New Jersey News - 1902 - Four Men Drowned

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New Jersey News - 1902 - Four Men Drowned

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Four Men Drowned A Terrible Accident At Colt’s Neck The Men Were Trying to Save Frank E. Heyer’s Mill Dam From Destruction by Ice When the Dam Suddenly Gave Way

Four men lost their lives by the giving way of the dam at Frank E. Heyer’s sawmill at Colt’s Neck on Friday night at about seven o’clock. The men were Chrineyonce S. Conover, Henry C. Bennett, James King and Charles Herbert. Howard Matthews and Charles Kinney, a colored man, also went down with the dam, but their lives were saved. Conover and King were married, but the other two were single men. Frank E. Heyer and Asher Crawford were on the dam, but they did not get into the current.

The men were trying to save the dam from destruction by ice when the accident happened. The ice in the pond had all gone out except in one cove. The freshet on Friday caused this ice to break up and there was danger to the dam unless the ice was got through as it came down the pond. The six men were standing on the top of the dam with ice hooks, breaking up the ice and guiding it in the proper direction. As long as the ice was got through there was not thought to be any danger, as the water pressure against the dam had often been greater than it was on Friday night.

It was near night when the danger from the ice first became apparent and darkness came on while the men were at work. Frank E. Heyer, the owner of the pond, was on a wing of the dam with a lantern in each hand, so that the men could see to work. Asher Crawford stood on the dam proper, very close to the wing. The other six men were near the center of the dam. Suddenly without a moment’s warning, the dam gave way and the six men were plunged into the whirling mass of water, ice and timber. The dam seemed to give way from the bottom and to rise with the water. Asher Crawford was thrown one side, to a place of safety. The lantern was knocked out of Mr. Heyers’s right hand as the dam went down, but the wing on which he was standing remained intact. It is not known just what caused the dam to give way, but it is supposed that the ice as it went through dislodged some of the supports.

About a hundred feet below the dam a wagon bridge crosses the mill stream. Howard Matthews caught hold of the bridge and drew himself to a place of safety. About five hundred feet below the bridge Kinney, the colored man, caught on to a log and thus saved himself. Conover, Bennett, King and Herbert were drowned.

The news soon spread about the village and people flocked to the scene of the disaster. With lanterns in hand the men began to search along the banks of the stream for the missing bodies. All night long the search was kept up, but not until daybreak was the first body found. The body of Conover was found cast up on high ground about 75 feet below the bridge. The body of Bennett was found about nine o’clock and the body of King was found about five o’clock in the afternoon. The bodies of Bennett and King were found in an eddy caused by the meeting of two streams just below the mill bridge. They were partly submerged in the mud. The body of Herbert has not yet been found, although an incessant search has been kept up. It is feared that this body is completely submerged in mud and that it will not be found until the stream is thoroughly dragged.

Chrineyonce S. Conover, one of the victims, leaves a wife and six children, the youngest child having been born since its father’s death. Mr. Conover was a son of D. R. Conover and his wife is a daughter of Conover Taylor. Both Mr. Conover and Mr. Taylor are well-to-do farmers of Atlantic township. Chrineyonce Conover was an assistant in Mr. Heyer’s mill. He formerly kept a store at Vanderburg. James King is survived only by a wife. Mr. and Mrs. King came to Colt’s Neck from New York and very little is known of their family connections.

When the dam gave way and it was feared that Mr. King was drowned, Mrs. King was apprised of the fact so that she might be prepared for the sadder news to come. It did not dawn on her that her husband was in danger of drowning. She thought only of his being wet and cold and she got out a complete set of underclothing and hung it by the fire so that it would be warm for him when he came home. The breaking of the news to her was a trying ordeal for those upon whom the task devolved. Bennett was a teamster for Mr. Heyer and boarded with him. He was a brother of Mrs. Trevonian Emmons of Holmdel and of William Bennett of Vanderburg. His body was laid out at Mr. Heyer’s. Herbert was about eighteen years old, and was a son of William Herbert of Marlboro. He was employed by Franklin S. Weeks of Colt’s Neck at the time of his death. John Giberson of Colt’s Neck showed his sympathy for Mrs. Conover and Mrs. King, widows of two of the victims, in a practical way. The morning after the accident he gave Mrs. Conover $100 and Mrs. King $25.

The funeral of Bennett was held on Monday at the Reformed church. Conover’s funeral was held yesterday at the home of his father. King’s funeral was held to-day at the Reformed church. Rev. Octave VonBeverhoudt, pastor of the Reformed church, preached all the sermons at each funeral. All the bodies were buried in the Holmdel cemetery.

The loss to Mr. Heyer by the giving way of the dam will amount to about $2,000. He was busier at the sawmill than he had been at any time during the 35 years that he has been in business, and he will lose considerable on account of the mill being shut down at this time. The men employed at the mill will also suffer a loss through enforced idleness while the dam is being repaired. Work on repairing the dam will be begun at once. The loss of life was a great blow to Mr. Heyer and all day Saturday he was almost prostrated through shock.

So far as known there is but one other instance where the giving way of a dam in the county was attended by loss of life. This happened at Ely’s mill at Holmdel about twenty years ago. John Fox, the miller, was raising the gates on a stormy night when the dam gave way and he was drowned.

Source: Red Bank Register, Wednesday, Mar 5, 1902

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