Drownings At Lake Weldon

Dora Stoddard

Frank Nebel

August 4, 1899
Clinton Public
Clinton, Illinois

Row Boat Capsized With Dora Stoddard and Will Kirk.

The Body Recovered After Being in the Water Nearly Four Hours.

About 11 o'clock Monday night on Weldon Springs lake a small row boat capsized with Will KIRK and Miss Dora STODDARD. The young lady was drowned and her body recovered nearly four hours later.

A party of four, consisting of Will Kirk, Miss Stoddard, A. L. MORRIS and Miss Jennie JOHNSON, had ridden their wheels to the springs, and each couple was in a boat on the lake, but quite a distance from each other when the accident happened. Morris and Miss Johnson were over by the ice house, making considerable noise by splashing in the water and did not hear the cry for help, after the other boat capsized near the dam. According to Mr. Kirk's story, he and Miss Stoddard were sitting side by side in the boat, each with an oar. They were rowing slowly, but the boat tipped slightly and frightened Miss Stoddard, who threw herself backwards. She became excited and finally lost her balance and fell into the water. Mr. Kirk jumped in to save her. He caught her and pulled her to the boat and both held on crying for help, but it seemed they were heard neither by their companions nor the man at the boat house. While in this position the boat tipped again and Miss Stoddard went under the boat and came up on the other side; Kirk again caught her and held her on the boat. The young lady finally got on the same side of the boat with Mr. Kirk and both went down together. Kirk then swum to the shore. It appears that when Miss Stoddard came up again she was under the boat, and her hair became tangled in the seat and held her captive. Mr. Kirk went to the boat house and together with Mr. STARNS and his companions, who by this time came up, started to search for the body. Mr. Morris rode his wheel to the city and went immediately to Wheeler's livery barn and notified Jesse MOFFET who together with a hack load of people, drove to the springs. Pat KINNEY and W. H. WHEELER got a boat and went out to where the capsized boat lay in a peculiar position. One end of it was considerably above the water as if something heavy was bearing down the opposite end. In attempting to place the boat right side up it was noticed that the drowned girl has hanging to the boat by her hair, her body being under the boat. She was taken to the shore and brought to the city.

The Coroner's Inquest
A coroner's jury was summoned this morning, and after viewing the remains at Campbell & Oakman's undertaking establishment, adjourned to the court house where the inquest was held. The following testimony was heard:

WILL KIRK—Oil clerk at the shops: two couple of us went out on bicycles; hired a boat at 9:35 and went out rowing; we were speaking of rowing, and I asked her to sit in the middle of the boat; we were both rowing; just before it happened, we were near the boat house and the other couple were following us; we started back; she said go up and back once more; we went up to the first turn and made a circle toward the dam near the other bank; the other boat went toward the ice house, thinking we had gone that way; we were within about thirty feet of the shore all the time, were coming from the dam toward the west bank; we were going slow and the boat tipped a little and excited her a little; she threw herself out; I jumped out after her; caught her and hallooed for help; boat tipped toward her side; pulled her toward the boat and held her; boat tipped again and she went under the boat to the other side; held her on the boat; she got on my side: both went down together; I swam to shore; hallooed for Morris to come and we rowed to boat house; Mr. and Mrs. Starns and Morris and I went back; saw she was not there and could not do anything; I left there about 1:30 and came to town; changed my clothes and went back; met them bringing the body in.

CHARLES McKINNEY—Am night police; there was a party of us went out about 3 o'clock; got boat and went over to where accident happened; two of us in one boat; I undressed and went into the water; about this time W. H. Wheeler suggested that we turn the boat over—it was 10 or 15 feet of the shore; Pat Kinney, Emery EVANS and W. H. Wheeler turned the boat over and found the body fastened to the boat; I swam around to one side of the boat; fast by the hair between the seat and side of boat; so tight it took quite an effort to get it loose.

MISS JENNIE JOHNSON—Live in Clinton; was with the party at the Springs; went out about 9:30; back and forth across the lake; did not stay together; were not near them; were near the ice house; were talking, did not hear them call for help; we came on around to go home and everything was all over; about twenty minutes after ten; Kirk was on the bank and the boat was upside down; about thirty feet from the west side; he said, "Dora is gone; she is drowned"; thought it was impossible until we seen the boat; we got help as quick as we could; I did not come to town for quite awhile; was not there when the body was found; I remember how Kirk explained—how he had tried to save her; said two were in one seat and the boat rocked and frightened her; threw herself backwards; he tried to balance the boat and both fell out; he raised to the surface, caught the boat and turned it over; don't remember whether it turned then or afterward; did not hear Kirk call for help; I think we were splashing in the water with our oars; don't think they hallooed loud enough; did not hear them at the boat house.

PAT KINNEY—About fifteen feet from the bend, near the dam; saw something white; turned the boat a little more and saw her arm; hair caught in boat.

DWIGHT MORLAN—Wheeler suggested something was wrong with the boat; Kinney was the first one there and found the body; helped take the body from lake to carriage.

A. L. MORRIS—Stay in Clinton; am a locomotive fireman; was one of the party at the Springs; was one of the four; we got there first on our wheels and started back; met Stoddard and Kirk and we all went back to take a boat ride; out about three-quarters of an hour and proposed to go home; my girl asked Miss Stoddard to go home; on the east side; were by the ice house and lady said go over, and we got about half way and heard Kirk halloo that Miss Stoddard was drowned; Kirk was on the bank when we got there; was wet and had no hat on; boat out about thirty feet, turned over; was 100 feet from the dam I should judge; we went to the boat house and boatman went with us to boat; did not try to turn the boat over; about 10:30 when the [accident] occurred; I came to town on my wheel and did not go back; went to round-house to lay off, but they would not let me; looks to me like they were both rowing; might have missed a stroke and fell out; he said in trying to catch her tipped the boat over; he was badly excited and could hardly talk; did not say how long he was in the water; did not hear them splash; did not hear them cry; we were about half way there when we heard Kirk; they were on the best of terms; did not hear them talk after we asked them to go home; could not see them; moon was not up; it was in the shade of a tree where they went in; I ran into the boat without seeing it; from the last time I saw them it was about fifteen minutes; from the time we talked of going home.

JOHN SEABERT—Was with the rescuing party. But his testimony was nothing new.

W. H. WHEELER—I was called about 1 o'clock by a man at the barn; said lady had been drowned at the Springs; I came up town and about seven of us went out; two boat loads went out to where we found the boat; about 100 feet from the dam and 30 feet from the west shore; I found ZIEGLER there dragging the lake; the boat was bottom side up and asked Ziegler if that was the boat; he said it was and it had not moved much during the time he was there; I asked him why he had not pulled it out and he said he thought it was not necessary; thought he had better go on with the other work; I did not like the looks of the boat tipped up; we got on each side of the boat and just as we raised the back end out of the water her head came up with it; Kinney and I grabbed the body; her hair was caught in the stern of the boat; we took her into our boat and to shore; it was about 2:30; water is about 16 feet deep.

The testimony of EMERY EVANS developed nothing new.

CLEM OAKMAN—Am an undertaker; helped prepare the body for burial; no marks at all on the body; I would have seen them if there had been any.

The Verdict
The verdict of the coroner's jury was that deceased came to her death by accidental drowning. The following gentlemen composed the jury:

Grant CARDIFF, foreman

The Young Lady
Miss Stoddard had been a resident of Clinton for the past five or six years and at the time of her death was employed in the family of John W. DAY. She came here from Ramsey, where her relatives reside. She was a distant relative of Mrs. Charles CRANG, of this city. The remains were shipped to Ramsey last Tuesday, accompanied by Mrs. Crang.

(See obituary)

(See History of Weldon Springs)

Submitted by Judy Simpson

July 19, 1901
Clinton Register



Efforts of Two Doctors at Resuscitation Prove Fruitless—

High School Graduate.

Coroner's Inquest Monday.

While many rejoice and are glad there is a Weldon Springs lake, there are some who would that it had never been. It has taken from them loved ones, and its name comes sadly to them. Nearly a year ago a young lady was drowned while boat riding. About three weeks ago a young man's life was saved after he was thought to be past being resuscitated. Sunday afternoon a young man lost his life while bathing with other young men. There were about a dozen of them, and they were in the boats part of the time, a part of the sport being in upsetting the boats while in them. This had been done several times. Again a boat was taken out with five or six young men in it, when, it is said, others tried to get in and the boat was overturned. All in the boat could swim except Frank NEBEL, and as the water was over his head, he strangled and sank twice. The second time he came up he caught hold of the boat and said he was safe. Thos. JOHNSON, who was on the spring board, about thirty feet away, saw Nebel struggling and swam toward him. Just as he reached him he let loose of the boat. Johnson caught hold of his bathing suit and started to swim toward the boat ...(paper torn) strangle and he had to let loose of him to save himself. Nebel sank and was seen no more until brought up lifeless. Johnson then went down and found Nebel and brought him nearly to the surface, where Harry DUVAL and others were waiting to assist him to the shore, but again was compelled to loose his hold. Dick KIRK then went down and brought Nebel up, and others assisted in taking him to the shore. Reports place the time he was under water from ten to twenty minutes, the first number is perhaps nearer correct.

When the body was brought to shore the face was colored considerably and there were no signs of life. Dr. SPALDING arrived soon and did all in his power to resuscitate; soon afterward Dr. DOWNEY arrived and they continued their efforts over an hour, but in vain.

The report that death resulted from heart failure seems to be a mistake. Johnson says he was struggling when he first caught hold of him. Since having scarlet fever a few weeks ago, he had taken treatment for heart disease, and it is probable he was less able to withstand strangling.

The unfortunate young man was the only one of his family at the Springs, his parents and the other children having gone to a Sunday school convention in Harp township. A messenger was hastened to inform them of the sad ending of their son. Soon after they arrived at their home in Clinton the body of the young man was brought home. His mother was prostrated, being unconscious part of the time until next day.


Coroner JONES selected a jury. After viewing the body at the home they adjourned until Monday morning, when the inquest was held at the court house. The jury consisted of Dr. HYDE, E. H. PORTER, Fred BALL, R. R. CRANG, H. C. HERRINGTON, and Jas. MORROW.

The following evidence was heard by the jury:

Thos JOHNSON testified he was present when Nebel was drowned and was in boat with him when it turned over; it was some time after I left boat house; we pushed boat out and three or four of us jumped in; they got to rocking and jumped out and swam to shore; saw Nebel on boat and he said take him by the shirt; tried to swim with him; went about three feet and went under and had to let him go; after I had rested got him again; got him nearly to the top and gave out; several were hunting for him; I gave out and sat down; Kirk had him and went under and strangled; others got there and pulled him in; Blossom worked on him; was 3:30; in fifteen minutes Dr. Spalding came, then Dr. Downey; they worked about an hour; helped all I could; Nebel was in boat when we were ping; boat was only turned over once; were all in boat when it turned over; did not call for help; he said, "Take the boat in," don't think he could swim; we had a dressing room together; he said he could not swim; we could not bring him to surface after boat tipped; some say he sank when boat first tipped over; he had been in water before he got in boat and had jumped off spring board; many thought from this he could swim.

Dick KIRK testified: Was there about two minutes after he was drowned; saw boat tip over; he was under water when I got there; two or three had him half way up, but he got away; seemed to be dead when we got him out; helped bring him out; went back there in 20 minutes; Blossom was trying to resuscitate him; Dr. Spalding came a few minutes afterward; he did not struggle when I got hold of him; saw doctors working on him sometime afterward; they worked with him over an hour; found him 15 feet from the bank; was lying in a ditch in 12 feet of water.

Wm. BLOSSOM testified: Am custodian at Springs; did not see him when he sank; helped take him out of water; turned him on face and pulled tongue out; then turned him on back; worked his arms as instructed by a physician; no doctor was there; one arrived short time afterward; worked with him 10 minutes; said it was a hopeless case; examined eyes and heart beats; Dr. Downey came about 30 minutes after he was taken from water; worked half an hour after Dr. Downey came; have nothing but boats and ladders to rescue people with; have had no instructions to get special life-saving apparatus; no restrictions about hiring boats to boys; there is nothing prepared to rescue people; don't think he was under water over 10 minutes.

Ed TAYLOR testified: Was present when he was drowned; was on bank 60 feet from water; saw boys ping from boat; saw commotion about boat; it tipped over and all started for shore; the boys were confused; ped from boat and could not find him; saw Kirk when they brought him in; didn't hear him cry for help; don't know whether Frank could swim or not; heard people say he could not; he was under water 35 minutes; think I was the first one that went to him; did not see him come up after he went down.

The jury gave a verdict of accidental drowning.

Frank NEBEL, son of Mr. and Mrs. H. L. NEBEL, was born on a farm about four miles northeast of Clinton, Sept. 29, 1882, where he lived until his parents moved to Clinton last spring. He graduated from the Clinton high school a little over a month ago, and was a bright young man. He expected to enter college at Champaign next fall and study civil engineering.

Funeral services were held in the Presbyterian church Tuesday afternoon, conducted by Rev. BOLTON, of Farmer City. Interment in Woodlawn cemetery.

(See History of Weldon Springs)

(See obituary of sister, Merna Nebel)

Submitted by Judy Simpson