TWO DROWN IN PECATONICA
Recklessly Sail Small Launch under Dam and It Fills with Water.
NEITHER COULD SWIM
George Wilhelm and Moses Fry Pay Penalty of Foolhardiness
George Wilhelm, aged 35, and Moses Fry, aged 52, both Freeporters, were drowned in the Pecatonica river shortly after 3 o'clock Sunday afternoon when the sixteen foot gasoline launch in which they were riding filled with water a short distance below the Freeport Railway Light Co.'s dam and capsized.
The treacherous river annually exacts a number of lives and the men drowned yesterday were the first of the year to make up the regular quota. Art Quincer had left the launch ten minutes before it sank, being landed at the Stephenson street bridge. He claims that Wilhelm and Fry were reckless in handling the boat and left for this reason. Others claim he landed to purchase a case of beer and was to have been taken aboard when he had made the purchase.
Men Were Overdaring
Eye witnesses to the disaster say the launch aproached (sic) the dam near the east bank of the river and had about half completed the run when the turbulent water rushed over the sides of the frail craft, filling it in an instant. Neither of the men could swim and after being buffeted about for a second sank. Those along the bank did not see them come up the second or third time and it is possible that both men became entangled in the ropes of the launch and were carried down with the boat.
Rumor has it that the same part made a similar trip Saturday to the dam, but succeeded in making the turn without mishap. Quincer says he was with them that night and left the boat because he did not care to experience another such thrill.
All three men, so it is said, had been spending the afternoon down the river and had returned to the city to purchase beer. They were not intoxicated, however, but had been drinking.
The boat in which they were riding has seen several years service and was perhaps the smallest craft in use below the dam. A club of man, which included those drowned, owned the boat.
Drag River for Bodies
Report of the double drowning quickly spread and before dusk several thousand people visited the scene of the fatality. Grappling hooks were secured and men in boats started in a search for the bodies. This was kept up until after dark, without success.
The river at this point runs in a mad stream, the water foaming and churning for a distance of more than thirty feet from the dam. Naturally there is a swift undercurrent and it is the general belief that the bodies were carried rapidly away from the point where they went down.
Children Made Orphans
In the death of George Wilhelm, four children are made orphans. Wilhelm's wife succumbed to typhoid fever a year ago. Three of the children are being cared for by Shannon friends, while the fourth is an inmate of St. Vincent's orphanage.
Wilhelm has been employed the shipping department of Stover's plant on Henderson Street. He has made his home in the Arcade addition.
But little is know of Fry. According to report he came to Freeport more than a year ago and has been variously employed during his residence here.
Wilhelm's Body Recovered
Search for the bodies was resumed at daylight and at 9:20 o'clock Jack Soliday and John Eberle, using a grappling hook pulled Wilhelm's body to the surface at a point about 150 feet east of the dam and thirty feet from the south shore. The body was recovered in between 18 and 20 feet of water.
Soliday and Eberle are of the opinion that Fry's body is under the nine foot apron of the dam. They believe that Wilhelm's body struck one of the power plant water wheels, as there are bruises on the body.
Wilhelm was born at Shannon and is a son of Herman Wilhelm. He came to Freeport three years ago. In addition to his children he is survived by a brother Fred of Shannon.
Fry Quite Well-to-do
Moses Fry was born at Chambers Grove, Ogle county, and came to Freeport about ten years ago. Since that time he has resided both here and elsewhere and came to Freeport the last time about a year ago. He is a retired farmer and is said to be quite well-to-do. It is reported that he has considerable money out at interest.
Three brothers and four sisters survive him. They are Jacob of Shannon, Samuel of Kansas, George of Iowa, Mrs. George Diehl of Lanark, Mrs. Shrimer of Lanark, Mrs. Henry Rahn and Mrs. Sarah Wolf, both of Freeport.
Will Continue Search
Four searching parties were dragging the river this morning for Fry's body, which is believed to be near the launch and under the apron of the dam. Weights will be thrown from the dam in an attempt to recover the body.
Wilhelm's remains were taken to Tempel's morgue and an inquest will be held today.
Both Men Carried Money
It is reported that Fry carried a large sum of money in his pocket yesterday. Relatives say that he was reluctant to place money in banks and frequently carried several thousand dollars in his pocket. Saturday night Fry was dickering for the purchase of land and at that time said he did not have $500 in his pocket. It is generally believed that he carried at least $250 with him yesterday.
After being taken to the morgue, Wilhelm's clothing was searched and a pocketbook containing $13.41 and a handkerchief was found.
Wilhelm's body will be shipped to Shannon for burial early tomorrow, short funeral services to be held in Freeport at Moore's morgue.
Clipped article from Matie Brinkmeier-Sturtevant's collection. Approximate date of 1914
Submitted by: Julie Sturtevant-Wirgau 6 Apr 1998