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100 Years of Drownings at Harvey's Lake
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Dr. Davis's Report on Drownings
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At the close of the 1939 summer season at the lake, the drownings of Thomas L. Cule, 17, and Millard Haefele, 34, presented challenges to the local authorities. After dragging and diving efforts failed to recover the victims, a specialist diver from Chester, Pa., George Hughes, was brought in through intervention by Governor Arthur H. James (a native of Plymouth). The following three news articles recount the efforts to recover the mens' bodies.


Harvey's Lake Patrolman
Fred Swanson helped recover drowning vicitms.


The Sunday Independent, September 10, 1939.

 

Mud and ‘Hills’

Forced to Work Blind As Boots Raised Clouds; Quick Depths Dangerous

Hughes tells of Treacherous Work; Body He Sought Found by Grappling

With recovery yesterday afternoon at 12:10 of the body of Millard Haefele, 34, of 315 East Northampton Street, in 70 feet of water off Warden Place landing at Harvey’s Lake, Chief of Police Ira Stevenson disclosed the dangers that confronted George Hughes, Jr., expert Chester deep sea diver who a week ago recovered the body of John Cule but gave up the search for Haefele on Tuesday.

Chief Stevenson said Hughes, who has done all types of diving known to the profession, in fresh and salt bodies of water, said to him just before he left on Tuesday:

“Chief, this is the most treacherous body of water I have ever worked in.”

Stevenson went on to explain that Hughes was surprised the no vegetation grows at the bottom of the lake. Mud Came Up in Clouds

“’Mud, mud, mud’ was the way Hughes described the bottom,” Chief Stevenson said.

“Hughes told me the mud is more than four feet deep at the bottom - probably a lot more - because Hughes on his dives carried a ‘gaff’, which is only four feet long. Hughes told me he pushed this into the mud its entire length and it could have been pushed still deeper.

“Hughes told me how he ‘worked blind’ at the bottom because the mud raised a deep cloud as soon as the diving boots touched the bottom. He told me he had absolutely no vision.”

Interesting was Chief Stevenson’s disclosure that Hughes did most of his search on his hands and knees.

Bottom Is Irregular

“Hills and dales” at the bottom of the lake were described to Stevenson by Hughes, who said he started on a decline at one point and walked downward for a distance of 30 feet, but at that point was 80 feet below the surface of the water and did not go any further here because of his equipment.

Haefele’s body was recovered by a crew in John Hansen’s speedboat, the same boat from which the victim fell last Saturday afternoon at 1. It was noted that Haefele was recovered exactly a week from the time he was lost, less one hour.

Volunteers Discover Body

In charge of the grappling hook which caught Haefele’s body was Charles Sprake of Harvey’s Lake, who has done daily duty on the search boats since the drowning was reported.

Others in the rescue boat were Mr. Hansen, friend of the victim; Danny Reese, Larry Yeager, Harold Mayer, all volunteers.

Chief Stevenson said, “Patrolman Fred Swanson has done more than 120 hours of rescue work and I have been getting little sleep myself, but we are expected to do our duty, therefore the boys who deserve the praise are the many volunteer workers.”

Besides those in the rescue boat, Patrolman Swanson named the following as hard working volunteers: Russell Dodd, Olin Weber, Edward Werburton, and John Engel.

Dr. Ben Davis of Plymouth, coroner’s physician, was called to the scene and after a preliminary examination released the body to Undertaker Lisman. A post mortem was performed yesterday afternoon at 4 in Lisman’s morgue. The physician stated the body was in excellent condition and without blemish of any kind. In Haefele’s clothes were $35 and a check. Death was due to drowning, he said. Coroner I. C. Morgan will order an inquest later.

Surviving are his widow, the former Madeline Hartman; three children, Millard Jr., Madeline and Sarah Louise; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Haefele of Margaretville, N.Y., and a sister, Mrs. Margaret Layman of Bovina, N.Y.

The funeral will be held tomorrow afternoon from the family home. Services will be at the house and interment in St. Nicholas Cemetery, Shavertown.

The Wilkes-Barre Record, September 2, 1939.

Diver Recovers Boy’s Body In Harvey’s Lake

Tired after almost eight hours of repeated trips to the bottom of Harvey’s Lake, each time appearing on the surface covered with weeds, moss and under water growth he said was more than seven feet high, George Hughes, Jr., Chester diver, at 4:30 yesterday afternoon made what he said would be his final descent - and a few minutes later found the body of Thomas E. Cule, 17, of Scranton, who was drowned Saturday night when tossed from a rowboat.

The Chester diver, supervised by his father, George Hughes, Sr., and brother, Joseph, from a raft opposite the picnic ground, said his weighted boots stepped on the boy’s body as he reached bottom on his last trip. The body had been tangled in heavy growth of weeds. It was found not far from the spot where the rowboat was struck by a motorboat operated by George Cooper, 40, of Charles Street, city, Saturday night at 1:30, while Cule and his two sisters were rowing back to the cottage of their aunt, Miss Margaret Cule. The boy’s mother and sisters, who had watched the divers work from the float for three days, were not on the porch of the Cule cottage when Hughes made his successful descent and search. They had gone to Scranton.

The boy’s body was taken to the morgue of Deputy Coroner Hugh Jones in Edwardsville, where Coroner’s physician, Dr. Ben Davis, last night was preparing to conduct a post mortem examination. Later, the body was to be turned over to Undertaker Howard Davis of Scranton. Diver Hughes told State Police who had been helping him that he was beginning to get discouraged after working since 8 in the morning. He said the bottom of the lake offered one of the most treacherous surfaces he has ever faced while the enormous growth of weeds made searching a trying ordeal.

Corporal Paul Ryan of Wyoming Squadron, State Motor Police, and three troopers from the Philadelphia squadron assisted the divers, who were brought here on Wednesday at the instance of Governor Arthur H. James, whose cooperation was requested by President H. S. Nicholson of the Harvey’s Lake Protective Association, of which the Governor is a member. The Philadelphia troopers last night prepared to return to Chester with the divers. A number of civilians gave valuable assistance in the six-day search for the Cule boy’s body, police reported. Among them were Edward Walberger, Cornelius Smith, Frank Halowich and Charles Sprake of Harvey’s Lake.

Chief Ira Stevenson and members of the Harvey’s Lake Police solved a big problem well in directing traffic both on the shore road and among occupant’s boats who crowed close to the dock.

Deputy Coroner Hugh Jones said last night an inquest into the death of Cule will be held today. State Police say the motorboat which collided with the Cule rowboat is one of the largest and fastest on Harvey’s Lake.

Cooper had the running lights of the boat in operation at the time and the rowboat had no lights, police report.

The Wilkes-Barre Record, September 5, 1935.

Haefele’s Body Remains On Lake Bottom Despite Trained Diver’s Efforts

George Hughes, Jr., Marine Expert for Two Decades Finds Back Mountain Body of Water Is ‘A Baffling Place’

George Hughes, Jr., Chester deep sea diver who has been in the business for two decades and who has worked under trying conditions at many points along the Atlantic Coast and in many inland bodies, found again yesterday that Harvey’s Lake offers a baffling place in which to locate a drowned man’s body.

For the second straight day, Hughes spent more than eight hours exploring the bottom of the lake, near Wardan Place, in a vain effort to find the body of Millard “Slim” Haefele, 34, of 315 East Northampton Street, who was drowned on Saturday afternoon when he fell from a motorboat making a turn off Wardan Place.

Hughes, with his father, George Hughes, Sr., and brother, Joseph, spent three days last week exploring the lake bottom off the picnic ground searching for body of Thomas E. Cule, Jr., 17, of Scranton, who likewise had been tossed from a motorboat. The diver had started back for Chester Saturday but was reached by radio near Germantown and told to return to Harvey’s Lake.

Both times Hughes came to the lake at the request of Governor Arthur H. James, whose assistance was sought by President H. S. Nicholson of the Harvey’s Lake Protective Association. Thousands of persons on the holiday watched the diver as he made scores of trips to the bottom from a raft yesterday. A detail of State Police assisted on the raft and Chief of Police Ira Stevenson and members of Harvey’s Lake police had difficulty in keeping traffic moving along the road and in “shooing away” spectators in boats and canoes on the lake. Hughes gave up the attempt shortly before 6 o’clock last night and the diving apparatus, air pump, and other paraphernalia used on the raft were stored for the night. He will return this morning at 8.

Identity of the young man who saved Eugene Wahl, 30, of 116 North Main Street, from drowning while he was watching the diver on Sunday afternoon was learned yesterday. He is Thomas J. Donnelly, 18, of 59 Orchard Street.

He and Sam McHenry were seated in a car in their bathing suits watching the diver when McHenry saw the swimmer go down. Being familiar with the dangerous step off at that point, McHenry yelled to Donnelly that a man was drowning. Donnelly, who was a member of the Meyers High School swimming team, a capable diver and a junior lifesaver, dove in and pulled Wahl out. Several men in the crowd, experienced in such work resuscitated him and took him to Nesbitt Hospital.

 

Copyright 2006-2007 F. Charles Petrillo