Decatur County Journal
Leon, Decatur County, Iowa
March 12, 1903
TWO SAD DEATHS BY DROWNING
FRANK F. FORBES and FRED EALS
DROWNED SUNDAY in GRAND RIVER WEST of LEON
A gloom was cast over Leon suddenly last Sunday afternoon by the
announcement by telephone that Frank FORBES and Fred EALS had been
drowned in Grand River while swimming. Frank had suddenly sank and had
dragged down Fred with him, while he was endeavoring to save him. Both
boys were dead when taken from the water, although the doctors worked on
them for some time. The bodies were brought to Leon. Frank was
nineteen years of age and Fred seventeen.
The account of the tragedy, as related by Ed KIRWIN, the only actual
witness, is substantially as follows:
The boys had planned a day's
outing on the banks of Grand River and had left Leon Saturday night with
team and wagon. The party consisted of Frank FORBES, Fred EALS, Roy
CHAMBERS, Harry TABLER, and Ed KIRWIN. Sunday morning they were joined
by two boys from Leon who did not go with them Saturday, as follows:
Louie HURST and James ALEXANDER.
The place of encampment was near Woodard's dam on Grand River about four
miles west of Decatur. At one time there had been a dam at this point,
but a row of rocks is all that now remain. Below these rocks the water
is about twelve or fifteen feet deep.
They had been swimming and fishing during the forenoon, and then had
their dinner. About half an hour after dinner, Ed, Louie, Frank and
Fred went in swimming again, there being an old flat-boat upside down
which they used to get on when not swimming. One of the fishing lines
and poles set on the rocks of the old dam had caught a fish and Louie
had gone to look after it, the pole being in danger of being carried
This left only Ed, who was still on the old boat. Frank started to swim
from the old boat to the shore, when he suddenly commenced to sink.
Fred, who was swimming quite near, immediately tried to catch hold of
him, but did not succeed. However, in going down, Frank caught hold of
his leg at the knees and pulled him along. Neither of the boys made a
sound as they went down and never arose to the surface.
There were quite a number of persons in the vicinity, but no actual eye
witnesses. Ed immediately called for help, and all the boys made an
effort to bring the two boys up by diving for them. They were located
by one or two of the boys but could not be raised. They were under the
water about an hour and a half before finally being brought to the
It is supposed Frank had been seized with a cramp, as he went down fast,
pulling Fred along, and neither made a sound as they went under. They
were found with Frank still grasping Fred by the knees with a tight
grip. They were found just at the place where they went down, there not
being much current in the water or undertow to move the bodies away.
Dr. L. EIKER of Decatur and Dr. [illegible] of Weldon arrived and tried
to revive the boys, but as they had been under water for an hour and a
half it was useless.
This makes seven deaths by drowning in Grand River between Woodard's dam
and the Woodmansee bridge. The strange part is that hardly any of these
ever came to the surface after going down.
One of the strange things in connection with the tragedy was that Mr.
FORBES had a premonition that something was going to happen, and he
asked Frank not to go with the boys, as he had dreamed that he had
beheld him dead the night before. As Frank had the team the boys were
going to use, he did not like to disappoint them, as he had often done
before, and went in spite of the forebodings of his father, who, of
course, did not think that anything would actually happen. Although
there were a large number of persons in the vicinity when the tragedy
happened, no one was able to prevent it, and it seemed to be one of
those tragic events in human life that frequently occur, no one knowing
the cause or the remedy.
Funeral services were conducted at the Methodist Church Monday afternoon
of both boys. The services were conducted by Rev. W. H. ILSLEY of the
Presbyterian Church and Rev. I. N. Woodward of the Methodist Church. All
the business houses in Leon were closed from three o'clock until after
the funeral services.
Frank was a graduate of the Leon High School, and Fred was a member of
the class that graduates next year. Their respective classmates marched
in the funeral procession to the cemetery, in a body. It was the only
funeral of the kind probably ever held in Leon.
Quite a number of friends and relatives from a distance were in
attendance at the funeral. Both were laid to rest in the Leon Cemetery.
Frank F. FORBES, only son of Arthur and Margaret FORBES, was born in
Taylor County, Iowa, July 9, 1884, and died July 26, 1903, being 19
years and 17 days old. In the early part of the life of the deceased,
his parents moved into Ringgold County where they resided until six
years ago, at which time they moved to Leon. The deceased was a member
of the 1903 senior class of the Leon High School and graduated June
22nd. He was a conscientious and agreeable young man. His parents will
always have cause to remember him as a dutiful and obedient and loving
son. Among his associates he was highly regarded and admired. By his
parents, he was loved and almost adored. His tragic end has brought
wide spread sorrow in the community, and unspeakable grief to his
parents and sisters and other relatives. The prayer of every devout
soul is that the God of all comfort will bind up those broken hearts and
bring good to these stricken ones even out of this strong grief.
Funeral services were conducted in the M.E. Church, Monday, July 27, and
interment was made in Leon Cemetery.
Fred Van Liew EALS was born in Franklin Township, Decatur County,
December 24, 1885, and was thus seventeen years, seven months and two
days old at the time of his death. He was baptized in the Presbyterian
Church of Garden Grove in his infancy, by the Rev. Robt. BEER, then its
pastor. All through his brief life he had been a dutiful son, and a
loving and affectionate brother. In his death he bore testimony to the
strength of his friendship, sacrificing his life in an attempt to rescue
his friend who was in danger.
Transciption by Sharon R. Becker, December of 2008
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