Tragedy on Lake Quinsigamond

Greene family grave at St. John's WorcesterIn my last post I mentioned that St. John’s Cemetery had no record of Bridget (Sheehan) Greene, Grandfather Sheehan’s eldest sister, being buried there. This despite the fact that the Telegram death notices for Bridget and her husband Michael, both said that they were interred there.

I decided to give it another try last week, checking on the sons and daughters’ names as well, and guess what? The person I spoke to on the phone found Bridget right away!

Better still, she told me that there were a number of people buried in the plot- in addition to Bridget and Michael were their sons Harold and James, and daughters Nellie and Julia and their husbands. There was also an additional daughter- Mary, born in 1896, and died the following year. I visited the grave Saturday, and it occurred to me looking at the stone that Julia, who died in 1999, was buried there 102 years after her sister.

The stone also disproved one thought I’d entertained- that one or both of Bridget’s sons had died in World War I. I’d been unable to find either Harold or James in the 1930 census. I eventually found Harold in the 1920 census, living with his parents, but not James.

The cemetery records revealed that Harold had in fact died in 1930. I found his obituary in the Telegram, and learned that he died at the Rutland Heights Hospital, which was a veterans’ facility at the time. The newspaper story didn’t specify the cause of death, saying only that there had been a long illness. It did confirm that Harold had fought in “the Great War”, and that he had also seen action on the Mexican border in the hostilities that preceded that war.

The big surprise was James.

He hadn’t fought in WW I- he had died long before the war started, in 1910. I used the date provided by the cemetery to check the Telegram archives. Usually when I do this, it means first looking for the index on the front page tjamesgreendeathhedo see where the obituaries are. Then its a slow scan of the death notices looking for the name. This time it was different- James’ death was on the front page.

Here is the full text of the story that appeared on the front page of the Telegram on August 1, 1910:

James Green Loses Life in the waters of Lake Quinsigamond

Worcester Telegram August 1, 1910, Page 1

James William Green, 15-year-old son of Michael J. Green, 35 Fournier street, swimming across from Sandy bar point to Wapiti island at the lake yesterday afternoon at 2:15 o’clock, became exhausted and in spite of heroic efforts by all too youthful companions, was drowned in 12 feet of water only 30 feet from shore.

His body was in the water only three minutes at the longest. It was recovered by Jeremiah A. O’Leary, an English high school all-round athlete, who made the recovery in the most capable and fearless manner, running headlong into the water from Wapiti island and getting young Green on his first dive.

But in spite of the most efficient work by O’Leary himself and later by many volunteers and then the police, all efforts to fan into fire the lost spark of vitality were in vain. The body was worked over for two hours, but the heavy dinner that Green had eaten only a short time before, coupled with either heart failure or some other attack, as he struggled in the water, had done its work well.

It was shortly after 2 o’clock when Green, with Joseph Godovitch, 274 Bloomingdale road, Andrew bell, 304 Bloomingdale road, and George E. Bennett, 40 Fournier street, undressed after a long fast walk over the hills, and entered the water at sandy bar. Green was the leader of the four boys, who looked up to him as one a little better than they. After fooling around in the shallow water near the shore, it was suggested that they swim across to Wapiti island.

It is a distance of but 100 yards and if one follows the sand bar that goes all the way over, one can walk and not have the water up to the arm pits. But the bar takes an angle with the apex to the north.

The four boys, who are not expert swimmers, worked hard to make the island and, impeded  by the big dinner he had eaten,  Green was in the rear by about 10 feet when his comrades ahead of him heard him say “I’m all in. Grab me.” Bennett turned around and started to swim back, though he was nearly exhausted himself.

Before he could reach Green, the unfortunate lad had gone down under and got a mouthful of water. When he reached Green, who was struggling fearfully, Bennett yelled at him to keep quiet, but Green grabbed Bennett  by the right arm, and put one arm around his neck. When Green sank down, he carried Bennett with him.

The pair came up, and a double tragedy was averted only by young Godovitch and Bell, 13 and 12 years old respectively, swimming out and barely managing to reach Bennett and yanking him away from Green.

Then Green was seen no more alive. He sank for the last time as the three youngsters lurched up onto the shore and threw themselves down on the sands with pure fatig.

There were at the time more than  a score of swimmers off Sandy bar, but as unfeeling chance would have it, they were far from the Wapiti island shore. Green had sunk about 30 feet off the southwest corner of the island, where the bar drops away into deep water, most treacherously. Bennett yelled loudly when Green pulled him twice underwater, nearly choking him.

It attracted the attention of Jud O’Leary, the catcher on last year’s English High baseball team, and one of the most accomplished swimmers frequenting the lake. He, with a group of companions, was bathing near the other end of Wapiti island.

When he saw what was happening at the east end of the island he started at full speed and did not stop until he got near enough to dive for the place where some boys on the Worcester shore pointed out as where Green was last seen.It was only a few strokes from shore, after that running plunge, and O’Leary brought up Green with ease, pulling him in to the island with a grip under Green’s head.

As he was a little out of wind after the long run, O’Leary tried to touch bottom as soon as possible, and said afterward that only three or four feet from where he found Green, he was able to stand up with his head out of the water, which shows how sheer the bar falls into the deep, dangerous water.

As he came to shallow water, O’Leary pulled Green over, putting him stomach down over his right knee and forcing him down, so that Green’s stomach was well emptied of what water he had taken in and of food still undigested.

With great presence of mind, O’Leary asked an onlooker for his coat, and then, still unaided, put Green down on the sand with the coat under his shoulders.He started to try for respiration in the proper way, raising the arms at full length over the head, after the hands into the lower chest.

It was them that assistance began to pour in on  O’Leary and it was characteristic that O’Leary was soon pushed into the background as the crowd grew larger. Canoes and rowboats began to swarm over the lake’s blue and innocent appearing water to Wapiti island.

The alarm was yelled over to the Rostrevor’s island, and to the island occupied by the Tatassit canoe club.

Dr. Thomas B. Shaw, 24 Oxford street, and Winthrop Hammond, 39 William street, who were enjoying with their families a luncheon at Tatassit island, started immediately, and Dr. Shaw started working on Green about 10 minutes after he was taken from the water, assisted by Mr. Hammond. The Rostrevors sent over a boat with T. A. Phelan, Dr. William J. Clifford, and John Dunn, and they offered their services, which proved valuable, Mr. Phelan aboring for more than an hour.

Station 3 was called up on the ‘phone from the Rostrevors, and Officers Thomas J. Kelleher and Albert R. Murray immediately got into communication with A. A. Coburn’s boathouse. Mr. Coburn got Patrick Doyle’s power boat, The Ted, and turned it over to the police, who made fast time down the lake to Wapiti island with their dragging tackle, as they did not know the body had been recovered.

But before they got down there, the ambulance from station 1, with Officer Fred Tupper, was on the Worcester shore, Officer Tupper joining the workers over the body.

Motorcycle officer John J. Conlin, passing down through Lake Park, was attracted to the scene by the large fleet of rowboats and canoes, to say nothing of the crowd of curious folks who hurried down from the park and lined up on the Worcester shore to watch proceedings.

All of the officers worked on the body in shifts. It was the opinion of Dr. Shaw that Green was dead when he was taken from the water, because of the heavy meal he had eaten. Police surgeon Richard Shannahan, who came down to the scene in an automobile, from Union Station, where he was working on a hurry call, was rowed over to the island in a hurry at 4:10, and said, after examining the body, that life was wholly extinct and that there was no need of working any more on the body.

Officers Kelleher and Murphy and Dr. Shannahan then carried the body over to the Worcester shore in The Ted and transferred it to the ambulance with the boy’s clothes.

It was taken to the Worcester city hospital morgue, where Associate medical examiner Dr. Ernest L. Hunt viewed the body, pronouncing death due to accidental drowning. The body was later taken by undertaker Thomas J. Murphy to his rooms at 109 Park street, and, at the request of the family, was later in the night transferred to the home.

The drowned boy has been working at Whittall’s in South Worcester, and is the son of Michael J. and Bridget F. (Sheehan) Green. He was a member of St. Stephens church and of the Holy Name Society connected with that church. Besides his parents, he is survived by one brother, Harold, and three sisters, Margaret A., Nellie, and Julia B. Green.

The funeral will be Wednesday morning from the family home, with a high mass of requiem in St. Stephens church, the hour to be announced later.

Bennett said late yesterday afternoon that when he turned to go to Green’s aid, he saw a small rowboat that looked to him like a steel boat, about 10 feet away from him, and about 18 feet from the struggling Green. He yelled to the fellows: “Come on and help us” and the answer was the worst ever: “What the h—– do you think we are. We can’t swim.” Bennett said it was within the power of those two fellows to rescue Green, but that they absolutely refused to budge.

This entry was posted in genealogy, Greene, Sheehan, Worcester. Bookmark the permalink.