Disaster at Lost River, 1952: Part ll

(Continued from Part l)

At this point the waters stopped rising, so Doreen found her way to the others.

“What a scene of desolation lay before us. The river was almost twice as wide…”

“In the midst of the ice and debris, floated the log barn. One could almost believe it was still on solid ground, it looked so untouched. And, could it be? There was a man on that barn? We strained our eyes to see. Surely someone was sitting there, motionless and quiet.”

“Only the roar of the river in the distance and the churning of the ice at our feet broke the silence when this realization came. We knew someone, somehow, must try to reach that man.”

“There was not a moment to lose; at any moment the ice jam might break, and all would be swept away.”

“Dad and the others made a crude raft, using the one rope available, and the trees and logs around us. There was no time to get good logs.”

“From time-to-time low moans reached our ears from across the water. The man was still alive.”

“No one was anxious to attempt the rescue. Some said they wouldn’t try it. The raft was makeshift, and to venture out on that water could spell death.”

“Still, when the raft was finished, flimsy though it was, my brother-in-law Clarence and my oldest brother Leonard stepped up with long poles in their hands. Pushing the wobbly raft into the water, they were off.”

Everyone watched silently as Clarence and Leonard slowly maneuvered the rickety raft to the floating barn.

“When the boys reached the barn, they tried to get John, for that was who it was, onto the raft, but it was almost impossible. At last they managed to get him on, but the raft began to sink.”

“One of the three must stay, or all would be lost. Leonard sat down on the barn and quietly watched as Clarence slowly headed the raft back to the tense group by the fire.”

“Progress was slow, because of the weight, and because the bushes and ice added to the distance. Time stood still.”

“At last willing hands relieved the raft of its burden, and Clarence quickly turned to go back for Leonard.”

“When the boys were both on the raft, making their way back to us, so great was our relief that an ominous rumbling down the river did not attract our attention.”

“Straws and twigs began floating slowly away from us. The water was moving! The ice must have given way. Soon the water would be gone, taking everything with it. Still Clarence and Leonard were on that water.”

“They doubled their efforts to hurry the raft shoreward, yet it seemed scarcely to move. We watched helplessly. The barn was already moving downstream when the raft finally reached us.”

At this point I dug around for a tissue to sop my tears as I read the story out loud to Andrew, behind the wheel, steering us nearer to the site of the tragedy 71 years ago.

After the water receded, Doreen writes, the campsite was “exposed to hundreds of curious eyes, many dim with tears. Searches found the body of a man, then another, and also the third. Strangely they were all lying in the bed of a shallow stream, just a few feet apart.”

She adds that “gigantic blocks of ice as much as 15 and 20 feet high were scattered all over” and “the three young men were laid to rest on April 12, 1952 in Lost River.”

I wrote down that I had intended to find their graves, but I never did locate them, and I forgot to ask Marlene.

But Marlene showed me something much more remarkable.

(To be continued…)