Source: North Manchester Journal, June 24, 1897




Particulars of One of the Saddest Accidents that Was Ever Known in this Community.

Without a doubt one of the saddest and most shocking occurrences that has ever been known in this community happened last Thursday morning. It was the accidental drowning of Byron Hamm and Ernest Ebbinghouse, sons of two highly respected and prominent families of the town, and the affair cast a pall of gloom, not only over the two households, but the whole community.

Some time after eight o'clock Thursday morning a quartette of boys consisting of Byron Hamm, Ernest Ebbinghous, John Snyder and Ralph Quivey, went to the residence of I.E. Gingerick, in the "pocket," to play croquet with his son, Kent. The boys, however, did not stay there long, but accompanied by Kent Gingerick went down to the river a short distance below Mr. Gingerick's house in the bottom owned by Abe Strickler to go in swimming. When at a point opposite where Pony creek empties into the river, a favorite swimming hole with boys for years, Hamm, Ebbinghous and Snyder undressed and went into the river. Young Quivey and Gingerick, neither of whom could swim, declined to go into the water as the river was very muddy and rather swift from the recent rains. From that plunge into the river only young Snyder came out alive.

Just what followed and how the other two boys lost their lives is not clearly explained, as the awful tragedy, which was enacted before the eyes of the other boys, and the excitement of the occasion seems to have confused their minds on some points. As near as can be learned the three boys, Hamm, Ebbinghous and Snyder, swam to the opposite side, or eastern bank of the river, and then started to return. Ebbinghous and Snyder, who were counted good swimmers for their age, had about reached the west bank when Hamm, who was a little beyond the middle of the stream and in the current that comes out of Pony creek, began to show signs of exhaustion and called for help. Both Snyder and Ebbinghous started to his assistance, but the former became exhausted and seeing he could not reach him turned and tried to reach the bank.

Ebbinghous bravely kept on his way to Hamm's assistance, but whether he reached him is not known. Both went down but not without a terrible struggle for their lives. Ralph Quivey, who stood on the bank paralyzed with horror and unable to render any assistance because he could not swim, says that Ebbinghous had not reached Hamm by four or five feet when Hamm went down. Hamm went down first and Ebbinghous struggled with all his might to keep above the water but finally succumbed.

During this time young Snyder was still in the water unable to reach the shore and calling for help. Kent Gingerick rushed into the water and wading out where it was up to his neck succeeded in getting hold of Snyder and dragged him to shore in a thoroughly exhausted condition. Without this assistance the boy would undoubtedly have drowned. The place where the boys went down is twelve or fifteen feet deep. On the west bank, where they went into the river, there is a sand bar which reaches out about one-third the distance across, gradually sloping down into a deep hole at the mouth of Pony creed.

The accident happened about 9 o'clock and Ralph Quivey was the first to spread the news. First going to the nearest house, he came up town and reported the affair. It was but a short time until the banks along the scene of the tragedy were lined with hundreds of people and every available boat was brought into use in searching for the bodies. Hooks and grapples of all kinds were used and every foot of the river around spot where they were last seen was searched. Everyone who could work with untiring zeal in the search.

Their efforts were finally crowned with success. At about 11 o'clock the body of Ernest Ebbinghous was brought up by a hook in the hands of Guilford Ream and two hours later Byron Hamm's body was raised to the surface by the same hook and same hand that had raised the other body. The bodies were found about forty feet apart and some considerable distance below where the other boys say they went down. Both bodies were taken to Stewart & Ellwood's undertaking rooms and prepared for burial.

All five of the boys were between fourteen and seventeen years of age and all were young men of particularly bright promise and of the best character and reputation. Being members of the high school, the Epworth League and a Young Men's Musical club, which they had organized in connection with a number of other boys about their own ages, they were thrown much in each others company and a bond of friendship sprung up between them such as is usual to school boys of their age. Their musical club had arranged to give a festival at the home of Ralph Quivey's parents on last Friday evening, and another report has it that the boys were out passing bills that morning for the festival, and happening to meet in that part of town called the "pocket," some one of their number proposed the swimming expedition which resulted so fatally.

There are so many and conflicting rumors and stories current about the accident that it seems almost impossible to tell which is correct, yet all of them are partially correct in some details. Certain it is that the boys went down together and Ernest Ebbinghous met his death in a heroic effort to save the life of his friend and companion, who had become exhausted and unable to stem the current of the river. The probability is that when Ernest got within reach of Byron the latter grabbed hold of him in some way that prevented the free use of his limbs. Of this, however, there is no means of knowing, and the other boys who witnessed this catastrophe are not sure on that point. It is a a particularly sad and distressing affair which has not only carried sorrow and anguish into two homes but has cast a gloom over the entire community.

The funeral of Ernest Ebbinghous took place Friday afternoon at the M.E. church in the presence of one of the largest congregations that ever filled that edifice and many were unable to get in. The sermon was preached by Rev. Ford. The deceased was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert Ebbinghous, and was born April 1, 1882, being therefore a little past fifteen years of age. As a boy he was the pride and joy of his parents. He was particularly bright in his studies, of more than average intelligence for his years and of pleasing disposition and excellent manners. He was without fault or bad habit of any kind and had the respect of every one of his acquaintances. His death is a sad blow to his parents which only time and the grace of the Heavenly Father can relieve.

Byron Hamm was also a young man of whom too much cannot be said. He was of a very gentle, noble and lovable disposition without fault or vice to mar a perfect and upright boyhood. He was the only living child, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. M. A. Hamm, having lost their other children by death, and all their affections and hopes were centered in this one son. The shock to his parents, and especially to the mother, can be better imagined than described. He was born November 2, 1881 and was in his sixteenth year. The funeral also took place at the M.E. church, by Rev. Ford, at 10 o'clock Saturday morning in the presence of a very large congregation.

At both funerals, and at every moment after the fatal accident, there was displayed on every hand many evidences of the popularity of the unfortunate boys and the sorrow felt by the community for their parents. Their homes and the church were deluged with flowers and other tokens of love and condolence, and every thing that could be done was done to assuage the grief and take away from the occasion its darkest and most foreboding aspect. Both boys were tenderly laid to rest in beautiful Oak Lawn cemetery.