Tragedy a Particularly Sad One--Who the Victims Were.
The Sabbath serenity was seriously disturbed yesterday by several events more or less out of the ordinary. The announcement early in the morning of the drowning of four men in the Ohio Saturday night cast a gloom over the city. A mystery as to the identity of the fated ones gave an additional concern to the general public in the horrible catastrophe. Details were vague and indefinite, and not until late in the day was the suspense of uncertainty removed. Then it gave way to universal horror as the details of the terrible affair became known. It was a peculiar accident, and some circumstances made it particularly sad.
Four young men on the theshold[sic] of life and anticipating special pleasures on the morrow, were suddenly and without warning removed from the world and summoned to their final accounting. The tragic method of their removal augmented the horror of what was without that feature, an awful contemplation.
The story is not a long one, not a complex chain of circumstances supporting the tragic climax.
The bodies of William Elliott, Richard and Henry Rainer and David Weaver lie lifeless somewhere in the bed of the Ohio river. All that friends and willing workers can do fails to wrest from the relentless waters their unfortunate victims. Their loved ones are robbed of the slight satisfaction of according the remains a conventional burial, deprived of the tempering influence of a formal leave taking. The affair stands an emphasis of the uncertainly of life.
The story briefly is as follows:
The four men above named attempted to cross the Ohio about eight o'clock Saturday night. Weaver, who is a stone mason, and, while working on the Tygart bridge some years ago, married a Miss King, daughter of Captain King, has been visiting at the King home. Mrs. Weaver has been there for several weeks, her husband coming on from Indiana, and joining her last Thursday. Saturday morning he came to Portsmouth after Mr. Elliott, who was a brother-in-law of Mr. King. They were to spend Sunday at King's where there was to be an informal family reunion. When they got ready to cross the river, they found that the upper ferry boat had stopped running for the night. They attempted to hail the boat which was tied up on the other side of the river, but were unsuccessful. They then observed two boys, Frank and Harley Wales, running a trot line in the river near the ferry. They asked the boys to assist them over the river, but their boat was frail, and, as the wind was blowing at a terrific rate, the boys refused to risk crossing. About this time two more men came up. They were the Rainer brothers, who had been purchasing groceries and other supplies in this city. They are from Schultz Creek, Ky., but for several months past have been in the employ of Jack Cropper, engaged in getting out railroad ties in Kentucky, just this side of Tygart creek. They have built a shanty there, and come to Portsmouth to lay in supplies every few days. They also discovered that the ferry boat had tied up for the night, and were attempting to make some arrangements to cross the river. The four men then proceeding on up the river bank encountering Frank Byers and Dudley Donathan two young boys who were also fishing. These boys thinking that there were but two men agreed to row them across the river in their john boat. They rowed up to the ferry landing and found four men there. The boys suggested that they make two trips the boat was very small and rather frail and there was a high wind. The men insisted on all going over together and they jumped in. The boat went all right until it struck the channel about 100 yards from the Kentucky shore. Here the current was swift and the wind struck them with full force. The boat suddenly capsized and the six occupants were thrown into the river. The boys are unable to remember distinctly what happened. They managed to reach the upturned boat and clinging to it attract attention from the shore by their yells. Byers says that he saw the arms of one of the men above water for an instant and then they disappeared. It was rather dark and they could see but a short distance from the boat. The Wales boys who had refused to make the hazardous trip heard the cries and started to the rescue.