July 26, 1899
DEATH BENEATH THE WAVE
Rough River Claims Another Victim in the Person of Young
Another young man has met death beneath the treacherous waters of Rough river. Its rough waves have closed over a number of young men within the last ten or twelve years and borne their bodies down to rise no more in life, but there has been none of these deaths more heartrending than that of young Claude Stevens, who was drowned while bathing about midway between the Hartford bridge and the water mill dam last Wednesday afternoon at 5 o'clock.
Young Stevens, in company with Messrs. J. A. Fitzhugh, Guy Williams, Alva Taylor and his brother Chester Stevens, all young men and only two of whom were over twenty years old, had repaired to the river to take a bath at a favorite place. Little Cecil Stevens, also a brother of the deceased, together with three or four other little fellows, was already in the water. Claude was not a good swimmer, but he seemed determined to learn the art, and was very fearless in his efforts. He disrobed and plunged into the water and was about the first - though with some effort - to reach the opposite shore. He was immediately joined by two of his companions, and they rested a few minutes before starting back. Claude again plunged into the water to swim back to the starting place. He paddled along with some effort, as new swimmers generally do, and the other young men took no particular notice of him. Presently his companions heard him call, "Boys, come and get me," which was the first sign that called attention to him. His brother Chester and Guy Williams were the first to reach the drowning boy, and they made desperate efforts to raise him to the surface. Messrs. Fitzhugh and Taylor came up at this moment, and the former succeeded in grasping Claude by the hair as he went down the second time. He was apparently not struggling, but his body seemed a dead weight, and the best efforts of the boys failed to bring him to the surface again. None of the other young men was an extra good swimmer, and being inexperienced in life-saving they were compelled to see the young man drown before their eyes without being able to save him. He seemed to struggle very little, and the last seen of him was a despairing hand held above the water, then he quickly went to the bottom to rise no more.
The alarm was quickly given, and as usual, a large number of the citizens of Hartford hurried to the rescue. A big snagboat was at once brought to the place of drowning. This contained a number of men with poles and long ice books, used to locate the body. Men experienced in diving plunged at once into the water and made repeated efforts to find the body of the drowned boy. After an hour's search the body was located with a pole in the hands of Mr. Henry Field. This was about twenty feet from where Claude was last seen and the water at this spot was about ten feet deep. Young Will Aultmire at once swam to the place and diving, brought the body to the surface.
Loud exclamations of distress and sorrow went up from the large crowd at sight of the form of young Stevens. The body was at once placed across a barrel, over which it was rolled for quite awhile, but without the desired success. The spark of life had fled. Claude's body was at once conveyed to the family residence upon a stretcher, followed by a number of sympathizing friends. It was a sad sight to see the little cortege, alongside of which walked a young man with the hat and clothing of his unfortunate companion.
The funeral the occurred next day from the home place, and there was a very large crowd in attendance. Interment took place at Liberty cemetery. The funeral sermon was preached by Rev. R. E. Smith, and was a touching tribute to the worth and character of the drowned boy. The procession was joined at Beaver Dam by another line of vehicles and horses, bearing sorrowing relatives and friends. In regard to numbers, it was one of the largest funerals that ever occurred in that section.
Claude A. Stevens was the oldest son of Sheriff and Mrs. S. T. Stevens and was 19 years of age. Three brothers and a little sister also survive him. He was a zealous member of the Baptist church and a most exemplary young man. In a large measure he enjoyed in life the tribute which we would now fain pay him, for he was greatly beloved by all his acquaintances, who were open in their appreciation of his splendid character. He was a noble-hearted boy, a dutiful and affectionate brother, and his life was an exposition of traits of heart and mind which greatly endeared him to those with whom he was thrown in contact. There is not a soul in Hartford who does not join us in paying this tribute of love to his memory.