Saturday, February 18, just at the noon hour, a long distance telephone message from their elder son, John (big Jack) Ashcraft, nationally known aviator and stunt pilot, to Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Ashcraft in Protection carried the news that Francis Ashcraft, a younger son, had been killed in an airplane accident at Macon, Georgia.
No particulars except such as are given in the press dispatches are available.
The Protection community is deeply shocked and stunned by the death of Francis Ashcraft. His parents and the immediate family are overwhelmed and deep mourning shrouds the entire community.
Francis Ashcraft was extremely popular in Protection. He was only 22 years of age at the time of his untimely death.
Francis had graduated in 1924 from the Protection High School and was during his school days prominent in all scholastic and athletic activities.
He left Protection only after the Christmas holidays or about January 1, to join his brother, John Jr., in the Southland. The latter is manager of an air circus that has gained much prominence in the South and East.
Francis had planned to visit with his brother during the latter part of the winter months.
Francis Ashcraft was pleasant, courteous and affable in temperament. He was an athlete of parts and skill but a true and rare sportsman. His was a ready and sympathetic nature, kindly disposition, considerate in the home life and to his friends and parents affectionate and true.
Regret or consolation at the severance of the "silver chord of his life" and its all too brief span cannot be expressed in typed words.
The body is expected to arrive in Protection, today, Tuesday, accompanied by his brother, John Jr., and a friend, Mr. Alfred MacClatchie of Macon, Ga., and by his father, J. W. Ashcraft, Sr., who motored to Wichita. Monday afternoon to meet the funeral cortege en route and accompany them to Protection.
Relatives have been summoned and are gathered at the Ashcraft home in Protection. Funeral arrangements will not be completed or announced until after the arrival of the funeral party in Protection, today, Tuesday.
Press dispatches are given herein as they have appeared in the daily news of the last two or three days.
Three Killed When Exploding Bomb Hurls Plane into Downtown Street
Macon, Ga., Feb. 18 (AP) - Running wild after an ill timed aerial bomb had killed its pilot and his aviator passenger, an airplane participating in the Southeastern Air Derby plunged 7,000 feet into the heart of the business district here today, killing a pedestrian and seriously injuring two others.
The weight of a noon day crowd of hundreds of persons who rushed to the wreckage caused the collapse of a concrete sidewalk and the injury of six of the more than a score who were thrown into the basement of a drug store.
Buck Steele of Shreveport, La., veteran stunt flyer and pilot of the ill-fated craft and Francis Ashcraft, student aviator, son of Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Ashcraft, of Protection, Kansas, who were in the plane, met death in mid-air when the third bomb they tossed out in an exhibition as part of the carnival, caught in the wings and exploded prematurely.
Spectators saw the plane suddenly enveloped in smoke and a moment later waver into a side spin, gathering speed by force of the still revolving propeller.
Many Are Injured
It crashed close by the car tracks in Cherry Street, near the Second Street crossing. Horror stricken cries from those who watched it fall failed to clear the street entirely and four persons, one a negro woman, were either pinned down by the wreckage or struck by the debris.
C. E. Murphy, aged 34, a blacksmith, was caught by the plane's propeller as it hit the ground. It severed an arm and leg and inflicted other injuries which caused his death in a hospital a few hours afterward.
Two other persons, unidentified, were believed to have been fatally hurt.
None of those who were plunged into the drug store basement by the sidewalk collapse was believed to have been seriously hurt, most of them reporting only minor cuts and bruises.
Wichita Eagle, Sunday, February 19, 1928
Aviators Instantly Killed
Several planes were in the air when the crash occurred, but only one was flying close enough for fellow airmen to see what happened. Gardner Ragle, its pilot, said the ill-fated plane's first two bombs had exploded without mishap but that the third appeared to have exploded within a few feet of the ship.
He expressed the belief that both Steele and Ashcraft, were killed instantly, the former being decapitated by the blast. Their bodies struck the street some distance from the wreckage, leading to the belief that they had been catapulted out of the craft by the explosion.
Events on today's derby program, in which 30 or more fliers are participating, were abandoned and all social features of the meet were canceled.
Send Flier's Body to Home in Kansas
Macon, Ga., Feb. 19 (AP) - No responsibility for the three deaths which resulted from the crash of an airplane into the heart of Macon's business district yesterday was fixed today when a coroner's jury held an inquest over the body of C. E. Murphy, aged 34, a blacksmith, who was fatally injured when struck by the falling plane.
Aviator, Samuel L. (Buck) Steele and his passenger, Francis Ashcraft, were killed in the accident in which occurred when a bomb exploded prematurely in their plane at an altitude of 7,000 feet while they were participating in the Southwestern air derby here. Their bodies were sent today to their homes, the former to Martinville, Indiana, and the latter to Protection, Kansas.
Three other persons were seriously injured and a dozen slightly hurt when a sidewalk caved in under the weight of the crowd that rushed to the scene of the crash. - The Wichita Eagle, February 20, 1928.
Francis Joseph Ashcraft was born, August 2, 1905, at Aline, Oklahoma, and died at Macon, Ga., February 18, 1928, aged 22 years, six months and sixteen days.
He came to Protection, Kansas, with his parents in 1910. He was converted when about fourteen years old.
He was graduated from the Protection High School in 1924 and was active in all school activities, especially baseball, basketball, and football.
After spending the holidays with his parents, about six weeks ago, he joined his brother, John, at Macon, Ga., where he was killed by a premature bomb explosion. He was accompanied home by his brother, John, and a friend, Alfred MacClatchie, who was associated with them in their work.
He was preceded in his heavenly home, last June, by his sister, Clarice Lewis.
He is survived by his father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Ashcraft of Protection, Kansas; Mrs. J. J. Webb of Protection; Mrs. W. B. Waltz of Pratt; C. P. Ashcraft of Aulny, Kansas; John W. Ashcraft of Towanda, Pa.; Martin, Earnest, Helen, Mary and Ivan Ashcraft of Protection; two grandmothers, Mrs. Sabina Crum of Sawyer, Kansas, and Mrs. Susan Ashcraft of Carmen, Okla.; and many other relatives among whom were present at the funeral services, Mrs. W. C. Crum and Miss Neil Crum of Sawyer, Kansas; Frank Ashcraft of Carmen, Okla.; Mrs. Grant Sooter and Mr. Harold Crum and daughter, Miss Bessie, of Perryton, Texas.
He will be greatly missed by a host of friends and associates.
The funeral services conducted by the Rev. H. H. Martin, pastor of the local Baptist Church, were held at the Methodist Church on Wednesday, February 22, at 2:00 p.m.
Three beautiful vocal numbers were sung by the male quartet and the funeral bier lay banked in a myriad of flowers the last rites of regard and the tokens of love of hosts of sorrowing friends.
Interment was in the local cemetery and the body was accompanied to its last resting place by a large cortege and tender and regretful hands and aching, sorrowing hearts laid the body to rest.
Clark County Clipper, February 23, 1928.
PROTECTION BOY KILLED IN AIR PERFORMANCE
Francis Ashcraft, Protection boy, was instantly killed last Saturday while participating in the Southeastern Air Derby at Macon, Ga. Ashcraft, with fellow pilot Steele were dropping bombs from an approximate altitude of five to seven thousand feet. No flyer was actually close enough to give accurate details as to how the accident occurred, but the pilot of the closest machine described it as being caused by a bomb that had been dropped. The bomb struck on the wing of the plane and exploded prematurely. The plane then went into a tail spin and both men were thrown from the machine. Ashcraft's body was badly bruised and burned by the explosion, while Steele was decapitated. The plane fell in the business part of the city and killed one and seriously injured several others.
"Franz" as friends here knew him, was a very popular and well known young man in Protection and surrounding communities. His career in Protection High School was well marked with distinction, both in athletic and scholastic circles. Last fall he went east to learn aviation that he might later be associated with his brother in that new field. His friends and relatives were deeply grieved to learn of his tragic death. Protection community feels the loss of a man whose ideals were above the common and whose thoughts were as noble as his deeds. Ashcraft was 22 years of age.
The body was sent to Protection and funeral services were conducted there Wednesday afternoon from the Methodist church. Interment was made in Protection cemetery.
Gravestone for Francis Joseph Ashcraft
Protection Cemetery, Comanche County, Kansas.
Photo by Bobbi (Hackney) Huck.
Macon's most remarkable air crash struck in heart of town - DISASTER ON CHERRY STREET
Joe La Chappelle
"Fatal Airplane Accident" (near Coldwater, Comanche County, Kansas), The Western Star, August 28, 1925.
John W. Ashcraft, Sr., father of Francis Ashcraft.
John W. Ashcraft, Jr.
"NOTED PROTECTION AVIATOR KILLED AT ROOSEVELT FIELD, NEW YORK", The Protection Post, July 4, 1929. Big Jack Ashcraft was the older brother of Francis Ashcraft.
KANSAS GIRL TO SEEK AIR RECORD, The Protection Post, September 5, 1929. (Just a few months after John W. Ashcraft's death, Lucille Wallingford from Ashland, Clark County, Kansas - which is the first town to the west of Protection, Kansas - sought to set a new record for an "endurance flight", which is what "Big Jack" Ashcraft was attempting to do when he died.)
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!
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