Friday, March 29, 2013


Hartford Herald
March 2, 1910

Dashed to Death in Dingey - One Escaped
On the Surging Waters at Hites Falls - A Rough River Tragedy


Wilson Autrey
Miss Nell Autrey
Mrs. Jessie Autrey

Wilson Autrey, his Sister Nell Autrey, aged 19, and his sister-in-law, Mrs. Jessie Autrey, were drowned Sunday, Feb 20, at Hite’s Falls this, county. Will Autrey, who was in the party, escaped by swimming ashore.

Hite’s Falls are a series of rapids in Rough river about 10 miles east of Fordsvllle. The total fall is about 10 feet in less than half a mile with a whirlpool below in which nothing can live when the tide is rising.

The Autrey’s lived near the falls and on Sunday afternoon hearing the roar of the water which was rapidly rising on account of the melting snow the four walked to the river to watch the swelling tide. Will Autrey had recently married the daughter of Mr. Robert Bratcher, a prominent farmer and a member of one of Ohio county’s oldest and best families.

After watching the wild flood for a short time the party walked up the river intending to call upon a neighbor. A short distance above the falls they saw a dingy boat in a drift a few feet from the shore, a paddle lying in the bottom. Crawling out on a drift, Robert Autrey secured the boat and dragged it to the shore. It was then hauled out and turned over to let the water out, after which it was launched and the party got in for a ride, the young women objecting and the men assuring them that there was no danger.

The crazy craft was pushed out in the stream but being water-logged it was found impossible to manage it. It was quickly swept out into the swift current and despite all that could be done, it started madly for the falls. The women screamed and while one of the men plied the paddle with all of his strength, the other jumped overboard and tried by swimming in the water, which was filled with floating ice, to assist it to the shore.

Not an inch of headway could be made against the angry flood, and faster and faster the boat flew to destruction. When the first fall was reached the dingy was headed straight across the river and in the first foot of its descent its lower edge dipped in the water, which checked it for an instant, and then it was whirled over, catching all three of the occupants beneath it and breaking the hold of Will Autrey, who was swimming at one end.

Not one of the three was seen again as the boat raced down the rapids. Will Autrey was swept along with it, but could never reach it, and finally he was thrown in the brush on the shore. He was exhausted and more than half drowned, and could only hold to the branches and wait for his returning strength. Finally he was able to pull himself on shore, but he was too weak to give the alarm, and it was some time before he could raise his voice for that purpose. His cries were heard but no attention was paid to them at first, and when they had continued for a long time some men went to him and learned of the awful tragedy.

By that time it was late in the afternoon and before a searching party could be organized it was night. The news spread rapidly through the neighborhood and a crowd thronged the banks of the river. Far into the night the watch was kept up, but to no purpose. By morning the river had risen 10 feet, and all day Monday it continued to come up until the lowest banks were overflowed, making all efforts to recover the bodies useless. They still rest beneath the flood and slowly the little community is recovering from the shock, hoping that the dead may be recovered when the waters subside, or that they will be thrown on shore by the fierce current in which hope the river is being watched for miles

Hite’s Falls are in a remote section of the county, with no telephone nearer than Fordsville, and with roads practically impassable, which accounts for the length of time it took the news of the tragedy to reach the outside world.

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