Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A SAD ACCIDENT - William S. Stinger

My own family has not been exempt from tragedy.  Here is the story of the death of my father's uncle William:


Charles J. McEntee, William S. Stinger and Keeling Wilson
Meet Death by Drowning in Slough.

Accident Occurred Sunday Evening.
Start to Lacon in Small Boat Which Capsizes from Some Unknown Cause and All Perish Within Only a Few Feet of Shallow Water --- Bodies are Not Recovered Until Monday Forenoon.
It isn't often in a city the size of Lacon that the local paper is called upon to chronicle as sad an accident as that of last Sunday evening in which William S. Stinger, Charles J. McEntee and Keeling Wilson met a watery grave.  In fact we do not believe that such a terrible affair has ever before occurred in the history of our city and few in Central Illinois.  The awful catastrophe was one which stunned every resident of Lacon and cast a dark pall over the city that will long be remembered.  Truly is it a fact almost too sad to chronicle when three young men in the prime of a vigorous manhood, with apparently many years of life and happiness before them, have their existence snapped out almost instantly.  And truly has it been written that "in the midst of life we are in death".
On Sunday last there was a big chicken fry at the Guede grove, along the river bank, a couple of miles south of Lacon.  A large crowd was present and while the doings of the afternoon may have been a prelude to the tragedy which we about to record it is not necessary to enumerate them here.  Suffice it to say that among the forty or fifty present were Charles J. McEntee, William S. Stinger and Keeling Wilson.  The two latter went down to the vicinity in the forenoon in Elliott Rose's row boat to fish, while the former rode down in a wogon with a number of friends.  After the chicken fry the three concluded to return to Lacon together in the boat.  It was a little after seven o'clock when they left the river bank, Mr. Stinger handling the oars, Wilson in the stern and McEntee in the bow.  The boat is capable of carrying only two persons with safety, and the weight of the men sank it well down in the water.  It is built of sheet iron with air chambers at each end, rendering it impossible to sink it.  Frank Bens and "Shine" DeKalb followed the two and passed them a couple of hundred yards from the starting point.  They were apparently going along without any trouble.  This was the last seen of any of the three young men alive, and what followed or how they lost their lives is only conjecture.   The fact that none of them did not return home that evening caused no alarm at either of their homes, because they had frequently been absent over night.
Mr. Stinger and Mr. Wilson were employed with Elliot Rose as painters, and on Sunday he told the boys that he would begin painting the Willis Ford property Monday morning and for them to be sure and be on hand.  Monday morning he went to the Ford residence but neither were there, so he came down to his shop and waited around a few minutes.  As they did not show up he became somewhat apprehensive and went down to the river to look for his boat.  Its absence told him something was wrong and a searching party was immediately organized, consisting of Mr. Rose, Frank Nye, Thomas Kelly and others.  The party proceeded down the river and when within some four hundred yards of where the three started the upturned boat was found in the willows, foretelling only too eloquently the awful tragedy that was about to be disclosed.  A hasty examination revealed the body of Mr. Stinger upright in the water, and after considerable search the body of Wilson was found in a partly upright position.  The body of Chas. McEntee was found only a short distance from that of Keeling Wilson.  The accident happened in the bed of what is a small creek during low water.  This bed is not over fifty feet wide and had either of the unfortunate young men swam fifteen feet either to the north or south they would have been in water only three or four feet deep.  The water in the creek ranged from seven to ten feet deep.  It is difficult to see how Mr. Stinger drowned if his death occurred at the spot where he was found.  The water was not over five feet deep and five feet further would have carried him to a point where the water was not three feet deep.  The bodies were found in a triangular position some thirty or forty feet apart.  The statement has gained considerable credence that the victims sank in quick sand, but there is absolutely nothing to this statement as the bottom of the creek at the scene of the accident is perfectly solid.  How the three lost their lives with such an excellent chance to escape is of the most peculiar part of the sad affair.  It must have been almost dark when the accident happened, as the watch on the person of Mr. Stinger was stopped at 7:30 when his body was recovered.  
Just how the affair happened no one will ever know.  One plausible theory is that Wilson was seized with a fit, to which he was subject, and fell over, capsizing the boat.  The location of the bodies when found, strengthens the theory.  Another is that the boat struck a small snag and was upset.  A few feet from where the bodies were recovered there is a small snag projecting just out of the water, which would be hard to notice in the day time, much less in the gathering shadows of the evening.  Another theory is that either McEntee or Wilson attempted to change places with Stinger who was rowing.  All these, however, are theories, and the true version of the affair will never be known.
After finding the body of William Stinger the news spread like wildfire about the city and the river at the scene of the drowning was soon alive with volunteers and boats.  The remains of the unfortunate young men were brought to this city and County Coroner Thomas summoned from Henry.  The following jury was empaneled:  Dr. Kemp, Herb Roth, Wm. Shaw, J.W. Hancock of Lacon, and Denny Hartley and Henry Peters, of Henry, who returned a verdict in accordance with the above facts finding that the deceased "came to their death by accidental drowning by the overturning of a boat in a manner unknown to the jury."
Charles J. McEntee was born in Lacon on July 8, 1881.  He was the eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick McEntee and besides his parent leaves one brother, Robert, to mourn his untimely death.  He was a painter by trade, and it is a queer coincident that all three of the young men who met such a sad and tragic death were painters.    Mr. McEntee had resided in Lacon nearly his entire life.  He was an industrious young man and while he will be sadly missed by a host of friends, his loss will be most felt by his father, whom he assisted in the draying business.  The parents have the sympathy of all in this terrible affliction which has befallen them in their declining years, just at a time when the strong arm of the son is most needed.
The funeral services were held at the Catholic church in this city yesterday morning at 10 o'clock, conducted by Rev. Father Hawley.  The pall bearers were Tom and Dave Breen, Peter and James Craig, Dave McGarvey and Louis Reil.  The remains were interred in the Catholic cemetery.
The demise of William S. Stinger is the second sad death that has occurred in the family in the past few weeks.  His sister, Mrs. Charles Gibbs, died on August 1st, from the effects of injuries sustained by a runaway accident.  The deceased was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Isaiah Stinger, and he, too, was born and reared in Lacon.  He was a quiet and industrious young man, a painter by trade, and has many friends throughout the city.  He was 29 years of age on the 11th day of last month.  Deceased was a member of the Lacon M.E. Church, uniting with that organization under the pastorate of Rev. Murray.  Besides his parents he is survived by five brothers and four sisters, namely, Frank Stinger of Magnolia, Mell Stinger of Varna, Leonard, Arthur and Bruce, Mrs. Frank Bean, Mrs. Wm. Craig, Mrs. Earl Gapen and Miss Olive Stinger of Lacon.  (Missing piece)...he was a worthy member and in which he carried insurance to the amount of  two thousand dollars.  Interment was made in the Lacon Cemetery.
Lacon Home Journal - September 5, 1907
William is buried in the Lacon City Cemetery.  May his soul rest in peace.

William S. Stinger

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