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History connects the dots

September 25, 2010
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The local events of the past that are recorded in this space each week are invariably linked to local families. The recent column about the drowning of Milford Deitz and Robert Douglas Reed of Keene in Upper Saranac 60 years ago brought responses from both the Reed and Deitz families.

In another piece it seemed like a real stretch to the past when a few weeks ago, in writing from the old police blotters, I carried an entry from August 1936. Miss Helen Toole left without notice from the house on Park Avenue where she worked and lived; the police were notified and found that she had gone to NYC. Now, as it turns out, Judy Meagher, a resident of Gilpin Bay on Upper Saranac, tells me that Miss Toole was a relative of hers.

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The Reed youth

Robert Reed was only 16 when he drowned after efforts to save him by Mr. Deitz failed and he also drowned. His sisters Donna Reed Austin and Joan Reed Cahalin have contacted me and revealed that Robert could swim, that he had taken Boy Scout swimming training, but that the heavy boots he was wearing that day filled with water and dragged him downand that Robert was also a hero to his mother and father and five younger siblings. They said how they admired what Mr. Deitz did that day and send a thank you also to Norm McCasland, who was working on the shore that day and made a rescue attempt by boat that was too late.

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Mr. Deitz

Rosalind (Riebel) Detiz got in touch with me about the same column. She was my high school classmate and married to Warner Deitz, Milford's half brother. After Milford's mother died, Mr. Deitz (who had a barber shop in the Hotel Saranac) married her sister and had Warner. Through Warner's efforts Milford was inducted into the Saranac Lake High School Hall of Fame in 1996.

Milford was member of the championship high school speed skating team who were state champions two years (1929-30) in a row. In 1932 he was named to the U.S. Olympic Speed Skating team. Based on his times in state and North American meets he was considered a medal contender for the '32 Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid.

Then Rosalind gave me this startling news Milford came down with pneumonia just before the games and could not compete.

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A tragic drowning in 1885

In this land of lakes I guess it is natural that the accident file in the Adirondack Room of the Saranac Lake Free library would be filled with drowning stories. The following are excerpts about an unusual drowning accident told in a news story in the "Albany Sunday Press" dated Aug. 9, 1885.

Dr. J. Savage Delavan of Albany, with Mrs. Delavan, arrived in Saranac Lake to stay with Milo B. Miller, who own and operated the Saranac House. They often vacationed in this area and at this time were joined by Dr. Charles E. Jones, another prominent physician in Albany. Here is the account from the "Press" as to what happened:

"Yesterday morning in company with Mr. A. C. Clark, an experienced guide, the deceased and his wife started from Fish Hawk bay on a fishing excursion in Tupper's (sic) Lake. As they were about to return, the Doctor noticed a large hawk of a variety frequently seen in the bay. Having a shotgun, he seized it and rose to shoot the hawk. The recoil of the weapon caused him to lose his balance and capsized the boat. Mrs. Delavan was caught in the mesh of fish tackle and providentially saved. The doctor's body did not rise to the surface. The guide reappeared upon the surface of the water and immediately sank."

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Mrs. Delavan survives

"Mr. McClure of the Tupper Lake House, knowing that the party had taken no lunch and surprised at their delay, sent out a boat for them. The occupants found Mrs. Delavan after nine hours search, utterly exhausted and almost unable to articulate. At the latest accounts the bodies had not been recovered."

Mrs. Delavan was in critical condition from shock and exposure. The details of the drowning must have been given by the widow since she was the only survivor. The Doctor was age 45.

 
 

 

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